By Steve Silverman
There are no more undefeated teams in the NFL, as the red-hot New Orleans Saints built a big lead, gave it all up and then regained their advantage to beat the Los Angeles Rams by a 45-35 margin. Despite the loss, there’s no reason to write off the Rams. It just means they won’t be joining the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only undefeated Super Bowl champion in league history.
49ers 34, Raiders 3
San Francisco 49ers: A-. The Niners can’t help who is on their schedule, and they looked sharp, powerful and dangerous. How about unknown quarterback Nick Mullens, who threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns in his NFL debut.
Oakland Raiders: D-. The Niners are not a very good team, but they obliterated the Raiders from the start, and Jon Gruden’s team offered very little resistance. There is still a half-season to go, but the Raiders appear totally disinterested.
Steelers 23, Ravens 16
Pittsburgh Steelers: B+. The Steelers have found their groove, as they went into the home of their archrival and took them down with a substantial effort. Running back James Conner was able to punish the Baltimore defense for 107 yards, and the Steelers won the physical battle in a somewhat surprising manner.
Baltimore Ravens: C-. The Ravens’ good start has now disappeared, as they have a losing record and show few signs of pulling out of it. Joe Flacco threw for 206 yards with no touchdowns, and John Harbaugh has to do something to save this team and potentially his job.
Bears 41, Bills 9
Chicago Bears: A-. The Bears took care of business on the road in a very demonstrative manner. They had two defensive touchdowns in the second quarter and looked like a team that knew it was quite a bit better than its opponent. These are heady days for the first-place Bears
Buffalo Bills: D. The Bills certainly understand that they can’t hope to compete on even terms with Nathan Peterman at quarterback. The beleaguered signal-caller threw three more interceptions in this game, but the worst part is the coaching staff tried to give him easy plays to avoid those picks. That strategy did not work.
Panthers 42, Buccaneers 28
Carolina Panthers: B-. The Panthers showed off their offensive skills in the first half of the game, as Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey were just too good for the Stumble-Bucs. The Panthers appeared to lose interest in the second half, and the defense was not up to head coach Ron Rivera’s standards.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C- The Bucs were on the wrong end of a blowout for 30 minutes, but Ryan Fitzpatrick deserves credit for getting the Bucs back in the game with his never-say-die attitude and his four TD passes. However, the sieve-like defense is a huge issue against good teams.
Chiefs 37, Browns 21
Kansas City Chiefs: B. The Chiefs are almost certainly the best offensive team in the league, and that’s more than enough to get them past the lowly Browns. However, quarterback Patrick Mahomes needs his defense to start playing much better football, or the Chiefs could get exposed in the second half of the year.
Cleveland Browns: C-. The Browns no longer have to deal with Hue Jackson at head coach, but interim leader Gregg Williams may not be any better. Cleveland stayed in this game against a much better opponent, but there was never any reason to believe that rookie Baker Mayfield would lead them to a win.
Dolphins 13, Jets 6
Miami Dolphins: C+. The Dolphins didn’t do much to distinguish themselves, as their defense scored their only points of the second half. While Miami was at home and the Jets were not going to cause any problems with their offense, they could not put their opponent way. Head coach Adam Gase cannot be happy with his team.
New York Jets: C. The Jets are an undermanned team, and head coach Todd Bowles has to go into battle with as many key players on the injured list as he has on the roster. Still the Jets had a chance, even though their offense struggles and their rookie quarterback Sam Darnold threw a painful four interceptions.
Vikings 24, Lions 9
Minnesota Vikings: A-. The Vikings have been largely disappointing throughout the season, but they played their best game, as they pummeled the Detroit quarterback with 10 sacks. Pass rusher Danielle Hunter had 3.5 sacks, and he was a man possessed throughout the game.
Detroit Lions: C-. After dropping a home game last week to the Seattle Seahawks, the Lions should have been heightened and ready to attack a divisional opponent. Instead, the offensive line was a shell of what it should have been, and quarterback Matthew Stafford was abused by the Vikings defense. Matt Patricia better figure this out in a hurry.
Falcons 38, Redskins 14
Atlanta Falcons: A-. The Falcons are finally starting to play to their talent level after a very slow start to the season. In many ways, the Redskins were made to order for them, because they simply did not have the speed to keep up with the visitors. Matt Ryan was brilliant with 350 yards and four TDs.
Washington Redskins: C-. Even with the Redskins losing at home, they are still in first place in the NFC East. However, they are going to have a difficult time when they face elite teams, because they lack the speed on defense to keep up. This has been an issue for the Redskins for several seasons.
Texans 19, Broncos 17
Houston Texans: B. The Texans did not play particularly well, but they have reeled off six straight victories and have a substantial lead in the AFC South. While Deshaun Watson was ordinary, DeAndre Hopkins showed off his amazing hands, with 10 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown
Denver Broncos: C. The Broncos don’t have the talent level at this point to win games against the better teams in the league. Quarterback Case Keenum is a fine leader and a decent talent, and he threw for 290 yards and a touchdown against the Texans. However, staying close is about the best the Broncos can do.
Chargers 25, Seahawks 17
Los Angeles Chargers: B+. The Chargers were excellent on both sides of the ball for the majority of the game, but special teams were awful once again. Caleb Sturgis blew two extra points and missed a field goal, and that helped keep the Seahawks in the game. The Chargers have won six of seven, but their special teams are a major liability.
Seattle Seahawks: B-. The Seahawks came home after beating the Lions on the road, and they expected to win. After scoring a touchdown on their opening drive, the Chargers were the much better team and Seattle only had a chance because of Los Angeles’s mistakes in the kicking game.
Saints 45, Rams 35
New Orleans Saints: A-. The Saints have served notice that they can play with any team in the league. While they should not have allowed the Rams to get back in the game, Drew Brees and Michael Thomas showed how dangerous they can be when the game is on the line. Thomas caught 12 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown, and he is basically unstoppable.
Los Angeles Rams: C+. The Rams walked into a very tough environment, and when the Saints got the momentum in the first half, the previously dependable defense could not do anything. The Rams fought back brilliantly in the second half, but they could not stop New Orleans down the stretch
Patriots 31, Packers 17
New England Patriots: A-. The Patriots do what they do best, and that’s come through with the game on the line. There are teams like the Rams and potentially the Chiefs that may be better than New England. However, underestimating or counting out the Pats is a big mistake. They just may have enough to figure out how to beat the best teams — once again.
Green Bay Packers: C+. The Sunday night contest was billed as Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady, but football is never one quarterback against another. The Packers were good enough to be tied with the Pats into the fourth quarter, but the Packers could not play their best when the game was on the line. That’s indicative of a serious problem in Green Bay
Titans 28, Cowboys 14
Tennessee Titans: Grade: B+. The Titans proved worthy of the prime-time stage, as they went into Jerry’s World and shut down the Dallas offense. Perhaps the best part of their performance was the stepped-up effort of quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was decisive, accurate and made key plays throughout the game.
Dallas Cowboys: Grade: D. The Cowboys were uninspired and predictable. It was clear that head coach Jason Garrett did not have confidence in his offense to attack downfield. And they are not going to be able to earn a playoff spot if they don’t get more aggressive. The NFC East should be there for the taking, but the Cowboys are tentative and lack big-play ability.
Bye week: Bengals, Cardinals, Colts, Eagles, Giants, Jaguars