When the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles made bold moves to catapult themselves to the top of the 2016 NFL Draft, this past weekend was what they envisioned for their respective futures.
The Rams, led by first overall pick in 2016 Jared Goff, were 51-17 winners on the road at the New York Giants, improving to 6-2 on the year. The Eagles, led by number two selection Carson Wentz, romped to a 51-23 victory over the Denver Broncos to up their record to an NFL-best 8-1.
Those two young quarterbacks and their blossoming teams lead the way in the six storylines that caught my eye in Week Nine of the NFL…
The rampant Rams
The Rams are a team re-born under first-year head coach Sean McVay. They are literally light years away from where they were in 2016 under Jeff Fisher.
The 2016 Rams scored a total of 224 points all season long. The 2017 edition has already notched up 263 points through eight games and this looks like a complete team capable of making a run deep into the NFC playoffs.
The Rams score a touchdown off this brilliant deep ball from Jared Goff to Sammy Watkins
What a story that would be! The biggest transformation with this team has come at quarterback. Jared Goff went 0-7 as a rookie starter but has become one of the best passers in the league under McVay. He threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns in the dismantling of the unravelling Giants.
Wentz for MVP!
I wouldn’t be against watching Goff and Wentz go head-to-head in the NFC Championship Game. Also in his second year, Wentz is excelling and threw for four touchdown passes in Sunday’s demolition of the Broncos.
It was a pleasure to spend Sunday evening in the studio with long-time NFL defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who regularly pointed out that Wentz was taking his game to the “next level” in 2017.
Highlights of the Denver Broncos' clash with the Philadelphia Eagles in Week Nine of the NFL.
The recent comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger and Brett Favre have been lofty, but Wentz seems to have the temperament – and the game – to handle the high expectations.
I remember sitting with Drew Brees in the summer and hearing him tell me, “we can be a Super Bowl team this year”. It felt like a classic example of a player forcing himself to believe the hype otherwise what else is there to play for in the coming season?
Turns out that Drew may have been onto something. After an 0-2 start, the Saints appear to be the real deal in a suddenly-crowded NFC playoff race. Sean Payton’s men have now won six in a row following their 30-10 thrashing of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Sport Illustrated's Pete King reflects on the main talking points from week nine in the NFL, including the new and improved New Orleans Saints.
What is really exciting about these Saints is that it no longer seems to be all about Brees. Sure, he can still deliver the goods in the passing game, but the running attack is strong with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara and the defense is much improved and capable of holding up their end of the bargain.
Don’t sleep on the Panthers
As I just mentioned, the NFC playoffs are going to be a scrap from start to finish. And we should not rule out a Carolina Panthers side that has gone under the radar in recent weeks making some noise in the playoffs.
The Panthers are 6-3 following Sunday’s 20-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons. The Panthers are not very flashy at the moment and won this game on the ground, rushing for 201 yards and holding Atlanta to 53. But in Cam Newton, they certainly have someone who can make a huge difference, the defensive end-sized quarterback who can run as well as he throws.
A look back to how the world reacted to the more interesting moments from week nine of the NFL.
Newton has led the Panthers in rushing in each of their last four games, which would be a source of worry for some teams, but not Ron Rivera’s men.
Marrone makes big call
Backed by tough disciplinarian Tom Coughlin, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone is stamping his authority on a team that was crying out for some tough love this season.
Marrone benched star running back Leonard Fournette for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Jags rarely looked back on their way to a 23-7 win. Jacksonville piled up more than 400 yards of offense and controlled the clock for more than 40 minutes.
But it remained a brave move from Marrone. He must have been really tempted to play the rookie who has scored a touchdown in each of the six NFL games he has played to date. But Fournette has reportedly missed several appointments in Jacksonville, including last week’s official team photo. Marrone has made an example of his young star and shown that no individual player can be put above the team in Jacksonville.
Out of time in New York?
I’ve been hearing all season long how the Giants don’t make rash decisions when it comes to their head coaches. That may be true, but New York also don’t normally suffer through embarrassments such as this 1-7 season.
Losing by a 51-17 scoreline at home may have been the final nail in Ben McAdoo’s coffin. That and the fact he, once again, threw quarterback Eli Manning under the bus by publicly stating that he is considering a move to back-up Davis Webb. I think Eli is far from the only problem in NY (take a look at the coaching, the offensive line and the defense for other sources of epic failure) and winning two Super Bowls with the Big Blue probably grants him a little more respect from a coach who has yet to achieve much in his own career.
We hear from the Around the NFL podcast team and get their take on week nine in the NFL.
I’m not sure McAdoo is going to be around long enough to make that decision on Eli. I think his seat is no longer hot, it’s positively volcanic. He’ll do well to stick around for the Thanksgiving Day parade in New York.
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