No team had a worse loss in Week 9 than the San Francisco 49ers, and it wasn't just because of the excruciating ending. A home game against St. Louis is one they should win during a schedule that has very few easy moments. If they don't bounce back Sunday in New Orleans, there should be pieces of the sky falling in San Francisco.
They can point to reinforcements arriving on the roster soon, but this team desperately needs wins now before it's too late. The Niners' offense looked better on paper in the offseason and Colin Kaepernick is a year older, but their scoring has plummeted. The offensive line has declined. They have enough talent to go on a run, but it needs to start Sunday. The loss against the Rams removed their margin for error.
Here's a look at some of the other winners and losers from Week 9:
Vikings defensive line:Mike Zimmer is having an immediate impact in Minnesota. Everson Griffen has been one of the best defensive linemen in the league over the last three weeks, disrupting plays from the inside and out. Anthony Barr is a strong Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, making a few game-changing plays each week. Second-year player Sharrif Floyd is enjoying the best stretch of his career. This team isn't playoff-caliber yet, but they have a great foundation to build off.
Arizona's secondary: Brandon Weeden's presence was a big factor in Dez Bryant's goose egg Sunday until garbage time, but more credit should be given to Patrick Peterson. Dez and Peterson engaged in a battle every passing down, and Peterson came out on the winning end. The officials allowed a physical style, possibly because Bryant was giving as much as he got.
AFC South defenses: Good luck with dealing with Andrew Luck for the next decade. Rookie receiver Donte Moncriefis going to be a problem and has the look of a future No. 1 receiver. It's scary to add him to the mix with T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. This young Colts core -- already the league leaders in points and yards -- could be together for a while.
Dallas Cowboys offensive line: It was just one week, but the Cardinals' defensive line won the battle up front, especially in the middle. This wasn't about the Cardinals "stacking the box" or Dallas missing their worst two starters Ronald Leary or Doug Free. Cardinals nose tackle Dan Williams and defensive end Calais Campbellcontrolled the game in the middle against Dallas' usual starters.
September memories of the Patriots: It's like the first month of the season never happened. I've been slow to let go of an entire month's worth of tape and stats back when New England had one of the worst passing games of the league, but those games truly don't matter now. The NFL season is all about adjustments, and Tom Brady authored a similar turnaround last season, although it happened earlier this time. The Patriots are now the second-highest scoring team in the league, and it's time to forget those first impressions.
Optimism in Cleveland: Perhaps it's because I sit across from a lifelong Browns fan, but there is an impending sense of doom with this team considering they are a surprising 5-3.
Brian Hoyer is not equipped to carry a team, and the running game has completely vanished since Alex Mack's injury. They essentially played the worst three teams in the league in a row and didn't look much better than any one of them. The defense needs to rally with the softest part of their schedule in the rearview mirror.