NFL Week 9 Picks: Every Game Predicted (and Maybe a Few Surprises)
It's already Week 9 in the NFL, which is crazy to realize, and as I'm sitting here running my computer off of a generator (thank you New England weather), I can finally get back on here. It's been a while since I've posted anything on my predictions, but from here on out, I will be posting my week-to-week predictions every week.
For the past eight weeks in the league, teams have pretty much shaped what they're going to look like after Week 17 and the playoff picture is revealed. There's still going to be surprises and without fail, there will be teams that looked dead in the water four or five weeks into the season that now look strong and ready to compete for a playoff spot.
I had an awful Week 5 but from here on out, it should get better.
Overall Record: 6-7
New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills
AFC East Roles Have Been Altered
The New York Jets are coming into this game with a much-needed bye to look at what has been ailing them and come up with a solution. Yes, they did have a strong comeback win against the Chargers in Week 7, but in football, your team needs to be able to play a full 60 minutes. The Jets can't expect Mark Sanchez to constantly find ways to win and their vaunted defense needs to actually step up and show that they are more than just Darrelle Revis.
Buffalo has suddenly become the toast of the AFC East with a win against the Patriots giving them the top seed in their division. They are coming off a shutout win against Washington, who has sputtered in recent weeks, 23-0. This week, the Bills have the chance to go 5-0 at home for the first time since 1995.
Ryan Fitzpatrick should have his hands full against Revis and Antonio Cromartie but arguably their biggest weapon offensively is Fred Jackson. The Jets should focus on keeping him from making big plays but he is better than Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert.
Expect this game to be a down-and-dirty, grind-it-out type of game with both teams relying on their backfield. One big play by Jackson and one boneheaded mistake by Sanchez should decide it.
Buffalo 27, New York 24
Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys Situation Not as Bad as It Appears?
Last Sunday night, LeSean McCoy did exactly what he is paid to do and that is run roughshod over whatever opponent the Philadelphia Eagles play. Except that, against the Dallas Cowboys, McCoy ran for a staggering 185 yards on 30 attempts for two touchdowns. It is apparent that Rob Ryan has some work to do with this defense.
Dallas fans shouldn't have to worry even after a pretty poor performance. They still remain tied for second in the NFC East with the resurgent Eagles and the deflating Washington Redskins. The Cowboys have until Week 16 to prepare for their rematch with Philly and still have time to improve. What better game to find their groove again than against a weak Seattle Seahawks team with continuing QB trouble?
Seattle's defense isn't spectacular but they do play well enough against the run. If the Seahawks can contain DeMarco Murray, they should be able to put pressure on Tony Romo. Of course, that's just it—if they can't disrupt Romo's rhythm, Seattle's secondary is going to struggle against Dallas' passing game.
The Cowboys definitely have a long way to go but their season isn't over yet and they still have plenty of time to fix what problems they have. The Seahawks continue to struggle in a division where San Francisco continues to reign supreme. This game should start the climb to respectability for Dallas.
Dallas 24, Seattle 7
Cleveland Browns @ Houston Texans
Trap Game or Easy Win?
Remember last season when New England walked into the Cleveland Browns' facility as the favorites by a large number but came out with the stench of a 34-14 drubbing by the rookie Colt McCoy and his Browns? Well, something smells decidedly rotten.
Now, don't take this the wrong way—in no way is this game going to be guaranteed. Peyton Hillis had 184 yards against the Patriots last season and now, he's coming into this game hindered by injury with the possibility of not playing. Not only that, they were home against New England and now they are walking into a rowdy Reliant Stadium in Houston.
The Houston Texans have taken an iron fist to the AFC South and seemingly are on their way to their first playoff berth in team history. Of course, don't get too ahead of yourself—Houston has lost three games this season and the Browns are second in passing defense. Obviously, Cleveland's Achilles heel is their ability to stop the run, ranked 26th, and with Arian Foster on the other side of the ball, they are going to have their hands full.
The Houston Texans look like they should have their way with the Browns but they shouldn't be tossed to the side so easily. If Peyton Hillis comes back into this game close to, if not 100 percent, he could have a big day much like he did against New England. Plus, don't forget when the Oakland Raiders visited Houston this season.
