NFL Week 9 Picks: Predictions for Every Game
If you were bored by the games in Week 8 of the NFL season, you will flat-out love the schedule for Week 9.
Powerhouse AFC teams go head-to-head when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens meet. This game not only decides bragging rights for the next year but could also largely decide who will make the playoffs and who could be struggling for a wild-card berth.
The Green Bay Packers take their undefeated record on the road, heading to San Diego to face a Chargers team suddenly looking up at the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders.
There's a full slate of exciting games this week. Let's see who will come out on top.
Check out more B/R picks here.
Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs
When Miami Has the Ball
Was that a Reggie Bush sighting this week? I think it was.
The Miami Dolphins have to be encouraged by Bush's output against the New York Giants, but the Kansas City Chief defense is even more appealing for their game plan. The Chiefs showed again on Monday night that this is a bend-but-don't-break defense. There are holes to run through, and a player with Bush's speed could find daylight.
The Chiefs will need to bring a pass rush against Miami, as they'll struggle to keep up with Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess on the edges. Tamba Hali needs an impact game against Jake Long this week.
When Kansas City Has the Ball
The Chiefs are winning without Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki by playing team football. No one person is getting it done, but credit should be given to Matt Cassel for stepping up this season. Cassel looked sharp again against the San Diego Chargers and is quietly proving doubters wrong about his ability to lead the team.
Cassel should have Steve Breaston open over the middle all day. The Dolphins have talent in the secondary but are prone to over-playing the play-action and will leave the middle of the field wide open. Cassel should pound the run early to open up the passing lanes late.
Miami needs a huge game from Sean Smith and Vontae Davis. Each will be pressured to cover the physical Kansas City receivers.
Prediction: Kansas City 24, Miami 15
Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys
When Seattle Has the Ball
The Seattle offense seems to be getting worse as the season goes on. Even the running game, once strong and powerful, is failing to produce.
The Seahawks need a monster game from their offensive line if they hope to compete with the Dallas Cowboys this weekend. DeMarcus Ware netted four sacks against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles last weekend—just imagine the damage he can do to the Seahawks line.
Rob Ryan's defense has been hot and cold at times. If the Seahawks have a shot this weekend, they need the offensive line to hold up and Tarvaris Jackson to have a career-best game.
When Dallas Has the Ball
The Seattle run defense will be ready to bottle up the Dallas run game, putting the pressure on Tony Romo and the Dallas wide receivers. That's both good and bad news for Dallas.
Romo has had brilliant games at times this year, and other times he's been absolutely horrible. Which Romo will show up? The Seattle secondary is beatable, but Dallas will have to make an attempt to establish the run with DeMarco Murray to force the Seattle safeties up in the box.
Prediction: Dallas 28, Seattle 17
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
When Tampa Bay Has the Ball
The Buccaneers are a different team without LeGarrette Blount on the field. They should hope he's back this week as they go up against one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
The Buccaneers should have their openings against the Saints, but they'll need the Josh Freeman of 2010 to come out and play. Surely if A.J. Feeley can get it done against the Saints, Freeman can.
On the flip side, the Saints will be fired up to prove last week's embarrassing loss to the St. Louis Rams was a fluke. With the home crowd behind them, the Saints defense and offense should rise to the challenge. If Freeman were a quarterback I trusted right now, this prediction would go the other way.
When New Orleans Has the Ball
The Saints will be hoping their own running backs are healthy this week. The Tampa Bay rush and pass rush defense are very good; it's in coverage and special teams that they struggle. This is great news for the Saints, as their offensive line was a wreck against the Rams.
Drew Brees has to atone for his two-interception game last week by hitting his receivers early to get into a rhythm and going back to Jimmy Graham at tight end. The Buccaneers don't have a player capable of keeping up with Graham—expect him to be a big part of the game plan.
Prediction: New Orleans 31, Tampa Bay 28
San Francisco 49ers at Washington Redskins
When San Francisco Has the Ball
The San Francisco offense keeps getting better. Now that wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards are healthy, the offense is becoming more diverse.
