Who’s bitter about last weeks results? Not this guy (although the last second choke job from Dallas brought my weekly record down to 10-3). The lesson learned from last week: you can pick all favorites and do alright; only the Giants and Raiders pulled off upsets if your asking the Vegas line. Anyways this week will be much tougher to call than Week 8. We have officially hit the half-way mark of the season with many of the teams playing eight of their sixteen regular season games and there are still some unknown commodities around the league (more on this later). The usual easy picks are off the table this week (Denver and San Francisco are on BYE, and I can’t pick the opponent of the Jaguars to win this week since they are also off). The Giants, Cardinals, and Lions join the previous three teams as we have ourselves another 13-game slate in front of us starting with tomorrow’s epic Halloween game. Time to break out that crystal ball because I’m going to look ahead to Week 9 now!
Thursday, October 31st, 8:25 e.t.
Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) @ Miami Dolphins (3-4)
It is as simple as this: the Dolphins need to win at home here. Slipping to 3-5 may forever ruin what was a promising start to their 2013 campaign. They have this game as well as tilts with the Patriots, Chargers, and Panthers coming up. Miami might need to win all four of these games for them to have a shot. Let’s face it, this isn’t the NFC East; 8-8 will not be good enough to clinch a playoff berth. That said, I do expect them to play with a lot more passion than they did in the second half against New England last week. However, the Bengals are too good to get punked by an inconsistent squad. Okay, I lied, Cleveland did down them earlier this year but I will have you know that that was Cincy’s last loss. Now Ryan Tannehill might be in for a long night if his offensive line cannot at least slow down Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, Carlos Dunlap, and Michael Johnson. Mike Zimmer’s unit could have a field day if they are able to mount a good pass rush. The Dolphins need a big showing from Mike Wallace here, and frankly I don’t like his odds seeing as how the Bengals used to defend him twice a year (so they know what he brings to the table). The Miami speed demon averages only about 4.5 catches and 58 yards receiving against the Bengals per game in his career. He also only has three touchdowns against them over four seasons (eight games). My point: Cincinnati has his number and on Halloween night the Bengals will have the Dolphins’ number. I’m taking the Bengals.
Cincinnati Bengals 27, Miami Dolphins 23
Sunday, November 3rd, 1:00 e.t.
New Orleans Saints (6-1) @ New York Jets (4-4)
According to the law of averages, the Jets should win this game. As the pattern goes, they play a great game and then produce a stinker (alternating strong victories and ugly losses all year). This team is coming off of a 49-9 thrashing at the hands of the aforementioned Bengals, so that would mean that Gang Green wins this week right? Not so fast. The Saints defy logic. Clearly their blowout win over the Bills proves my point; it was the first time all year Buffalo has lost by more than ten points (35-17). Plus those same Bills had scored 20+ points in all of their games until falling in New Orleans last week. As you can see, the Saints don’t conform to odd formalities. What’s that you say? You want a real breakdown of this game? Fine. The Saints have been able to slow down opposing teams running game so far this season; they have allowed only one 100 yard rusher so far this year (Doug Martin). If the Jets plan on running the ball, they better get ready for a dog-fight because I’ll be willing to bet that the Saints are going to blitz all game, as per Rob Ryan’s style. Ahh yes, the Ryan brothers coaching against each other; Rob and Rex should have some interesting things to say about each other this week. Regardless, each team will be trying to stop what the other does best. Only problem with that is that it is easier to see the Saints stopping the Jets from running the ball rather than seeing New York stopping Drew Brees from throwing the ball. If Brees brings his A-game to the Meadowlands, the Saints will turn this game into a shootout that the Jets can’t win. I like New Orleans on the road here.
New Orleans 34, New York 16
Tennessee Titans (3-4) @ St. Louis Rams (3-5)
This is a big’n for each of the teams involved in what will be billed as the Jeff Fisher Bowl. That’s right, Fisher is going to be coaching against his former team that he spent 16 years with (from 1994-2010). A win for the Titans would bring them back to .500 and put them in a position to at least contend for a wild card spot (remember they did beat the Chargers at home early this season, something that could bode well for them down the stretch). For the Rams, it’s do or die here. Kellen Clemens did not look good at all last week against the Seahawks, yet his team was still almost able to win the game on the strength of a beastly performance from both Chris Long and Robert Quinn, who each had three sacks in the 14-9 loss. St. Louis can pretty much kiss their season good-bye if they don’t win here. While I would argue that these guys are already dead without Sam Bradford at quarterback, you can never tell that to Jeff Fisher. I think he has his team ready to go in this one. They are coming off of a short week, but playing at home should give them an extra edge. There is no reason to think that they can’t get pressure on Jake Locker, who is no more mobile than Russell Wilson is (they dumped him seven times a week ago). The Rams will keep their season on life-support with a win at home over the Titans this week in a tough defensive battle; just the way a Jeff Fisher-coached team should win.
