A lot has changed in the NFL over the past few weeks, and Penn alumni have experienced plenty of high and low moments. From coaching turnovers, to injury comebacks and big wins, the Quakers have felt a wide range of emotions and were called to react in different ways. It’s time to check in on where the Red and Blue alumni stand after week nine.
Justin Watson — Wide Receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
After suffering what initially appeared to be a serious elbow injury in week six, Watson was able to recover quickly and saw playing time on the field in both weeks eight and nine. Following a humiliating defeat against the Denver Broncos last week, the Chiefs needed to make a statement against a high-flying Dolphins team. They did just that.
Watson and his team traveled to Frankfurt, Germany for a big matchup against the Miami Dolphins, and ultimately returned to the U.S. with a close 21-14 win. However, the wide receiver wasn’t able to replicate his signature big-yardage plays and finished the game with two receptions for only 15 total yards.
Despite this slightly less prolific performance, the two-time Super Bowl winner did manage to average 21 yards per catch against the Broncos. The Chiefs will now enjoy a bye week before taking on the Philadelphia Eagles in a highly anticipated Super Bowl LVII rematch. Watson could have opportunities to make big plays down the middle of the field in a game that will pit two of the NFL's best squads against each other.
Greg Van Roten — Guard, Las Vegas Raiders
Describing what the past few weeks have been like for the Raiders organization and fan base is no easy task. On Halloween night, Las Vegas fired former coach Josh McDaniels following the team’s week eight loss to the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football.
The Raiders under McDaniels weren’t able to get any of their offensive weapons going, with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo underachieving and frustration developing on the wide receiver end. This — combined with a losing record — made firing McDaniels appear to be the logical decision.
Interim head coach Antonio Pierce was placed in the position of patching up the team ahead of their week nine game against the New York Giants. Among the many changes made to the offense, Pierce declared Aidan O’Connell starting quarterback, and the rookie excelled as the Raiders blew the Giants out in a 30-6 rout. Despite not getting Davante Adams heavily involved, the outing was overwhelmingly positive for the Raider offense. Van Roten and the rest of the offensive line did a solid job protecting O’Connell. But this upcoming weekend, their offense will be put to the test against a very strong Jets defense.
Kevin Stefanski — Head Coach, Cleveland Browns
This weekend, Stefanski’s team enjoyed a big 27-0 home win against the Cardinals on Sunday. Arizona’s 1-8 record is a good indicator of their level this year and Cleveland’s ruthless defense had a field day against first-time starter quarterback Clayton Tune.
The Browns’ defense picked off Tune twice and sacked him seven times. Coming into this matchup, Stefanski’s side was trying to bounce back from a close loss against the Seahawks. After beating the 49ers in week six, the team’s confidence increased and, despite the loss to Seattle, it always seemed like the Browns would get back to their best against a very beatable Cardinals team.
Cleveland is sitting on a 5-3 record but is in arguably the league’s best division at the moment. The Ravens lead the AFC North while the Steelers, Bengals, and Browns are currently tied in the battle for wildcard spots. Despite this tough division, Stefanski is likely confident with his team’s defense. If highly-paid quarterback Deshaun Watson can perform well, albeit with limited weapons, they have a chance to clinch the playoffs.