With power restored after Hurricane Sandy, it’s time to post some picks.
The marquee matchup this weekend is the 7-1 Texans against the 7-1 Bears Sunday night in Chicago. Both teams have had some pretty dominating performances (except against the Packers) and it should be a tight game.
There are a couple of big divisional matchups this weekend as well as the Eagles take on the Cowboys and the Saints take on the Falcons.
Who do you think will win this weekend?
Bye week: Cleveland, Green Bay, Arizona, Washington
Week 8 record: 8-6
Week 9 record: 10-4
On Twitter on Thursday I picked the Colts to win.
After starting the season a surprising 3-1, the Bengals have dropped four straight games, three of which were at home.
The Giants have struggled with leads in the past three weeks, but did enough to either come back or hold on to win two of those games. It’s also a popular observation that the Eli Manning-led Giants play better on the road than at home. This year they are 3-1 on the road (including an impressive 23-point victory over the 49ers) and 3-2 at home.
Manning has reportedly talked to his brother Peyton, who just led the Broncos to victory over the Bengals last week. That is a nice edge to have.
New York Giants win.
Last week was the fifth time this season the Titans have lost a game by at least three touchdowns, losing to the Bears 51-20. It was also the seventh time this year the team has allowed at least 30 points, a pretty alarming number.
Week 1 starting quarterback Jake Locker makes his return from injury and he’s going up against a porous Miami pass defense that allowed a rookie single-game record 433 yards to Andrew Luck last week.
But the Dolphins biggest loss was by 20 points in Week 1. Their three other losses have been by an average of three points per game. Two of those losses happened in overtime. If nothing else, this team has been competitive all year.
The same can’t be said for the Titans.
After their bye week in Week 5, the Lions are 3-1. In that same time frame, the Vikings—who started the season a surprising 4-1—have lost three of their past four games.
The Vikings gave up 30 or more points in each of their past two games—both losses—and in all of their past three losses.
The Lions have the most passing yards per game in the NFL and Mikel Leshoure put together an impressive three touchdown performance last weekend, making the Lions less one-dimensional.
Christian Ponder has cooled off from his hot start. He’s completed less than 55 percent of his passes in the past three games, has thrown for fewer than 64 yards in two of his past three games and has thrown at least one interception in five consecutive games.
The last time these two teams met was in Week 4 in Buffalo. The Bills blew a 21-7 lead, eventually losing the game 52-28. The Patriots—usually a passing offense—had not just one but two running backs rush for over 100 yards on the day.
The Bills have lost three of their next four games after that contest. The Patriots won three of their next four games.
New England wins.
Yes, the Falcons are undefeated. But after a very rough go to the beginning of the season the Saints have won three of their past games and have shown some of the offensive efficiency they’ve come to be known for, averaging 31.3 points per game in those wins. Two of those victories also came at home.
It’s extremely difficult to go undefeated for an entire NFL season and the Falcons have a hard time beating the Saints. They lost both games against New Orleans last year and are 2-10 against the Saints since 2006.
Good opportunity for an Atlanta letdown here.
New Orleans wins.
Kudos to Greg Schiano. He’s got the Buccaneers looking like a competitive team; they are a .500 team that hasn’t lost a game by more than a touchdown.
And you can’t talk about the Bucs—winners of three of their past four games—without mentioning Doug Martin’s monster game last weekend. He had 251 yards on 25 carries and scored four touchdowns (he also caught four passes for 21 yards).
The Chargers have lost three of their last four games and four of their last six. Norv Turner’s job security is once again under question, maybe more so than ever before.
Tampa Bay wins.
Peyton Manning may not be as good as he was before his injury, but he still is one of the best in the league. Manning is first in the league in quarterback rating and completion percentage, third in touchdowns and fifth in yards.
He’s clicking with Demaryius Thomas, who’s enjoying the best season of his career already with 201 more receiving yards than his previous career high and just as many touchdowns as his personal best. Also, just halfway into the season Eric Decker is only 29 yards away from his receiving yards total from last year and one touchdown away from matching his 2011 total.
Carolina does have a good pass defense. The Panthers are 12th in the league in passing yards allowed per game and tied for seventh in sacks.
The story all season however has been Cam Newton’s struggles. He’s only completing 57 percent of his passes (down from 60 percent last season), has eight interceptions to six touchdown passes for a worse touchdown-to-interception ratio than last year and already has one more fumble than last season. His quarterback rating is down 6.8 points as well.
The Panthers are fourth in the NFC and tied for 11th in the NFL in giveaways. The turnovers, much like last season, are proving to be very costly.
The Raiders are 2-2 at home this year and 1-3 on the road. At home they average 26.5 points per game and their margin of defeat is nine points per game. On the road they average 16.3 points per game and lose by an average of 18.7 points per game.
And they will be without both Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson this week, the team’s top two running backs.
The Ravens are coming off a bye week, giving them more time to focus on the Raiders and get their defense a little bit healthier.
It’s well-known that the Seahawks play well at home. This year is no different as they are currently 4-0 at home.
The Jets are 1-2 on the road.
Both teams fare well against the pass, with the Jets ranking sixth in the league in passing yards allowed per game and the Seahawks seventh.
The Jets however are 29th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game while the Seahawks—with many thanks to Marshawn Lynch—are seventh in the league in rushing yards per game.
Expect the Seahawks to continue to pound the ball with Lynch and wear down the Jets defense.
Two teams with lofty expectations that have more than underwhelmed this season.
The Eagles have looked miserable lately, losing four in a row. But two of their three wins have come at home, and they did come against top teams in the Ravens and Giants.
The Cowboys have lost four of their last five games, but two of their wins have come on the road, one of which was opening night of the season against the Giants.
So what’s the edge in this one?
It could come down to turnovers and who takes advantage of the other team’s mistakes. The Eagles have been heavily criticized for the amount of turnovers they have surrendered this season, but the Cowboys are actually tied for first in the NFC in takeaway with the Eagles. And the Cowboys are also dead last in the NFC (tied for second to last in the NFL) in takeaways. Will they be able to capitalize on any Philadelphia mistakes?
The Rams' margin of defeat has increased in each of the team’s three consecutive losses, culminating in the Week 8 loss to the Patriots, 45-7.
The 49ers have owned the NFC West in recent history. This year they are 2-0 against the division. Since 2009 they are 16-4. Since 2006, they are 25-13 against the division. And they only won the division once in that time frame.
San Francisco wins.
The biggest showdown of the week is on Sunday night when two 7-1 teams meet.
Houston and Chicago are No. 2 and 3, respectively, in points per game. The Bears are also second in the league in points per game allowed while the Texans are fourth.
The difference here will be the pass rush and the play of the offensive line.
Both teams have done a good job getting to the quarterback, tied for third in sacks with 25. But Chicago’s offensive line has done a terrible job protecting Jay Cutler.
The Bears have given up the third most sacks in the NFL with 28. The Texans are tied for the penultimate position in that category, allowing only 10 sacks all season.
J.J. Watt has been a monster all season, getting to the quarterback and disrupting passes. He should be able to get into Cutler’s psyche from the very beginning.
It doesn’t seem to matter whether Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn is quarterbacking the Chiefs, they just can’t get it done. They run the ball well—third in the NFL in rushing yards per game—but that doesn't do you any good when you’re constantly playing catch-up.
The Steelers have won three consecutive games and Ben Roethlisberger is having one of his best seasons ever.