Week 9’s Top NFL Storylines: Jordan Love, Adrian Peterson and the Other Josh Allen
Plus, there's an NFL team suffering from a Super Bowl hangover that doesn't play in Kansas City
With Monday Night Football between the Bears and Steelers in the books, Week 9 is over and the NFL’s first 17-game season is officially past the halfway point. While we can’t get to everything — like the rise of road-field advantage in the league — here are four of the top storylines to emerge with the season’s ninth week in the books, and whether we’re buying or selling on ’em.
Buy: Jordan Love’s loss is Aaron Rodgers’s gain
In his first career start in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon, second-year quarterback Jordan Love did not appear ready for primetime.
Filling in for immunized-but-not-vaccinated Aaron Rodgers, Love completed 19-of-34 passes for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a 13-7 loss. On a day that saw Patrick Mahomes complete just 54% of his passes and play one of his worst games of the season, Love was worse. Bad news for him and the Packers; good news for Rodgers.
Love, who had trouble avoiding the blitz, appeared to have issues identifying coverages and missed open wide receivers down the field, is being groomed as Rodgers’s successor. The second-year quarterback will theoretically be given the starting job if the reigning NFL MVP departs from the team this offseason, which has seemed imminent at times. Theoretically is the operative word her, as Love being any sort of replacement for Rodgers is far from a reality if Sunday is representative of his skillset as a pro.
With a starting-caliber quarterback on an affordable contract in his back pocket, Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst would have had options this offseason if things with Rodgers (who has two seasons left on the bloated contract he restructured this summer) reach what seems to be an inevitable denouement: trading the 37-year-old away for a slew of valuable draft picks. If Love can’t play, the balance of power in that equation shifts dramatically, as Rodgers would then be an even more valuable commodity than he already is, and Green Bay would likely be inclined to bend to his will and figure out how to retain him.
It was a losing day for the Packers and Love after Rodgers’s COVID-19 diagnosis kicked off a losing week for the franchise. Had Love played better on Sunday, it would have been a win for Green Bay in more ways than one. As it stands, Rodgers is the big winner of his longtime team’s loss to the Chiefs.
Sell: Bills’ QB Josh Allen is the only relevant Josh Allen
Favored by 15 points heading into a game against the toothless Jaguars on Sunday afternoon, the Bills and star quarterback Josh Allen had just been anointed as the favorites to win the Super Bowl in February in L.A.
Allen and the Bills were then upset in grand fashion by Jacksonville, losing 9-6, in a game that saw Jacksonville defensive end Josh Allen register a sack, interception and fumble recovery against his Buffalo namesake to go along with a team-high eight tackles and a pass defense. In sacking Buffalo’s Allen, Jacksonville’s Allen became the first player in NFL history to sack a quarterback of the same name, even though Sunday marked the fourth instance in NFL history that a starting QB and defensive player with the same name have faced off.
Drafted No. 7 overall by the Jaguars the year after the Bills selected their franchise quarterback at No. 7 in the first round, Jacksonville’s Allen recorded 10.5 sacks his rookie season and was named to the Pro Bowl, though Sunday’s interception of his quarterback counterpart was the first pick of his three-season career.
I know we’re about to play against another freaking Josh [Allen]. Got a little beef with that but he’s been a helluva player,” the Jacksonville Allen told Pro Football Focus before the game. “You know, I definitely wanna be one of those guys that people talk about and people know about. I want to be respected by my peers. I know it’s not given. I know I have to work it and I’m gonna work my ass off just to be the best out there and get my name called as, ‘OK, this dude’s a top guy in the NFL that you need to keep an eye on.’ So, that’s one of my goals, earning the respect of my peers and go out there and have fun.”
As for Buffalo’s Allen, it may have been preordained he was going to be outshined by Jacksonville’s Allen on Sunday after he appeared on Monday night’s ManningCast alongside Peyton and Eli. With Allen and the Bills going down in flames, all six players who have joined the ManningCast went on to lose their next game.
