Six teams had a bye this week. A few others forgot they had a game at all. And a couple teams found success turning to backups. In case you missed anything, here are the highlights from Week 9.
Who Earned His Paycheck?
Backup players who were suddenly thrust into the starting lineup made the most of their opportunities. The Texans' Jumal Rolle had two interceptions, while his fellow backup cornerback A.J. Bouye returned a Nick Foles pass for a touchdown. On the other side of the field, Mark Sanchez, who really hasn't been heard from since the oh-so-fantastic butt fumble, stepped in for the final three quarters after Foles went down with a broken clavicle, and led Philadelphia to a 31-21 victory. Sanchez's first pass was a 50-yard bomb to Jeremy Maclin, and he finished 15-22 for 202 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, but made a number of nice throws into tight spots. His second touchdown throw was absolutely perfect. He tossed a low ball to Maclin where only the receiver could make a play on it. Maclin led all Week 9 receivers in yards, racking up 158 on six catches.
Speaking of backups and guys named Jeremy, Jeremy Hill finally got an opportunity to be the feature back in Cincinnati, and he absolutely made the most of it. After briefly exiting the game with what looked to be a scary knee injury, Hill returned and ran like a man possessed. He had seven carries for 27 yards before the injury, and finished with 154 yards and two scores on 24 carries. The second was a 60-yarder down the sideline to put the finishing touches on the Bengals 33-23 victory.
Ryan Tannehill finally broke his streak of three straight games with at least a 30-yard rush. His longest on Sunday went for 22, but he won't mind–he racked up 335 total yards and three scores, and all of a sudden, the Dolphins have won three in a row and four out of their last five. If not for an Aaron Rodgers game-winning drive a month ago, Miami would be in first place in the AFC East. Their defense played very well, too: Brent Grimes picked off two passes, Reshad Jones added another interception, and as a whole the team sacked Philip Rivers four times, causing him to lose a fumble on one.
DeAndre Hopkins had a nifty little sequence against the Eagles. After a Ryan Fitzpatrick interception was fumbled, Hopkins hopped onto the fumble. Two plays later, he caught a fade in the back of the endzone to bring the Texans within three.
It was a big day for unorthodox scoring: the Bengals got a safety off a Taylor Mays punt block that went out of bounds. The Chiefs' Anthony Fasano scored a touchdown after falling over making a block. The ball was tipped into the air, he caught it from the seat of his pants, then extended it over the goal line for the score. Finally, on Sunday night, holder Brad Wing bobbled an extra point hold, then got up and lofted a pass to Matt Spaeth for a successful two-point conversion.
In addition to that blocked punt in the Bengals and Jaguars game, the Cardinals' Justin Bethel blocked a field goal that Patrick Peterson almost returned for a touchdown at the end of the first half against the Cowboys, Oakland's Denico Autry just demolished a punt by Jon Ryan that was eventually recovered by Brice Butler in the endzone, and Cleveland picked up not one, but two deflected kicks. Billy Winn blocked a field goal by propelling himself off of two Tampa Bay defenders, and in the fourth quarter Craig Robertson got a hand on a punt; officially, it went down as a net gain of one yard. Finally, Rams linebacker Daren Bates almost had the block of the year, sprinting and hurdling over the entire Niners offensive line to try and swat a Phil Dawson field goal. Unfortunately for Bates, he juuuust mistimed his jump by a split second.
More special teams disasters: Julian Edelman returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown for the Patriots, and Jacoby Jones took a kickoff 108 yards to the house. Mike Tomlin was nowhere to be found along the sideline.
Mike Evans: every catch ever and two TDs? But he also had an offensive pass interference on 4th down, and TB didn't convert on the longer 4th down
Matt Asiata posted the closest fantasy output we've seen since Jerome Bettis's final season, when The Bus had lines like five rushes for one carry and three touchdowns. Asiata's YPC average was a bit better, picking up 26 yards on 10 rushes, while finding the endzone three times. He added a two-point conversion for good measure.
The Jaguars have had a rough season, but they've got a very solid receiving corps brewing down in Jacksonville. Allen Hurns posted his second two-touchdown day of the season, making tough catches on comeback routes for both of his scores. He finished with seven catches for 112 yards.
Arizona notched its first win in Dallas since 1989, and they did it with their defense–they only allowed three points up until 1:08 left in the game. For the first time all year, DeMarco Murray didn't break the century mark on the ground. Andre Ellington chipped in on offense, gaining 134 total yards and a score.
Ben Roethlisberger threw six touchdowns. Again. The 12 in two weeks is an NFL record.
Whose Performance Deserves A "Needs Improvement"?
A few weeks ago, the Chargers shut out an AFC East team, beating the Jets 31-0. This week, perhaps avenging its fellow division rival (but more likely taking advantage of a badly injured team), the Dolphins blanked the Chargers, 37-0. Pick a stat to show how anemic the Chargers were: 10 first downs, four turnovers, being outgained by 263 total yards, having to play Kellen Clemens. It was just a mess of a game, and the Chargers have dropped three straight. Fortunately, they have a bye before getting the Raiders at home in Week 11.
