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Welcome to the Week 9 grades!

If you're wondering what the wildest game of the week was, that would definitely be Buccaneers-Texans. In what was easily one of the craziest finishes of the season, Houston topped Tampa Bay 39-37, thanks to a record-setting performance from C.J. Stroud, who threw a TD pass with just six seconds left to seal the win. 

  • The Texans rookie QB set the record for most passing yards by a rookie with 470. His total topped the old record of 433, which had been held by Andrew Luck. 
  • Stroud also became just the third QB in NFL history to throw for at least 470 yards and five touchdowns with zero interceptions, joining Y.A. Tittle and Ben Roethlisberger

As if that wasn't impressive enough, the Texans also used a RUNNING BACK as their kicker in the second half. After an injury to Ka'imi Fairbairn, the Texans called upon Dare Ogunbowale, who hit a key 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. And, to top it off, the game ended with a final scorefinal score that's never been seen before in NFL history!

With the make, Ogunbowale became: 

  • The first non-kicker or punter with a field goal since 2004, when Wes Welker did it.
  • The first running back with a field goal since Tony Galbreath in 1979.

The Texans have suddenly turned into one of the most exciting teams in the NFL. With that in mind, let's get to the grades, starting with the Chargers' Monday night win over the Jets. 

L.A. Chargers 27-6 over N.Y. Jets

When the Chargers win, it's usually because their offense has a huge game, but not Monday night. The Chargers defense stole the show in what was easily their most impressive performance of the season. Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack and Tuli Tuipulotu all recorded at least two sacks on a night where the Chargers racked up eight sacks of Zach Wilson. As if that's not impressive enough, the defense also forced three turnovers, which led to two Chargers touchdowns. As good as the defense was, the play of the game came from Derius Davis, who returned a punt 87 yards for a TD in the first half. On an off night for the offense, everyone else shined for a 4-4 Chargers team that is now just one game out of a playoff spot in the AFC. 
The Jets fell behind 14-0 during a disastrous first quarter, and this game was essentially over after that because New York simply doesn't have the offensive firepower to overcome a 14-point deficit. The Jets lost two fumbles in the first quarter and to make matters worse, the Jets special teams gave up a punt return TD in the quarter. The only bright spot in this game for New York was a Jets defense that held the Chargers to under 200 yards while sacking Justin Herbert five times. (The defense only allowed two Chargers drives that went for more than 25 yards.) This loss epitomized the Jets season so far: They have a playoff-caliber defense, but the offense is wildly inconsistent, has trouble moving the ball and struggles to score points.

Chargers-Jets grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Kansas City 21-14 over Miami in Germany

Give Miami credit for clawing itself back into this game, but there was a lot of poor execution in this loss. Specifically as it relates to the offense, penalties and an inability to run the football in the first half put the Dolphins in several third-and-long situations that were nearly impossible to convert. That inability to extend drives (3 of 12 on third down for the game) failed to allow the offense to get into a rhythm and was taxing on the defense, which did keep them in it for most of the contest and allowed them to get within a score. The final possession was a microcosm of the day for Miami's offense as it had three straight incompletions to set up a long down and distances, and then a mental mistake on a botched snap eliminated any hopes of mounting the comeback. The talent was there to contend with the defending champions, but the execution on offense simply wasn't.
Kansas City stays out of the 'A' range because it was shut out in the second half and nearly blew a 21-point halftime lead, but this was a gutsy performance out of Andy Reid's team. Defensively, the Chiefs made life difficult for the Dolphins to get anything down the field in the passing game and were also largely stout against the run, which led to a number of Miami punts. The defense also was able to put points on the board with a tremendous fumble recovery-turned 59-yard touchdown run by Bryan Cook to put the team up by three scores before the break. One storyline that has been floating over the Chiefs this season has been their inability to move the ball when Travis Kelce is blanketed. Well, they did a solid job in this game where Kelce was held to just three catches for 14 yards. Mahomes spread the ball around to nine different pass catchers, and rookie Rashee Rice continues to flash his potential with two clutch receptions.

