The Week 9 Wrap

Sunday was one of those days, for me, that will go down as a great one.

I arrived at Wembley Stadium at 9am and enjoyed hosting the NFL Tailgate with Darren Fletcher. I then sneaked into the stadium to watch Houston's opening drive - just to see a bit of Deshaun Watson. Once at the Sky Sports studios, I settled down to watch two very competitive games as Kansas City beat Minnesota and Oakland saw off Detroit with a late defensive stand.

And then I capped a long, long day by watching the Baltimore Ravens hand the New England Patriots their first loss of the season. While watching that 37-20 destruction of the defending Super Bowl champs, I could not have been more impressed with Lamar Jackson and the play-calling that puts him in position to succeed time and again.

Now, the play-calling only works because the Ravens have arguably the most dynamic player in recent league history at the helm of their offense. Greg Roman cannot dial up what we saw on Sunday night with Philip Rivers at quarterback (all due respect etc. etc.).

The Ravens have multiple options on most of their running plays and create rugby-like angles as they attack the defense. And you could see there was a great deal of uncertainty in the minds of a New England defense that normally sets the tone early and gets extremely physical with the opposition.

Due to the fact that Baltimore had New England hesitating and guessing, to a degree, they were able to get dominant and control the line of scrimmage. And that led to a 210-yard rushing day that saw Jackson go for 61 and two scores and Mark Ingram explode for 115 yards on 15 carries.

The beating heart of the Baltimore Ravens is their running game, but Jackson is keen to remind us that he is a quarterback and not a running back. And he showed us plenty of nice throws on Sunday night in taking down the Patriots.

Jackson is an electrifying talent and while we can rightly say no quarterback playing this way has ever won a Super Bowl, we should also note that San Francisco came within one Colin Kaepernick completion of doing just that with Roman dialling up the plays.

So it can happen and why not in a year when Jackson is staking a serious MVP claim? What should be encouraging for Ravens fans and worrying for the rest of the NFL is that Bill Belichick had no answer on Sunday. And, normally, you would expect Belichick to come up with the plan that would then be copied by the rest of the league.

But it was Jackson, Roman, John Harbaugh and the Ravens who had New England's number.

Finally, I think we are starting to see the Ravens flex their muscle on defense and that unit is clearly fresh and energetic thanks to the offense's ground success. Baltimore went on scoring marches covering 11, 11, three, 14 and 14 plays on Sunday. That kind of ball control will leave an opposing defense out on its feet and your own defenders fresh and ready to fly around the field. Baltimore held the ball for more than 37 minutes against the Patriots.

Make no mistake, these Ravens are for real and have a genuine Super Bowl shot. And that prompts one final thought and question... how the hell did they lose to the Cleveland Browns!

Who's Hot...

London...Four successful games drawing close to 300,000 fans and now London is once again in the conversation when it comes to a potential NFL franchise relocation. There is much to be discussed on that front - check my Twitter feed - especially after an article in The Athletic reported that league officials have discussed the Los Angeles Chargers and a long-term home in London. We can argue back and forth -; again, check my Twitter feed - about whether it would work or if existing fans would want it, but this is proof of what I predicted a while back. Whenever an unhappy team is considering its long-term home and future, London is going to be in the conversation. We have built this thing up enough for that to be the case for the foreseeable future.

Christian McCaffrey...Everyone knows he is the primary source of Carolina's offensive firepower and the outstanding running back still cannot be stopped. McCaffrey carried 24 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's 30-20 win over Tennessee and has now gone over 150 scrimmage yards in six of eight games this season. He has scored a touchdown in six straight games and few players are as important to their team's success as McCaffrey.

Matthew Stafford...The Detroit Lions may have lost to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday but it was another lights-out performance from quarterback Matthew Stafford. He threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns in a losing effort and his bombs-away approach has made the Lions one of the more entertaining outfits, even at 3-4-1. Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay are weekly contributors but it is Stafford who stars in this show. He has now topped 340 passing yards and three touchdowns in each of Detroit's last three games.

Who's Not...

