We've blazed past the midway point of the NFL regular season and while COVID outbreaks are seemingly around every corner, the show must go on. Here's a look at three teams rising and three teams falling as we enter Week 9.
While I'm still not certain QB Philip Rivers is the right man to lead the offense, there's no question he's been getting the job done lately. Last Sunday looked like a smash spot for RB Jonathan Taylor but instead it was Rivers (and the Colts) defense that stole the show in Detroit. Now comes a tough matchup back home against what is sure to be a highly-motivated Ravens squad.
It's easy to forget about the Cardinals after their bye week. They return to the field with a favorable matchup against the Tua-led Dolphins this Sunday. Everything was clicking for Arizona prior to the break, particularly on the offensive side of the football. Now we'll see if the Cards can avoid reading their own press and go out and take care of business to move to 6-2 on the season.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints continued their march to the top of the NFC South last Sunday, slipping past the Bears in overtime. News of Drew Brees' demise was apparently premature as he has been on point in recent contests. New Orleans will face its toughest challenge of the season to date this Sunday night as it travels to Tampa to face the red hot Buccaneers.
Things look pretty bleak in Carolina following three straight losses, including a truly disappointing setback against the Falcons last week. After thriving early in the season, the Panthers offense has struggled, scoring a grand total of 57 points over their last three games. In stark contrast, this week's opponent - Kansas City - has scored 104 points over that same stretch. RB Christian McCaffrey is close to returning but outside of that, it's mostly doom and gloom.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers could have been returning home on the heels of two straight victories were it not for a complete collapse against the division-rival Broncos last Sunday. While Los Angeles' defense has been missing a number of key cogs all season, there's really no excuse for Sunday's dismal fourth quarter performance against a very average offense. The Bolts do get a solid bounce-back spot this week as they welcome a Raiders squad that will be traveling back across the country following a sloppy win in Cleveland last Sunday.
As if things couldn't get any worse, Lions QB Matthew Stafford has landed on the COVID reserve list. Detroit did enjoy consecutive wins at the end of October but those were really fool's gold as they came against the Jaguars and Falcons - two of the league's weakest squads. The Lions will play two of their next three games away from home, starting with a trip to Minnesota to face the suddenly-hot Vikings offense this Sunday. If Stafford can't go they'll obviously be hard-pressed to pick themselves up off the mat.