Dolphins-Chiefs grades by Tyler Sullivan (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Houston 39-37 over Tampa Bay

The Buccaneers defense suffered a total second-half meltdown in this game. After holding the Texans in check for the first two quarters, Tampa Bay got burnt for 364 yards and 29 points in the second half. They simply had no answers for C.J. Stroud, who diced them up at every level. Rachaad White (119 total yards) and Baker Mayfield (265 passing yards, two touchdowns) both played well, but when your defense can't get a stop, it's almost impossible to win in the NFL. Tampa Bay's season is now spiraling out of control: The Bucs have now lost four straight games after starting 3-1.
Hello, C.J. Stroud. It's only Week 9, but the Texans QB might have just wrapped up the Rookie of the Year award with his performance against the Buccaneers. Not only did he break the NFL rookie record by throwing for 470 yards, but he also threw five TD passes. His most impressive drive came in the final minute of the game when he drove the Texans 75 yards for the game-winning touchdown. On the drive, Stroud went 5 of 6 for 75 yards and his only incompletion was a spike. If Stroud keeps playing like this, the Texans are going to be set for years to come at QB. Although Stroud was the star, Dare Ogunbowale also earns a shout-out for filling in for injured kicker Kaimi Fairbairn. Ogunbowale hit a key 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that gave Houston a 33-30 lead. With this win, it's starting to feel like the Texans could be a dark horse playoff contender down the stretch.

Buccaneers-Texans grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Baltimore 37-3 over Seattle

Yikes. We thought this matchup could be the game of the day, but Seattle just didn't show up. The Seahawks offense recorded just 151 yards of total offense while the defense struggled to stop the run.
It's deja vu. An NFC division leader came into Baltimore, and left with a massive L. The Ravens won this game thanks to their elite rushing attack and undrafted running back Keaton Mitchell stole the show. The ECU kid hadn't recorded a carry in the NFL until Sunday. He carried nine times for a whopping 138 yards and one touchdown on a day where Baltimore piled up 515 yards of total offense. 

Seahawks-Ravens grades by Jordan Dajani (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Minnesota 31-28 over Atlanta

At this time last week, Josh Dobbs didn't even play for the Vikings. He got traded to them on Tuesday and he wasn't supposed to play against the Falcons, but he found himself on the field after an injury to starter Jaren Hall. Dobbs got off to any ugly start with two lost fumbles while also taking a safety, but he made up for that with some clutch play in the fourth quarter. The Vikings defense also came up huge in the second half by forcing two turnovers that allowed Minnesota to get back in the game after the Vikings fell behind 21-13. If this game taught us anything, it's that you can't write the Vikings off just because they lost two key players to injury (Justin Jefferson and Kirk Cousins). 
There's no silver lining here: This was an embarrassing loss for the Falcons. With Minnesota down to its third-string QB in Josh Dobbs, it seemed like a win was there for the taking, but instead, the Falcons decided to give it away. Offensively, the Falcons turned the ball over on consecutive possessions in the second half and the Vikings ended up getting 10 points off those, which allowed Minnesota back in the game. Defensively, the Falcons let Dobbs drive 75 yards for a game-winning TD in the final two minutes. It was a total meltdown on both sides of the ball by a suddenly flailing Falcons team that has lost three of its past four games. 

Vikings-Falcons grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Cleveland 27-0 over Arizona

The Cardinals better hope that Kyler Murray can provide an offensive spark when he returns, because Clayton Tune definitely didn't provide one in Cleveland. The Cards didn't hit 60 total yards, they didn't convert a single third down and they were just completely overwhelmed by the Browns defense. It took nine weeks, but the Cardinals' 2023 season has finally hit rock bottom. 
The Browns defense was so dominant that they made this win look easy. Not only did they force three turnovers, but they also sacked Clayton Tune seven times with two of those coming from Dalvin Tomlinson. The Browns surrendered just 58 yards, which is the second-lowest total the team has allowed since 1990. The offense still needs some work, but Deshaun Watson looked mostly comfortable and he seems to have a solid connection with Amari Cooper, who caught five passes for 139 yards and a TD. If Watson continues to look better every week, this team could become a serious threat to win the AFC North. 

Cardinals-Browns grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Green Bay 20-3 over L.A. Rams

With Matthew Stafford out, the Rams looked absolutely lost on offense. Brett Rypien threw for just 130 yards on a day where the Rams didn't drive inside of Green Bay's 30-yard line a single time. The only reason this game was close is because the Rams defense did everything possible to keep L.A. in it: They forced two turnovers while also sacking Jordan Love four times. The reality for the 2023 Rams, though, is that they're just not good enough to win games when Stafford is out. 
This game was a nailbiter at halftime, but then the Packers defense took over in the second half. Not only did the Packers shut out the Rams over the final two quarters, but they surrendered just 96 yards in the second half. It was a performance Green Bay needed, because it took a while for the offense to get going. Jordan Love was especially good in the second half, completing 12 of 13 passes for 160 yards and a TD. The Packers made plenty of mistakes -- they turned the ball over twice and missed a field goal -- but in the end, none of that mattered, because they got a win that they needed in the worst kind of way. 

