The 32 things we learned from Week 9 of the 2022 NFL season:
1. The 272-game regular season will officially hit its midpoint Monday night, when the Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints complete game No. 136. And what a first half. Already, 78 games – a record at this point of a season – have been decided by one score (8 or fewer points). The 103 games that have been within a score in the fourth quarter also represent a record at this stage of a campaign.
2. After losing one of those squeakers Sunday, the Buffalo Bills might really rue the past week when the 2022 season is all said and done. Their stunning 20-17 loss to the New York Jets was obviously damaging – both of the Bills’ defeats to AFC East rivals, and their division lead now down to a half-game over the Jets and Miami Dolphins (the other club to beat Buffalo).
3. However the bigger issue may turn out to be Buffalo’s conservative approach at the trade deadline as teams like the Dolphins (Bradley Chubb) and San Francisco 49ers (Christian McCaffrey) aggressively moved to upgrade their Super Bowl outlooks. Per reports, the Bills made inquiries about CMC and the Saints’ Alvin Kamara but wound up instead with scatback Nyheim Hines and S Dean Marlowe, a duo that had a negligible impact against the Jets.
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4. Sunday was also miserable for Buffalo QB Josh Allen, who was picked off twice and sacked five times in what was, by far, his worst game of the season – and the only one when he failed to throw a TD pass. Given how tight the MVP race projected entering Week 9, it’s the kind of performance that could cost him the hardware down the line.
5. Potentially even more worrisome, Allen admitted to experiencing “slight pain” in his throwing elbow after getting banged around on Buffalo’s final drive. If “slight” progresses to something more serious, the tenor of the entire 2022 season could change massively.
6. On the flip side, a bit of a stretch to say Jets QB Zach Wilson (18 of 25, 154 yards, TD, fumble) outplayed Allen, but he at least avoided the killer mistakes that cost Gang Green so dearly in its Week 8 loss to New England.
7. The Jets’ 6-3 start is their best since 2010, the last time they reached the playoffs. No team currently owns a longer postseason drought.
8.Tom Brady may have salvaged the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ season and dealt a fatal blow to the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. TB12, who became the first man to pass for more than 100,000 career yards (regular season and postseason combined) in league history Sunday, threw for 54 of those yards and the Bucs’ only TD over the course of 35 seconds on his team’s final drive. His 1-yard pass to rookie TE Cade Otton swung the outcome in Tampa Bay’s favor.
9. The Bucs, who reclaimed first place in the NFC South, conclude their three-game “home” stand next week against the Seattle Seahawks … in Munich.
10. Meanwhile, the Rams’ fourth-quarter collapse dropped LA to 3-5. In the franchise’s previous 85 seasons, the Rams have never overcome such a poor start to reach the playoffs. They had forged a postseason rebound once after a 4-4 start.
11. The Seahawks increased their lead in the NFC West to 1½ games over the idle 49ers and 2½ ahead of the Rams courtesy of a 31-21 win against the Cardinals in Arizona.
12. A big reason is RB Kenneth Walker III (109 rushing yards, 2 TDs), who’s got a great shot at Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. He tied Curt Warner’s 39-year-old franchise mark for rookies by running for a score in five straight games.
13. The Dolphins barely escaped the Bears in Chicago 35-32, thanks in large part to WR Tyreek Hill’s big day (7 catches for 143 yards and a TD). His 1,104 yards are the most by any player through nine games during the Super Bowl era (since 1966). Hill’s on pace for a record 2,085 yards and could become the first ever receiver to surpass 2,000.
14. Miami RB Jeff Wilson Jr. had a nice debut with his new team. Wilson, who’d previously played for head coach Mike McDaniel in San Francisco, finished with 72 yards from scrimmage and what proved to be the game-clinching TD after being traded Tuesday.
14a. Chubb, who was acquired from the Denver Broncos on Tuesday and signed a five-year, $119 million extension two days later, made one tackle in his Miami premiere.
