2012 NFL Grades, Week 9: Packers bye comes at a perfect time

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

The Green Bay Packers won again on Sunday, pushing their record to 6-3, keeping pace with the Bears (7-1) and giving them a leg up on many of the other playoff contenders in the NFC as well as the sixth-best record in the NFL.

But most importantly, Aaron Rodgers and company get to hit up the bye week in Week 10, and it couldn't come at a better time. Rodgers is playing well, but this team is banged up.

Clay Matthews suffered an injury against the Cardinals, as did Jordy Nelson, and Greg Jennings returning would be huge for them.

Given the way they've played as of late -- winning four-straight games after their collapse against the Colts in Week 5 -- it should be scary for other teams to see them beginning to heat up just in time to get healthy and then return with a vengeance against the rest of the NFL.

TeamGradeAnalysis
Chargers 31, Chiefs 13
FKansas City kept things close for a while -- they were down just four points going into the fourth quarter -- but got obliterated by the Chargers defense in the final frame. Romeo Crennel's team has gone eight games without holding a lead in the regular season and the Chiefs are officially a trainwreck. No surprise that seats are getting hot.
BThis was a job-saving win for Norv Turner and Philip rivers looked much better than he had in recent weeks. The defense dominated in the fourth quarter, scoring twice. But let's not paint this as a game that should propel the Chargers to a division title. It was still simply a victory over the Chiefs. But every win counts.
Broncos 31, Bengals 23
B+Maybe Peyton Manning's picks come in bunches? He threw a pair of terrible interceptions to Terrence Newman on back-to-back plays, but was otherwise impressive and threw an additional three touchdown passes. Von Miller sacked Andy Dalton three times and had an absolutely game-changing monster day.
CThe Bengals used their two picks of Peyton to generate 10 points and briefly took a lead. But once again, the defense couldn't hold up and coughed up a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to Manning. Sandwiched between those was a brutal Andy Dalton pick that really buried Cincinnati.
Packers 31, Cardinals 17
C-Arizona's freefall continued with their fifth-straight loss after an undefeated start. The Cardinals couldn't get a running game going, John Skelton had to throw 46 times and the defense couldn't generate enough pressure on Rodgers. Crazy how quickly they've fallen apart.
B+Just another four passing touchdowns for Aaron Rodgers despite missing his top two targets. Ho-hum. Randall Cobb is really developing into one of the more dangerous weapons in the NFL. The bye is coming at a perfect time for the Packers, who are winning games but racking up injuries.
Ravens 25, Browns 15
BThe Ravens came out hot but coughed up a big lead and needed an 11-point fourth quarter to put away the Browns. Trent Richardson rushed for 105 yards (on 25 carries) but Cleveland didn't find the end zone, which is impressive considering how poorly Baltimore's defense played the weeks leading up to their bye.
C+No touchdowns from the Browns, some critical mistakes by Brandon Weeden and some ill-timed penalties (a Josh Gordon touchdown was called back) led to Cleveland losing a shot at a big-time upset. It's particularly disappointing considering the Browns led this game 15-14 with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Texans 21, Bills 9
C+Buffalo was overmatched and on the road, but they still got out of their gameplan too quickly: Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller combined for just 12 rushing attempts. The Bills never found the end zone, but they kept things competitive until late. It's nuts how few plays this defense makes after all the offseason investments they had.
BVery efficient, well-rounded game for Houston. They stifled the Bills offense for the most part, forced Ryan Fitzpatrick to make plays and didn't put too much stress on Arian Foster, who still topped 100 yards. The only issue here is that they let the Bills hang around a little longer than you'd like.
Colts 23, Dolphins 20
B-The Fins are now winless in domes this season and it hurts to have your defense gashed like they were on Sunday, but this isn't a crippling loss if they can bounce back and beat the Titans and Bills in the next two weeks. Ryan Tannehill continues to look like he was very much a wise choice for Miami in the first round last year.
B+Just another outstanding effort from Andrew Luck, who broke the single-game rookie record for passing yards in a game. T.Y. Hilton and Donnie Avery both went over 100 receiving yards, with Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen going over 75 yards, proving Luck has several different weapons to choose from. If the playoffs started today, Peyton Manning and Luck would play in the first round.
Lions 31, Jaguars 14
