We're now officially past the halfway point of the 2019 NFL season, and week nine was a bump in the road for two of the league's highest flying franchises.
The New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers both lost on Sunday, adding a little more intrigue to the race for the top seeds in each conference, while there was also drama among the bottom feeders, with the Miami Dolphins discovering tanking doesn't always go to plan - not when you have to play the New York Jets, anyway.
Here are the 10 biggest takeaways from NFL week nine...
The answer to the Patriots' fearsome defense? Lamar Jackson
The Patriots defense was being talked about as one of the best of all time through eight weeks, but they hadn't really faced a good offense all season. What happened when they did? Lamar Jackson, that's what. Jackson and the Ravens piled up 37 points on New England, including 13 unanswered in the fourth quarter to put the game beyond doubt. He was clean through the air, completing 17 of 23 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown, and typically devastating on the ground. Jackson rushed into the end zone twice and had 61 yards from 16 carries.
Jackson was aided by Mark Ingram, who racked up 115 rushing yards at an average of 7.7 per touch - the perfect time for him to wake up after a quiet few weeks. It meant Baltimore were able to chew up the clock and keep Tom Brady off the field - the Baltimore offense was on the pitch for 37 minutes compared to the Patriots' 23.
When Brady did take the field he was not quite on song. He failed to convert a red zone takeaway into a touchdown and also threw an ugly pick in the fourth quarter, while the usually reliable Julian Edelman fumbled a pass which Marlon Humphrey took all the way back to the paint. Bill Belichick may not be mad about this defeat - the Pats have a bye this week, giving them a chance to reflect, regroup and secure the No 1 seed in the AFC, but the dream of a 16-0 season is dead.
Chargers stampede Green Bay's Jones tandem
The LA Chargers continue to be the most confusing team in the league. They'll lay eggs against bad teams like the Broncos and Titans and then put together a performance like this, crushing the 7-1 (now 7-2) Green Bay Packers 26-11 by bottling up an offense that had been soaring these past few weeks. The Packers had just 60 offensive yards until the fourth quarter, by which time the game was already out of reach, with Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa combining for three sacks of Aaron Rodgers. His namesake Aaron Jones managed just 30 yards on the ground and lost a yard on his single reception after his career day as a receiver last week.
Philip Rivers and Melvin Gordon had their best days of the season. Rivers completed 21 of his 28 passes for 294 yards, while Gordon carried 20 times for 80 and found the end zone twice. Mike Williams and Hunter Henry were effective in passing game on a day where Keenan Allen was relegated to a bit-part player.
The Chargers aren't dead yet, but will need to use this game as a catalyst and discover some consistency to keep themselves in the AFC Wildcard race. You've just beaten one of the best teams in the league, you know you can do it, so no more excuses, OK?
Russell Wilson is MVP-elect
Russell Wilson shone again as the Seahawks won one of the best games of the season 40-34 in overtime. Wilson threw five touchdowns against the Buccaneers, completing 29 of his 43 passes for 378, and was once again without a pick. That's 22 touchdowns and just one interception for the season, good for a passer rating of 118.2 and the clear lead in the MVP race, at least for my money.
The Seahawks are not blowing teams out - six of their seven wins have been by a score or less - and they needed overtime to take out the Bucs at home, but Wilson is making sure the result ends a positive one, and that is all that matters. He was consistently put under pressure by a brutal Buccaneers pass rush, but that didn't stop him linking up with favourite target Tyler Lockett 13 times for 152 yards and two scores, and rookie DK Metcalf for 123 and another. They were only eclipsed by Tampa's Mike Evans, who hauled in 12 receptions for a whopping 180 yards and a TD.
Despite the high score this game had plenty of good defense, which both teams forcing multiple fumbles. Bucs rookie linebacker Devin White had two to himself, and also had 12 tackles in the best showing of his young career. Tampa aren't going to be troubling the scorers in January this season, but are building an aggressive, competitive team that are at the very least a lot of fun to watch.
Chiefs show team strength without their leader
Someone buy Andy Reid a pint - he's made sure the Chiefs are still a true force even as their star quarterback sits on the sideline. Matt Moore was again impressive in Patrick Mahomes' absence, but this was a win built on teamwork and great coaching. Harrison Butker's last second field goal - his fourth on a day in which he was perfect - sealed a 26-23 win over the Vikings at Arrowhead.
Tyreek Hill (six catches, 140 yards, TD) and Damien Williams (12 carries, 125 yards, TD) were the big contributors on offense, while the Chiefs defense held the Minnesota offense - on fire in recent weeks - to just over 300 total yards. Kirk Cousins, NFC Offensive Player of the Month in October, started poorly but still threw three touchdowns - to Ameer Abdullah, Kyle Rudolph and Olabisi Johnson - one a day where Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs combined for just a single catch and four yards. Cousins had a chance to win the game late in the fourth, with the scores tied 23-23, but went backwards on the drive and allowed Butker to win it with his 44-yard strike.
Both teams are now 6-3 and in great position for the postseason, but the Vikings will feel this was a missed opportunity against an injury-depleted Chiefs unit.
The Steelers refuse to die
— NFL (@NFL) November 3, 2019
Winning ugly is sometimes the sign of a good team - something the 2019 Steelers are not - but that's exactly what they did on Sunday to ensure they are still hanging around in the AFC Wildcard picture despite that dismal 0-3 start. A missed Adam Vinatieri field goal meant they took this one 26-23 against the Colts at Heinz Field with Minkah Fitzpatrick again a big difference-maker. His 96-yard pick six was his fourth in just six games as a Steeler, and helped put his team in the driver's seat in the first half.
