Five quick takes on Week 9 in the NFL:
1. The Los Angeles Rams became the last unbeaten team to fall when they lost to the New Orleans Saints, 45-35, and now the Saints have the tiebreaker edge on them if they tie for the best record in the NFL. The game also featured the second puzzling call by Rams coach Sean McVay in as many weeks. A week ago, he got away with taking the field goal for a two-point lead and giving Aaron Rodgers the ball with two minutes left to drive for the game-winning field goal. McVay got away with that when Ty Montgomery took the ensuing kickoff out of the end zone and fumbled. Against the Saints, McVay went for a fake field goal with the game tied 14-14 and didn’t make it, although the officials appeared to have blown the call. Still, it will be interesting to watch McVay’s decisions in the playoffs.
2. The second and maybe last matchup between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers was a letdown. We assumed it would be a great duel coming down to the last drive, and it was heading in that direction when the Packers were driving to go ahead in the fourth quarter. But Aaron Jones fumbled, Brady’s New England Patriots recovered, scored a touchdown and then added a second one — and the game was over. The Packers are now fighting just to make the playoffs, while the Patriots seem on their way to another serious shot at making the Super Bowl.
3. The Houston Texans started out 0-3 but now are in control of the AFC South race after beating the Denver Broncos, 19-17, for their sixth consecutive victory. It is the first time since the merger in 1970 that a team has started off 0-3 before winning six in a row. The Texans survived a late scare when Denver seemed content to attempt a 51-yard field goal at the end of the game. They ran just two plays in 40 seconds, but Brandon McManus, who missed one at the end of the first half, missed a 51-yarder to give the Texans the victory. The Broncos should have tried to get closer to give him a better shot. Coach Vance Joseph is in serious danger of losing his job.
4. The Los Angeles Chargers have won five in a row and six of the last seven to put them in prime position for a wild-card spot if they can’t catch the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West The Chargers beat the Seattle Seahawks by a 25-17 count as Philip Rivers passed for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Playing on the road in the playoffs as a wild-card team may not be difficult for the Chargers because it is already like they play 16 road games now. The Chargers’ home games usually draw more visiting fans than Chargers fans since they moved to Los Angeles.
5. Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh is on the host seat after a 23-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. They dominated the Steelers in the first game, but have lost three in a row and four of five. Meanwhile, the Steelers are at 5-2-1 after a slow start, and James Conner rushed for 100 yards for the fourth consecutive game. They do not appear to be missing Le’Veon Bell. Conner also became the first player in Steelers history to have 10 touchdowns in the first eight games.