With only a week off from halftime in the NFL season, it’s not too early to get a feel for the league’s playoff picture. The 1pm window saw the excitement of the week (the Jets over the Bengals), featured three major division showdowns – Titans-Colts, Steelers-Browns, and Falcons-Panthers – as well as a harder than expected afternoon for the Buffalo Bills versus one terrible Miami Dolphins team.
NFL playoff picture for week 9
Carson Wentz might just have missed the Indianapolis Colts’ last best chance to change their season. Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills offensive have yet to be worked on. But the greatest storyline of the early games that focus on the NFL rating was an explainable loss of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Current AFC playoff picture
1. Tennessee Titans (6-2)
2. Las Vegas Raiders (5-2)
3. Baltimore Ravens (5-2)
4th Buffalo bills (5-2)
5. Cincinnati Bengal (5-3)
6th Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)
7th Los Angeles chargers (4-3)
Cincinnati Bengals Smother No. 1 Seed
Disclaimer above – the Bengals got ripped off. A terrible reigning decision late in the regulation contributed directly to their 34-31 loss to the Jets. Cincinnati stopped Ty Johnson just short of the sticks and should have had one last chance to tie the game or move on. But the umpires ruled that Mike Hilton initiated helmet-to-helmet contact by bowing his head. You were wrong. Johnson was the one who bowed his head so in the worst case scenario it should have been a no call either way.
Still, the game should never have been so close. Joe Burrow threw a devastating late pick on a broken screen, and the allegedly touted Bengals defense was absolutely toasted by an unannounced quarterback making his first start. Mike White lit the Bengals for 405 yards on 37 of 45 passes. Take your time getting well, Zach Wilson. Let’s see what white can do. The defeat not only threw the Bengals (5-3) out of the No. 1 seed, but also brought them behind the Ravens in the AFC North. Brutally.
Elsewhere, Colts quarterback Carson Wentz threw 2 late interceptions (including a selection in overtime), and Indianapolis lost a 14-point lead in loss to the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans.
In the afternoon games, the Chargers remain on a wildcard place after their loss to the Patriots. However, they are now in a large group of teams with four wins. The New England win ensured they were still 4-4 in the playoff race after eight weeks.
Current NFC playoff picture
1. Green Bay Packer (7-1)
2. Arizona Cardinals (7-1)
3. Dallas Cowboys (5-1)
4th Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)
5. Los Angeles Rams (7-1)
6th Saints of New Orleans (5-2)
7th Minnesota Vikings (3-3)
Saints get a statement victory over Buccaneers
If the Saints wanted a chance to fight for the NFC South title this year, they would have to beat the Buccaneers in week 8 after Jameis Winston left with an injury. The Buccaneers still lead the division, but the Saints have set a couple of wins ahead of the chasing pack.
Panthers are getting back on track, but QB concerns remain
We can almost certainly say that Sam Darnold won’t be the Carolina Panthers quarterback in 2022. After a concussion from a nasty hit on Sunday, he may not even be the Panthers starter in week 9. But Darnold anyway has a plausible way to start a playoff game in 2021.
Hard to believe? Believe it. Darnold and the Panthers left Snowy Sunday with a 19-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons. They paid for the pleasure when both Darnold and Robby Anderson got tattooed. But the Panthers are back at .500 after four straight losses, and Christian McCaffrey could be back soon.
The defense made it on Sunday, keeping the hawks at 213 yards. Stephon Gilmore had an interception on his Panthers debut. We can see why David Tepper was interested in Deshaun Watson. This would be a dangerous team with good quarterback play.
For the hawks, the biggest news of the day came far from the field. Calvin Ridley announced that he will “withdraw from football at this point and focus on my psychological well-being”.