NFL Week 9 Picks: The Last Chance For Many Teams to Salvage Playoff Hopes
We are now officially halfway through the season and no team has really separated themselves from the rest of the pack.
Preseason stinkers like Kansas City and Tampa Bay are both 5-2.
Trendy playoff picks in the preseason like the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals are all below .500 and look like they will need a miracle to make the playoffs.
So what does Week 9 hold for us in this crazy National Football League?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons
One of the premier divisional games this Sunday features the surprise Tampa Bay Buccaneers traveling to Atlanta to face the Falcons for sole possession of first place in the NFC South.
Tampa Bay has to be the surprise team of the year thus far this NFL season, however the Buccaneers have had the luxury of padding their record against some of the bottom dwellers of the NFL this season.
Atlanta, on the other hand, has two tough road losses to the Steelers and Eagles.
I expect the better team to rise up here and defend their home turf. Look for Michael Turner to have a field day against the NFL's 30th-ranked rush defense.
Atlanta - 30
Tampa Bay - 17
Chicago Bears @ Buffalo Bills
The Bills currently sit at the very bottom of the NFL standings with a 0-7 record. However, the Bills have played very well over their last two games taking both the Ravens and Chiefs to overtime.
The Bills also played the Patriots tough in their third game of the season, a 38-30 loss at New England. The Bears, on the other hand, have had a rollercoaster season with their talented, but inconsistent QB Jay Cutler.
The Bears have been playing great defense this year, but Cutler has negated some of that with his poor decisions.
I think this trend continues and Buffalo picks up its first win thanks to several costly Jay Cutler INTs. Buffalo wins in a defensive battle.
Buffalo - 17
New England Patriots @ Cleveland Browns
The Patriots have looked very good so far this season, putting up 23 or more points in all but one game. New England has used a very balanced attack offensively and has found some new playmakers in Danny Woodhead and Brandon Tate to help cover up the loss of Randy Moss.
Cleveland has not been as bad as many expected this season, they have found some new life behind RB Peyton Hillis. Unfortunately for Cleveland, run defense is a strong suit of the Pats.
I expect New England to stack the box and keep Hillis from beating them, forcing rookie QB Colt McCoy to take charge of the offense. New England wins easily.
New England - 30
Cleveland - 16
New York Jets @ Detroit Lions
No team has been more talked about than the New York Jets. HBO's Hard Knocks, combined with Revis' holdout, led to constant chatter about this Jets squad.
The Jets surprised many people last year by making a playoff run behind rookie QB Mark Sanchez and a stellar defense. The Jets have picked up right where they left off starting 5-2.
The Lions, however, have shown some definite signs of improvement, as three of their five losses have come by five or fewer points. Detroit also came out last week and surprised the Washington Redskins.
The Jets defense, however, is able to corral Detroit's passing game enough to get the win in this one.
New York Jets - 31
Detroit - 20
New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers
The New Orleans Saints have shown some signs of the almost annual Super Bowl hangover. The Saints played well last week in a win over Pittsburgh, but they also dropped their meeting the week before against the Cleveland Browns.
The Panthers, on the other hand, have been absolutely awful offensively. They have scored more than 14 points only twice this year.
These two teams met earlier this year, with New Orleans escaping with a 16-14 win. I expect New Orleans to have a much easier time of it this time around.
New Orleans - 27
Carolina - 13
Miami Dolphins @ Baltimore Ravens
The shine seems to have worn off the Wildcat formation in Miami. Teams have caught on to what the Dolphins are doing and as a result we have seen far fewer big plays out of the Wildcat.
The Dolphins have had some success this year though, thanks in large part to the addition of Brandon Marshall.
Baltimore, on the other hand, has been one of the NFL's elite teams since the beginning of the season. Baltimore has used a very balanced attack on both sides of the ball to secure some tough wins over the Jets and the Steelers.
This is a big game for both teams, but Baltimore at home is just too much for Miami to handle.
