Scully’s NFL Notebook: Saints are a legitimate Super Bowl contender
Kansas City and Pittsburgh are the leading Super Bowl contender in the AFC with eight weeks remaining in the regular season, but the NFC hierarchy lacks clarity. Green Bay and New Orleans looked good in Week 9, while Tampa Bay and Seattle struggled. The outlook may change again after Week 10.
Here are my top three takeaways from Week 9 of the 2020 NFL season.
New Orleans steamrolls Tampa Bay
A much-anticipated matchup quickly fizzled into a one-sided contest as the Saints bludgeoned the Buccaneers.
It was over by the midway point of the second quarter, with New Orleans jumping out to 28-0 advantage. The Buccaneers were held to 194 total yards, and they tried only four running plays, officially winding up with a NFL record-low five rushes after taking a kneel-down to end it.
Remarkably, Alvin Kamara accounted for only 49 yards in the beatdown as New Orleans didn’t need their do-everything back to whip Tampa Bay.
Drew Brees, who had performed well below his standards in the first half of the season, elevated his play by connecting often with Michael Thomas (five catches) and Emmanuel Sanders (four catches). The receiver tandem was back in the fold after being derailed most of the season by injuries.
Taysom Hill made an impact, completing both of his pass attempts and he posted 54 rushing and 21 receiving yards. He’s become a viable multi-purpose threat for Sean Payton to utilize in the playoffs.
New Orleans looked like a serious Super Bowl contender for the first time. The Bucs, meanwhile, aren't as bad as they looked on Sunday, but they do face an uphill challenge to win the NFC North.
Buffalo records a signature win
Buffalo added some credibility with a 44-34 victory over Seattle.
The Bills started fast with a 6-2 record, but four of those wins came against AFC East rivals. Buffalo didn’t look the part of an upper echelon team when losing to Kansas City (26-17) and Tennessee (42-16), but they changed the narrative in Week 9.
Seattle came to town with a 6-1 record, and they were blitzed early by Buffalo, falling behind 14-0 after the first quarter. Buffalo kept this game in hand by scoring 17 points of their own in the fourth quarter, which enabled them to easily withstand a second-half barrage from the high-powered Seahawks
The Bills are interesting. Their underperforming defense remains likely to finish strong down the stretch, and the offense can be dynamic when Josh Allen avoids mistakes.
They will need help, but 7-2 Buffalo is still in the race for home field advantage. The Bills will try to avoid a letdown when traveling to Arizona in Week 10, and they have a key home test against Pittsburgh in mid-December.
The Raiders are making a push
Las Vegas has won three straight road games, improving to 5-3 after edging the Chargers 31-26. The Raiders could be playoff-bound for the first time since 2016.
Cornerback Isaiah Johnson came up big in Week 9, securing the win by dislodging back-to-back passes to Mike Williams and Donald Parham Jr. on the final two plays. The latter was initially ruled a touchdown before being overturned by replay.
After winning a low-scoring affair at Cleveland (13-6), Las Vegas made enough offensive plays despite being easily outgained by Los Angeles (440-320 in total yards).
Derek Carr showed terrific composure behind a makeshift offensive line, opening the second half with back-to-back touchdown drives to surge ahead 28-17, and wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Hunter Renfrow have taken pressure off top tight end Darren Waller in recent weeks.
I’m impressed by the Raiders' progress in Jon Gruden’s third season. Las Vegas can grind it out behind running back Josh Jacobs if necessary, and the Raiders scored 40 points when handing Kansas City their lone loss this season.