St. Louis 17, Tennessee 14
San Diego Chargers (4-3) @ Washington Redskins (2-5)
The Washington Redskins can add their name to the long list of opponents who have recently been humiliated in Denver over the past two seasons as they saw the Broncos run off 38 unanswered points against them in the second half en-route to an embarrassing 45-21 defeat. Things are not going to get any easier for them either as they come home to take on a well-rested San Diego Charger team, one that has won it’s last two games in impressive fashion. If it had not been for that gross effort in Oakland earlier this season, people would be looking at Mike McCoy and his team under a different light. I really believe that this is one of the better teams in the league and they have a chance to compete for a wild card spot in the AFC. A loss to the Redskins would hurt them, so to prevent that from happening I expect them to roll out the same game plan that has served them well in their four wins this season: the one that sees them hold on to the ball and control the clock while dominating the game as a whole. By the way, the Chargers rolled up 500+ yards in both of their games against NFC East opponents so far this season. Will the Redskins be their third victim? Probably not, but still I like Philip Rivers against this Washington defense. I can see the Redskins winning at home here, but until I see someone win a game against the Chargers when they are executing their game plan to perfection I simply can’t pick against them. The ‘Skins should put up a fight though; the San Diego defense is not the greatest in the league and Washington can still be an explosive team.
San Diego 34, Washington 31
Minnesota Vikings (1-6) @ Dallas Cowboys (4-4)
The Cowboys are coming off of a heart-breaking last second loss in Detroit. Their defense was cooked last week; they let up 623 yards to Detroit (the most in the league this year). Plus the Cowboys are the only team to allow over 500 yards more than once on the season, they’ve actually let three different opponents do that. Well, it’s a good thing they are playing the Vikings at home this week. I don’t see Minnesota putting up any 500 yards on Dallas here. They haven’t even put up 450 yards over the last two weeks combined. Who is gonna start for the Vikes? Will it be Josh Freeman or Christian Ponder? Does it even matter at this point? The Cowboys have put up at least 31 points in all four of their home games so far this season and there is no way I see Minnesota matching that this week. They simply do not have any rhythm on offense right now and you can’t count on Adrian Peterson to carry this squad like he did last year. It also doesn’t help that Minnesota couldn’t stop a nosebleed on defense right now. Unless the Vikings can find some sort of production out of their passing game, they are going to get blown out again.
Dallas 35, Minnesota 10
Kansas City Chiefs (8-0) @ Buffalo Bills (3-5)
Will this be the week that the Chiefs take their first loss? Why yes, yes it will. Crazier things have happened in the league this year and as enamored as I am with their front four on defense, I have a funny feeling that the Bills will outplay them on Sunday. This is what I like to refer to as a trap game. Kansas City is gearing up for their BYE week before taking on the Broncos, Chargers, and the Broncos again. Plus the Chiefs have not looked great on defense against back-to-back quarterbacks who were making their first starts of the season (Case Keenum and Jason Campbell). Also, this Bills team has played all of its opponents tough at home this season. They already have a win over Carolina (and we all know how good they are). They took the Bengals and Patriots to the limit and also have a W over the defending Super Bowl champs at Ralph Wilson. Whoever decided to make the Bills’ home skill a living Hell didn’t think that they would be sporting a 2-2 record at this point in the season. That said, the Chiefs have not looked as good on the road as they have at home and it’s only a matter of time before one of these close games does not go their way. My money is on Buffalo here because if there is one thing they can do this year it is pull off a surprising win against a good team in a close game.