Houston 24, Cleveland 17
Atlanta Falcons @ Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Painting Its Plans for 2012
You have got to give it to Curtis Painter. The kid has no business starting in the NFL but he comes into each game as if it's his last. None of the blame should be thrown his way simply because the Indianapolis Colts, as a whole, have played so visibly bad it's laughable.
It seems like the team has completely packed it away for next season all because Peyton Manning is out. How many times have we seen a starting QB go down and the team stepping it up in his absence? Even the Rams last week got their first win without Sam Bradford, against the New Orleans Saints!
Now, the Colts have the Atlanta Falcons coming to town off a bye. Nothing should suddenly change before Sunday and the Falcons should have no problems moving the ball on Indy's defense.
Regardless of if the Colts win the Andy Luck sweepstakes (if Manning lets them), this team is going to need a lot more than a fresh-faced rookie QB to compete next season.
Atlanta 38, Indianapolis 3
Miami Dolphins @ Kansas City Chiefs
Do the Streaks Continue, or Do They End?
What streaks, you ask? Well, since starting the season 0-3, the Kansas City Chiefs are on a four-game winning streak, including Monday's shocker against San Diego. The other streak? How about Miami's 0-7 start this season?
Although this very well may be Tony Sparano's last stand as head coach this season, how much closer can the Dolphins get to a win than they did last weekend against the Giants? Reggie Bush may finally start to do what he was expected to do and against the Chiefs, he should find plenty of holes to make plays.
Kansas City seemingly were lost in their own ways but have silently crept up behind the San Diego Chargers and surprised them with a huge win at home to take the AFC West lead. The Chiefs are riding the back of their young talent and I say, keep riding that train. Jackie Battle and Dexter McCluster have shown they can carry the load when given the chance and their defense has yet to break in their last four games.
The Dolphins could be on pace to have one of their worst seasons since 2007 when they finished the season 1-15; could they end without a win? I doubt that will happen—Miami will win this season and this game could be their best chance to show that.
However, Miami's secondary continues to struggle and they don't have enough talent to keep up with all of Kansas City's receivers, especially with rookie Jon Baldwin finally coming into his own. Don't forget that halfback tandem either.
As close as Miami will get in this game, even entertaining a late-game lead, they won't be able to contain the Kansas City offense enough to hold onto a win.
Kansas City 23, Miami 14
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints
The NFC South Picture Continues To Change
The NFC South never looks the same two weeks in a row and after last week's loss to the St. Louis Rams, the New Orleans Saints have opened up the floodgates once again. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers already have wins against Atlanta and New Orleans this season and now get to face the Saints again.
This entire game hinges on the health of LaGarrette Blount. If he plays, the Saints' struggling defense is going to have a long day of attempting to control him, all the while trying to contain Josh Freeman and the passing attack. If the St. Louis game tells us anything, when an opposing halfback runs all over them, they struggle to stop much, regardless of who's throwing the ball—even A.J. Feeley.
New Orleans can't allow the Bucs to take both games from them this season and they should play better at home this week. The thing that the Saints defense cannot do is force their offense to keep them in it and play from behind. If that happens, the Saints will lose. At least they are in the Superdome where it's always hard to play, which should give the Saints the right motivation.
If Blount returns healthy, the Buccaneers offense won't have many problems and their defense can't be forgotten, as they should make Drew Brees' life hard all day long. Brees has to get in sync with his receivers early and often, including Jimmy Graham, or they are going to struggle, playing from behind all game.
Tampa Bay 34, New Orleans 28
San Francisco 49ers @ Washington Redskins
Winning With Authority, the Harbaugh Way
The San Francisco 49ers have done exactly what they weren't supposed to do. The NFC West is clearly one of the weakest divisions in the NFL and before the season started, St. Louis looked like the team to beat coming out of the offseason. However, we sit looking at Week 9 and San Fran has pretty much booked their tickets to the playoffs. Behind a rookie coach in Jim Harbaugh and a rough-and-tough defense, the 49ers are winning soundly and rubbing opposing teams the wrong way (ask Jim Schwartz).
As the Golden State's best team, San Fran are rocking the second-best record in the NFL and look like one of the few teams that should actually compete with the undefeated Green Bay for control of the NFC come the playoffs. On the other side of this game, the Washington Redskins are doing what most expected them to do. After a strong start to the season, Washington suddenly looks lost and confused without much direction.
