Week 9 takeaways: Bills find the best version of themselves

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The New Orleans Saints are back in contention in the NFC after their most complete performance of the season.

Quietly, after a sluggish start with too many close games against inferior teams, the Saints have won five games in a row and are now positioned to win the NFC South after comfortably beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the second time this season. Sean Payton’s team finally played up to their potential — they were considered the most talented roster in the NFC entering the 2020 season — and got big contributions from Drew Brees and the defence.

The Saints were much more comfortable offensively and not purely riding through Alvin Kamara, with Michael Thomas back in the lineup and Sean Payton able to effectively mix in Taysom Hill.

The team’s recent surge is coming at a good time as previous contenders such as the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, and Buccaneers have looked far less impressive in recent weeks , while the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams are coming off losses as well. If it wasn't clear before Sunday, the NFC is wide open.

For a team that almost felt irrelevant a month ago, the Saints are now back in the conversation for the No. 1 overall seed.

Bills find the best versions of themselves

We were critical of the legitimacy of the Bills in last week’s version of this column, and they absolutely proved us wrong in Week 9 with an upset victory over the Seattle Seahawks. The Bills’ coaching staff was phenomenal on Sunday, making significant adjustments on both sides of the ball. They were much more aggressive on defense, sending a variety of pressures that caused 16 knockdowns of Russell Wilson, the highest any QB has been knocked down this season, while forcing four turnovers.

On offense, they ignored the run game, which had been slowing down their offensive efficiency, and threw the ball way more frequently on early downs. This allowed them to get the ball to their best players, and matched up well with Seattle’s clear weakness — the abysmal pass defence. If Buffalo plays with this formula, which is something we said needed to be done last week, they are a much different team than what we saw last month. They deserve credit for their aggressiveness and for simply outcoaching the Seahawks. Props to Sean McDermott, Brian Daboll, and Leslie Frazier.

Colts lacking skill players

The Colts have one of the best built rosters in football. They are strong in trenches — with very good offensive and defensive lines — which correlates well with winning as the weather gets cold. They also have a reliable linebacker and secondary group. However, watching the Colts, it is apparent how they lack juice or speed on offense. To be fair, the team is currently without Paris Campbell and T.Y. Hilton (who has been underperforming in 2020) at receiver, and as a result, they do not have enough players who dictate coverage and provide a spark in the passing game. The team looks slow offensively and has to dink and dunk the ball down the field. That will be an issue when the Colts play top teams, and a big reason why they couldn’t overcome a strong start against the Ravens.

Indianapolis isn’t getting enough from RB Jonathan Taylor, either. They spent a high pick and even traded up in the second round to get him, and considering how advantageous his situation is for a running back, he has performed well below expectations, and was even benched on Sunday after a costly fumble. He was expected to provide an element of explosion that former starter Marlon Mack lacked on the ground. Philip Rivers will get plenty of the blame for Sunday’s loss, but at his age, he needs more help around him.

Joe Judge impressing in rookie season

The record doesn’t show it, as the New York Giants are just 2-7, but Joe Judge has done a nice job in his first season as a head coach. Since a rocky start where they lost RB Saquon Barkley for the season, the team has outplayed its talent level — which isn’t very much — and is consistently in games against superior opponents.

The defense has been a pleasant surprise, considering the lack of big name players. They gave plenty of trouble to Tom Brady in Week 8, slowed down Sean McVay and Jared Goff earlier in the season, and caused three interceptions against Washington in Week 9. Their last three losses have all come within one score, and they’re playing at a more consistent level than the other teams in the lowly NFC East, which obviously isn’t saying much. Judge needs to evaluate whether OC Jason Garrett and QB Daniel Jones are worth banking on for the future, but right now, he deserves credit for getting the organization moving in the right direction. They are a tough out every week.

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