Buy: Adrian Peterson might actually help the Titans
A surefire Hall-of-Famer with a complicated legacy due to his history of child abuse, Adrian Peterson took the field for Tennessee on Sunday Night Football after being signed by the Titans earlier in the week to help fill the void left by a long-term injury to star running back Derrick Henry.
In his first game action since carrying the ball seven times for 63 yards (nine yards per carry) and a score for the Lions in a season-ending loss to the Vikings in 2020, the 36-year-old had 10 carries for just 21 yards (2.1 yards per carry), but did score a touchdown in Tennessee’s convincing victory over the Rams in Los Angeles. The touchdown was the 125th of Peterson’s career, making him just the 12th player in NFL history to reach the mark.
Without Henry, Tennessee’s run game as a whole struggled against a sturdy LA defense and the Titans produced season-low 69 rushing yards, the fewest rushing yards the franchise has had in a win since 2012. If the Titans want to extend their five-game win streak, getting their running game back on track will be crucial, and it appears Peterson may actually be able to help accomplish that.
The last non-quarterback to be named NFL MVP, Peterson is clearly not even close to the player he was during his 2012 MVP season. But with eight rushing touchdowns in his last 17 games, Peterson is still showing he has a nose for the endzone and can be utilized as a goal-line back and in other short-yardage situations. Can he carry the ball 20 times and turn the corner? No. But 10 or fewer touches in gotta-have-it situations seems plausible.
“I felt like it was OK,” Peterson said of his debut with the Titans. “I think we left a lot out there as a running back group. I know I did as well. As we continue to get practice and get reps in, we’ll continue to build that chemistry with those guys up front. I try to just stay focused on just being the best teammate I can, and just grinding and putting in work. And I know those things will come into play.”
Crazy as it sounds given that the four-time All-Pro has now rushed for 14,841 yards while playing for six teams across parts of 15 seasons, Peterson may actually be right.
Sell: Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch can save the 49ers
Entering Week 10 of the season, the only NFL teams with fewer wins than the San Francisco 49ers are two-win Jets, Dolphins, Jaguars and WFT, one-win Texans and winless Lions. For a team that started this season with real aspirations of making it to the Super Bowl for the second time in three years following an injury-plagued 2020 campaign in the midst of a pandemic, that is some pretty poor company to keep.
But upon closer examination of what the 49ers have really been since they blew a 10-point lead with seven minutes left in Super Bowl LIV and lost to the Chiefs, perhaps the perception of the Niners as something other than a cellar-dweller is incorrect.
Sitting in the basement of the NFC West 3-5 following yesterday’s 31-17 home loss to the Arizona Cardinals and backup quarterback Colt McCoy (who did not have the benefit of throwing to injured star wideout DeAndre Hopkins), the 49ers are now losers of eight straight games in San Francisco.
Since losing that game to the Chiefs, the Niners are 9-15 overall and appear on their way to missing the postseason for the fourth time in the five seasons since Kyle Shanahan took over as coach and John Lynch took over as general manager prior to the 2017 season. Overall, the Shanahan/Lynch regime has a 32-40 and has only finished above .500 once, when San Fran went 13-3 on the way to the Super Bowl. Remove that year and they’re 19-37.
What’s truly amazing about the collective record of Shanahan and Lynch, who both received extensions in 2020 that run through 2025, is that often-blamed Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has a career record of 25-12 with the team. Collectively, Shanahan and Lynch are losers while Garoppolo is a winner (albeit a flawed one that threw an interception and took five sacks against the Cardinals) who the coach and GM are dead-set on replacing with rookie Trey Lance after surrendering first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 to obtain him in April’s draft.
“We didn’t play very well today at all,” Shanahan said after the loss to Arizona. “I was real disappointed. I thought we’d played really well. We had a good week of practice that we’d even improved from the week prior, but obviously it didn’t go that way.”
It hasn’t gone that way since the Super Bowl and, outside of one year, it really hasn’t gone that way with Lynch and Shanahan running things. The Super Bowl hangover is lingering in San Fran, but that may not be what’s truly ailing the team.
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