The Redskins will have to worry about Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter out of the backfield, as well as keep an eye on Vernon Davis at tight end. There's too much here to worry about.
The Redskins' best chance for a win comes from their outside linebackers. Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are playing nasty football and could be trouble for Joe Staley and Anthony Davis on the edge. If Vernon Davis has to stay in to help block, the 49ers offense could stall.
When Washington Has the Ball
The Washington Redskins will run into the NFL's best defense when they go head-to-head with former teammate Carlos Rogers.
Rogers is playing excellent football at cornerback, which highlights the 49er defense. Washington will struggle to find openings against a sound unit, whether through the air or ground. The 49ers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in over two seasons, and the streak won't end this week.
Washington just picked up Tashard Choice at running back, and he could have a big role this week, but the play (or lack thereof) of John Beck is the key. Beck simply can't get it done against a defense this talented.
Prediction: San Francisco 31, Washington 10
Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans
When Cleveland Has the Ball
I'm not ready to give up Colt McCoy. The young quarterback showed great toughness while dodging bullets in the backfield last week against the 49ers. McCoy needs help to win, and right now the Browns' only "keepers" on offense are Joe Thomas and Alex Mack.
Houston's defense has been tough all season, even without Mario Williams. The Browns may find openings underneath, but they won't want to challenge Johnathan Joseph deep on the edges. Houston gets great pressure from its three-man front. Watch out for Antonio Smith and J.J. Watt.
When Houston Has the Ball
This will be interesting. The Cleveland defense is stingy against the run, but it is facing two running backs on track for 1,000-yard seasons. Something has to give.
The Browns defense gave up big plays to Frank Gore in the first half last week, and the Texans offensive line is athletic enough to move around the four-man front the Browns like to play. The stats wouldn't show it, but I see the Texans having a big day on the ground.
If Andre Johnson is back healthy this week—as of this writing he was questionable—enjoy the battle between Joe Haden and Johnson on the outside.
Prediction: Houston 28, Cleveland 13
Atlanta Falcons at Indianapolis Colts
When Atlanta Has the Ball
Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez.
Please tell me how the Colts can stop these five players, because I've spent 10 minutes looking at the statistics and my game notes to try to figure it out.
Here's what I can say about the Colts defense: When the defensive ends are actually trying, they can wreak havoc. I like the matchup of Dwight Freeney against Sam Baker, but I haven't seen max effort from Freeney in quite some time.
When Indianapolis Has the Ball
Curtis Painter is one tough kid, and I'll have loads of respect for him until he retires, but he's not getting any help from this Colts offense. If Indianapolis does win a game this year, I believe it will be on the strength of Painter's moxie.
Having said that, there's no way the Colts are winning this one. Atlanta is hot, winning two straight and putting itself back into playoff contention. The Colts will be but a speed bump on the Falcons' road to the playoffs.
Prediction: Atlanta 45, Indianapolis 13
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills
When New York Has the Ball
Expect a slugfest when the Jets and Bills meet on Sunday.
Neither the Bills defense nor the Jets offense is playing particularly well. There are holes on both units. The Bills can struggle to rush from the edge, and the Jets can struggle to run the ball. Something will give, though—that's guaranteed.
I simply don't trust Mark Sanchez to get it done. The Bills have an opportunistic defense playing smart football and forcing mistakes from even great quarterbacks (see Brady, Tom).
If you want to dig deeper this week, watch rookie Marcell Dareus at nose tackle against Nick Mangold at center. Mangold is back from injury this week and will be a great test for the rookie.
When Buffalo Has the Ball
All Fred Jackson, all the time.
The Jets run defense has been very average this year, a word that sums up the entire team's effort. The Bills will feature heavy doses of No. 22, opening up the play-action downfield to Stevie Johnson in the meantime—if he can get away from Darrelle Revis.
The Bills will see a dynamic duo at cornerback, something they haven't had to deal with yet this year. Because of that, expect to see more of Jackson than we have all season.