Baltimore - 27
Miami - 20
San Diego Chargers @ Houston Texans
The Texans stormed out the gate early with wins over Indianapolis and Washington, but have recently fallen victim to a deceptively tough schedule. Houston currently sits at 4-3.
San Diego on the other hand, has stumbled out of the gate once again losing to Kansas City, Oakland, Seattle, and St. Louis. Phillip Rivers and the Chargers have been able to put up impressive numbers on both sides of the ball, however they can't seem to put up many W's.
Both teams need this win to stay in their division race. Look for Phillip Rivers to have a big day against the Texans secondary, but once again come up short.
Houston - 31
San Diego - 27
Arizona Cardinals @ Minnesota Vikings
The Cardinals are doing absolutely nothing well nine weeks into the season, except randomly pulling off a close win. Minnesota, however, are rife with controversy and drama, a combination many might think would make them primed to be upset.
The releasing of Randy Moss has caused a lot of unwanted attention, but it will be good for the team in the long run.
Look for Minnesota to constantly pound the ball to Adrian Peterson and grind their way to an easy victory over one of the NFL's worst teams.
Minnesota - 27
Arizona - 16
New York Giants @ Seattle Seahawks
The New York Giants have quietly found themselves on top of the most publicized division in all of the NFL. Washington, Dallas, and Philadelphia garnered all the attention during the offseason and the regular season thus far.
However, the Giants have been the stars of the NFC East through eight weeks. I expect this to continue as they clash with a 2-5 team disguised as a 4-3 team, then Seattle Seahawks.
Eli Manning and company will struggle some on the road in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, but they are the superior team and they will come out on top.
New York Giants - 28
Seattle - 20
Indianapolis Colts @ Philadelphia Eagles
Peyton Manning and the Colts started the 2010 NFL season in very unfamiliar territory, 2-2 after 4 weeks. Manning and company usually don't get their second loss until after Thanksgiving, but this year they had it a month in.
Indianapolis has since bounced back and picked up three consecutive big wins over Kansas City, Washington and Houston.
The Eagles have had a somewhat tumultuous season, bouncing from one QB to another as Kolb and Vick have both had their share of injuries.
This is a battle of two very solid teams right in the thick of tight divisional races. Look for Manning to work his magic and pull out a road victory.
Indianapolis - 34
Philadelphia - 27
Kansas City Chiefs @ Oakland Raiders
The old expression goes "if you have two starting QBs you really have no starting QB." Luckily for the Kansas City Chiefs, the same does not apply at the running back position.
Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones have combined for the NFL's leading rushing attack.
The Raiders on the other hand, have been very impressive as of late, winning three of four and putting up some huge offensive numbers. Darren McFadden leads the NFL in rushing and the Raiders pass defense has been incredibly stingy.
Kansas City is the worst passing team in the league and Oakland has one of the worst rush defenses. This should be an all-out ground battle with the upper hand going to the Raiders, making things even tighter in the AFC West.
Oakland - 20
Kansas City - 17
Dallas Cowboys @ Green Bay Packers
During the preseason, many prognosticators looked at this matchup as a potential preview of the NFC Championship game.
However, Dallas has fallen completely off the playoff radar and the Packers have struggled at times to show they are worthy of all the preseason buzz.
For weeks we have been waiting for the Cowboys to right the ship and start picking up some wins, however with Tony Romo out, the Cowboys season is all but lost.
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers will see a desperate Cowboys team that just doesn't quite have what takes to compete this season.
The burning question: could Dallas really end up with the No. 1 pick?
Green Bay - 27
Dallas - 16
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals
This Monday matchup of two teams that really were polar opposites at the beginning of the season. Cincinnati came into the season with high hopes for a receiving tandem featuring two of the biggest names ever at WR.
Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco have struggled to keep the Bengals out of the bottom of the NFL standings.
Pittsburgh, however, had tempered expectations for the first part of their season since they were missing star QB Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers performed very well, winning three of their four games without Big Ben.
Look for these teams to continue drifting in opposite directions as Pittsburgh's defense carries them to a Monday Night win.
Pittsburgh - 24
Cincinnati - 13