NFL Week Nine: Five things we learnt

A look back at the action from week nine of the National Football League

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The Independent Online

Week nine is in the books and Zander Swinburne rounds up some of the best talking points coming out of the NFL, including Brady vs Manning XVI.

Brady vs Manning XVI wasn’t great but still good enough

Sadly for the viewers, this was not the shootout that many had expected in the Manning – Brady bowl. The Patriots appeared to stroll through Manning’s Broncos, cruising to their fifth straight win of the season with a 43-21 victory over Denver.

Talk this year has been about how improved the Broncos are, with Manning moving closer to a consecutive MVP title. However, Brady got the better of Manning on Sunday and now looks just as much the part to earn the individual accolade himself. Although there appeared to be a lack of a competitive edge between the sides, the two star QB’s were producing some stellar numbers.

Not only did Manning and Brady combine for the most ever pass attempts in a single game, they also amassed nearly 800 yards between them along with six scores. The true star of the show however became tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is in the form of his life having caught for over 500 yards in his last five games.

Although the viewers weren't blessed with a shootout that has become synonymous with Brady and Manning battles, their style of play on Sunday certainly didn’t disappoint.

Miami show they deserve a play-off spot

If there was to be one big shock of the weekend, this game was certainly it. The Miami Dolphins convincingly shut-out the San Diego Chargers 37-0 in what was a statement game to the rest of the league.

The Dolphins have become renowned as a team that starts strong but fades late in the season, dashing hopes of a play-off appearance. The same pattern appeared to be emerging this year, however Sunday’s performance against a Chargers team that has been commanding at times shows signs of a different Dolphins side.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill looked mature, limiting the mistakes that have plagued his season. The Dolphins were also able to completely deactivate Philip Rivers from the game, limiting him to just 138 yards through the air in what was the quarterback’s worst game of the year.

The Chargers have now lost three straight, so how much this win is a credit to the Dolphins and how much is due to San Diego falling apart is debatable. Nevertheless, the Dolphins showed they are more than capable of running with the top teams in the league when all aspects of their game come together. The question is just how long will this last?

The Cowboys now realise just how valuable Tony Romo is

Little should be taken away from the Cardinals 28-17 win over the Cowboys. Arizona have proven themselves legitimate contenders this year, and the beating of a Tony Romo-less Dallas team should not rob of them of what was a decent victory.

However, if this game showed anything, it was just how much the Cowboys rely on their regular starting QB. His replacement, Brandon Weeden, finished the day with fewer than 55 per cent of his passes complete for just over 180 yards, including one touchdown and a brace of picks.

The loss cannot simply be blamed on Weeden, but the lack of a consistent figure behind centre all but highlighted the need for Romo to return. Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones acknowledged after the game just how surprised he was by the offence's limitations without Romo, leaving little doubt that Weeden will be demoted at the next possible opportunity.

According to Jones, Romo will make the trip to London this week and is expected to play. In what is a highly competitive NFC East, the Cowboys will need their regular leader to play the season out if they are to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The 49ers are on the outside looking in

The San Francisco 49ers having been stuttering along this year racking up both losses and wins that now sees them sitting on 4-4. Their 13-10 loss to the St Louis Rams on Sunday showed that the 49ers are no longer the team that had dominated the NFC for so many years.

This was an ugly loss, a late fumble by quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the goal line gave the Rams the upset to send San Francisco into third place in the NFC West. The mistake was a costly one that could have serous implications for the 49ers play-off ambitions.

The NFC West is one of the most competitive in the league and with Arizona running away on 7-1 and Seattle not far behind on 5-3, San Francisco will be hard pushed for the play-offs this year. What is more worrying about the loss on Sunday is the 49ers look a shadow of the team they have previously been under Jim Harbaugh.

Always a team capable of outscoring almost anyone in the league with Colin Kaepernick at the helm, the 49ers lost to a team that recorded only 193 total yards and 13 points. Their inability to get in the endzone has hampered the 49ers' season and unless their fortunes turnaround soon, they look set to be watching the playoffs this year.

London will have to support another awful Jaguars side

The Jacksonville Jaguars will once again make their annual pilgrimage to London this week in the hope that a bit of British support can turn their season around. Sadly for British supporters, there’s not a whole load to cheer about when the Jaguars take the field on Sunday.

With a 33-23 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Jacksonville are now 1-8 and have completely underwhelmed in every way this season. The hope was that they were to be the dark horse in the AFC South, having secured several good young talents such as Allen Robinson and Blake Bortles.

This has far from materialised and the Jaguars are still a good two or three seasons from competing with the rest of the league. If there is a silver lining to this dark and gloomy cloud, they enter this Wembley game with one more win than they did when they played the 49ers last year.

Despite this, a 1-15 record in weeks before playing in London is nearly as bad as it can possibly get, so not much can be expected of one of the NFL’s worst teams.