Prediction: Buffalo 24, New York 17
Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans
When Cincinnati Has the Ball
Cedric Benson will be back this week, but this is the Andy Dalton Show—with special guest A.J. Green.
Dalton to Green will make fans in Cincinnati happy for the next 12 years. The two are showing each week that the Bengals made the right move in picking them up in the 2012 draft. With Benson behind Dalton in the backfield, Cincinnati's offense will be complete this week.
The Titans secondary has been tested this year, mostly due to the lack of a pass rush. They need to play mistake-free football to win, something they haven't done enough this year.
When Tennessee Has the Ball
The Tennessee Titans will meet Mike Zimmer's nasty defense this week, and they'll run into a concrete wall when they do.
The Bengal defense has been flat-out tough all year long, and against better teams. Without Kenny Britt at receiver, and with an impostor wearing Chris Johnson's gear, the Titans will find nothing on offense this week. For all Matt Hasselbeck's experience, he can't make plays without playmakers.
The Bengals are getting it done, folks. Don't sleep on Cincinnati, 'cause they ain't your daddy's Bengals.
Prediction: Cincinnati 21, Tennessee 7
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders
When Denver Has the Ball
The NFL's worst passing team meets one of the NFL's worst run defenses. You think Denver will try to run the ball this week?
Well, in fairness, Denver has run the ball the last two weeks with Tim Tebow under center. This week will be no different, but at least John Fox can credit the game plan when not trusting his quarterback.
The Raiders need to force Denver into passing situations by loading the box. Let Michael Huff spy Tebow and commit eight other players to stopping the run game. Let your cornerbacks play on an island in man coverage—Tebow won't beat them.
When Oakland Has the Ball
Carson Palmer will be anxious to prove the three-interception game we saw from him days after being traded to Oakland was a result of rust. With a full week off to prepare, Palmer will be ready to go against a Denver defense that has been disappointing all season.
Keep an eye on the play of Von Miller at outside linebacker. The Broncos move him around a lot, but any time he's coming off the left side, he'll meet one of the league's best pass-blockers—Jared Veldheer.
The Raiders will hope to have Darren McFadden back this week, but they may be able to limit his carries while working Michael Bush if they can build an early lead.
Prediction: Oakland 31, Denver 10
New York Giants at New England Patriots
When New York Has the Ball
Injuries will dominate the storylines this week for the New York Giants. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw and receiver Hakeem Nicks both left the game last weekend with injuries, and as of Monday night both are questionable.
Without the two, the Giants have little chance of moving the ball, even against a bad New England defense.
The Pittsburgh Steelers exploited a soft zone coverage last week; expect the Giants to give the ball to Eli Manning and ask him to find Victor Cruz, Jake Ballard and Mario Manningham on zone routes over the middle. They should be wide open.
When New England Has the Ball
Anyone know where the hell the real Patriots were last week? The Pittsburgh Steelers made Nate Solder look like a seventh-round pick while running over, around and through the New England offensive line.
The Giants have a dominating defensive line, but they struggle to stop the run. The Patriots have to commit to the run this week if they want to win.
I really want to pick against the Patriots this week, but my better judgment says no.
Prediction: New England 24, New York 20
Green Bay Packers at San Diego Chargers
When Green Bay Has the Ball
My good pal and fellow Bleacher Report NFL writer Zach Kruse said it well on Twitter when he said, "You get the feeling after this OT loss that you're either going to get a really pissed off Chargers team on Sunday, or a dead one."
Zach is absolutely right.
The Chargers gave their all in a letdown loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night. That means a short week and a lot of analysis on why they lost.
Green Bay has the talent to spread the Chargers out and dare them to make a mistake. Without Shaun Phillips in the lineup, San Diego cannot expect to get pressure consistently. You never want to give Aaron Rodgers more time to pick apart your defense, and that's exactly what will happen this week.
When San Diego Has the Ball
Philip Rivers needs a good cry, or a hug, or both. Rivers' play has gotten progressively worse all season, culminating in a fourth-quarter fumble when the Chargers were running out the clock for a win. Rivers and the entire San Diego team need a slap in the face to wake them up.