The Chicago Bears...The Bears appear to be broken and while Mitchell Trubisky and the offense are the major cause for concern, the problems in Chicago are multiple. Let's start with an offense that continually gets bogged down and struggles week in and week out. Trubisky is regressing, is not seeing the field well and is crumbling under physical and mental pressure. The running game is not consistent and the offensive line is poor. All of that results in stalled drives and Chicago's once-vaunted defense is on the field for way too long. They are getting worn down in games and the opposition is running all over them. Hopes were high in the Windy City heading into this season but even a .500 year seems fanciful at the moment.

Sam Darnold...The second-year quarterback is another who falls into the 'regressing player' category. Darnold continues to show an alarming lack of poise or ability to see the field correctly. And I think he is being hindered by Adam Gase's coaching rather than being helped. The Jets are in the midst of a lost season at 1-7 and their sole priority moving forward the rest of the way should be to not break Darnold in the process.

The Cleveland Browns...Baker Mayfield looks like he has aged about five years in 12 months, he is arguing with the media, touchdowns are hard to come by and the halcyon days of the summer seem long gone. The Browns are in free-fall and Sunday's defeat to a Denver team led by Brandon Allen at quarterback must have been hard to take. I think it heaps even more pressure on Freddie Kitchens, who could be one and done at head coach.

The Fast Five...

Deshaun Watson is special and while he did not put up 400 yards at Wembley Stadium, there were flashes of his greatness and he is fun to watch. He is also tough to sack and impossible to keep down for an entire four quarters.

Nick Foles or Gardner Minshew? That is the question Jags head coach Doug Marrone is pondering during his team's bye week. It is unfair on Minshew but he was always going to be on a short leash. The Jags have much invested in Foles and will go back to him in Week 11.

The whole 'laces out'; thing should serve as an excuse to keep the wolves from Adam Vinatieri's door for at least another week. But it is getting to the stage where every kick is an adventure. And that is not good news with every Indianapolis game in 2019 being a one-score drama.

Matt Moore might be making way for Patrick Mahomes the next time the Chiefs play, but he has held down the fort very well indeed and delivered a big win against Minnesota.

I really do like where the Oakland Raiders are heading and with four victories, they have already matched their win total of 2018. Keep progressing, Silver and Black, and that move to Las Vegas could go much smoother than many of us first anticipated.

Fact of the Week

For the first time in the Super Bowl era, three quarterbacks named Allen went 3-0. Buffalo's Josh Allen, Carolina's Kyle Allen and Denver's Brandon Allen were all victorious in Week 9.

Finish That Sentence

Each week in this spot I ask readers - via Twitter - to randomly send me the start of a sentence and, as we do on our NFL UK Live stage show tours, I will finish the sentence with the first thought that comes into my head. Here we go...

From Deano (@mediumdobbers)... The 49ers running game is... As creative as it is physical and that is a credit to Kyle Shanahan, who has shown throughout his career that he can get the best out of a group of backs. The Niners also come at you in waves with plenty of fresh legs and that will serve them well at the business end of the season.

From Brian Finn (@finnbrian)... The aliens who kidnapped the real Baker Mayfield will release him when...the current one they have placed on Earth stops shaving three times in the same game! Did you see the changing face furniture of Mayfield during the loss to Denver? Bizarre. Baker looks a world away from the emerging star of 2018 and he is not handling the adversity very well at all. He is picking fights with the media - good luck winning those - and appears to look exhausted and stressed.

Liam Borthwick (@liam_borthwick) Assuming there are four games in London in 2020, three of the teams you would like to see are...the Green Bay Packers, of course. But that remains a very hard sell to the US. The Packers will never give up a home game and due to the nature of their travelling support, no one wants to give them up when they are the road team. I'll also add the Baltimore Ravens so I can see the Lamar Jackson experience in the flesh. And how about the San Francisco 49ers? They are so well supported over here and it would be great to have them back at the height of their powers.

Final Thought...

The London games are over for another year but they are replaced with what is sure to be a fierce fun to the Super Bowl in Miami. Baltimore and Kansas City are keen to make us realise the AFC is far from a one-horse race and the NFC is loaded with talented clubs who could go all the way. It is going to be one heck of a run-in and I cannot wait. I'll miss the fun of the London games but there is much more coming our way that we can enjoy.

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