Tag Archives: week 9

2017 Season: Week 9 Preview

We have run through half of the games this year and there is still no clear Super Bowl favorite.  And who does not love a little parody?  For the first time in a while it is not set in stone who will be in the AFC and NFC championship games and that is kind of cool.  Let us predict the slate of games on the Week 9 docket; there are some good ones.

Last Week: 11-2

Season: 74-45

Locks: 3-4

Upsets: 2-5

Thursday, November 2nd, 8:25 e.t.

Buffalo Bills (5-2) @ New York Jets (3-5)

The Bills defense is looking good this year and after adding Kelvin Benjamin they finally have a legitimate threat downfield which should bode well for them.  However, I’m feeling a frisky effort from the Jets on Thursday night and I think they can upset Buffalo playing at home.

New York 19, Buffalo 17

Sunday, November 5th, 1:00 e.t.

Los Angeles Rams (5-2) @ New York Giants (1-6)

Not gonna dwell on this one much.  The Rams offense is good and their defense travels well.  The Giants simply have no answers on the attack to keep pace with Sean McVay’s squad.

Los Angeles 31, New York 14

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5) @ New Orleans Saints (5-2)

How about the Saints ripping off five straight wins.  They’ve play complimentary football and are for real.  That said, the Bucs are desperate and this is a divisional game.  I see Tampa putting in their best effort of the season and shocking N’awleans with a huge win.

Tampa Bay 31, New Orleans 28 ***UPSET OF THE WEEK***

Atlanta Falcons (4-3) @ Carolina Panthers (5-3)

This is a big game for each team, the winner will be in a good spot to make a run to the playoffs whereas the loser will be having to play catch-up in a major way.  I dont like how the Falcon defense has been playing and the Panthers have a “D” that is hot.  I’ll take them at home.

Carolina 23, Atlanta 16

Baltimore Ravens (4-3) @ Tennessee Titans (4-3)

The Baltimore run defense did bounce back last week, but on the whole they have been bad this year and that does not bode well for them on the road against the Titans who will be trying to pound the rock.  I will go with the home team in this situation.

Tennessee 26, Baltimore 16

Indianapolis Colts (2-5) @ Houston Texans (3-4)

The Texans lost last week but they looked fantastic in doing so.  DeShaun Watson continues to impress and is having no trouble carving up defenses.  Indy doesn’t exactly have a good “D” either so that trend should continue this week also.

Houston 35, Indianapolis 15

Cincinnati Bengals (3-4) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (4-3)

The Jags return home where they hope to take advantage of an inconsistent Cincy team with their solid defense.  In a battle of the big cats, I am going to take the Jags to come out on top because I think they can force a big turnover or two to swing things in their favor.

Jacksonville 26, Cincinnati 22

Denver Broncos (3-4) @ Philadelphia Eagles (7-1)

I was gonna go with the Broncos here in an upset, but I really do not trust their offense.  They have been sloppy and at times unwatchable whereas the Philly offense has been the total opposite.  I believe that will make the difference in this contest.

Philadelphia 23, Denver 13

Sunday, November 5th, 4:05 e.t.

Arizona Cardinals (3-4) @ San Francisco 49ers (0-8)

The Niners did a thing when they traded for Jimmy Garoppolo and that was an excellent move.  Unfortunately he will not have enough time to get Kyle Shanahan’s offense down pat going into this game and the Cardinals are due to win a game with their defense.  Methinks that happens on Sunday.

Arizona 20, San Francisco 11

Washington Redskins (3-4) @ Seattle Seahawks (5-2)

The Hawks are getting their offense rolling and that is a scary thought for the rest of the NFC.  Their defense was embarrassed last week but that was an aberration.  Washington is reeling and do not have a ton of weapons to threaten the Legion of Boom on the road.

Seattle 30, Washington 16 ***LOCK OF THE WEEK***

Sunday, November 5th, 4:25 e.t.

Kansas City Chiefs (6-2) @ Dallas Cowboys (4-3)

Will Ezekiel Elliot play in this game?  Whether or not he does will influence this pick.  As of Wednesday it seems like he will not, and I am going to bet on that.  Of course I do reserve the right to change my mind if I feel like it.  The Chiefs do have the better team, in my opinion.

Kansas City 33, Dallas 27

Sunday, November 5th, 8:30 e.t.

Oakland Raiders (3-5) @ Miami Dolphins (4-3)

The Miami offense was atrocious once again this past Thursday against the Ravens and they will need to take advantage of a poor Oakland “D” if they hope to remain contenders in the AFC Wild Card picture.  I don’t think they will and the Raiders keep their season alive… again.

Oakland 27, Miami 13

Monday, November 6th, 8:30 e.t.

Detroit Lions (3-4) @ Green Bay Packers (4-3)

Week 9 ends in Green Bay and the Lions need this one.  They played Pittsburgh tough last week but just could not finish drives when they got into the red zone.  I think they will do a much better job at that this week and come away from Lambeau with a big win evening their record once again.

Detroit 28, Green Bay 20

Week 9 Recap: Indianapolis Colts @ Green Bay Packers

Jordan Todman
Colts’ Jordan Todman got this game started off with a bang when he returned the opening kick 99 yards for a touchdown.

