Week 9 of the NFL season got under way with an exciting Thursday night game between the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals, and there are a few other underrated teams like Miami that will roll into Week 10 action.
The Dolphins were able to take down the Bengals on a safety in overtime, improving their record to 4-4. They had previously lost four straight contests and appeared to be dead in the water after a surprising 3-0 start.
The team that went 3-0 to open the season is still there, though, and the Dolphins are not nearly as bad a team as they had been playing. There are three other teams in action this week that should be considered underrated, and they're likely to play well against weaker opponents.
Be on the lookout for these underrated teams to possibly make a name for themselves in Week 9.
Prior to the season, predicting that the Carolina Panthers would roll through the Atlanta Falcons at this time in the season would probably have earned me the title of "village idiot." Now, everything seems to be in Carolina's favor.
Will Carolina pick up win No. 5 this week?
The Panthers are playing great football right now. They boast one of the top defensive lines in the NFL, and Cam Newton is finally back to being the dynamic playmaker that everyone knew he could be. After starting the season 0-3, Newton and the Panthers are 4-3 and are looking to pick up win No. 5.
The Falcons, on the other hand, are going nowhere fast. The season-ending injury to Julio Jones was certainly a huge hit, but Matt Ryan has other weapons to go to. He and his receivers just haven't been able to establish consistency, and the lack of a running game hasn't helped in that regard either.
Atlanta lost by two touchdowns to the 4-4 Arizona Cardinals in Week 8, and the Panthers appear to be a much better team. On paper, this game has all the makings of a one-sided affair.
The Panthers should be able to roll through Week 9 and look ahead to a tough Week 10 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. Carolina will win 31-17 against Atlanta.
San Diego Chargers
Philip Rivers has a 73.9 completion percentage through seven games, and he will be going up against a weak Washington Redskins secondary. If that's any indication of how this game will turn out, then the San Diego Chargers should be able to roll through Week 9.
The Chargers are 4-3 and are enjoying strong starts from both Rivers and rookie wideout Keenan Allen. Running backs Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead have provided balance both out of the backfield and in the flat, and Woodhead's presence in the short passing game is a huge reason why Rivers has been so efficient.
Are the Chargers a threat in the AFC?
Washington, on the other hand, is playing very inconsistent football. The differences from half to half against the Denver Broncos in Week 8 were very apparent, as there was a good chance that Washington would have been able to pull off an upset after a strong first half.
Peyton Manning and Co. stepped up in the second half to seal a decisive 45-21 victory, however. That loss could trickle into this week for Washington, as losing a heartbreaker like that isn't something that can be forgotten easily.
Rivers has been so efficient this season that it's hard to image San Diego losing this game. He'll look for his favorite targets to make big plays over the middle and in the short passing game all day long against a Redskins defense that allows 273.7 passing yards per game.
San Diego wins in Washington, 28-13.
The Tennessee Titans are an interesting team. They don't have a plethora of offensive weapons outside of Jake Locker and Chris Johnson (and Johnson isn't even running the ball well), but that hasn't stopped them from winning three games and having a chance to get even at .500 after Week 9.
Their defense ranks in the top half of the NFL at No. 13, as they allow just 337.0 yards and 20.9 points per game. They don't force a ton of turnovers, and they don't record a ton of sacks, but this defense has really carried the team through seven games.
Can Tennessee make the playoffs?
The defense will play a huge role in Week 9, as the Kellen Clemens-led St. Louis Rams likely won't be able to muster much offense against them. They'll attempt to lean on running backs Zac Stacy and Daryl Richardson, but without any balance, their game plan will be easy to predict.
The Titans may not be one of the most dominant teams in the NFL, but they are semi-underrated. If Locker can get back to his pre-injury form, then their chances of making a run at the playoffs will improve. If Johnson can pick up the slack on the ground, then the Titans actually become a pretty good team.
Getting back to .500 is the first step in establishing legitimacy, though, and they'll do just that this week. They'll take down the Rams, 24-10.
Full Week 9 Picks
|Kansas City Chiefs||28-17||Buffalo Bills|
|Atlanta Falcons||17-31||Carolina Panthers|
|Minnesota Vikings||20-31||Dallas Cowboys|
|New Orleans Saints||38-14||New York Jets|
|San Diego Chargers||28-13||Washington Redskins|
|Tennessee Titans||24-10||St. Louis Rams|
|Philadelphia Eagles||16-19||Oakland Raiders|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||17-35||Seattle Seahawks|
|Baltimore Ravens||24-20||Cleveland Browns|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||13-28||New England Patriots|
|Indianapolis Colts||27-20||Houston Texans|
|Chicago Bears||31-34||Green Bay Packers|