Every official misses a play here and there, but the officiating crew from the Vikings and Redskins game, led by Gene Steratore, made some truly abysmal third-down calls Sunday. Harrison Smith was flagged with an extremely questionable unnecessary roughness penalty: Robert Griffin III was out of the pocket, becoming a runner instead of a QB, and Smith had already started diving when Griffin began his slide. The tackle only grazed RGIII's shoulder. It was a perfectly legal hit, and as the Redskins scored a go-ahead touchdown on the very next play, it only added insult to injury. Later, there was another very questionable roughing the passer call on Griffin against Linval Joseph. Again, the next play resulted in a touchdown. The Skins also got away with a defensive holding penalty on the Vikings eventual game-winning drive. Of course, Minnesota still ended up winning, so they're probably not blaming the officials too much.
Mike Evans had 41% of his team's catches, but he also committed a pretty bad pick play on fourth down for the Bucs. Tampa Bay was backed up 10 yards, and couldn't convert on the re-do fourth down.
That fumble DeAndre Hopkins recovered against the Eagles? It came courtesy of DeMeco Ryans. Ryans, facing his former team, picked off a pass but immediately fell to the turf, and demonstrated virtually the only time you'll see the ground cause a fumble. It was a bad play for sure, but it's made even worse by the Eagles announcing Ryans will miss the rest of the season with a torn Achilles tendon.
Offense was at a premium in the Niners/Rams game. The offensive situation wasn't helped by Colin Kaepernick, who lost two fumbles. The second was on a QB sneak from the Rams' one-yard line with two seconds left in the game. Even if Kaepernick didn't get the touchdown, simply holding onto the ball would have allowed the Niners to attempt a chip shot game-tying field goal, and they'd have an opportunity to win in overtime. Instead, St. Louis escaped with a 13-10 win, and the Niners fell to just a game out of last place in the NFC West.
Both Antrell Rolle and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie dropped what should have been interceptions. Rolle was all alone and simply couldn't corral an errant Andrew Luck pass, while Rodgers-Cromartie got beasted on a deep throw. He simply had the ball ripped out of his hands by T.Y. Hilton, who stands at a mighty 5'9″ and 183 pounds.
Most Interesting Stats From Week 9
Both the Rams and Niners were about six inches from recording safeties–Tavon Austin returned a missed field goal at the end of the first half, took a step out of the endzone, then backpedaled before ultimately being ruled down at the half-yard line by forward progress; in the second half, Colin Kaepernick was sacked and just barely reached the ball out of his own endzone.
Ten players had at least two touchdowns in Week 9: Matt Asiata, Jeremy Hill, Mark Ingram, Marshawn Lynch, Alfred Morris, Martavis Bryant, Mike Evans, Allen Hurns, Jeremy Maclin and Mychal Rivera.
Just how bad were the Chargers on Sunday? San Diego had fewer total yards than 23 quarterbacks had passing yards.
The Colts have recovered three onside kicks this year. Everyone else is a combined one for 25.
Notes From Vegas
Favorites went 6-6-1 against the spread (65-65-4 on the year) and 9-4 straight up (88-46 on the year). Washington opened as a favorite against Minnesota, so we'll count them as a favorite, even though the line eventually changed to a pick'em. New Orleans and Miami also opened as underdogs before settling as favorites.
Top Dogs: 78% of bettors took Arizona against Dallas; the Cards opened at +4, closing at +1.5. No doubt backers hammered them as news broke that Tony Romo would miss the game. 67% also won via a moneyline pick, which paid out at even money. A fellow NFC West team, St. Louis, helped 58% of bettors win the moneyline pick at +450.
Biggest Upsets: The other two NFC West teams were victims against the spread: Seattle had 73% of bettors backing them–they opened at -16 and finished at -13.5. Meanwhile, 66% of people backed the Niners, who opened at -7.5 and closed at -10.5.
Week 10 Picks
Last Week: 1-3, Overall: 14-22
Thank goodness for Oakland. If Derek Carr and company didn't make a late second-half push, I'd be 0-4 in consecutive weeks. Of course, Cleveland was a missed two-point conversion away from covering, but there's absolutely no excuse for believing in Carolina and San Diego. They looked like the two worst teams of the week. And yes, that includes the Jets. My best advice? Just pick the opposite of whatever I'm going with.
Atlanta PK over TAMPA BAY
Two dreadful teams playing each other…what could go wrong? The Falcons blasted the Bucs 56-14 in Week 3, and since then, they've gone a combined 1-9. Atlanta hasn't won on the road, but the Bucs also haven't won at home. One of these has to give, and I'll go with the team coming off the bye.
NEW ORLEANS -4 over San Francisco
The Saints at home are just fantastic, and they look like they're finally putting things together now. Mark Ingram continues to be an absolute beast on the ground. Meanwhile, Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson might be back to spell Ingram. San Fran has been a little more vulnerable on the ground than against the pass this season, so expect the Saints to pound the ball some more.
Pittsburgh -4.5 over NEW YORK JETS
It's about time for the Steelers to lay a clunker, but I just cannot support a Jets team getting less than a touchdown right now. No matter if Michael Vick or Geno Smith starts, the Steelers D is playing decently enough to shut them down. I don't think Big Ben throws for six touchdowns for a third straight week, but it's certainly not out of the realm of possibilities against an anemic Jets pass D.
ARIZONA -7 over St. Louis
Arizona is 6-2 ATS, and one of those losses came when they trotted out Logan Thomas against Denver. Meanwhile, despite being fresh off a win, St. Louis hasn't looked great this season. Sure, they're 2-1 against divisional opponents, but they seem to play really well one week and then look awful the next. Time for another awful performance. As a bonus bet, go for the under, which is at 43–St. Louis has achieved the under in three out of four games on the road this year, while Arizona is three for four in unders at home.