There is no doubt the defense is the star unit in this Pittsburgh team - the offense is stuttering with Mason Rudolph under centre, and the second-year fourth-rounder is yet to show anything that suggests he is up to being Ben Roethlisberger's long-term heir. Undrafted running back Trey Edmunds (73 yards, 6.1 yards per carry) was their most effective offensive player with James Conner out injured and JuJu Smith-Schuster continuing to frustrate his fantasy owners - he finished the day with just three catches and 16 yards.
The Colts have slipped behind Houston in the AFC South, but what is more worrisome was the knee injury sustained by quarterback Jacoby Brissett in the second quarter. Brian Hoyer was forced into action and played fairly well, finishing with three touchdowns and a pick, but asking him to keep up with Deshaun Watson through the second half of the season may be too much. Indy will pray Brissett recovers quickly.
A change is needed in Chicago
The Bears offense is nothing short of terrible, and the brunt of the blame must be laid at the feet of Mitchell Trubisky. He completed just 10 of his 21 attempts in a 21-14 loss to the Eagles, with 125 yards and no touchdowns. Chase Daniel is not much of a better option on the bench, and clamours are being made for Chicago to be bold and look elsewhere at quarterback in the offseason. It is difficult to move on from a first round pick, but Trubisky is repeatedly proving himself to be a hindrance, and sticking with him will not pay off.
The Eagles didn't need to be great to turn over a sloppy Bears team, who also played well below their significant ability on defense. Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz connected well, with the tight end going over 100 yards for the first time this season, while Jordan Howard punished his old team on the ground, rushing 19 times for 82 yards and a score. Philly are starting to get healthy, and it's about time they went on a bit of a run. This could be the start...
The Browns hype is dead and buried
The Cleveland Browns has aged Baker Mayfield in dog years pic.twitter.com/3ZpwMPMJhD
— JKuhn (@h8rproof82) November 4, 2019
This was one of the more depressing Browns defeats in recent memory - and there have been plenty. This was supposed to be Cleveland's rejuvenation season, instead they're 2-6 and just slumped to a 24-19 loss to a struggling Broncos team whose quarterback was starting his first ever NFL game. Brandon Allen threw two touchdowns - one an excellent grab by Courtland Sutton and the other a 75-yard catch and run for rookie tight end Noah Fant, his first career trip to the end zone.
Baker Mayfield, meanwhile, was interception-free for the first time this season, but could only find the end zone once and was poor in the red zone. Odell Beckham did at least make a little bit of noise, with 87 yards from his five catches, but the Browns were disappointing on both sides of the ball, allowing Allen to be clean, efficient and most vitally, outscore their own star studded offense. The Browns struggled to wrap up Phillip Lindsay all day, with the second-year back rushing for 91 yards from just nine carries, along with the touchdown which gave Denver breathing space in the second half.
Cleveland will probably need to run the table to stand any chance of making the playoffs now, and even the most optimistic Browns fan (do they even exist?) can't see that happening. How long before they start coming for Freddie Kitchens' head?
Raiders have a happy homecoming
The Raiders were finally back at home for the first time since week two - a ridiculous stretch on the road which included a 'home' game in London - but made sure their fans had something to cheer about by coming from behind to beat the Lions 31-24 in the fourth quarter.
Detroit's passing game was flashier - Matthew Stafford finished with 406 yards and three touchdowns, with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones both going over 100 with a score apiece - but Derek Carr was accurate and effective. He completed 20 of 31 for 289 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and was supported by rookie running back Josh Jacobs, who continued his excellent entrance to the NFL with 120 yards and two touchdowns from 28 carries. Jon Gruden isn't afraid to give Jacobs a heavy workload, and he's proving himself to be every bit the No 1 back the Raiders hoped when they drafted him in the first round this spring.
In an exciting game the highlight might have been a stunning interception from Raiders cornerback Daryl Worley, right as the Lions were marching down the field and threatening to score. At 4-4 they probably aren't going to make the playoffs this time around, but the future is starting to take shape for the silver and black.
Riverboat Ron lives
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) November 3, 2019
Ron Rivera made two ballsy calls, going for it on fourth-and-two instead of kicking a field goal in the first half, and faking a punt in the second. Both times he was rewarded with a touchdown. Kyle Allen found Christian McCaffrey in the end zone on the first play, and Colin Jones converted the fake punt into a first down and kickstarted a drive which also ended in a CMC TD. He had three for the day - including a 55-yard rush - and managed 164 scrimmage yards in what has been a spectacular season for the former No 8 overall pick.
Carolina will be happy to have put up 30 points on a very good defense, particularly after the offensive struggles in the blowout defeat to the 49ers last week. They controlled this game throughout, aided by Tennessee's costly sloppiness - two missed kicks, two fumbles, two interceptions and a series of penalties hamstrung them of offense despite Ryan Tannehill outgaining Allen with 331 passing yards.
Tanking ain't as easy as it looks
The Dolphins were supposed to go 0-16 this season, but they didn't account for just how bad the New York Jets are. The Jets have jumped ahead of Miami in the tank race after slumping to 1-7 with a 26-18 defeat, despite entering the season with the most hope and expectation in years. It's a depressing time to be a fan of Gang Green, and that wasn't helped by their former quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick torching them 288 yards and three touchdowns on his most Fitzmagical day of the season.
New York's offense continues to be dire - particularly worrisome since Adam Gase is an offensive coach, and was brought in to give support to Sam Darnold. The second-year QB looked off again, and Le'Veon Bell again toiled hard for little reward in an offense which is not suited to his considerable skillset. A clearout and rebuilt may be on the cards for the offseason, and Gase may find himself part of that exodus.