Buffalo 21, Kansas City 20
Atlanta Falcons (2-5) @ Carolina Panthers (4-3)
The Falcons can’t be this bad, right? Without Roddy White and Julio Jones, they were dominated on the road in Arizona last week. This time they face an equally formidable defense on a team that lays claim to an even better quarterback in Cam Newton. Is there a chance that Atlanta can take out a Panther team that is coming off of back-to-back-to-back 30 point performances that saw the team win by at least 15 points each time? These guys are on a roll and there is a reason to believe that these guys are for real since they have a highly effective offense and a defense that can flat out play. But, to circle back to my previous question, can the Falcons win? I am tempted to take them here only because it is a division game and (as we all know by now) anything can happen within a divisional game. I’m not going to pull the trigger on Atlanta though, and here’s why: their running game is not helping Matt Ryan at all. The Falcons have become a one-dimensional team with a lack of weapons to throw to. Tony Gonzalez has be shut down over the past two weeks and Ryan has had to look elsewhere for production. Harry Douglas has been a nice outlet for him, but he is clearly no Julio or Roddy. The Carolina secondary, although ravaged by injuries, should not have a ton of difficulty slowing the Falcons’ receivers. Plus, this is a team that played Mike Smith’s squad tough in both games last season (when they were a playoff team). The Panthers have the edge here, so I’m siding with them; riding the hot hand.
Carolina 30, Atlanta 23
Sunday, November 3rd, 4:05 e.t.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) @ Oakland Raiders (3-4)
Let me name off the teams that have been able to beat Terrelle Pryor’s Raiders at home… okay I’ve finished. This guy plays well at home and his team just downed another Pennsylvania team at home last week. Who’s to say that his team won’t do the same thing this week? The Eagles have not looked good at all since their win over Tampa Bay. In back-to-back games they have not scored an offensive touchdown, and they have failed to gain over 300 yards in a game after putting up over 400 in their first six games. LeSean McCoy has been slowed down and the quarterback play has tailed off significantly. Nick Foles has been cleared to practice this week after suffering a concussion against Dallas. Michael Vick likely won’t play this Sunday so the decision sitting at Chip Kelly’s feet will be whether to pass the baton to Matt Barkley or take his chances with Foles. That’s just a mess. It does look like Foles is going to be the guy for the Eagles on Sunday, however. While Philly is struggling to decide who will go for them at quarterback, the Raiders are licking their chops to take their ground game to a defense that ranks 31st in the league (although they are surprisingly 9th against the run). Anyways, traveling to the west coast with no clear idea about who will start at quarterback this week does not bode well for the Eagles. And I don’t care what anyone says, it is tough to play in Oakland. #TerrellePryor’stheman
Oakland 24, Philadelphia 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7) @ Seattle Seahawks (7-1)
Crazier things have happened in the NFL, but there is no way that the Buccaneers pick up their first win of the season up in Seattle, a place where the Seahawks have not lost since December 24th, 2011. No Doug Martin and Mike Williams on offense means that the Bucs are probably done for. Speaking of missing offensive weapons, Seattle lost their starting wide-out Sydney Rice for the season with a torn ACL last weak. Luckily for them, Percy Harvin should be suited up and ready to go this week. Great, just what these guys needed: another supreme play-maker on offense to go with their elite defense. From here on out it is going to be tough to beat the Seahawks and the Buccaneers will be the first to experience the onslaught. I do not envy Tampa in this one. Seattle all day long.
Seattle 38, Tampa Bay 3
Sunday, November 3rd, 4:25 e.t.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5) @ New England Patriots (6-2)
Honestly, I would have no problem picking the Steelers to win this game if it were being played in Pittsburgh. However, since they will be hooking horns with the Pats on the road, I don’t like their chances. This is a team that was held to three points through three quarters against the Raiders last week. Newsflash: the Patriots defense is better that the Raiders defense, just thought I’d let you know. Sure, Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo may be out for the year and Aquib Talib does not look ready to go for this Sunday but still this New England unit is much improved over a year ago. Isaac Sopoaga (who was acquired in a trade with Philly) will help fill in for the missed Wilfork for the rest of this season. I expect him to find the field right away. Pittsburgh has looked better on offense over the last few weeks and their defense sill remains as one of the better units in the game today, but I have to take the Patriots here. This team beat the Saints at home in Week 6, and I am convinced that they can beat most any opponents when they are playing their best football (even with the lack of weapons). This one should be one of the best game of the week as I do expect the Steelers to put up a fight. I’d rather take Tom Terrific over Big Ben on this Sunday though.
