Teams around the NFL are in the midst of a key stretch. The playoff race is beginning to come into focus, but it's not yet too late for teams that got off to slow starts to make a charge. The margin for error is certainly starting to fade away, though.
For those squads that were able to get off on the right foot, the weeks ahead are about maintaining that momentum and potentially chasing down a bye in the opening round of the postseason. So just about every matchup already has some type of playoff angle.
Even in Week 9, which doesn't feature a bunch of marquee matchups, the results will have a lasting impact on the playoff race. With that in mind, let's examine some of the top games on tap, followed by a complete list of selections for the week.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5) at New England Patriots (6-2)
Aside from one play, the Steelers were the better team in their loss to the Oakland Raiders. That one play was a 93-yard run by Terrelle Pryor, a major lapse by a Pittsburgh defense that was showing signs of progress following the bye.
Now, the unit will face an interesting test from the Patriots. Tom Brady lacks the arsenal of years past, and the results have been mundane numbers. Luckily for New England, the rushing attack, which was often an afterthought, has picked up the slack.
The onus will be on Stevan Ridley and Co. again this week. The Steelers' second-ranked pass defense should be able to limit Brady. But New England should be able to control the game on the ground and it's hard to trust Pittsburgh's inconsistent offense on the road, as last week showed.
Prediction: Patriots 23, Steelers 17
Chicago Bears (4-3) at Green Bay Packers (5-2)
No longer can Chicago rely on its defense to carry the load. The Bears rank 27th in yards allowed and are giving up nearly 30 points per game. That doesn't bode well heading into a matchup with the Packers, owners of the league's second-ranked offense.
What will be the best game of Week 8?
The Bears were able to overcome the lack of defensive contributions in the early going. But now they've lost three of their past four games and have to turn to Josh McCown due to Jay Cutler's groin injury. McCown has a lackluster quarterback rating of 72 in 51 career games.
Green Bay's defense didn't exactly look stout in its own right en route to a 44-31 win over the Minnesota Vikings. So this game could still turn into a shootout without Cutler in the mix, but an Aaron Rodgers-led group should be able to outduel McCown and Co.
Prediction: Packers 38, Bears 28
New Orleans Saints (6-1) at New York Jets (4-4)
The Saints looked rusty coming out of the bye week. They trailed the Buffalo Bills at home until late in the second quarter, when Drew Brees and his plethora of receiving options found their groove again. From there, New Orleans never looked back.
On the flip side, the Jets were throttled by the Cincinnati Bengals. Geno Smith made too many mistakes, the ground game was useless for most of the game and the defense wasn't able to get off the field on third down.
While those contrasting results would point toward a Saints blowout, it's important to note the Jets have bounced back to win after each loss so far this season. Although that likely won't be the case in Week 8, it should be a closer game than expected.
Prediction: Saints 27, Jets 24
Complete Week 9 Predictions
|Date||Road Team||Home Team||Pick|