Final: Indianapolis 31, Green Bay 26

The Colts pull off one of the bigger upsets of 2016 by going into Lambeau Field and defeating the Packers on their home turf.  It was their first win in Green Bay since 1988 and it took the entire team to do it.  Here is how each unit played for both teams.

We’ll begin with the Green Bay offense.  Of course they have been ravaged by injuries lately, and that showed a bit in this contest.  Ty Montgomery was the leading carrier on the ground for the Packers (7 carries for 53 yards), but was not utilized all that much.  He had ten catches in back-to-back weeks and only managed three this week.  Devante Adams, who had 12+ catches in back to back games was held to only four grabs in this contest.  Why were the Green Bay receivers blanked the way they were in this game?  Well, for starters, Aaron Rodgers was not on his game for the majority of this one.  He was getting receivers open deep down the field and overthrowing them.  Jeff Janis did drop a sure touchdown in this game that lead to a consequent punt.  Other than that play, which you cannot put on Rodgers as the throw was on the money, a lot of the offense’s woes was a combination of wide receivers not winning their one on ones underneath and Aaron Rodgers being off the mark with some passes.  Next we will discuss why that was when the Colts’ defensive game plan is discussed, but first it is pertinent to mention that without the help of a running game the Green Bay offense was stuck in the mud for quite a bit.  There was no play action element at all and Aaron was being forced to hold the ball quite a bit.  This season, the more time he has to throw, the worse because the receivers simply are not getting open.  That trend continued in this contest and it proved to be a fatal flaw for Green Bay.  They were beginning to create some separation late, after the Pack was down by 18 in the fourth quarter, however that would certainly fall under the category of too little too late.

The Colts had a nice game plan defensively.  They were counter-intuitive for a lot of this one, blitzing Aaron Rodgers trying to create quick throws.  They also mixed in a ton of three-man rushes.  These two defensive schemes juxtaposed together created some headaches for the Packers.  Indy was rolling a lot of coverage and they had their safeties playing more shallow than typical for a good majority of this one.  No single Colt defender stood out a ton besides maybe Vonta Davis who had a nice game in coverage before getting hurt.  David Parry was the Colt who came down with the interception midway through the third quarter, killing the long Green Bay drive.  Indy did a lot to stall the Packers’ drives in this game.  They spent a lot of the time in Colts’ territory early on and were forced to settle for field goals (one of which was missed by Mason Crosby).  It helped that Indianapolis was playing with a lead right off the rip when Jordan Todman ran a kickoff back 99 yards for a score.  The defense was able to play aggressively when they wanted to, by blitzing, but then they would hit those three-man zones and force Aaron Rodgers to beat them.  He could not.

Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck carried his team to a victory converting two passes for 47 yards on separate third downs late in the game.

On offense the Colts were actually very good despite what the box score might say.  Yes, Andrew Luck threw two interceptions in this game (both in the first quarter).  Yes, the team made 355 yards of offense, being out-gained by 50.  They did, however, win the time of possession battle (30:05-29:55) and were able to convert in clutch situations.  One of the better throws of the game came in the fourth quarter from Andrew Luck when he hooked up with Donte Moncreif for a 39 yard pass completion.  This sparked a touchdown drive that eventually put the Colts up by 18, a deficit that Green Bay could not overcome.  Later on, the two best plays of the game for the Colts took place on their final drive.  They took over with 3:29 to go.  The first third down conversion that Indy was looking at saw Andrew luck shake off a sure-sack from Ha Ha Clinton-Dix roll to his left and fire a dart to Jack Doyle for a 20 yard completion right in the teeth of a zone blitz.  Next, on a third and two right before the two minute warning, Luck stood in the pocket and chucked a deep ball to a wide open T.Y. Hilton, once again against a soft zone-look from the Packers.  Luck showed great confidence and arm strength on both of those throws and proved that he is once again a quarterback who can be counted on in key situations.  He had a hiccup a couple of weeks back against the Texans, but overall the Stanford product almost always shines in these moments.  Indy was not able to get much of a ground game going in this contest, rushing for only 85 yards.  This could be a problem for them moving forward.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Packers DB recording his first of two interceptions versus the Colts from 11/6/16.

The Packers defense was not atrocious by any means.  They got some pressure on Andrew Luck and were able to bottle up the run game.  They blitzed the Colts offensive line with great frequency and were able to force two early turnovers, both first quarter interceptions by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.  Clinton-Dix also had a sack in this contest, and very nearly had that aforementioned second one late in the game before the heroic Andrew Luck shook him off and delivered a strike.  Jake Ryan was great with tackling and was all over the place.  He finished with ten solo tackles and one assist.  He drew Jack Doyle and Dwayne Allen quite a bit in man coverage and was not so great in those situations, but when he was flying to the ball, he became quite the playmaker for Green Bay.  Morgan Burnett patrolled the middle of the field and nothing was completed deep inside the numbers for the entirety of the contest.  Unfortunately for the Packers they could not close the game out on defense, but that was more of a by-product of great plays from Andrew Luck as opposed to poor defense by them.  Play-calling was not an issue, they just did not have the talent to resist the clutch play from Indy’s #12.

