Zwiller: NFL Week Nine Reactions
Thomas Zwiller | Tuesday, November 9, 2021
I pride myself on having a relatively good understanding of the NFL. I document weekly picks on my live stream NFL Kickoff. If I were to begin gambling I would not make a whole lot of money, but my record of 76-46 would be at home on ESPN’s Expert Picks page. But this last weekend? Well, I went 5-8 and fell to 81-54. Yes, that isn’t good, but the average ESPN expert picker had a record of 6-7, so I can live with a pretty horrible weekend.
Why did an “Expert Panel” do so horrible across the board? Well, for one, we had a crazy weekend. If you had the Bills losing to the Jaguars 6-9, then I applaud you. The Broncos handled the Dallas Cowboys, boasting one of the most complete rosters in the NFL, 30-16. Not to be outdone, the Browns won against the Bengals 41-16, overcoming a week in which they and Odell Beckham dominate the headlines. And the 49ers, despite playing against a backup QB and having home field advantage, lost to the Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins-less Cardinals.
So yeah, it was a wild weekend; arguably up there with Week 1 and Week 8. As I often do, I want to sit back and look at some of the narratives coming out of the weekend and tell you what I think is permanent and what was a one-off.
Game: Titans 28, Rams 16
Titans Reaction: The Titans defense is legitimate.
One of the biggest knocks against the Titans in the off-season was their defense, or rather the lack thereof. Critics said the defense would likely allow many points, and most Titans games would end up being a shootout.
On a night when the Titans were missing Henry, and Jones and Brown combined for 77 yards on nine completions, the defense got the job done. The Titans picked off Matthew Stafford twice, one of them being a pick-six, and hit him 11 times. Additionally, the Rams converted only four of their 15 third down attempts.
Result: Not an Overreaction
I was a lot higher on the Titans defense than most were coming into the season, but even I was willing to admit the secondary was problematic: the four defensive starters allow an average QBR of 92.
However, the Titans’ defensive front is excellent; they average 9.5 pressures per game, which has shown up. In the last two games, when the opponent is within their own 10, the Titans have forced two pick-sixes as Carson Wentz and Stafford attempted to throw out of safeties. So while the Titans’ secondary is problematic, the Titans’ front seven is slowly but surely proving to be one of the better fronts in the NFL.
Packers 7, Chiefs 13
Packers Reaction: Jordan Love is horrible.
This should have been one of the year’s best games, but it was not with Aaron Rodgers out.
Aaron Rodgers’ replacement, Jordan Love, had a first start that I think Packers fans would rather forget. He threw 34 times, completing 19 passes for 190 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
I am going to be honest: expecting anything more out of Love was probably a reach. Getting your first start on the road at Arrowhead is going to be one heck of an experience. The broadcast even noted that Love seemed a bit overwhelmed at times, which I think tracks.
In the first half, Love looked quite bad, but his stat line was a little bit better; he went 7/13 for 92 yards and zero sacks. In the second half, however, Love seemed to find a rhythm and scored a touchdown (yes, he had an interception, but that felt like a pass he would not typically force). He had 98 yards and 12 completions on 21 attempts.
Love was not great, but he played to my expectations, and I think he has a lot of room to improve. I saw some bad, but I also saw some good.
Chiefs Reaction: The offense is broken
The Chiefs should consider themselves lucky that they did not play against Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers would likely have hung at least 28 on them, and the Chiefs would be sub .500 once again.
Of course, they did not. Instead, they got Jordan Love. And while all the attention will likely go to the young QBs’ debut, some focus should be on the fact that the Packers’ special teams genuinely cost them the game.
On the first field goal try, the holder failed to rotate the ball all the way, leading to a miss. The second field goal try was blocked. And a punt was muffed in the Packers’ red zone.
And despite all that, the Chiefs were able to do very little offensively to ice the game early. They scored only one touchdown and two field goals and needed a five-minute, nine-play drive to run out the clock.
Result: Not an Overreaction
This is by no means a new take, but I think it reared its head once again.
I need to emphasize it because while it feels normal for this season, it has not been for years: The Chiefs scored only 13 points!
More importantly, the Chiefs were practically gift-wrapped a touchdown due to a muffed punt in the red zone against the 31st ranked red-zone defense in the NFL.
I do not know what the fix is, but I honestly think the fix may not come until the offseason.
Patriots 24, Panthers 6
This game was pretty dreadful (unless you had the Patriots defense, which got you 30 fantasy points), and I do not think you can take much away from it. However, there is one thing.
Patriots Reaction: The Patriots are the best team in the AFC East.
The Patriots started the season 1-3, but since losing to the Buccaneers, they have gone 4-1.
In the AFC East standings, they have almost caught the Bills, who are 5-3 with a 5-4 record (the Bills had a bye week earlier on in the season).
Result: Overreaction (for now).
However, the Patriots’ losses have come against teams who are a combined 19-14 (throw out the Dolphins, and it becomes 17-7). That would say to me the Patriots are better than their record would indicate.