Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 9 NFL Picks
After a number of elite NFL matchups in Week 8, Week 9 doesn't have quite the drawing power.
The biggest matchup is probably the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants as their elite quarterbacks face off and try to create some MVP buzz. There's a divisional matchup between the reeling Ravens of Baltimore and suddenly surging Cleveland Browns.
The Indianapolis Colts vs. Miami Dolphins could be a fun game to watch if it's about the rookie quarterbacks, but Ryan Tannehill's status is up in the air.
Whether the games look as great this week, everyone is going to be watching anyway, so who's going to win?
Note: Normally Aaron Nagler would have comments on each of these games along with Matt Miller and myself, but he's dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family and all those who were in the path of the storm.
Our B/R Panel of Experts
Note: All betting odds are for informational purposes only and courtesy of Statfox.com. Although spreads are provided, all picks are straight-up.
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Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Diego Chargers
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B/R Consensus: Chargers (Unanimous)
Vegas: Chargers (-8.5)
A team that can't pass the ball (Chiefs) against a team that is really great at stopping the run. This one is set up for a possible shutout.
As bad as the Chargers have looked, they're still better than the Kansas City Chiefs. I would expect the San Diego run defense to step up and shut down Jamaal Charles...if Romeo Crennel remembers to run him.
It would be fitting if the game ended in a tie just because it would deny both head coaches a victory they sorely need.
The Chiefs have not led a game for a single second this season. As bad as the Chargers have been, they haven't sunk to Kansas City's level. San Diego easily handled Kansas City in Week 4 and not much has changed since then.
Both teams have to try to make corrections and play on short rest, which should be interesting after both came off a bye in Week 8 and failed to make adjustments needed to defeat below-average opponents.
Denver Broncos vs. Cincinnati Bengals
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B/R Consensus: Broncos (9-2)
Vegas: Broncos (-3.5)
Andy Dalton and the Bengals just don't beat teams that don't roll over for them. Peyton Manning doesn't roll over for anyone.
Peyton Manning has been improving every week, and so are the players around him. The offensive line has looked much better since Dan Koppen stepped in, and he'll help in at least slowing down Geno Atkins as Denver rolls.
Peyton Manning has been nearly unstoppable against non-elite teams, but this game is different. The Bengals are coming off a bye, playing at home and have been able to get after the quarterback. When Manning is sacked two or more times, the Broncos are 1-3.
It wouldn't be surprising if Manning continues his domination, but if there is a game left on the schedule that the Broncos can lose, this might be it.
Peyton Manning has never lost to the Bengals in his career, and it won't start this week. The only way Cincinnati can get out of this game with a win is to outscore, and out-pass, the veteran Manning.
Second-year quarterback Andy Dalton has A.J. Green on his side, but it won't be enough to match wits with a team that's seemingly firing on all cylinders now that the season is half-through.
Also Picking the Bengals: Gagnon
Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns
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B/R Consensus: Ravens (10-1)
Vegas: Ravens (-3)
People talk about the bodies that the Ravens have lost but ignore the players that are still there and the guy that came back—Terrell Suggs. The Ravens will harass Brandon Weeden any time he goes back to pass.
The Browns are a tough team, but they aren't equipped to shut down the Baltimore offense. This one might be close, but it will be a Baltimore win.
The Ravens have had a bye week to try to address the issues that plague them on both offense and defense, which means they should have made some positive adjustments.
However, this isn't the Ravens team of old, while the young Browns are coming off their second win with a lot to build on. If it's a game the Browns can win, I'm going to pick them to do it.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Green Bay Packers
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B/R Consensus: Packers (Unanimous)
Vegas: Packers (-10.5)
Do the Cardinals score? Seriously, the Cardinals' offense is terrible and can't pass protect to (quite literally) save their quarterback's life. Meanwhile, Patrick Peterson was beaten like a ragdoll on national TV...I'm sure Aaron Rodgers was watching.