Even with the acquisition of Tashard Choice, the Redskins simply don't have the talent to consistently win games. They were shut out by the Buffalo Bills last week and gave up an astonishing nine sacks. Now they have to play one of the best defenses in the league. Whether or not Rex Grossman gets to start again or they play John Beck again, this team just doesn't have it. Defensively, they are going to struggle for the entire game.
Frank Gore should wear them down quickly, allowing the passing game to go deep often. Michael Crabtree has established himself as a go-to threat alongside Vernon Davis. I wouldn't expect much from Washington except for them to continue the slide.
San Francisco 41, Washington 14
Denver Broncos @ Oakland Raiders
Is a Picture Really Worth 1,000 Words?
It seems like nobody can be critical of Tim Tebow at all or his rabid supporters won't give you an ounce of breathing room. Unfortunately for them, he simply looks lost in a typical NFL offense and his slow delivery isn't conducive to it. Obviously, it isn't Tebow's fault for the Denver Broncos' woes; that falls upon their weak offensive line, weak defense and overall weak team.
The Oakland Raiders are experiencing their own problems after starting QB Jason Campbell went down for good and giving up a heavy price for Carson Palmer. He should be better this week than last week's three-interception performance but he won't be phenomenal. They sport a rough run defense that the Broncos should be able to take advantage of with Willis McGahee and Tebow's ability to run with the ball.
The problem is a team can't win entirely on the ground and the Raiders defensive line should force Tebow to throw. This is where the Raiders should be able to take advantage of him. They should have very few issues hurrying him and unless they're careless, they should be able to contain his big-play ability with his feet.
Picking up T.J. Houshmanzadeh will help Palmer's transition to the Raiders offense but he won't be a game-changer. Losing Darren McFadden due to injury doesn't help but Michael Bush is an able fill-in.
Oakland 27, Denver 17
Cincinnati Bengals @ Tennessee Titans
The Andy Dalton-A.J. Green Connection Has Left the Station
The Cincinnati Bengals were supposed to be preparing for the future of the franchise before the season started after selecting A.J. Green and Andy Dalton in the 2011 NFL draft. Suddenly, the Bengals are winning games and preparing for the future. After hearing offers for Carson Palmer, they ended sending him to the Oakland Raiders for a first-round pick in 2012 and a conditional second-rounder which could become a first-round selection in 2013.
Andy Dalton has been on fire (and not because of his hair) this season, playing much better than anybody expected in his rookie season. He's hooked up with his fellow rookie for 516 yards and five touchdowns so far this season. With Cedric Benson coming back from suspension, their offense should be clicking this weekend.
The Tennessee Titans are going into this game against the quietly dominant Bengals defense which is one of the stingiest in the NFL. It's too bad that Chris Johnson has been a shell of himself this season and losing Kenny Britt early to injury doesn't make it any better.
Don't expect this game to be very close. Cincinnati will come into this game ready to play even with the Titans coming off of a win. The defense should contain CJ and force Matt Hasselbeck to make plays by himself which will cause mistakes. Look for this train to keep on chugging.
Cincinnati 23, Tennessee 10
St. Louis Rams @ Arizona Cardinals
The Rams Came Marching In?
Have the St. Louis Rams turned the corner in just one game? I doubt it, but their win against the seemingly powerful New Orleans Saints says something. It says that Steven Jackson can be an unbelievable halfback when he wants to be, or when his body allows him to. Now the Rams face a much weaker Arizona Cardinals team.
Arizona hasn't been the team that they thought they were and unless something drastic happens, they aren't getting any better. Kevin Kolb may not be the starting QB everybody thought he could be when he was in Philadelphia and traded before this season. He has the talent around him and Larry Fitzgerald is probably one of the best receivers in the NFL, but hasn't been able to do much with such a shoddy offensive line.
With Kevin Kolb hurt and possibly not starting this week, the Cards will probably struggle even more offensively. They hope that their defense can keep them in the game whether or not Sam Bradford starts, but containing Steven Jackson, if last week is any indication, won't be an easy task. Maybe the Rams are finally on the right path this season.