Green Bay is undefeated for a reason. Clay Matthews and company will pummel this offensive line and pound Rivers until the morale of the Chargers breaks.
Prediction: Green Bay 38, San Diego 21
St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals
When St. Louis Has the Ball
The game plan against the New Orleans Saints without Sam Bradford at quarterback was to feed Steven Jackson the ball. It worked. They should do it again.
Jackson will be the focal point as the Rams travel to Arizona, hoping to add their second win of the season.
The Cardinals defense is stout up front and weak in the secondary, but without Bradford under center (he's questionable as of publishing), the Rams will lack the punch to get the ball deep. Brandon Lloyd did make a beautiful catch last week and showed he's ready to take on a bigger role here.
When Arizona Has the Ball
The Cardinals have too much talent to be this bad, but they are. The team cannot get consistency from Kevin Kolb when he's making throws from his back due to horrible play by the offensive line. The good fellas at Pro Football Focus rank the Cardinals' pass-blocking the worst in the NFL. Kolb would agree.
The Rams should pin their ears back and attack the line of scrimmage. Chris Long, Robert Quinn and friends should have a field day with the Cardinals offensive line.
The difference-makers in Arizona will be Chris Wells and Larry Fitzgerald. If Kolb can get a little breathing room, he'll be able to carve up the NFL's worst secondary.
Prediction: Arizona 21, St. Louis 18
Game of the Week: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
*Edited Wednesday 11/2 due to LaMarr Woodley injury
When Baltimore Has the Ball
The Baltimore offense hopes to play like it did in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals. The key to its comeback win was heavy running by Ray Rice and great downfield passing to Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. Joe Flacco will need to have his best game of the season if the Ravens hope to get a win in Pittsburgh.
The Steeler defense will reeling without LaMarr Woodley this week. He tweaked a hamstring Sunday and is questionable as of this writing. Without Woodley, the Steelers go from favorites to underdogs in my book. If they are again without James Farrior and James Harrison, things will get ugly at linebacker.
The Ravens need to set up the offense with Rice early. The Patriots never tried establishing the run, instead struggling to keep up with the Steeler offense. Baltimore has to control the tempo, starting in the first quarter. With three starting linebackers out, the Ravens should attack the run game and look to dump passes over the middle.
When Pittsburgh Has the Ball
The Steelers got tight end Heath Miller involved last week, but they shouldn't be able to do that this week against a much better Baltimore defense. The wide receivers, however, should be open.
The Ravens lack an elite cornerback and the depth to keep up with the Pittsburgh wideouts. While Lardarius Webb is improving, he's not ready to shut down Mike Wallace. The Steelers go four deep—five with Hines Ward—and will test the Ravens secondary.
Momentum will be the key all day. In their Week 1 win the Ravens hit the Steelers early and never looked back. Whichever team jumps out early will have the win.
Prediction: Baltimore 20, Pittsburgh 17
Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles
When Chicago Has the Ball
It seems like we haven't seen the Chicago Bears in weeks thanks to their game in London and the bye week. The Bears should be well rested for a huge game against the surging Eagles.
The Bears need a perfect game from their offensive line. Philadelphia prefers a "Wide 9" defense that places the defensive ends far outside the tackles, positioning them to use their speed to create pressure off the edge. This does create running lanes inside the guard/tackle "B" gap, which the Bears should target with heavy doses of Matt Forte.
Jay Cutler isn't known for his mobility, but he's quick enough to make plays. There will be running lanes inside if he can escape the outside rush.
When Philadelphia Has the Ball
Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy need to do what they did last week. Easy enough, right?
The Eagles won by getting Vick outside the pocket and letting him make the call on run or pass. It worked well enough that it should be the game plan going forward—as long as that means getting McCoy involved early and often.
Chicago has been horrible in pass coverage this season. With players like DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin on the field, Vick should have a field day.
Prediction: Philadelphia 31, Chicago 14