A-The Lions are back at .500 now after a dominating road effort and continue to build momentum towards a playoff run. Mikel LeShoure found the end zone three times and Joique Bell got there once as well. Calvin Johnson remains a monster, injury or not. This was an absolute beatdown.
FBlaine Gabbert had some nice moments, throwing a pair of touchdown passes, but I think the Jaguars had just one first down before halftime. They no-showed this game at home, they have one win, and their defense got absolutely demolished by a team that's not supposed to really have a rushing attack.
Bears 51, Titans 20
AGodzilla. This game was ugly from the start and the Bears never let up. They scored their seventh and eighth defensive touchdowns. Charles Tillman forced four fumbles, Matt Forte rushed for over 100 yards and Brandon Marshall had three receiving touchdowns, two of which came well after this game was out of hand. What a throttlejob.
FChris Johnson picked up an 80-yard touchdown run for fantasy owners, but it was during garbage time. The Titans fumbled the ball six times (!), lost four of them, threw one pick and generally looked like an absolute mess. This game was over by the end of the first quarter, if not sooner.
Panthers 21, Redskins 13
B+The continued emergence of the Panthers defense is an underrated storyline this season, with Luke Kuechly's presence at middle linebacker perhaps being the catalyst. Carolina ran the ball well (finally!), although not enough and Cam Newton finally played well and picked up a win. No press conference questions this week.
C-"Homecoming" wasn't so sweet for Washington, as the Redskins failed to find the end zone until a late Evan Royster plunge. Robert Griffin III was generally ineffective and the defense couldn't do much to stop the Panthers from moving the ball.
Seahawks 30, Vikings 20
C-Why would the Vikings stop giving Adrian Peterson the ball? He had 140 rushing yards ... at halftime. He ended the game with just 17 carries. Minnesota only scored three points in the second half. This is not a coincidence. Christian Ponder had another sub 75-yard passing game as the Cinderella Vikings kept stumbling their way back towards .500.
BAwful defensive effort against Peterson in the first half, but the Seahawks D was much better in the second half. Russell Wilson was 16-for-24 with 173 yards and three touchdowns, Marshawn Lynch cracked the 100-yard marker and Golden Tate made some huge plays in the passing game. Good effort for Seattle at home, again.
Buccaneers vs. Raiders
BAnd Doug Martin's coming out party was supposed to be last week? He had the third-highest rushing-yard total for a rookie ever on Sunday and the Buccaneers nearly lost the game anyway because they decided to give the ball to LeGarrette Blount. Nice game from Josh Freeman as well. The Buccaneers are just flat-out dangerous.
D+Carson Palmer had four touchdown passes but he also threw three picks, including a back-breaker of a game-sealing interception. Losing Darren McFadden, who had just 17 rushing yards on seven carries, and his backup Mike Goodson, really hurts this team. Embarrassing effort for the defense all around.
Giants vs. Steelers
BPittsburgh's cobbled-together corps of running backs keeps generating big games. This time it was Isaac Redman, who ran for 147 yards. The Steelers got hosed by the fact that no one ever gets the tuck rule right, but still managed to come away with a huge road victory against an emotionally-charged Giants team.
C+The rushing attack struggled and the offense never got going: Eli Manning had just 125 passing yards and 10 completions. Maybe the Giants were just too comfortable having a big lead in their division and looking like Super Bowl favorites?
Falcons vs. Cowboys
CDallas pumped money into cornerbacks this offseason and both Julio Jones and Roddy White went over 100 yards receiving. They can't get their ground game going without DeMarco Murray back. Solid game for Tony Romo, but at some point Dallas has to start converting plays in the red zone. How does everyone freeze completely with the game on the line so often?
BNot the prettiest of victories, but the Falcons remained undefeated. What's really impressive to me about Atlanta is how much more creative they are this season. Julio Jones at tailback? Yes, please. Michael Turner had a throwback game against Dallas, and while Matt Ryan failed to throw a touchdown pass he's probably OK with it. Some of the "blocking" for Ryan left a little to be desired.
Saints vs. Eagles
D+The Eagles actually moved the ball really well for much of this game. They ran the ball incredibly well, as Bryce Brown and LeSean McCoy carved up the Saints defense. But they melted down in the red zone, scoring negative points on four first-and-goal opportunities. A better gameplan and playcalling probably wins this game for Philadelphia.
BNew Orleans was helped out by some Philly self-implosion, but they did sack Michael Vick seven times and were extremely efficient on offense. Jimmy Graham looks back to full speed and Chris Ivory/Mark Ingram stepped up in the absence of Darren Sproles. Drew Brees is pretty good at home in primetime, even when his line isn't blocking.

 
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