At the end of the day, the Colts keep their season very much alive.  The rest of the AFC South lost this week, except for Houston who was on BYE, so Indy gains ground on/separates from all of them.  Andrew Luck is obviously not the problem for Indianapolis, of course nobody thought that he was to begin with.  He made all the throws he had to in this contest and has the Colts sitting at 4-5 and tied for second in their division.  On the other hand, this is a crushing loss for the Packers.  They are now 4-4 and sit in third place in a wide open division.  Minnesota appears to be falling fast and had the Packers been able to win here, they would have been tied for first.  As it is, they are in third and have a date with the Titans on the road next week.  None of their upcoming games are going to be penciled in as wins, so the Pack will certainly have to prove themselves.  The Colts will get a week off before facing those same Titans again in two weeks in a game that looms very large for both of their playoff hopes.

Frank Gore
Action from Sunday’s matchup between the Colts and Packers featuring Frank Gore.

The Skinny:

  • Green Bay came after Andrew Luck with blitzes early on.  They overwhelmed the Indy offensive line for a while, but as the game wore on the Colts picked them up and were able to hold up late in the game cementing a win, their first in Lambeau since 1988.
  • Andrew Luck, despite two early picks, played very well.  He was great under pressure and completed two third down throws for 47 yards on the final drive that sealed the game for the Colts.
  • Indianapolis received a nice effort from their secondary for the most part.  They were beat deep on a couple of occasions but luckily it did not cost them as there were some overthrows from Aaron Rodgers.
  • Special teams killed Green Bay in this game.  The 99 yard kickoff to begin the game from Jordan Todman proved to be the difference in a close game.  Additionally, Mason Crosby did miss a 48 yard field goal in the first quarter.
  • Aaron Rodgers was off in this game.  He did mount a late rally but was missing his receivers deep down the field, who were open.  He also held the ball much too long and failed to deliver it to the open men quickly.
  • The Packers receivers struggled to get open underneath on the whole.  They could not separate and it forced Rodgers into scrambling much like he did a week ago in Atlanta.

2016 Season: Week 9 Preview

We have officially hit the second half of the 2016 NFL season and it is already November.  As the weeks turn colder, the games will get more intense and important as we begin to draw focus on a playoff picture.  If the season were to end today we would see three AFC West teams in the dance as well as two NFC East squads for the first time since 2009.  There are plenty of interesting developments taking place and some teams are beginning to separate themselves in their respective divisions.  Since we are at the halfway point, I thought I would revisit my end of the year awards and update them with our more recent happenings.  Following this list will be, as always, my predictions for the upcoming week’s games.

MVP: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots- Matt Ryan and Derek Carr were also up for consideration here, but I can’t see anybody besides Brady taking this award home.  He has played out of his mind since returning from suspension throwing for 1319 yards and 12 touchdowns without a pick.  The Pats are on a roll and it’s mostly because of #12.

Offensive Player of the Year: Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons- If he can’t win the MVP then I figured it would be nice to hand him the OPOTY award.  Ryan is dominating the stats sheet having thrown for the most passing yards, touchdowns, and plays of over 20 yards.  He is second in quarterback rating behind Brady and is leading this Falcons offense.

Defensive Player of the Year: Von Miller, LB, Broncos- I considered sticking with Marcus Peters of Kansas City since he has accounted for six total turnovers this year, but in the end I could not discount what Miller has done for the Broncos.  He is a dominant pass rusher for them, of course, and has single-handedly won games for Denver.  He is becoming even better in pass coverage too which is scary.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles- You could certainly make the case that Ezekiel Elliot is deserving of this spot, but I don’t want to discount what Wentz has done with almost no preseason action and almost no help around him on offense.  It is rare that you see a rookie carry a team, and that is what Wentz has done.  Elliot has had help from elsewhere, although he is certainly deserving as well.  In the end, it is easier for quarterbacks to win being in the league we are nowadays.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Joey Bosa, DE, Chargers- This one is probably the easiest choice out of the bunch.  Since coming in during Week 4, Bosa has been dominant rushing the passer and has even drawn attention for the DPOTY award.  He has had such a huge impact on the San Diego defense that it would be wrong not to hand him this award.

Comeback Player of the Year: Andrew Luck, QB, Colts- Luck was hurt for a large part of last season and since returning this year has played phenomenally.  He’s about all the Colts have right now and they would be wise to get him some help on that side of the ball before they waste away the prime years of his career.

Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick, Patriots- My opinion on this one has not wavered even slightly since Week 4 when I made my original list.  He has his team at 7-1 right now and looking unstoppable.  The Patriots are the odds on favorite to win the Super Bowl and a near lock to win at least 14 games this season it is largely because of the coaching of this future hall of famer.

Now, on to the picks!

Last Week: 5-8

Season: 62-58

Thursday, November 3rd, 8:25 e.t.

