We are 136 games into the 2021 NFL season and halfway through the regular season schedule.
Week 9 produced plenty of drama with only four favourites managing to cover in their games while road teams enjoyed another dominant run of results as well.
After breaking down the game film, stat books and more, we’ve got our five big takeaways from NFL Week 9 below!
1 – The AFC Is Wide Open
The top 11 teams in the AFC are separated by a grand total of two wins after nine weeks of play and the leading contender from that group is yet to emerge.
Whether it is the 7-2 Titans, the 6-2 Ravens or even the 5-4 Chiefs, the playoff picture on the red side of the NFL is as murky as can be.
We are still waiting for a true “favourite” to emerge as the popular preseason contenders all had very interesting results here.
Buffalo seemed destined to take advantage of a few things breaking their way, only to produce a no-show in Jacksonville, suffering a very ugly 9-6 loss to fall back to the pack.
Baltimore is another team capable of falling apart at any given time, but they showed remarkable resilience to come from behind and run over the top of the Vikings to keep in touch with the Titans.
It is a testament to the high bar that they have set over the last three seasons, but the Chiefs have been mostly atrocious this season and are still sitting at 5-4 thanks to this gritty win over the undermanned Packers.
Is anyone ready to rule out Patrick Mahomes returning to form over the next few weeks and taking the Chiefs on a run?
All they have to do is keep pace with the Chargers until they can find their way.
Consistency will be key on the run home, but Baltimore will have a chance to strike early in Week 10 when they travel to Miami for Thursday Night Football.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in that wide open field.
2 – But Don’t Cross Off The Titans Yet
Maybe they are not a one man team in Tennessee!
When the news of Derrick Henry’s season ending injury filtered through, there were plenty of Titans bets that looked like they were done for.
However in their first test since losing their bulldozing running back, the rest of the roster came up in a big way against NFC heavyweights the LA Rams.
Veteran signal caller Ryan Tannehill got things going with this passing touchdown.
While the defence put the clamps on Matthew Stafford and company, taking advantage of a couple of key early turnovers.
It will take the entire Titans roster to keep playing they way they did in Week 9 but it showed that the reports of their demise may be greatly exaggerated.
3 – And New England Might Be In The Mix
Brace yourselves, the Patriots might be competitive again as well.
Let’s not go nuts and call them Super Bowl contenders, that’s a year or two away, but the demise of the Bill Belichick empire may have only lasted a season and a half.
After spending over a quarter of a billion dollars to make up for some poor draft classes, Belichick has a defence that can beat up on bad offences again and JC Jackson starred in their win over the Panthers this week.
Not to mention Matt Judon’s disruptive presence up front and the lengths offensive tackles are going to so that he doesn’t rack up more sacks (see the block around the throat by 65 in the above tweet).
They will never find another Tom Brady but it sure looks like Mac Jones is at least going to be a serviceable option for the team as it is currently constructed.
Playoffs are now a realistic expectation for the Patriots and looking at their run home they will have a say in the final field of the AFC as well, starting with their game against Cleveland this week.
4 – Not So Happy Homecomings
Remember when the fans returning to stadiums was supposed to restore home field advantage after last season’s turn?
In the last two weeks, home teams have been horrendous, going 5-9 and 4-10 against the spread in the last fortnight alone.
Three teams have not won a game at home, with Philadelphia, Detroit and San Francisco all going 0-4 at home so far.
Against the spread, three teams are yet to cover with Kansas City 0-5 so far while Washington and San Francisco 0-4 on the handicap.
San Francisco is in dire straits after blowing a great opportunity against a division rival this week.
Arizona was missing Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins but still managed to score 31 points on a supposedly vaunted 49ers front.
It was all too easy for the Cardinals to run right through them all afternoon.
And it won’t get any easier against the Rams in Week 10.
5 – Returning Quarterbacks Highlight Week 10
After just missing on some heavyweight duels in Week 9, it looks like we are getting a few big name bouts coming up.
Aaron Rodgers missed his side’s loss to Kansas City after testing positive to Covid (and making plenty of headlines in the process) as Jordan Love only managed to put up seven points in a mixed afternoon for him.
It was a winnable game for the Packers and it will be interesting to see how he is received this week when he likely returns to action against Seattle.
Things are looking slightly more optimistic in the Emerald City as well as Russell Wilson looks set to return after missing over a month for the Seahawks.
Rodgers and Wilson have played plenty of classic contests and this may be the final time they face off.