St. Louis 29, Arizona 17
New York Giants @ New England Patriots
Not-So-Super Rematch of Super Bowl XLII
The New England Patriots looked all sorts of lost last Sunday against the resurgent Pittsburgh Steelers. Clearly, the Steelers defense wasn't as bad as most thought early in the season. The New York Giants didn't look much better against a glorified college team in Miami but at least they came out with a win. Eli Manning looks a lot better this year than last but the Big Blue defense hasn't been very big and is weak against the run.
The Giants have the offensive talent as long as they're healthy but both Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks left with injuries. Without either, they could struggle to move the ball even with Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz playing well. However, they are facing a team without much of a pass defense, so Manning should still find open receivers.
The Patriots still seem to focusing on the pass and utilizing a two- or three-man rushing attack occasionally. With Tom Brady throwing the ball, obviously it is going to be the focus but with the Giants struggling mightily to stop opponents on the ground, they need to get BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead involved in the game plan, even giving the ball to the explosive rookie Steven Ridley.
New England should focus more on the ground attack this weekend but don't expect Tom Brady to be quiet all day long.
New England 30, New York 21
Green Bay Packers @ San Diego Chargers
Can the Unbeatable Remain Unbeaten in Southern Cal?
Can the Green Bay Packers be beaten this season? Yes. Will it happen anytime in the near future? Probably not.
San Diego showed in consecutive weeks that it simply can't finish games after losing in OT to Kansas City and giving up a large first-half lead against the Jets the week before. Neither of those teams are on the level that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are on right now and they may well be the only team on there.
The Chargers won't be able to keep up with their offense like they could with the Chiefs and Jets, and their defense is going to struggle mightily against the powerhouse Packers. The Packers aren't invincible and will lose one or two games this season; San Diego could steal one this weekend, however unlikely.
There isn't much to say except that Rodgers will probably continue his dominance this weekend and the Green Bay defense should only make Philip Rivers look worse.
Green Bay 44, San Diego 24
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 1 and No. 2 Defensive Teams Battle for Control of AFC North
The top two defensive teams in the NFL battle it out in Pittsburgh as the Baltimore Ravens come into town to play the Steelers. Pittsburgh is looking to avenge its horrendous Week 1 loss to their rivals as they've quickly improved since that game. The Ravens, who have appeared wishy-washy since Week 1, had to come from behind to beat the weak Arizona Cardinals last week.
Baltimore is going to need Joe Flacco to come out firing on all cylinders but they also need Ray Rice to continue playing at a high level. The Steelers are going to have issues against this offense after losing LaMarr Woodley for the game, especially over the middle and against the run. You can't count out Troy Polamalu and the mind of Dick LeBeau, however Pittsburgh should make due.
This game is going to be a high-octane fight all the way to the end. Ben Roethlisberger played at a high level against the Patriots and their receivers should find success against the Baltimore secondary. The Steelers rushing attack probably won't be very effective so they are going to rely heavily on Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders (Hines Ward as well, if healthy). They also found success with Heath Miller last week as well, but don't expect much from him against the Ravens defense.
Whoever wins this one will establish the early lead in the North, until, of course, Pittsburgh visits Cincinnati in Week 10.
Pittsburgh 27, Baltimore 24
Chicago Bears @ Philadelphia Eagles
Two Top-10 Running Backs Meet on Monday Night
I don't know whether to be happy or sad that I have both Matt Forte and LeSean McCoy on my fantasy team, but that's neither here nor there. The Philadelphia Eagles have seemingly turned their season around and are on their way up to the top of the NFC East after dismantling the Dallas Cowboys.
The Chicago Bears are coming off of a bye week attempting to stay relevant in a division with the undefeated Green Bay Packers and the strong Detroit Lions. Matt Forte is the sole focus of the Bears offensive attack and should help them against a suddenly strong Philly defense. They hope to carry over the momentum of two straight wins across the bye week.
Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy should only really need to carry over their outstanding play from Sunday night. Vick was given the opportunity to play his game and McCoy was just above and beyond anything Dallas could match. If their defense follows a great game into this one, they should be able to contain Forte enough to hold onto a win.
This game will probably be close but it'll be high-scoring. Expect this game to be a fantasy owner's dream.
Philadelphia 34, Chicago 31