New England 26, Pittsburgh 24
Baltimore Ravens (3-4) @ Cleveland Browns (3-5)
The Ravens held the Browns to just six points in Week 2 this year (when these two teams first matched up). However that was with Brandon Weeden at quarterback, not Jason Campbell. Campbell looked solid against one of the best defenses in the league last week and (no disrespect) the Ravens “D” is certainly a step down from Kansas City’s. That said, I have to take Baltimore on the road here. Joe Flacco just doesn’t lose to the Browns (he’s now 13-0 against them in his career). Plus, I don’t think that the Ravens are as bad as their 3-4 record would indicate. A win here would bring them back up to .500 and within shouting distance in the AFC North. Although I think their best shot at making the playoffs would lie in competing for a wild card spot, unless they could sweep the Bengals this year. Speaking of which, Cincy will be taking on the Ravens next week so a win here would be huge for them. I like the Ravens in as close to a must-win for them in Week 9 as you are ever going to see. I just don’t think the Browns will be able to create enough of a surge on offense to challenge Baltimore here; their running game is non-existent and their passing game is hit or miss on any given week.
Baltimore 27, Cleveland 17
Sunday, November 3rd, 8:30 e.t.
Indianapolis Colts (5-2) @ Houston Texans (2-5)
Here it is. The season is on the line for Houston and it is fitting that it should be in a game against their hated division rivals, the Colts. There is no way they compete for a playoff spot at 2-6. Many people have already counted them out of it as it is. Now, Gary Kubiak has hinted that Case Kennum was going to start for the Texans again this week, even though Matt Schaub looks to be “healthier”. That said, I do expect the rookie out of Houston to get the nod in this one. His adversary, Andrew Luck, is coming off of an impressive win over Peyton Manning at home (Week 7). The Colts have had an extra week to prepare for this one and I think that that should give them a bit of an edge. We are all used to the Colts dominating the Texans, and that trend should continue this week. I think Pep Hamilton has done a fantastic job incorporating the offense he ran in Stanford to the NFL. Chip Kelly will get all of the headlines from taking his college offense to the pros, but I’d like to give Hamilton some credit too. And best of all, the Colts are 5-2 and are looking like one of the teams to beat in the AFC this year. The Texans have an enormous task of trying to down these guys in Houston on Sunday night and I just don’t see it happening. I think they will play Indy tough, but in the end I can see another patented Andrew Luck comeback.
Indianapolis 28, Houston 24
Monday, November 4th, 8:40 e.t.
Chicago Bears (4-3) @ Green Bay Packers (5-2)
This is, without question, the biggest game of the season for the Bears. A win over the Packers would catapult them into a first place tie with the Lions while a loss would push them further down the NFC North totem pole. Green Bay is coming off of a dominant win over Minnesota last Sunday night. This Packer offense is on fire right now. They are running the ball very well behind the legs of Eddie Lacy, James Starks, and a little bit of Johnathan Franklin. Plus Aaron Rodgers is on fire (once again). He is coming off of another masterpiece against the Vikings and looks to continue that momentum at home against Chicago this week. The Bears have not won at Lambeau Field since 2007. Heck, da Bears haven’t beaten the Pack since September 27th, 2010 (that’s six straight losses for them in this rivalry if you were wondering). The last time Chicago and Green Bay threw down in primetime, it took a Tim Masthay touchdown pass to Tom Crabtree on a fake field goal to push the Pack past the Bears. This time I look for something a little more conventional to get the job done. Chicago’s defense is not playing well this year and their offense will likely take a step back with Josh McCown at quarterback this week (filling in for the injured Jay Cutler). For that reason I like the Packers at home. I don’t think people really realize how bad Chicago’s defense is. If it were not for their turnovers they would certainly be mentioned in the bottom third of the league. They have allowed 340 yards or more to all of their opponents this year and I don’t see them shutting down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers this week. With or without James Jones, I’m going Green Bay in this one.
Green Bay 30, Chicago 21
Week 9 Bonus Predictions-
Upset of the Week: Bills over Chiefs
Sure Bet of the Week: Cowboys over Vikings
Rookie of the Week: Case Keenum
Offensive Player of the Week: Philip Rivers
Defensive Player of the Week: Cameron Jordan
Best Overall Offense: Dallas Cowboys
Best Overall Defense: Seattle Seahawks (again)
It should be interesting to see how these games turn out this week. I got a feeling that a lot of funky things are going to go down in Week 9 and I look forward to seeing how all of the weekends’ games play out. I can’t believe it’s November already! Time to crank up the heat in your homes, watch some football and enjoy the twists and turns of the NFL. Come on back after all of the games finish to read my thoughts and breakdowns of each of this weeks’ thirteen games.