NFL Week 9 Tier List and Takes

I know it’s late in the week, I’ve been busy. I haven’t even been able to do my CFP weekly power ratings and betting lines this week. I hope to have something done there by tomorrow morning but my spreadsheet is not cooperating with me at the moment so no promises.

Anyway, here’s the week 9 NFL tiers:

No change in the WAGONS top tier. Although the Bills are one bad week away from having a bouncer come up, tap them on the shoulder, and ask them to leave the club. Only the bouncer won’t be asking, he’ll be telling.

And taking Buffalo’s place will be the Vikings, led by the suddenly swagged-out Kirk Cousins–formerly the most swagless player in the entire NFL.

Buffalo just lost to the Jets. I know the Jets are good, I know it’s a division rivalry, but the Bills should beat that team. It just looked like a bad loss. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little less sold on the Bills right now than I was a few weeks ago.

Buuuuut if Josh Allen misses the game this Sunday against the Vikings, then we may have to postpone booting them from the club. That wouldn’t be fair to them.

The thing is, though, there are some real concerns about the Bills regardless of whether they win or lose against the Vikings.

For one, they have no real running game other than Josh Allen barreling down the field. And I do not like that at all. I don’t like them using Josh Allen as their power running back. It’s so risky.

He’s damn good at being a power runner, but he’s just too valuable to that team to ask him to do that stuff.

I’m not sure how much longer the Bills can get away with using him like that. What I worry about is that it will take a major injury to him from running the ball for them to realize they probably shouldn’t be running him like that.

As for the Chiefs, should we be a bit worried that the Titans basically shut down Mahomes and that offense for 3.5 quarters in Arrowhead? Yes and no. The Titans are a good team and they have a really good defense. Jeffrey Simmons is a game-wrecker in the middle of that D-Line. But the Titans also don’t have an offense when Malik Willis is the starting QB. Willis just isn’t ready to play in the NFL right now, and they clearly don’t trust him to throw the ball. He can’t complete passes.

So eventually the dam was going to break on the Titans defense when they were continually forced back out onto the field after repeated three-and-outs by their offense.

But if Tannehill played in that game, I think Tennessee would’ve won. And that should be a bit worrying for the Chiefs.

The Chiefs have had some offensive explosions this year where they’ve looked unstoppable: week 1 against the Cardinals (44-21 win on the road), week 4 against the Bucs (41-31 win on the road), and then two weeks ago against the 49ers (44-23 win on the road. But they’ve also had games where their offense has been stymied. The Titans did it in Arrowhead. The Colts did it in Indy, beating KC 20-17. And then the Bills went into Arrowhead and won 24-20.

So I think the Chiefs are very beatable. It’ll take a lot to beat them, but it can be done.

I want to talk about the Chargers’ offense again. I wrote about this the other week, how I think Brandon Staley doesn’t know what he’s doing, their offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi is not good at his job, and that coaching staff is ruining Justin Herbert.

I want to get a little more into that here.

Justin Herbert currently ranks 32nd in the league in passing yards per completion at just 9.7. That’s below Daniel Jones, Joe Flacco, Mac Jones and Mitch Trubisky.

That’s just not acceptable for a guy like Herbert who has a rocket launcher for an arm.

I understand Mike Williams is injured, but that’s only one game. That doesn’t explain why through 8 games Justin Herbert is ranked 32nd in yards per completion. Keenan Allen has been hurt as well, but he’s not really a deep threat of a receiver; he’s more of an intermediate route guy.

The Chargers’ offense seems like it’s just dump-offs to Austin Ekeler and not much else. It’s like all of the coaches on that team have Ekeler on their fantasy football teams and all they care about is getting Ekeler fantasy points.

I am not some Xs and Os genius, I don’t claim to have all the answers for how the Chargers can use Herbert better.

All I’ll say is that they should just be throwing it deep. Take advantage of that arm. Unleash the beast. They are literally a checkdown offense right now. Herbert’s intended air yards per pass attempt (basically average depth of target) is just 6.2 yards downfield. That’s 33rd in the league–and there’s only 32 teams! Only Matt Ryan has a lower intended air yards per pass attempt at just 5.8. And Matt Ryan has been benched.

Obviously I’m not saying to bench Herbert. Just the opposite.

Bench the damn playcaller. Bench the coaching staff.

They have arguably the most gifted thrower of the football in the league, and they have turned him into a checkdown merchant.

I can’t wait to watch the Seahawks beat down on the Bucs in Germany this weekend.

I’m actually becoming a believer in Seattle now. It’s been 9 games. They’re just a good team.

They absolutely aced their draft this year. Charles Cross is a franchise-level offensive tackle. Kenneth Walker is a stud running back. Abraham Lewis, the other offensive lineman they drafted this year, has played 100% of the snaps this season for them. Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen are rock solid cornerbacks.

They drafted a defensive lineman Tyreke Smith out of Ohio State in the 5th round. He’s on injured reserve and hasn’t played, but with how the Seahawks other picks have panned out, I’m sure he’ll be a legit player, too.