The Packers will be healthier this week, which has to help, but they also match up better against Arizona. Clay Matthews should have a field day against this offensive line.
Aaron Rodgers is putting up some monster numbers over the last five games, and that trend will continue against Arizona. Ray Horton's defense will do a good job of keeping the game tight, but Green Bay's offense will prove to be too much over the course of four quarters.
If the Packers play as sloppy as they did against the Jags, this could be close. But nothing says "wake up" like a near loss to one of the worst teams in football.
Expect the Packers to come out firing and shut this down early. It will be tough—we don't know how many of the injuries suffered against the Jags will still be an issue come Sunday, and the secondary of the Cardinals isn't bad.
Still, there are too many offensive weapons for the Packers and they possess too good of a defense to drop this game.
Chicago Bears vs. Tennessee Titans
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B/R Consensus: Bears (Unanimous)
Vegas: Bears (-4)
This has a chance to be a somewhat close game. As tough as the Bears' defense has been playing, the Titans have a great tackle tandem that could (repeat "could") keep their quarterback upright more than people expect. If Cutler falters, an upset could be possible. Still, gotta take the hot hand here.
No matter who is in at quarterback for the Titans, the Chicago Bears are one of the best teams in the NFL this season. A swarming defense will shut down Chris Johnson and the Tennessee offense.
The Bears struggled against the Panthers who might be a little better than we believe. Still that slow-to-start Chicago offense has to worry people a bit, and the Bears can't expect the defense to bail them out every week. Or maybe they do and it kills them at some point.
However, that day is not this Sunday, and you can bet that Cutler and his offensive line come out ready to go. The Titans don't have an answer for Brandon Marshall or Matt Forte and may not even have one for Earl "All he does is catch first downs" Bennett.
Plus, this defense should destroy the Titans' offensive line and, quite possibly, shut Chris Johnson back down again.
The Titans put up 13 points on the awful Indy defense, so I can't see them hanging many on the Bears. Chicago wins comfortably.
Miami Dolphins vs. Indianapolis Colts
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B/R Consensus: Dolphins (9-2)
Vegas: Dolphins (-2.5)
This story here is, essentially, two rookie quarterbacks against two underrated pressure defenses. Though, honestly, I don't see that much of a drop off if Matt Moore plays. The difference should be the Dolphins' offensive line and ground attack. Dolphins win a close one, again.
I wanted badly to pick the Colts in this one, but the Miami Dolphins should be able to run the ball and rush the passer against them. That's enough room for a victory.
With these two teams making a surprise push for the postseason, this game will be way more important and entertaining than anyone thought possible back in April when the schedule was released.
While an injury to a starting quarterback might usually be a death knell in that situation, the Dolphins have the good fortune of having a quality backup quarterback in Matt Moore.
They are playing a great brand of complementary football, chalking up victories by winning the turnover battle, where the Colts have struggled. Andrew Luck has not yet seen a defense as talented or physical as the one the Dolphins boast.
Miami has a great defense, but the Colts have something special going on at home. If Tannehill does indeed play, the environment in Indy could be intense. The Colts are due for some turnovers.
Also Picking the Colts: Hangst.
Carolina Panthers vs. Washington Redskins
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B/R Consensus: Redskins (10-1)
Vegas: Redskins (-4)
The Panthers have had a gaping hole in the middle of their defense for a long time and Alfred Morris is about to run right through it, repeatedly, for a bajillion yards.
The meltdown in Carolina will continue, but because of the defense and not Cam Newton (damn you, mainstream media). Newton will get his shots in, but the Panthers will have no answer for Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III.
The Panthers are an absolute train wreck right now, as much off the field as on it (ask Captain Munnerlyn how he feels about the defense). The Panthers were successful in Chicago because they got to Jay Cutler. I don’t see that happening against RGIII, who will likely lead the Redskins to victory.
The Redskins battle back against a Carolina defense that will have a much, much tougher time defending Robert Griffin III than the Steelers did. That being said, Carolina has hung with Dallas and Chicago the last two weeks and likely won't be blown out. I'm expecting a lot of points and a close game.
