The Houston Texans found themselves in another dramatic contest on Sunday with a 19-17 victory over the Broncos in Denver, their sixth straight win after an 0-3 start to the season.
Denver quarterback and University of Houston graduate Case Keenum appeared to lead the Broncos on a game-winning drive in the waning minutes of the fourth, but a 51-yard field goal attempt by Brandon McManus sailed wide of the upright as time expired.
Anyone with any sense would have scoffed in late September if you told them the Texans would have a comfortable lead in the AFC South following play in week nine. Since 1980, only five teams (two percent) have rallied to make the postseason after starting 0-3 and no one has done it with the current 12-team playoff format.
Along with six straight Houston wins, we have seen a shocking breakdown from the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were favored by most to win the division and even the Super Bowl by some. The Jags spent this week on a much needed bye but have dropped four straight after a 3-1 start.
The Jags have now been without running back Leonard Fournette since week one. To say he is the top playmaker on their offensive roster is not quite good enough. He is the only playmaker on their offensive roster. His threat in the backfield makes life easier on quarterback Blake Bortles, who has struggled mightily during his absence. With Fournette, Bortles was an above average (albeit boring) quarterback. Without him, he is just hard to watch.
But before we put all of the blame on Bortles, we have to look at the defensive side of the ball. This was the best defense in the NFL a season ago, but they have been bullied for a month straight. There have been injuries, but their main cast of Pro Bowlers have mostly been accounted for. Jacksonville needs a big second half if they hope to back up all of the trash talk from their cornerback Jalen Ramsey during the offseason and September. He has been awfully silent of late.
After a road matchup with Washington on Sunday in Week 10, the Texans will play three straight at NRG Stadium against the Titans, Browns and Colts. Of their final seven matchups, only one opponent currently sits above the 500 mark.
Right now, the struggling Titans are the biggest threat to the Texans in the south. Tennessee entered a Monday night matchup with the Cowboys at 3-4. Dallas received help on Sunday from the Atlanta Falcons, who blew out first-place Washington 38-14 in Maryland. The Cowboys remain in shouting distance of Washington as well as the Philadelphia Eagles in a division that appears up for grabs.
Week nine in the NFL featured some of the most intriguing matchups of the regular season. All week, the rare meeting between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers polarized the sports world as pundits heatedly debated who was better.
I understand the will to hype an exciting matchup that only occurs once every four years, but give me a break. Aaron Rodgers is a once in a lifetime talent and championships do not tell the whole tale, but to me it seems ludicrous to compare him to a man who averages a Super Bowl appearance once every two years throughout his career. Brady has five championships and eight trips to the big game while Rodgers has been quiet since his victory over the Steelers in Super Bowl 45 eight years ago.
When the game finally broke out, neither quarterback stole the show by their standards. Trailing 17-10 in the third quarter, Rodgers was able to hookup with tight end Jimmy Graham in the end zone to tie the game. After a three-and-out by Green Bay’s defense, momentum belonged to the Packers as Brady sputtered. Rodgers quickly led his team on another promising drive, but running back Aaron Jones fumbled inside the New England 15-yard line to rejuvenate the Patriots. A long scoring drive would give them the lead and they never looked back.
Brady would later find Josh Gordon for a long score in the fourth quarter to seal the deal. This was his first and only touchdown pass of the game, finishing 22/35 with 294 yards and a score. Rodgers was 24/43 for 259 yards and two scores.
I do not wish to take away anything from Aaron Rodgers. As a Chicago Bears fan, I have bitterly occupied a front row seat to his dominance since he took over the position from Brett Favre in 2008. Again, it is not all about championships. But the consistent and lengthy reign of the 41-year old New England quarterback is unlike anything the position has ever seen in the history of the game. This is not an opinion, but a fact. At any rate, we need to wait until both players are done before we really break this down. But I do not see seven more seasons of elite play or four more titles from Rodgers. With Brady in a category by himself, pundits would do better to compare Rodgers to Drew Brees in New Orleans.
Speaking of Brees and the Saints, the Superdome played host to one of the finest shootouts of the season on Sunday. In the end, the Saints handed the Los Angeles Rams their first loss of the 2018 season by a score of 45-35.
The Rams spent the majority of the game playing catchup after a questionable call on a fake field goal shifted the momentum for the remainder of the first half. Punter and field goal placeholder Johnny Hekker scrambled right on the fake and appeared to pick up the first down. The officials, however, disagreed upon further review. The Saints went on to dominate the remainder of the half and built an 18-point lead at the break.
The Rams made a push in the second and were even able to get within one possession, but the defense could not contain Brees long enough. He ended LA’s perfect season for good when he hit Michael Thomas for a 72-yard score late in the fourth.
The Saints are now the hottest team in the NFL with seven straight wins after a loss to Tampa Bay on opening day. But along with Houston, the Patriots have also won six straight games entering week 10.