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NFL Week 9 Update: Eagles atop the league

Philadelphia+Eagles+quarterback+Carson+Wentz+throws+a+pass+vs.+the+Washington+Redskins+Sept.+10.+The+Eagles+won+30-17.+Photo+courtesy+of+Wikimedia+Commons
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz throws a pass vs. the Washington Redskins Sept. 10. The Eagles won 30-17. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz throws a pass vs. the Washington Redskins Sept. 10. The Eagles won 30-17. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz throws a pass vs. the Washington Redskins Sept. 10. The Eagles won 30-17. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Kaegan Cowan, Sports Editor

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The NFL season has officially concluded Week 9, meaning every NFL team is at least halfway through their 16-game regular season. Leading the NFC and with the best record in the NFL, the Carson Wentz-led Philadelphia Eagles have only lost to the Kansas City Chiefs on their way to an 8-1 record. Wentz is only in his second year as a quarterback in the league, so he may have a successful career ahead of him.

So far this year, it has become clear that no NFL team is “safe” in any game-unless the opponent is either of the winless teams, the Cleveland Browns or the San Francisco 49ers. For example, the 6-2 Pittsburgh Steelers, atop the AFC North, were blown out 30-9 by the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 5, a game in which Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions. The Jaguars, for reference, have not played a postseason game since 2007.

The AFC East, which is generally a cake walk for the New England Patriots every year, is being contested this year by both the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. The Patriots suffered through a 2-2 record in the first four weeks, but have recovered for a four-game win streak.

The NFC East, led by the Eagles, could produce a wild card team in the Dallas Cowboys, who were 13-4 last year. However, the Cowboys could lose running back Ezekiel Elliott to a suspension, potentially making the Cowboys’ playoff path a bit more difficult.

The AFC West, despite a strong start, now looks like a relatively weak division other than the 6-3 Chiefs. All three other teams have losing records, and one of the biggest surprises in the league is how poorly the Oakland Raiders have played. The Chiefs could be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs, boasting quarterback Alex Smith, second in passing yards in the NFL, and rookie sensation running back Kareem Hunt, who leads the league in rushing yards.

The NFC West is led by the 6-2 Los Angeles Rams. The Rams have been an intriguing team; after a weak 2016 debut in Los Angeles, second-year quarterback Jared Goff has led the team to success despite a lack of home fan support. The Rams’ wins have been marked by strong offense; their latest victory was a 51-17 dismantlement of the 1-7 New York Giants in which Goff threw for four touchdowns.

The AFC North is, again, led by the Steelers and their three “Killer B’s”: Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’veon Bell. The Steelers have rebounded from the aforementioned 30-9 loss vs. the Jaguars with a three-game win streak, and it looks unlikely at this point that any of the other teams in the division will challenge Pittsburgh.

The NFC North was thrown into a blender, so to speak, when the Green Bay Packers’ future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone vs. the Minnesota Vikings Oct. 15. The Packers will have to make do with backup Brett Hundley, who has struggled so far, until Rodgers returns (if he returns this year; he may not return if the Packers are out of playoff contention so as not to risk re-injury). The Vikings, on the other hand, have somehow taken the top spot in the division with a 6-2 record despite starting a third-string quarterback, longtime NFL backup Case Keenum. This team is potentially even more dangerous, though, because quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who missed all of last season and all of this season to this point, is slated to return Week 10. Bridgewater suffered a knee injury in 2016 that was so severe, he almost lost his lower leg.

The AFC South is the weakest division in the NFL by its leaders’ records with two 5-3 teams, the Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans, tied for the lead. The better team appears to be the Jaguars, though. The Titans were blown out by the Houston Texans 57-14 in Week 3, and the Jaguars beat the Texans 29-7 in Week 1. The Titans also scratched out a 12-9 overtime win vs. the lowly Browns in Week 7. And, once again, the Jaguars easily took down the powerful Steelers in Week 5.

Finally, the NFC South is led by the New Orleans Saints. The Saints are quietly on a six-game win streak after starting the year 6-2, led by veteran quarterback Drew Brees. They have not scored less than 20 points in a game since Week 1, and that offense has led their resurgence.

This season has been unpredictable so far, and if that continues, the rest of the season promises to be entertaining.

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NFL Week 9 Update: Eagles atop the league