Atlanta Falcons (5-3) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)

The first time these two teams hooked horns was in the initial week of the season where the Buccaneers went into the Georgia Dome and clipped Matt Ryan and the Falcons 31-24, which right now stands as one of the most surprising results of the season.  However, that was back when the Bucs were at full health and Jameis Winston played one of his best games in his short career throwing four touchdown passes.  Yes, Winston has never lost to these Falcons going 3-0 against them. Jameis Winston Improving to 4-0 seems like a long shot though mainly because of how hot the Atlanta offense has been and how unimpressive the Tampa Bay defense was last week.  Yes, the game went deep into overtime, but they still surrendered well over 600 yards of offense and 513 yards passing to Derek Carr’s Raiders.  The Falcons are no worse on that side of the ball than Oakland is.  The first time these two battled, we saw Tampa Bay rookie Vernon Hargreaves on Julio Jones about half the time as he was on the left side of the field exclusively.  This time I expect him to follow Jones around for a majority of this contest (with safety help, of course).  Look for #11 to have a nice game in this environment as he is due.  All and all, the Falcons have too many weapons to defend whereas the Bucs are really reeling at the moment and have had struggles on the defensive side of the ball.   I’m thinking that Jameis Winston does have a nice game, but in the end his efforts will falter.  I like Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offense to steamroll in Tampa Bay where the home field advantage is almost non-existent.

Atlanta 35, Tampa Bay 24

Sunday, November 6th, 1:00 e.t.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5) @ Kansas City Chiefs (5-2)

The Chiefs, after getting absolutely crushed by the Steelers back in Week 4, have bounced back to go 3-0 since that time and they are dominating teams through that stretch.  The most encouraging thing about Andy Reid’s team is that they are beating the opponents that they should be.  Kansas City is not one of those squads that fails against lowly teams like these visiting Jaguars.  Sure, Blake Bortles and Jacksonville have had an entire week and a half to think about their poor road performance against Tennessee, but I really can’t see them coming into KC and downing a superior team like the Chiefs.  Another thing worth noting here is that the Kansas City offense actually looked more explosive, by far, with Nick Foles in at quarterback over Alex Smith who will still be in concussion protocol come kickoff on Sunday.  Who knows, maybe Foles could be the better of the two options here.

Nick Foles

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, it was only one game against a cruddy defense with the element of surprise, so jumping to such conclusions would seem insane.  Anyways, I see the Chiefs taking this game no matter who climbs under center because they have a fundamentally sound team and a very opportunistic defense that will take advantage of any and all mistakes that Blake Bortles could (and I say will) end up making.

Kansas City 30, Jacksonville 15

Dallas Cowboys (6-1) @ Cleveland Browns (0-8)

Okay, realistically, who sees the Browns picking up their first win of the season against the Cowboys who come to town riding an NFL high six-game winning streak?  I know I don’, but let’s pretend for a second they do end up winning.  How will it end up happening?

  • Cleveland, firstly, plays turnover free football and shortens the game by limiting possessions against the Cowboys and capitalizes by turning drives into points when they do have the ball.
  • The defense stops Ezekiel Elliot.  Cleveland rush D is the second worst in the league.  They will have to stack the box to stop the rookie phenom Elliot and leave the secondary to cover the Dallas receivers one-on-one.  They will have to win those match-ups.
  • Tackle.  The number one thing that the Browns can do to help their chances here is make the plays that are right in front of them.  Cleveland’s defense has been one of the worst in football this year largely because of their inability to bring down the ball-carrier and teams are consistently turning what should be five yard gains into seventeen yard gains.  They can’t let this happen.
  • Lastly, the Browns will have to create pressure on Dak Prescott and force him into bad throws.  The Eagles did this well on Sunday night and they forced Prescott to win the game himself, which he did, but Philly was certainly in it.  Cleveland has to duplicate this.Browns' Defense

There is a lot that has to go right for the Browns to win here, and on top of that they don’t know who will be their starting quarterback going forward.  It is looking like Josh McCown in this game, who will bring a veteran presence but an often reckless style of play with the ball.  If he’s careful then I honestly think the Browns can make this one interesting.  Don’t be surprised if this is a one-score game, in fact.  Even if it is, I don’t see Cleveland stopping the Dallas offense and getting penetration on that offensive line.  The Cowboys should certainly pick up their seventh win of the year, but don’t think that it is going to be so easy.

Dallas 26, Cleveland 21

New York Jets (3-5) @ Miami Dolphins (3-4)

Jay Ajayi

So the Dolphins have actually looked like a competent NFL team over their last two games and they hit their BYE having won both contests.  This is largely due to the legs of Jay Ajayi who has rushed for over 200 yards in each of those wins and Ryan Tannehill has not been careless with the football.  Also, the Miami defense has really stepped up their game as of late and has the team knocking on the door of .500 at their half-way point.  Meanwhile, the Jets who had lost four straight games snapped that skid two weeks ago against Baltimore and turned it into a two game winning streak last week in Cleveland with a narrow win over the Browns.  It is easy to say that Gang Green is not that great of a team given their injuries and inconsistent play lately but I think there is still hope for them if they can defeat the Dolphins in Miami.  New York has really had a tough time ripping off explosive runs this season with an older Matt Forte at the head of their rushing attack.  If there were ever a game where the Jets could get their ground game going, it would have been last week against the Browns and they did not.  The Dolphins defense is far from a perfect product but they have gotten a lot better over the last month.  That said, I do like the Jets in this contest.  The New York defense may not be great against the pass, but they are tops in the league when it comes to stopping the run.  Ajayi running for a pile of yards is not going to happen, and this was a big reason why the Dolphins have revived their season.  With this aspect taken away, I doubt Miami can make enough plays to win it in the end.  Not to mention, I really don’t see the Dolphins as a .500 team at their halfway point.  They just aren’t good enough in my opinion.