Rams-Packers grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Washington 20-17 over New England

Trading away Montez Sweat and Chase Young didn't seem to have much a negative impact on the Commanders' defense. In their first game without their two former stars, the defense played well, especially during a second half where they held New England to just 1 of 7 on third down conversions. Jartavius Martin made the play of the day for the defense with an interception in the final minute that sealed the win. As for the offense, Sam Howell has proven that he can play pretty well when he has time to throw and he had time to throw in this game. Although Howell did have an ugly interception, he made up for that by throwing for 325 yards, marking the first time in his career that he's topped 300 yards in back-to-back weeks. This was a huge win for the Commanders because it keeps them very much alive in a watered-down NFC. 
The Patriots are officially a disaster. Even when the Patriots offense has been struggling, the defense has usually still been good, but not in this game. In its loss to the Commanders, New England's defense surrendered a season-high 432 yards while also letting Washington convert more than 50% of its third downs (9 of 17). The Patriots could have won this game if their offense didn't completely disappear in the second half. On their final five possessions of the game, they punted four times and Mac Jones threw an interception. It was a brutal pick by Jones and that's because it came with the Patriots on the cusp of field goal range with just 22 seconds left to play. At 2-7, which is the worst record in the AFC, this now feels like a lost season for New England.  

Patriots-Commanders grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

New Orleans 24-17 over Chicago

Starting a rookie QB can be a roller coaster ride for an NFL team, and that roller coaster crashed for the Bears on Sunday. For the most part, the Bears played well enough to win, but they just couldn't overcome the mistakes made by Tyson Bagent, who turned the ball over four times on a day where Chicago had five total turnovers. You're just not going to win the NFL when you have five turnovers, and the Bears found that out the hard way in New Orleans. 
The Saints defense came up huge in this game by forcing five turnovers, which is the second most New Orleans had forced in a game over the past five years. The star for the Saints was arguably Paulson Adebo, who came up with two interceptions, including one with just five minutes left to play (He also had a forced fumble and a fumble recovery). The Saints offense wasn't perfect, but they did play well in the red zone with three touchdowns on five trips inside of Chicago's 20-yard line. That should be a giant confident booster for an offense that had been struggling in the red zone this season. Taysom Hill has been a huge part of the improved play in the red zone and he showed why with a passing TD and a receiving TD against the Bears. The Saints are now sitting at the top of the NFC South, and at this point, it seems like it's their division to lose. 

Bears-Saints grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Indianapolis 27-13 Carolina

The Colts didn't even total 200 yards of offense in this game, but it didn't matter, because the defense did enough to single-handedly win this for Indianapolis. The star of the game was Kenny Moore, who not only had a pick-six in the second quarter, but he followed it up with ANOTHER pick-six in the fourth quarter. Thanks to Moore, the Colts defense outscored the Panthers by themselves (14-13). It was a much-needed performance by a Colts defense that went into Week 9 surrendering 28.6 points per game, which ranked dead last in the NFL.
Don't let the scoreboard full you, the Panthers defense actually played well in this game -- they only gave up 198 yards -- but Bryce Young let that effort go to waste with the worst performance of his young career. The Panthers rookie QB threw three interceptions, including two pick-sixes, and that ended up being the main difference in the game. Young looked lost while going up against a Colts defense that had surrendered 37 or more points in three straight games. Young made a lot of bad decisions and the Panthers decision to draft him could soon look like a bad one if he keeps playing like this. 

Colts-Panthers grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Las Vegas 30-6 over N.Y. Giants

With the Raiders playing on a short week and starting a rookie QB in a game that was being played just five days after they fired their coach, this seemed like a game that the Giants could win, but instead, they got blown out. The offense couldn't move the ball and the defense wasn't much better and that's a recipe for disaster. To add insult to injury, the Giants appear to have lost Daniel Jones to a season-ending knee injury. The Giants' 2023 season is officially in a tailspin. 
It looks like Josh McDaniels might have actually been the problem in Las Vegas. In their first game since McDaniels was fired, the Raiders looked like a completely different team. Actually, Maxx Crosby looked the same: He was just as dominant as he's been all season. The Giants had no answers for Crosby, who racked up three of the team's eight sacks. Without McDaniels, the Raiders offense looked different. Josh Jacobs finally came alive with 98 yards and two touchdowns. And then there was rookie QB Aidan O'Connell, who played it smart and safe in a game where he threw for 209 yards. If the Raiders keep playing like this under interim coach Antonio Pierce, there's no reason they can't sneak into the AFC playoff race. 