Picking the Panthers: Dunlevy.
Detroit Lions vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
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B/R Consensus: Lions (10-1)
Vegas: Jaguars (-4.5)
Finally! A week where I don't have to be a "homer" because I reasonably pick the Lions to win! Yes! Seriously though, the Jaguars are really bad and the Lions' defense already has its collective ears pinned back for the trip to Florida.
The Jaguars gave the Green Bay Packers a run in Week 8, but they may have used up all their momentum in the process. Detroit has the firepower on offense to make Jacksonville's secondary pay.
Does anyone win this really? Certainly not TV viewers in the Jacksonville and Detroit areas. The Lions woke up a little this past weekend, and I expect Matt Stafford to remember he has Titus Young and Ryan Broyles and use them to pull coverage off Calvin Johnson.
The real question is, what is happening to Matt Stafford? I haven't seen a starter look this uncomfortable in the pocket in a very long time. He began to settle down last weekend. He has to continue to do so this Sunday.
The Jaguars' defense kept it close, but for all the talk about how well Blaine Gabbert played, the offense only put up 15 points. Until the Jaguars win a game at home, it's difficult to pick them.
Picking the Jaguars: Nagler.
Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Texans
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B/R Consensus: Texans (Unanimous)
Vegas: Houston (-10)
The Texans have a nasty habit of letting worse teams stick in games a little too long, but the Bills just aren't equipped to stop the Texans either on the ground or through the air. Houston could easily put up 40.
Watching J.J. Watt against the Bills' offensive line will be the highlight of my week. Houston wins big.
Mario Williams revenge gaAAAAAHAHAHA—excuse me, couldn't stop myself from laughing. There isn't a single category where the Bills have any kind of advantage over the Texans, and even if they did, could anyone pick them in good faith after the way they handed a victory to the Tennessee Titans in Week 7?
Buffalo's only chance is to get the running game going, but against Houston's No. 3 ranked defense, chances of that are slim. The Texans should be teeing off from an early stage in the game.
Houston is too good and the Bills are too bad for there to be an upset. Look for Houston to hang 40 on Buffalo. Arian Foster is drooling.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Oakland Raiders
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B/R Consensus: Buccaneers (7-4)
Vegas: Raiders (-1.5)
The Bucs have a lot going for them, but it's hard to trust a young team crossing the country. The Raiders, at home, will pressure Freeman and keep things close enough to allow Palmer (yes, Palmer) to get rolling.
Josh Freeman and Doug Martin will be more of a threat than Matt Cassel and Peyton Hillis were. The Raiders aren't a weak team, but the Buccaneers are simply more talented.
Tampa Bay not only proved Thursday that its passing game was legit, a new star was born in Doug Martin. Expect more of the same against Oakland and solid run defense to boot.
Oakland’s only shot at winning lies on Carson Palmer’s shoulders. If he can stay mistake-free and torch this Buccaneers secondary (like many have before) Oakland may have a chance—a small one.
The Raiders haven't played consistently, but the defense has improved over the past three weeks. There should be a lot of passing because both teams have been solid against the run.
A game with a lot of passing usually favors the home team with a loud crowd. The Raiders are 2-1 at home with the only loss coming in Week 1 when an injury to long snapper Jon Condo resulted in several turnovers.
Also Picking the Raiders: Frenz, Dunlevy.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Seattle Seahawks
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B/R Consensus: Seahawks (9-2)
Vegas: Seahawks (-5)
Can't pick against the 'Hawks at home, just can't. I like the Vikings to pressure Russell Wilson, and I expect Adrian Peterson to have a nice day. The difference is going to come in the Seattle crowd (and the Seahawks' pass rush) rattling Christian Ponder and forcing him into poor decisions.
The Seahawks don't lose at home. If this game were being played in Minnesota, I'd pick the Vikings, but there's some serious home-field advantage going on here.