Power Pick of the Week: New York 21, Miami 14

Detroit Lions (4-4) @ Minnesota Vikings (5-2)

The Vikings, after hopping out to an impressive 5-0 start hit their BYE and have come back with a resounding thud having scored a total of 20 points over the past two weeks.  This created a chain reaction that caused Norv Turner to step down from calling plays for the Vikes.  This offense has been struggling this year, mainly because of the shaky offensive line play and inability to get the running game going.  Of course their defense has been fantastic and seeing as how they are playing at home here, I think that “D” will be the difference.  When Matthew Stafford and company hear this, it should send quivers down their spines:

Last week in Houston the Detroit offense had a tough time piecing a drive together and that should not get much easier this week in Minnesota.  This team has a serious home field advantage going in their beautiful US Bank Stadium.  I think that the Vikings are a very flawed team, but as long as their fans show up and are boisterous (which they should be with a divisional rival in town) they should be fine this week.  However, going forward there could be some issues, but after seeing the Lions fall flat in Detroit I don’t have confidence that they will fare much better against an even better defense belonging to a team that has a recent chip on its shoulder.

Minnesota 23, Detroit 10

Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) @ New York Giants (4-3)

The Eagles have gone 1-3 following their surprising 3-0 start and have really lacked explosive plays on offense ever since Week 6.  Coincidentally that is when their right tackle Lane Johnson began his 10-game suspension.  The O-line was exposed against Washington and ever since then the offense has been limited and really predicated around Carson Wentz getting the ball out of his hands quickly.  Unfortunately, he has little to no help on offense and that became apparent on Sunday night against Dallas.  The receiving corps continues to drop easy catches and to break tackles.  Simply put, they are not very good and it has caused Wentz to have to carry this team, which he has.  Philly has been in every game this season.  This brings us to the Meadowlands where the Giants await, coming off of their BYE (side note, this will be the third straight team the Eagles have faced that will have been returning from an off-week).  New York’s defense finally lived up to its $200 million bill against the Rams.  However, this was against the Rams in London.  If there was another offense in the NFL that was even more flimsy weapon-wise than the Eagles, it would be Los Angeles.  The New York offense has been almost unwatchable lately.  Eli Manning has been uncomfortable in the pocket and his footwork has been choppy.  The Eagles pass-rush has been very good and the birds boast the fifth-best pass D in the league.  If they can put pressure on Eli Manning like they did last week on the road against Dallas and Dak Prescott then they should have a great chance at winning.  Brandon Graham has been unblockable over the past month, earning the highest grade among all rushers per pro-football focus.Brandon Graham Manning may continue to feel pressure in the pocket and make quick, ill-advised decisions.  I’ll take Philly for this reason.

Philadelphia 27, New York 17

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) @ Baltimore Ravens (3-4)

Steelers vs Ravens

Ahh, Steelers/Ravens.  These games are always fun to watch no matter who is playing for them and the first installment of one of the league’s most intense rivalries should be a good game.  Will it be Landry Jones in at QB for Pittsburgh or will Ben Roethlisberger be coming back?  Part of me wants to think that it will be Landry Jones just because the Steelers may want to play it safe and not re-aggravate that meniscus injury.  Jones did not play too poorly at home against the Patriots so the team has no reason to think that marching him out there is going to mean an automatic loss.  However, the Ravens are very good at stopping the run, so that could mean problems for Le’Veon Bell and company.  This leaves it up to the Pittsburgh receivers to make plays down the field.  Obviously the offense is much more explosive with Big Ben under center, but there are plays to be had against these Ravens who are giving up a few of those this season.  Anyways, Baltimore has looked very inconsistent on offense, especially in the second halves of their games.  They will probably need to put up at least 25 points to beat the Steelers at home.  I think if they can do that then a win will be on the horizon.  Being that this is a divisional game for Baltimore, I could see Joe Flacco rising to the occasion and getting it done.  I’d probably pick the Ravens to win this contest regardless of whether it was Ben or Landry calling signals because I think that they can shut down the running game of Pittsburgh and make the team one-dimensional.  By the way, both of these teams come in off of a BYE so each should be prepared and ready to make this one of the week’s most titillating contests.

Baltimore 27, Pittsburgh 26

Sunday, November 6th, 4:05 e.t.

