Week 9 Grades: Jags fail to show heart; Jets' Jenkins wreaks havoc
Jets' Kris Jenkins dominates line of scrimmage against Bills
Banged-up Jags lose focus in embarrassing loss to Bengals
Rookie Tim Hightower excels in new starting role with Cardinals
Every Monday, SI.com's Ross Tucker will hand out letter grades to deserving NFL parties...
Jets defensive tackle Kris Jenkins. The high-priced Jenkins gave his organization its money's worth in an incredibly dominating performance that was reminiscent of Browns DT Shaun Rogers' destruction of the Jacksonville Jaguars one week ago. Jenkins was the fulcrum of the Jets run defense from his nose tackle position, dominating the Bills offensive line so thoroughly Buffalo finished with just 30 yards on the ground. Jenkins finished with five tackles and stood up double teams like an immovable object, allowing the Jets linebackers to flow to the football, often untouched.
Even more impressive was his performance as a pass rusher. It is not easy for a 365-pound man to generate enough initial quickness off the snap to efficiently affect the quarterback's throws, but Jenkins was all over Trent Edwards and proved to be the biggest difference in the game, with some special assistance from Darrelle Revis and his two turnovers. Jenkins had two sacks and a host of other pressures, but it was his inside club move against Derrick Dockery that enabled him to force Edwards into an errant throw. Abram Elam picked off the pass and returned it 92 yards for a touchdown to give the Jets a lead they would never relinquish.
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio. Jacksonville has been plagued by injury since the start of the season, which is the only reason Del Rio doesn't get a failing grade as he leads a team that, for the most part, has the same cast of characters back from last year's playoff game-winning squad. For the second week in a row, the Jags played uninspired football against an inferior opponent as they fell to the previously winless Cincinnati Bengals and effectively put their playoff hopes back in the coffers. Given their recent performances, the Jaguars are highly unlikely to go on the 7-1 run they would need to get to 10 wins, the likely number for a playoff participant out of the AFC.
Del Rio is charged with getting his team ready to play and he didn't do it once again as the Bengals sprinted out to a 21-3 lead. The once-formidable front seven for the Jags allowed Cedric Benson -- yes that Cedric Benson -- to rush for 104 yards on 24 carries as the anemic Bengals running game finally showed some signs of life. His team also allowed Bengals quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to scamper for 52 yards on his three rushing attempts, which indicates a lack of effort by the linebackers and secondary.
To add insult to injury, Del Rio's players showed a lack of discipline as defensive tackle John Henderson got ejected for ripping off Bengals guard Andrew Whitworth's helmet and then raking his face while his helmet was removed. Add it all up and it was a dismal performance for the Jags and Del Rio, who was given a contract extension in order to build upon last year's success, not to take two steps back.
Oakland Raiders players and coaches. Every player and coach for the Oakland Raiders should be ashamed of themselves after a performance in which they failed the entire Raider Nation, one of the most devoted and loyal fan bases in sports. This scalding evaluation of the Raiders, for once, has nothing to do with Al Davis. Sure, Davis has made a multitude of mistakes and is ultimately responsible for the Raiders disgraceful performances. But no matter how bad things may be in the front office, the men charged with the task of competing on gameday have to offer more of an effort than they did Sunday.
The biggest surprise in the Falcons' 24-0 win over the Raiders is the score wasn't substantially more lopsided. The Falcons jumped out to that lead at halftime and didn't score the rest of the way because they didn't have to. How bad was it at halftime? How about 20 first downs for the Falcons to zero for the Raiders. Even more glaring could be the Falcons 309 to -2 advantage in total yardage at halftime. In a home game for the Raiders. At the once-vaunted Black Hole. Watching the Raiders performance against the Falcons makes you wonder how they ever won two games this year.
Cardinals running back Tim Hightower. It was a big day for rookie running backs as the Ravens' Ray Rice and Chiefs' Jamaal Charles joined the usual suspects (the Titans' Chris Johnson and the Bears' Matt Forte) in having big days. But Hightower, the former Richmond Spider, provided the most unexpected spark in the extended opportunity he was given by head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Taking over the full-time role from veteran Edgerrin James, Hightower was dynamic and powerful in providing an effective alternative to Kurt Warner's typically potent Arizona air attack. Hightower, previously the short-yardage runner, finished with 109 yards on 22 carries and gave every future Cardinals opponent an entirely new dimension to consider.