This will be a very tough game and it comes down to a battle between Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch, as well as one fantastic defense and a hot and cold defense. I give the edge to the Vikings—even in the house of the 12th man—because they actually have weapons in the passing offense. Sidney Rice is OK, but that's about it for the Hawks.
Percy Harvin, Kyle Rudolph and on occasion Jerome Simpson round out a decent offense. It will come down to stopping Lynch, and the Vikings' defense should view this as a chance to prove themselves again after two consecutive bad weeks. I think they will, and I think it will be a very close, very low-scoring game in which the Vikings eek out a win.
After dropping two straight games on the road, a trip back to the Link is just what Pete Carroll's club needs. The Seahawks are currently 3-0 at home this season, and look for them to make it 4-0 by game's end on Sunday. Minnesota has been weak against the run as of late, so expect "Beast Mode" Marshawn Lynch to have a big day.
Also Picking the Vikings: Frenz.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Giants
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B/R Consensus: Giants (8-3)
Vegas: Giants (-3.5)
Eli and Big Ben have put their respective teams on their shoulders and are playing great football this season. So the tale of the tape there doesn't give any real clear advantage. Ahmad Bradshaw is going to have tough sledding against the Steelers, but at least the Giants have a chance to move the ball along the ground. They'll win for that reason alone.
Game of the week. The Steelers' pass rush will get to Manning, and I do like Ike Taylor in this matchup, but the Steelers' are too banged up at safety to keep Martellus Bennett, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks down.
The Giants know how to capitalize on their opponents' mistakes, but the Todd Haley Pittsburgh Steelers offense hasn't made many of them this season. When two good teams meet, anything is possible, including the visiting team notching a seeming upset victory.
If the Steelers stay the course and don't lose focus of what they've been doing so far this season, they can absolutely win this game.
The injuries are beginning to pile up for the Giants, and the Steelers are coming off their best game of the year. Something's also a bit off with Eli Manning right now, which has me thinking New York is due to finally fall short at home.
Also Picking the Steelers: Bardeen.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Atlanta Falcons
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B/R Consensus: Falcons (10-1)
Vegas: Falcons (-5)
The Cowboys are in a tailspin and this could be the straw that breaks the Texas beef cow's back. The Falcons just have too many weapons and Matt Ryan is playing too well. Their defense, too, is underrated and will get after Romo and capitalize on any mistake he, Dez Bryant or anyone else makes...and the Cowboys will make mistakes.
The mistake-prone, depleted Cowboys could be in for a very long night in Atlanta. As much as the Falcons are beatable, they appear to be picking up steam after a bye and a nice victory over the Eagles.
Atlanta has so many weapons on offense and are introducing more each week (America meet Drew Davis and Jason Snelling, Drew and Jason meet the American people).
This should be too much to handle for the Cowboys in prime time. Dallas hasn’t put up 30 points all season (the Cowboys average 19.6 per game) but will need to if its wants a chance at beating the Falcons.
Picking the Cowboys: Dunlevy.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. New Orleans Saints
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B/R Consensus: Saints (6-5)
Vegas: Saints (-4)
Who's starting at quarterback for the Eagles? Does it matter? Yes, the Saints are in a bad place this season and look woefully unprepared many weeks to take the field. However, that is the exact same place the Eagles are at and Philly is also donating far too many possessions to charity. Saints capitalize on turnovers and win.
The Eagles can win this game if they limit their turnovers and get back to basics—running the damn football. The Saints proved against Denver that they can't stop anyone defensively. Advantage, Philly.
The Eagles should be able to put points up regardless of the quarterback situation, but if they couldn't stop Atlanta there's little reason to believe they can go into the Superdome and slow down the powerful Saints offense.
The Falcons gave a blueprint for beating the crap out of the Eagles, and the way it’s done is to completely run roughshod over Philadelphia early and often on offense. If any NFC South team can emulate Atlanta on offense, it’s the New Orleans Saints.
Picking the Eagles: Hangst, Hansen, Dunlevy, Bardeen.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."