By Devon Higham
An NFL roundup for Week 9.
Following the 9th week of action in the NFL, the number of remaining undefeated teams again fell with the Denver Broncos losing to Andrew Luck and the Colts 27-24. The Broncos struggled early and were unable to pull out a victory after coming back in the second half. Manning threw two interceptions and just missed overtaking Brett Favre who holds the title of the NFL’s all time passing leader. The game was an especially big win for the Colts, who snapped a three game skid and finally looked like the team they were supposed to be coming into the season. The Colts remain the leaders in the weak AFC South division and seem poised to build on that lead if they can keep the momentum from this week’s win going.
Any matchup between Luck and Manning brings extra intrigue, but several factors made this game especially interesting. In this game, Manning had the potential to become the most prolific quarterback in NFL history against his former team, in his old stadium, and against his replacement. Instead it was another lackluster performance from Manning, who is in the midst of his worst season since coming to Denver. Sadly, Luck did not perform much better and has mostly regressed this season. This lack of success on the field comes as a bit of a surprise. The first two seasons following the departure of Manning and the introduction of Luck saw both of them enjoy unprecedented levels of success. Manning broke the single season records for TDs and passing yards, and Luck broke the rookie single season record for passing yards. This year has been full of struggles for the two QBs and this was the first time all season that it again looked like Luck was a worthy replacement for his future hall of famer predecessor.
The most surprising outcome from all of the undefeated teams might have been the Carolina Panthers besting the Green Bay Packers by a score of 37-29. The score was closer than the game was, however, as the Panthers led by as much as 21 in the 4th quarter. It was the second straight loss for the Packers, who were among the group of undefeated teams before they fell to the Broncos last week. Their MVP quarterback was thoroughly outplayed by Cam Newton, who turned in an MVP performance of his own. As the only undefeated team left in the NFC, the Panthers are now in position to earn the number one seed. They have already surpassed their win total from last season when they made it into the playoffs from the horrible NFC South with a 7-8-1 record.
The Patriots handily defeated the Redskins, 27-10 and also remain undefeated. The Patriots have been largely untested this season, and seem destined to remain undefeated going into their showdown with the Broncos in a couple weeks. If Manning can find his stride, it promises to be another showdown between the two most accomplished quarterbacks currently playing, and arguably the two greatest quarterbacks of all time. Brady finally threw his first real interception of the season against the Redskins, (his first interception was a bobble by Julian Edelman that should have been caught) but was still effective. The Redskins were unable to get pressure on Brady, forcing zero sacks in the game. Early turnovers did the Redskins in, with the Patriots able to amass 14 points before the Redskins were able to get in a second play. This was a largely unsurprising outcome though, as the Redskins have consistently performed as one of the worst teams in the league this year and have been in complete disarray over their quarterback controversies with RG3 and Kirk Cousins.
The final undefeated team, the Cincinnati Bengals, beat the Cleveland Browns on Thursday 31-10. The Bengals have been one of, if not the, biggest surprise of the season so far. They have blown away what was supposed to be one of the most competitive divisions in football this year, the AFC North. Part of their immense lead comes by virtue of Ben Roethlisberger’s inability to stay healthy and uninjured (he appeared to have injured his foot against the Raiders this week), but the true source of their success has been the triumph of Andy Dalton. He has had 18 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions and has emerged as a true leader for the team. After this season, Dalton no longer carries the dreaded distinction of “game manager,” a pseudonym for a bad quarterback on a good team. Instead, he’s winning games on his own. The real question, however, is how the Bengals will fare in the playoffs. They’ve made it every year since Dalton has entered the league, but have never made it past the first round. They might best that result simply by earning a first round bye, but whether or not they can find success when the games matter most will dictate how the league views this team.
Devon Higham ’17 (email@example.com) only roots for teams that can’t be beat.