Carolina Panthers (2-5) @ Los Angeles Rams (3-4)

Okay, I have to come forward and say that I am a bit disappointed that I did not pick the Panthers to win last week.  I have been predicting that they would get on a bit of a roll this year and I missed the boat to be the first to hop on with that theory.  I do think that their secondary is awful, but at the same time I don’t believe that they are a bad team.  Cam Newton is still fully capable of making big plays and they have one of the most creative and hard to stop running games with a combination of power backs and his legs.  If the Rams are to win this game they will have to get good play out of their quarterback Case Keenum.  I said, following my write-up of the Giants/Rams game in London, that Los Angeles should not necessarily consider benching Keenum following his four-pick game as a lot of those were not his fault.  However, if he plays poorly against a Carolina secondary that is in shambles at the moment, there may be cause for concern.  Also, if the Rams are not a playoff team this season (which, it looks like they will not be) there is no reason why Jared Goff shouldn’t get some reps this season.  Let the kid show off what he’s got. jared-goff It is possible that we see him in the second half of this game as the Los Angeles fans are beginning to get restless with Case under center.  The biggest issue I have with the Rams is their lack of receiving threats.  Todd Gurley is handicapped week after week because teams are stacking the box to shut him down.  They are not respecting Los Angeles’ receivers in large part because Keenum is way too inclined to take shots down the field; low percentage passes.  He isn’t always taking what the defenses are giving him.  That is what a lot of quarterbacks are doing against the Panthers defense and it has worked.  I don’t see Case following this blueprint because it is not in his DNA.  Ron Rivera’s team should take this game on the road as they begin to build some momentum heading into the second half of the season.

Carolina 33, Los Angeles 17

New Orleans Saints (3-4) @ San Francisco 49ers (1-6)

The Saints come into this contest having just beaten the Seahawks in a thriller at home.  The most encouraging thing from that game was the fact that New Orleans actually tackled well, something they have not done at all over the past couple of seasons.  The Niners defense has suffered from the same fate and have shown no signs of getting any better.  New Orleans can throw the ball all over the yard, we know this.  What they did slightly better last week than they did at any other point this year is run the ball.  Tim Hightower rumbled for 103 yards and brought a physical element to the ground game that the Saints did not see out of Mark Ingram thus far in the season.  Drew Brees continues to play at a high level and this San Francisco defense isn’t scaring anybody this year.  The only way they can win this game is if their offense is able to trade points with the Saints and Brees.  Of course, they have Chip Kelly calling plays so there is always a small chance that they can break out and drop 30 points or so.  Will this be the week that happens?  I can see it, but I’m not going to predict it.  Controlling the clock is almost a given when you play a Chip Kelly coached team, and even though the Saints are 0-2 this year when winning the time of possession battle, I think that is an aberration.  Look for them to piece drives together and hold the ball for around 35 minutes en route to a nice win.Tim Hightower

New Orleans 36, San Francisco 21

Sunday, November 6th, 4:25 e.t.

Indianapolis Colts (3-5) @ Green Bay Packers (4-3)

The Packers are coming off of a one-point loss on the road to Atlanta despite being without the services of many of their key players.  With that being said, Aaron Rodgers has put together back-to-back good performances and he appears to be back to his old self.  The offensive line in Green Bay continues to be the strength of this team and this week they match up against a Colts defensive line that isn’t exactly known for getting after passers.  I expect Rodgers to carve up the Indy defense.  So, that leaves us with the question of how Andrew Luck will respond on the other side of the ball.  In his first trip to Lambeau field, I can see the Colts struggling to protect their star QB, and that should be the difference in this game.  Indy was held to 14 points at home against the Chiefs which has to make some Colt fans a bit nervous.  They also gave up 30 to a team that was guided by a backup quarterback for a majority of the contest.  If they can’t hold Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to less than 24 points then they could be in trouble.  However, the Colts do seem like they will make this game somewhat interesting because that is what they have been able to do a lot of the time with Andrew Luck being their guy.  Do I think he can trade points with Aaron Rodgers at the top of his game, no, but I can see him carrying his team as he always does.  By the way, the last time these two matched up wasn’t too bad of a game either.

Green Bay 31, Indianapolis 24

Tennessee Titans (4-4) @ San Diego Chargers (3-5)

Okay, I want to start off by saying that I was going to pick the Titans to win this game originally because I love what they have been able to do with the ground game marching behind that offensive line and how Marcus Mariota has shown improvement from week-to-week.  However, it would almost feel criminal to pick against the Chargers since they are always in every game they play this season and they are in a desperate spot to win here or risk falling even further out of contention in the AFC West.  Let’s face it, it will be a long shot for San Diego to sneak its way into the playoffs, but if it is going to happen they will likely have to win seven out of their next eight games.  Phil Rivers

That means they will have to defeat teams like the Titans at home.  How do you do this?  Well, firstly you must stop DeMarco Murray and the Tennessee running game.  That is easier said than done but San Diego has had success clogging holes and slowing ground attacks lately.  Next, getting pressure on Marcus Mariota and forcing him into errant passes will be very important.  In steps Joey Bosa, who not only looks like a lock for defensive rookie of the year, but is also generating noise for the defensive player of the year.  I think he and the rest of the Chargers line will get after Mariota and make him uncomfortable.  The good news for the Titans, though, is that their division is very weak and a loss here would not cripple them.  They are finding their knack on offense and have an underrated defense to boot.  I just feel better going with the more desperate team with a veteran quarterback at the helm.  Otherwise, I’d love the Titans in an upset.

