Mid­sea­son take­aways:

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - NEWS - Mike Jones Colum­nist USA TO­DAY

Pro­jected awards, play­off finishes; can we trust the Chiefs?

The wacky 2017 NFL sea­son again pro­vided us with plenty of fire­works, sur­prises and head scratch­ers in Week 9.

The Philadel­phia Ea­gles ex­tended their win­ning streak to seven games, while the New Or­leans Saints im­proved theirs to six.

The roughed-up Wash­ing­ton Red­skins de­liv­ered the Sun­day stun­ner in a road up­set of Rus­sell Wil­son and the Seattle Sea­hawks.

Young guns Car­son Wentz and Jared Goff each lit up op­po­nents for 51 points in blowout vic­to­ries.

Fists flew be­tween play­ers in Jack­sonville and in New Or­leans.

At the half­way point of a tough-to-call sea­son, here’s one thing I’m sold on, one team I’m still won­der­ing about and my big­gest dis­ap­point­ment thus far.

Wentz for MVP

Any­one un­con­vinced about the le­git­i­macy of the Wentz for MVP talk need look no fur­ther than the Philadel­phia quar­ter­back’s per­for­mance in Week 9 against the Den­ver Bron­cos.

Not only did the sec­ondyear pro in­crease his league­lead­ing touch­down to­tal to 23 by toss­ing four more with no in­ter­cep­tions, but he did so with­out the ser­vices of his top tar­get, tight end Zach Ertz. The Ea­gles put up those 51 points while mak­ing a pre­vi­ously top-ranked de­fense, led by fu­ture Hall of Famer Von Miller, look very pedes­trian.

Wentz was mas­ter­ful, re­peat­edly us­ing his legs to ex­tend plays be­fore throw­ing with pin­point ac­cu­racy. Yet his most im­pres­sive fea­ture has been the abil­ity to el­e­vate his team­mates. Sea­son-end­ing in­juries to run­ning back Dar­ren Spro­les and left tackle Ja­son Peters haven’t de­railed the Ea­gles, largely thanks to Wentz’s steady­ing pres­ence. All of the quar­ter­back’s be­hind-thescenes work has trans­lated into huge growth both in­di­vid­u­ally and for Philadel­phia as a team.

“He does ev­ery­thing the right way, puts in the hours, leads the guys, says and does all the right things,” said third-string quar­ter­back Nate Sud­feld, who notes that Wentz re­ports to the fa­cil­ity at 6 a.m. each day dur­ing the week to watch film. “He’s kind of a freak of na­ture. He’s ex­tremely ath­letic and strong for his size and has a re­ally strong arm and ve­loc­ity. But his prepa­ra­tion is sec­ond to none. ... The coaches trust him a lot. He gets a lot of lee­way and gets to im­ple­ment a lot of the stuff that he wants to do. There’s a good chem­istry there with him (and Doug Ped­er­son).”

Sure, Tom Brady has an im­pres­sive body of work and could win the MVP award al­most ev­ery year. Drew Brees, Cam New- ton and Alex Smith have led their teams to strong starts as well. But none has dis­played the dra­matic progress and con­sis­tency that Wentz has this sea­son, and none can match the Ea­gles’ league-best 8-1 record.

Ques­tions for Chiefs

Get­ting a clear read on Smith’s Kansas City Chiefs has proved chal­leng­ing dur­ing the first half of the sea­son. Andy Reid’s team opened with a 5-0 record and dur­ing that time looked like one of the best teams in foot­ball. The Chiefs are the one team that Wentz’s Ea­gles couldn’t beat. But since that 5-0 start, the Chiefs have lost three of their last four games.

It ap­pears as if the se­cret is out on Kansas City. The Oak­land Raiders, Pitts­burgh Steel­ers and Dal­las Cow­boys fig­ured out how to neu­tral­ize rookie run­ning back Kareem Hunt, who ranked among the earl­y­sea­son fa­vorites for rookie of the year. After top­ping the 100yard mark in four of the first five games, Hunt has had a tar­get on his back and av­er­aged 47.8


Ea­gles quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz has thrown a league-lead­ing 23 touch­down passes and has be­come an MVP con­tender.

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