There are storylines galore heading into week 9 of the NFL Season. Some teams, like Minnesota and Seattle, are looking to find themselves on the offensive side of the ball. Minnesota hasn’t been able to block for Sam Bradford one bit the last two weeks, and Wilson continues to look average when he is asked to do a lot. Cleveland is still looking for that elusive first win, which they gave away last week to the Jets. It won’t get any easier this week with Dallas’ rushing offense on a tear. There are quite a few games of divisional importance, such as the Steelers-Ravens and Eagles-Giants. The AFC West is still flying high, but someone will be knocked down a peg Sunday Night when the Broncos travel to face the Raiders. It’s all here for another fabulous week of football. Let’s get to the predictions.
Last Week: 8-4-1
On the Season: 77-41-2
This Week: 1-0
Steelers at Ravens (-3)
The rivalry between the Steelers and Ravens isn’t going to be the game we are used to seeing this time around. Pittsburgh’s defense has been very kind to opponents lately, as they cannot find a way to stop the run. Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount tore through their defense the previous two weeks. Hopefully, the bye week has given the Steelers time to get healthier and regroup. Ben Roethlisberger seems like he will return Sunday, which will give the offense a major boost. But, the Ravens defense is still one of the better defenses in the league. Eric Weddle has been big time for the Ravens’ secondary this season, and CJ Mosley continues to grow as a middle linebacker. This game will be more like the second meeting we saw last season, a game in which the Ravens slowed down the mighty Pittsburgh offense en route to a victory. Joe Flacco will have opportunities for big plays, and he will need to hit on a few in order for the Ravens to win. But, the return of Ben will be too much for the skidding Ravens (losers of 4 straight).
Prediction: Steelers 27, Ravens 20
Lions at Vikings(-6.5)
What a tale of two seasons it has felt like for the Vikings. The last two weeks don’t look like the Vikings we saw before their bye week. It hasn’t just been the offensive line, which has allowed way too much pressure and can’t get a push in the run game. It’s also the defensive line, which didn’t do well enough stopping Jordan Howard from demolishing them to the tune of 202 total scrimmage yards. This can be the week for the Vikings to turn it around. The Lions are the classic .500 team right now; you never know what to expect. They can go out and get big wins over teams like Philadelphia and Washington, and then lay an egg against Houston and Chicago. Plus, Matt Stafford can be spotty sometimes. This is a team you can’t count on to deliver on what you expect. If there was ever a week for the Vikings to get the mojo back, it’s now. Bradford should have more time to throw (granted it’s no guarantee with how well Ziggy Ansah can play), and running the ball with McKinnon and Asiata should be more successful. The defense is itching to prove that they are still as good as anyone. I would not want to be the Lions this week.
Prediction: Vikings 26, Lions 14
Eagles at Giants (-3)
You are looking at two very similar teams this season. The Giants and Eagles have both played very good defense as of late, with their offenses sputtering. Philly is coming off a tough road loss at Dallas, where it feels like they should have won. The Giants are hoping a bye week can help fix the offense. It starts with running the ball. The Eagles, who are one of the best defenses in the league, aren’t the best at stopping the run (4.7 yards/attempt). If Rashad Jennings can find space, Eli won’t have to throw it 50 times to win this game. Sterling Shepard might be the X-factor in the passing game, with the Eagles focused in on OBJ. It could be his week to return to how he played in the first few weeks of the season. How’s that rookie Wentz doing? Pretty good, actually. He played very smart against Dallas last week, taking what the defense gave him and not turning the ball over. Taking advantage of the Giants weak spot at linebacker is a good place to start for Wentz this week if he wants to lead this team to a win. Road games are never easy, and this one could be a dogfight to the end.
Prediction: Giants 22, Eagles 20
Jets at Dolphins (-3)
If either of these teams want to get into the playoff hunt, this game is a must. The Dolphins are riding high after two big wins against Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Jay Ajayi has been a master the last two games, but it might be hard to find holes against the Jets front. Wilkerson, Richardson, and Williams are all studs and it will be very difficult to contain all of them. But, with the way the Jets secondary has been, running the ball could be less of a priority. The Jets have allowed 289 pass yards per game, second highest in the league. Jarvis Landry and the wide receiver group should have a field day against Revis and company. The only remaining question is, will we see the first half Jets of last week or the second half Jets?
Prediction: Dolphins 24, Jets 17
Cowboys (-6.5) at Browns
This is a classic trap game. The Browns didn’t do themselves any favors last week by blowing a lead against the Jets. The Cowboys are coming off a gutsy overtime win against the Eagles. This should be no contest right? Not necessarily, no. Cleveland is going to beat someone, we just don’t know who it will be. The offense looked much better last week, and with Corey Coleman returning, him and Terrelle Pryor will provide headaches for the Cowboy secondary. This fact could surprise a lot of fans early, especially if Kessler and either of them connect on a deep ball. So Cleveland will win? No, they won’t, mostly due to the fact that they cannot stop the run, and they’re facing the leading rusher in the league and the league’s best offensive line. I expect Cleveland to hang around, but Dallas won’t let this game slip.