San Diego 30, Tennessee 24

Sunday, November 6th, 8:30 e.t.

Denver Broncos (6-2) @ Oakland Raiders (6-2)

And for the third Sunday night in a row, we have ourselves a gem of a game.  This is the best match up between two teams of this week and it is also the hardest to call.  On one hand you have the Broncos who are still balling on defense while on the other you have Derek Carr out there breaking Oakland passing records and carrying his team to thrilling wins week after week.  The Raiders are also breaking penalty records as well, having been penalized 23 times last week against Tampa Bay, a new NFL record.  Raiders 23 penalties

The Oakland defense has begun to turn the corner somewhat, and it is going to have to come up big on Sunday night because you can’t expect the Denver defense to sputter.  When I am trying to decide who is going to win this game, I can’t help but think back to the game that took place in Week 6 when the Chiefs came in and dominated the Raiders with their defense and coherent offense.  If that happens again, then the Broncos won’t have any trouble coming out with a W.  It is awesome that a Sunday Night game is being broadcast from Oakland for the first time in forever, so the environment should be electric.  This is the closest thing that Raiders fans have had to a playoff game in quite some time and it should be awesome.  However, I see Trevor Seimian playing much better than he did a week ago where he made a couple of bad throws.  This Oakland secondary still worries me, and even though they have played much better lately I don’t know if they will be able to stand up in big spots like this.  It is certainly the weakness of the team and fast receivers give them problems.  The Broncos have two of ’em in Demariyus Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.  The Raiders are also primarily a zone-coverage team which is something that Denver does well against on offense.  As long as Seimian takes good care of the ball I think that the Broncos have an excellent shot at winning this game because of their defense.  I hate saying I think the Raiders will fail being on the big stage, but it is likely that we will see it happen.  This could be the week’s best game, though.

Denver 20, Oakland 17

Monday, November 7th, 8:30 e.t.

Buffalo Bills (4-4) @ Seattle Seahawks (4-2-1)

Bills Seahawks

The ninth week of the NFL season culminates in the Emerald City when the Bills take on the Seahawks.  Both are coming in having not won either of their last two games and having problems on the offensive side of the ball.  The Seahawks have not been able to run the ball while the Bills are having trouble passing it.  Last week against New England, Tyrod Taylor missed a lot of his throws high and was off the point completing only half of his throws against a solid secondary.  While that was going on, the Seahawks were putting up lousy rushing numbers.  This is a team that ran the ball for just three yards in the first half against the Saints.  This lead to a huge lapse in the time of possession battle, and the ‘Hawks will have to do a better job on the ground in this game because you know the Bills are going to try to run the ball when their on offense to try and control the clock.  Now, I love the Seahawks and what they can become, but a game like this just seems fishy to me.  The Bills are ravaged by injuries, sure, but their defense is not a horrible unit.  Their linebackers are making plays all across the field and are probably the fastest unit in all of football (among linebacking corps, of course).  You also have guys like Jerry Hughes and Lorenzo Alexander who can collapse a pocket and Marcell Dareus who will bull rush up the middle.  With an immobile Russell Wilson, this could be a problem.  Ultimately I think the key to this game is whether or not the Seahawks can get their running game going.  I am going to go out on a limb and say that they will not, not this week anyways.  This sets up nicely for a Buffalo upset because they will be able to play hands-on coverage with the Seattle receivers.  Also worth noting, the Bills are 3-0 against the NFC this year and are actually 4-1 in play outside of their division thus far.  This is an interesting battle, and I feel it fit to pick an upset in this spot since I don’t think I’ve done enough of that this week and nobody likes to read boring columns.

Buffalo 23, Seattle 20

Week 9 Bonus Predictions

Sure Bet of the Week (5-2): Kansas City over Jacksonville

Upset of the Week: Buffalo over Seattle

Offensive Player of the Week: Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Cowboys

Defensive Player of the Week: Dee Ford, DE, Chiefs

Rookie of the Week: Elliot

Best Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers

Best Running Back: Elliot

Week 9: Oakland Raiders vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Recap

Antonio Brown rewrote the Pittsburgh Steeler record book on Sunday with 17 catches for 284 yards
Antonio Brown rewrote the Pittsburgh Steeler record book on Sunday with 17 catches for 284 yards.

Final: Pittsburgh 38, Oakland 35

In what was one of the more memorable games of the 2015 season, the Steelers take down the Raiders at home in a shootout, 38-35.  Antonio Brown rewrote the record book for Pittsburgh with his unforgettable record setting performance.  His 17 catches for 284 yards were both franchise bests and (obviously) career highs.  His best reception was the one that went for 57 yards with just under a minute left in the game to put the Steelers in field goal range for the win.  DeAngelo

Aldon Smith rolled up on Ben Roethlisberger's left foot on a sack in the fourth quarter on 11/8/15.
Aldon Smith rolled up on Ben Roethlisberger’s left foot on a sack in the fourth quarter on 11/8/15.