It’s crazy that the Seahawks have basically found their franchise offensive tackles and their franchise cornerbacks in one draft. Those are two extremely important positions, and the Seahawks not only found one good player at each position, they found a pair of good players at BOTH positions. That’s just wild to me.

Two starting cornerbacks.

Two starting offensive tackles.

In one draft. The odds of a team doing that are astronomical.

But the biggest shock of all has been Geno Smith.

In the first game of the season, the Seahawks upset the Broncos, and it was like, “Yeah, that was all emotion. They’re still starting Geno Smith as their QB. No way they’re actually good, right?”

Well, I’m here to tell you that Geno Smith is Actually Good™.

Geno is 32 years old. He was drafted to the NFL in the second round of the 2013 draft. He got a chance to play for the Jets in his rookie year and his second year, but then, after that, he was basically relegated to a backup role for good. It was like the league had seen enough of him and concluded he was nothing more than a backup.

Between 2015 and 2021–so seven long seasons–Geno Smith registered a grand total of 196 pass attempts total. That’s 33 a year.

The dude got absolutely no play at all between 2015-2021.

This year, I don’t know what happened, but he figured it all out.

He’s completing 73% of his passes.

He’s got a 15-4 TD to INT ratio.

He’s got a 107 passer rating.

His 7.8 yards per passing attempt are 6th in the league. He’s just a tenth of a yard behind Patrick Mahomes in YPA.

He is 4th in the league in QBR at 68.1.

Every stat you can judge a quarterback on, he ranks highly in it. Top-10 in just about everything, and in a lot of categories he’s top-5. He’s simply a really good quarterback.

People are probably still skeptical.

He’s been around for a long time. He’s 32. There’s no way he’s legitimately good. There’s no way he just BECAME a good quarterback in his early 30s.

But remember, he never really had the opportunity to prove himself.

He only threw 196 pass attempts between 2015-2021.

The league gave up on him after his second year.

He just needed a little more time to figure it out.

It happens differently for every player.

Justin Fields looked like potentially a bust in some people’s eyes through the first 15-16 games of his career including his rookie season. Then it all just clicked for him.

Look, the guy played for the Jets when he came into the league. The Jets have been the most dysfunctional offense in the league for a decade plus now. The Jets have been where offensive talent goes to die. And that’s what almost happened to Geno. As we saw after Geno’s time with the Jets, it’s not easy for anyone to succeed there as a quarterback. The league wrote him off before we knew just how hard it was for anyone to succeed with the Jets.

Luckily he didn’t write back.

Seahawks are going to beat the Bucs in Munich, probably by a decent amount, too.

Finally, I just want to highlight this with Justin Fields:

Let’s go through them all one by one.

  1. Bears at Giants, week 4. Bears are down 20-12, 2:03 to play, force a Giants punt from deep in Giants territory. Velus Jones muffs the punt and the Giants come up with it. Instead of having a chance to march down the field and tie it up, the Giants were able to run out the clock on the game as the Bears only had one timeout left plus the two minute warning. The Bears wouldn’t get the ball back until there were 17 seconds left. Game over.
  2. Bears at Vikings, week 5. Bears are down 29-22 with about 1:08 to play. They’re driving down the field to try to tie it up, and have the ball at their own 46 on first and 10. Fields completes a pass to Ihmir Smith-Marsette around the first down line and on the outside, near the sideline. Smith-Marsette breaks a tackle, turns up field and tries to gain some extra yards, but instead of running out of bounds, he kind of just stops and tries to juke the defenders waiting for him. The guy he initially shook gets up, chases him down from behind and rips the ball out of his hands, and that was the ballgame as the Bears only had one timeout left. A poor decision by Smith-Marsette to run for extra yards instead of just going out of bounds to stop the clock cost the Bears a chance to tie that game up, or even win it with a two-point conversion.
  3. Bears vs. Commanders, week 6. This wide receiver mistake literally cost the Bears a win. The previous two only cost them a chance to tie up the game. This one was the difference between a win and a loss. It’s 4th and goal from the 4 yard line, Bears have the ball, down 12-7, 35 seconds to play. Fields throws a ball up to Darnell Mooney right on the goal line. Mooney leaps up to grab it, but bobbles it, and as he’s falling to the ground, he is knocked back out of the endzone and shy of the goal line. He finally recovers the ball but he’s not over the plane of the goal line, and that was the ballgame. If Mooney just catches it cleanly, the Bears go up 13-12 and probably win the game. Instead, he bobbled it and they lost.
  4. And then the last wide receiver miscue was Equanimeous St. Brown letting a perfectly thrown ball go right through his hands on 4th and 10. Would’ve been a first down around the Dolphins 44 yard line, with the Bears down just three points and needing a field goal to tie. The play before, Fields threw it deep to Chase Claypool who was blatantly interfered with, but the refs didn’t throw a flag.

The bottom line: the Bears need some better receivers. These are four crucial mistakes (plus a horrible no-call by the refs) all made by receivers.

Getting Chase Claypool is nice, but it’s just a start.

The Bears need to be targeting a wide receiver in the draft next year, preferably Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

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