15. New Bears WR Chase Claypool had 17 total yards in his first game since the trade deadline.
16. The Bears’ 252 team rushing yards marked the fourth straight game that they’d churned out at least 225. Only the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers had previously managed that in the Super Bowl era. Pittsburgh was 4-0 in its stretch … but Chicago is just 1-3.
17. But the real story for Chicago on Sunday – and this season – is the continued ascent of second-year QB Justin Fields. He threw three TD passes against Miami, ran for one … and rushed for 178 yards – a regular-season record by a quarterback in the Super Bowl era.
17a. Only Colin Kaepernick, who piled up 181 yards on the ground in his playoff debut against the Green Bay Packers in 2013, has had a bigger rushing day by a QB in the previous 56 seasons.
18. Speaking of the Pack, their season may have reached the point of no return after an unsightly 15-9 loss to the Detroit Lions. Green Bay is 3-6 after its fifth straight loss and has never recovered from such a poor record through nine games to reach the playoffs.
19. The Packers had twice reached postseason after starting 4-5, including in 2016 with QB Aaron Rodgers under center.
19a. And as much blame as Rodgers has deflected this season, he has to eat this one after throwing multiple red-zone INTs in a game for the first time in his career.
20. Prior to Sunday, the Lions’ league-worst defense hadn’t given up fewer than 24 points in a game this season.
21. Cincinnati Bengals RB Joe Mixon scored a franchise record five TDs in Sunday’s 42-21 blowout of the Carolina Panthers. He added 211 total yards for good measure.
21a. The Bengals began the day with the league’s 30th-ranked run game (Mixon rushed for 153 against Carolina). Cincinnati concluded it with a 5-4 record – matching the start to the 2021 season, when the team wound up in Super Bowl 56.
22. Who had Matt Judon in the Defensive Player of the Year pool? The New England Patriots pass rusher is in the thick of the mix, his three-sack outing Sunday giving him a league-leading 11½.
22a. The Pats’ nine sacks were two off the team record for a game but more than enough to bury the Indianapolis Colts 26-3.
23. The Patriots’ win moved them to 5-4, meaning all four teams in the AFC East – a division New England owned for two decades – are above .500.
24. Week 9 dawned with Commanders fans harboring hope their team will be under new ownership in the not-too-distant future. It ended with former Washington QB Kirk Cousins leading a comeback from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit in his first game at FedExField since joining the Minnesota Vikings.
24a. Yep, he and the Vikes – they’ve virtually locked up the NFC North – liked it.
25. New Minnesota TE T.J. Hockenson had 70 yards courtesy of a season-best nine receptions.
26. Las Vegas Raiders WR Davante Adams in the first half Sunday: nine catches, for 146 yards and two TDs.
26a. Adams in the second half: one catch, zero yards.
27. Raiders lose (to Jacksonville) again, coughing up a 17-0 first-half lead.
28. New Los Angeles Chargers K Cameron Dicker drilled a pair of fourth-quarter field goals, including a 37-yarder at the gun, to give the Bolts a 20-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
28a. However you could argue OLB Khalil Mack’s steal from Falcons rookie WR Drake London inside the 5-yard line was ultimately the game-winning play.
29. The loss, combined with the win by the Bucs – they beat the Falcons four weeks ago – knocked Atlanta out of first place in the NFC South.
30. Back to Dicker – he’s the team’s 13th kicker since the Chargers relocated to LA in 2017.
30a. Dicker, an undrafted rookie from Texas, also booted a game-winning FG for the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 5.
31. Oh, the Eagles. In case you were watching the World Series on Thursday night, they’re now 8-0 for the first time in club history.
31a. During the Super Bowl era, 38 other teams have begun 8-0 – 15 reached the Super Bowl and eight won it.
32. If the season ended today – it doesn’t – Tampa Bay (4-5) and San Francisco (4-4) would be the only teams to reach the playoffs without a winning record. The Patriots and Bengals, both 5-4, would be the only teams above .500 not to qualify.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
Story Credit: usatoday.com