After Week 9, we can hand Carson Wentz the MVP. The Los Angeles Rams are legitimate contenders. And the Dallas Cowboys are improving, on defense and offense.
Week 9 wasn’t littered with headliner matchups, as several prominent teams were on bye. However, the line of demarcation between the true contenders and the NFL’s pretenders is becoming much more clear. Also, unlike in recent weeks, we, fortunately, didn’t get hit too hard with crushing injuries. Several young quarterbacks are really stepping up their game while we saw an old favorite, Adrian Peterson, carrying the load once again. Below are some observations from this past week of action.
There is real reason to be excited by the Jets
It is remarkable how well Josh McCown is playing this year. The Jets pass-rush and run blocking were dominant on Thursday Night, but the usually very up and down McCown has been a constant for New York in 2017. McCown is a huge reason why the Jets currently sit at 4-5 and Todd Bowles deserves to be the Coach of the Year conversation.
Thursday Night showed us that this organization has some key highly-drafted players that are quickly living up to the investment New York has used for their services. The long-term quarterback isn’t on the Jets current roster, but high draft picks from the past two draft classes Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye and Darron Lee are progressing very nicely to go along with former first-round selections Leonard Williams and Mo Wilkerson. Two revelations on the other side of the ball include Austin Seferian Jenkins and Robby Anderson, both of whom came much cheaper.
New York’s roster still needs a lot of work, but there are some key components to get excited about and that was on full display against the Bills in Week 9.
Rams – confirmed contenders
This Los Angeles Rams team is a legitimate playoff team in a competitive NFC. They went across the country to New York and dominated the Giants and can play with anyone. Jared Goff was superb, as was Todd Gurley. Gurley deserves some consideration for MVP honors and has really expanded his game, particularly in the passing game, under Sean McVay, who is very deserving of Coach of the Year consideration as well. Remember the ineptitude of this offense last year? It couldn’t be any more different now.
Los Angeles’ front office deserves a ton of credit for putting extreme resources into building around Goff since McVay took over. McVay has schemed this offense up extremely well and this unit has become very difficult to prepare for as well as creating big plays week after week. McVay has even figured out a way to get Tavon Austin consistently involved! The Rams now have a rare combination of a quarterback, coaching, youth, depth and pure offensive talent. Not only is McVay’s offense an upper tier unit that has scored 40 points or more in three instances now this year, but it should remain that way for years to come.
Speaking of MVPs, Aaron Donald was utterly dominating in this contest yet again and should be the leader in the clubhouse for Defensive MVP honors.
Carson Wentz is the MVP
Taking the MVP conversation even further, right now the award on offense belongs to Goff’s fellow 2016 draftee Carson Wentz (both of whom threw four touchdowns on Sunday) as he leads the only one loss team in the NFL.
In a game that Denver absolutely had to have, the Eagles destroyed the Broncos on both sides of the ball. That should not come as much of a surprise against a Brock Osweiler led Denver offense that has more issues than just the quarterback position. But with Wentz’s favorite target, Zach Ertz, inactive for this game, it was both surprising and highly impressive with the effectiveness that Philadelphia’s offense took it to an excellent Denver defense.
Wentz is everything you look for physically in a star quarterback, but what isn’t publicized enough is just how advanced Wentz is presnap, at the line of scrimmage and diagnosing coverages and identifying his reads throughout the play. Wentz is advanced beyond his years. Such a lopsided win in Philadelphia’s favor also acted as a great way to get Jay Ajayi acclimated to his new team. The Eagles now have a very diverse backfield, which Wentz should orchestrate masterfully.
Dallas is vastly improved on defense
Most of us expected a high scoring game in Dallas. That certainly wasn’t the case early on, as the Cowboys looked as though they would be leading 7-3 the Chiefs at halftime. But then Dak Prescott scrambled into the end zone to presumably wrap up the first half of play then the amazing happened as Tyreek Hill made a spectacular play when he was untouched in a Hail Mary situation bring the game to 14-10 going into the locker room.
But the real takeaway here is that Dallas is vastly improved on defense from where they were early in the season. Kansas City ran for just 20 yards in the first half and Kareem Hunt managed just 37 yards on the ground for the day. We know that this is a night and day defense when Sean Lee is injured vs. when he is playing and leading his squad. Well, Lee is healthy and playing great.
Not only that, but the Cowboys young secondary is seemingly improving every week and most importantly, Dallas now has a pass-rush to actually be feared. DeMarcus Lawrence has been a high-level contributor all year. But since David Irving, an immensely talented young man, has returned from suspension, Dallas is getting after opposing quarterbacks with regularity without being forced to blitz. This is exactly how Rod Marinelli wants to play on defense. As usual, under Marinelli, this is a very well coached group. And now, the personnel are coming properly maturing as well.
Meanwhile, Dak Prescott is better than ever and the Cowboys offensive line is looking like it did a year ago finally. It was also very promising that Terrence Williams and Cole Beasley stepped up in a big way this afternoon. As shown on Sunday, this is now a balanced attack en route to gaining 375 yards of offense as Prescott handles more and more. With the way the Cowboys are playing on defense, if Dez Bryant’s ankle injury isn’t too serious and Ezekiel Elliott can avoid suspension, Dallas looks like a contender. This had the feel of a playoff game and Dallas came up huge.