Prediction: Cowboys 28, Browns 23
Jaguars at Chiefs (-7.5)
I’m honestly surprised that Kansas City isn’t more of a favorite than seven and a half points. The Chiefs looked much improved in the pass rush category last week against Indy. Dee Ford and rookie Chris Jones were in the backfield a bunch. If they can repeat that performance again today, Jacksonville might quit in the third quarter. Blake Bortles has not been the same player this season as last, and it won’t get better today. Robinson and Hurns will have a tough time getting open in the secondary, so Bortles might have to force some passes to move the ball down the field. You know what that means: INTs. The Chiefs are without Spencer Ware this week, so Charcandrick West gets the start. West could run wild in this game, so wild that Nick Foles might only have to throw 20 times.
Prediction: Chiefs 31, Jaguars 10
Saints (-3) at 49ers
It is sometimes very hard for New Orleans to win on the road, but this season seems different. A huge win over Seattle last week has New Orleans one game back of a wild card spot. The division isn’t wrapped up either. It’s a tough road, but with Drew Brees playing like he is, the Saints will be in every game. The amount of weapons the Saints have will give the Niners defense fits. On the other hand though, with Carlos Hyde returning, the Niners stand a chance. Hyde should be able to run circles around the Saints defense, and Torrey Smith should find some room in the secondary. The Saints could find themselves in a battle, and it wouldn’t shock me if the Niners won this game.
Prediction: Saints 23, Niners 21
Panthers (-2) at Rams
Carolina just about saved their season win a convincing with over Arizona last week. The defense played opportunistic like last season, and Jonathan Stewart paced the Panthers to a victory. Newton is still getting hit in bunches, though, which might not change this week. The Rams boast the best interior lineman in Aaron Donald, and Robert Quinn is no slouch off the edge either. The Rams could find themselves a victory here if Todd Gurley could just find some space to run. With Carolina’s front seven, that will be a tough task. But, sometimes, the Rams show up when you least expect them to do so. (I expect a few more INTs from Keenum this week, so Goff should start soon.)
Prediction: Rams 20, Panthers 17
Titans at Chargers (-5)
This should be another entertaining Chargers game. The Titans come in with one of the best rushing attacks in the league. And, we can’t forget how well they have protected Mariota this season. Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin have quietly and quickly become one of the better tackle duos in the league. The Chargers pose an interesting challenge for the Titans. Their front has been increasingly better of late with Joey Bosa, and rookie Jatavis Brown has been flying around making plays with his counterpart Denzel Perryman. The Titans receiving core isn’t very dynamic, and the Chargers have played well even without Jason Verrett. Philip Rivers has been tough to stop no matter who he throws to, and the Titans secondary has been their weakness. The Chargers should handle them in this one.
Prediction: Chargers 28, Titans 17
Colts at Packers (-7)
Aaron Rodgers seems to have returned to form in the loss to Atlanta. He looked like 2014 Rodgers. If he is to continue wreaking havoc again, he will other guys to throw to besides Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis, and Jeff Janis. Luckily, Ty Montgomery returns this week. He will be huge out of the backfield once again. It also looks like Starks could return this week. Running the ball will be key against a struggling Colts defense. Rodgers should be able to carve up the Colts secondary as well. The Packers are still struggling at the corner spot even with Quinten Rollins on track to return this week. Andrew Luck, if he can get enough protection, should find holes in that secondary. TY Hilton has a chance to make a big impact. They might be one dimensional with how good the Packers rush defense has been. I expect a shootout, but being in Lambeau suits the Packers.
Prediction: Packers 34, Colts 23
Broncos (-1) at Raiders
This is the matchup of the week. The Raiders have a chance to make a huge statement at home against the Broncos this week. The Broncos are missing Aqib Talib this week, but that still doesn’t mean the Raiders receivers will have much room. Chris Harris and Bradley Roby are plenty good enough to cover Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. The Raiders can run the ball though, and have been very good in pass protection. If Derek Carr has all day, it won’t matter how good the Bronco secondary is. On the other side, Denver has to run the ball well in order to take pressure off of Siemian. Even if the Raiders have a weak spot in the secondary, the pass rush of Oakland could make a statement on Sunday Night. This will be one of the best games this season, but a key Denver pick at some point will be the difference.
Prediction: Broncos 23, Raiders 17
Bills at Seahawks (-7)
The Monday Night matchup may seem like a snooze, especially with Seattle coming off a tough loss and ready to prove how good they are. The Bills, though, seem to play well in games you don’t think they have a chance in. As long as the Bills can be successful running the ball, they will stay in this game. The Bills need Marcell Dareus to play to get interior pressure on Russell Wilson. Rookie Shaq Lawson had a good game last week, and I expect another against a porous Seattle offensive line. This will be a low scoring affair, but I expect Wilson to finally find a little groove this week.
Prediction: Seahawks 19, Bills 13
Enjoy week 9 everybody!