Giants-Raiders grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Philadelphia 28-23 over Dallas

Can't fault Dak Prescott for throwing for 374 yards and three touchdowns, yet the Cowboys had plenty of opportunities to win this game late and didn't. Dallas had first-and-5 on the Eagles' 6-yard line with 27 seconds left and followed with a false start, sack, incomplete pass, delay of game, then a pass to CeeDee Lamb that was completed short of the end zone that ended up in a fumble as Lamb tried to make a play. The Cowboys failed to convert a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line earlier in the half and had another turnover on downs late. Situational football and questionable clock management hurt Dallas from getting a big win on the road. Cowboys still can't beat good teams.
Winning against a division opponent is never easy, especially the way Philadelphia defeated Dallas on Sunday. The Eagles built a 28-17 lead in the second half and tried multiple times to give the game away, from penalties to poor coverage -- and three consecutive three-and-outs in the fourth quarter. Jalen Hurts was still excellent with three touchdowns and gutted out another game with his bruised knee. Beating Dallas is no easy task, but the Eagles did it and have full command of the NFC East -- and they've also started 8-1 for the second consecutive season. Philadelphia has the best record in the NFL, even if there are a lot of things to correct.

Cowboys-Eagles grades by Jeff Kerr (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Cincinnati 24-18 over Buffalo

Bills fans probably had some déjà vu watching this game and that's because it started a lot like last year's playoff game between these two teams. The Bills dug themselves into a deep hole and then they weren't able to get out of it. The defense just couldn't stop Joe Burrow during a first half where the Bengals piled up 214 yards and 21 points. The Bills nearly clawed their way back into the game early in the fourth quarter, but Dalton Kincaid lost a fumble after catching a pass inside Cincinnati's 15-yard line. Besides the lost fumble, there there was also a questionable challenge by Sean McDermott that cost Buffalo a pivotal timeout. The Bills are now 1-4 this season when playing outside of Buffalo and if they don't get that figured out, it's hard to see them winning the AFC East, especially with road games against the Eagles and Chiefs still on the horizon. 
The offense came out on fire on Sunday night and then the Bengals sat back and let their defense do the rest. Joe Burrow was nearly unstoppable early in the game, throwing for a total of 116 yards on Cincinnati's first two drives, which both ended in touchdowns. Burrow got everyone involved on offense with six different receivers catching at least three passes over the course of the game. Although the offense did struggle some in the second half, the defense made up for it by making big plays, including a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter that came after Buffalo had driven deep into Bengals territory. After an 0-2 start, the Bengals are now 5-1 in their past six games and they're currently looking like one of the best teams in the AFC.

Bills-Bengals grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Pittsburgh 20-16 over Tennessee (Thursday)

It's only been two games, but Will Levis looks like he might actually be the real deal. He wasn't perfect against the Steelers, but considering he was making his first career road start and doing it with just three days of preparation, it was a solid showing (22 of 39 for 262 yards). Levis did throw a pick on Tennessee's final offensive play, but that only came after he dramatically drove his team 66 yards to Pittsburgh's 19-yard line in the final minute. With Levis running the show, the Titans did struggle on third down (they were just 3 of 13) and in the red zone (they scored just one TD on four trips), but those are numbers that should improve as Levis continues to get more experience. Defensively, the Titans got steamrolled by a Steelers rushing attack that piled up 166 yards and to make things worse, they didn't record a single sack. The Titans will have 10 days between this game and their next game and the big question is whether Levis has done enough to keep the starting QB job once Ryan Tannehill gets healthy.  
The Steelers might have finally figured out how to fix their offense: Run the ball early and run the ball often. Pittsburgh topped 325 total yards for just the second time this season and a big reason that happened is because Jaylen Warren (11 carries for 88 yards) and Najee Harris (16 carries for 69 yards) were nearly unstoppable. It's a good thing the Steelers were able to run the ball, because Kenny Pickett only threw for 160 yards. However, he did come up with several big throws, including a TD pass to Diontae Johnson with four minutes left that ended up being the game-winner. On the defensive side of things, the Steelers were nearly perfect on third down, with the Titans converting just 3 of 13 attempts. Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt combined to record three of Pittsburgh's four sacks. This was a huge win for a Steelers team that somehow finds a way to win every week even though the offense has had trouble moving the ball. 

Steelers-Titans grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)