Williams helped out as well.  He scored his 50th career touchdown and added a 51st for good measure along with 170 rushing yards.  Pittsburgh amassed a eye-popping season-high 597 yards of offense and Antonio Brown and DeAngelo Williams contributed 531 of those yards.  It should also be noted that Ben Roethlisberger missed out on a prime opportunity to connect with #84 on a 53 yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.  Had the two connected, Brown could have had the all-time receiving record in this game.

It was not all roses for Pittsburgh, however.  They did lose Big Ben yet again in the fourth quarter when Aldon Smith rolled up on his left foot.  He is expected to miss a few more weeks.  Jarvis Landry, who looked solid in relief of Ben, will have to guide the team until he gets back.  If he can find Antonio Brown often, he should be fine.

On the other side of things, the Raiders offense looked very good yet again.  They too lost one of their best players in the game though.  Runningback Latavius Murray suffered a concussion in the third quarter and had to leave the game.  Other than that, it was a pretty good outing for Bill Musgrave’s unit.  Derek Carr became the first quarterback for the Raiders since Tom Flores in 1963 to throw for four touchdowns in back-to-back games.  He did throw a bad interception with 4:37 left in the red zone, but was able to lead his team back on the ensuing drive to tie it up.  He hit Michael Crabtree for a 38 yard touchdown pass with 1:15 to go.  Crabtree had his best game as a Raider, hauling in two touchdown passes and posting 108 yards on seven catches.  Amari Cooper had a touchdown and 88 yards on seven catches as well.  Latavius Murray ran for 97 yards while healthy to add to the offensive explosion from Oakland.

Derek Carr threw four touchdowns against the Steelers in Sunday's game.
Derek Carr threw four touchdowns against the Steelers in Sunday’s game.

There is not much to talk about with regards to defense in this one seeing as how there wasn’t much being played.  The Raiders stubbornly stuck to man-to-man coverage and were burnt in every one-on-one situation by Antonio Brown.  When doubled, he was nowhere near as loud but was still effective enough to make plays.  Protection for each team held up well, although each defensive line had trouble gaining any traction whatsoever.  This was truly an offensive shootout, though, more so because of what each offense was able to do rather than how bad the defenses were.

Even though they fell to 4-4, this game proves that the Raiders are a legitimate team.  They showed plenty of fight and hung tough with one of the powerhouses in the AFC.  The Steelers were good as well and should not be in such bad shape with Landry Jones at quarterback because of their other weapons on offense.  This was a very important win for Pittsburgh as it gives them the tie-breaker over Oakland, which could come into play later down the road.  Now the Raiders might not be there quite yet, but it is the first time in a while that we can say they are well on their way.

The Skinny

  • Pittsburgh posts 597 yards of total offense, 531 of them came from Antonio Brown and DeAngelo Williams

    The two teams combined for 1037 yards of total offense and 73 points in Sunday's shootout.
    The two teams combined for 1037 yards of total offense and 73 points in Sunday’s shootout.
  • Brown set career highs and franchise records with 17 catches for 284 yards in this game
  • Key players went down for each team; Ben Roethlisberger with a foot injury and Latavius Murray with a concussion
  • Derek Carr is the first Raider quarterback to throw 3+ touchdowns in three straight games since Rich Gannon in 2002, and the first Raider quarterback to throw four touchdowns in back-to-back games since Tom Flores in 1963
  • Amari Cooper passes Tim Brown for the most receptions by a rookie receiver for the Raiders in this game.  He now has 45 catches on the season
  • Chris Boswell missed his first kick as a Steeler (from 41 yards out) but redeems it with a made field goal from 18 yards out to win the game for his team with two seconds to go

2014 Season: Week 9 Predictions

Week 9 is widely looked at as the mid-way point in the NFL season.  With that in mind, lets take a look at what we know:  We know the Broncos are unarguably the best team in football right now.  The Raiders, Jaguars, and Jets (each with seven losses) will struggle to get even three wins on the season.  Bruce Arians is a badass!  He has the Arizona Cardinals sitting atop the NFC West with a solid 6-1 record.  The MVP race is tighter than ever before with names like Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, DeMarco Murray, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, and Tom Brady littering the scene.  And I also know that I went 8-7 with my picks last week.  Pretty ugly.  Anyways, here are my Week 9 picks along with some bonus predictions at the end.

Thursday, October 30th, 8:25 e.t.

New Orleans Saints (3-4) @ Carolina Panthers (3-4-1)

This is a game (not surprisingly) being played for the lead in the NFC South.  However, I’ll bet none of us saw neither of these teams sporting records below .500 going into it.  Someone is going to even out their record and seize control of the division.  I feel as if the Saints have the edge here.  They have been better over the past couple of weeks (even though the record might say otherwise) and are coming off of a demolition of the Green Bay Packers at home.  Sure, this game is being played in Charlotte, but with the way teams are shredding apart this Carolina defense, I don’t doubt that Drew Brees can do the same thing.  How does 366 yards with a pair of TD passes sound?  Pretty good to me.

New Orleans 34, Carolina 16

Sunday, November 2nd, 1:00 e.t.

Philadelphia Eagles (5-2) @ Houston Texans (4-4)

Philly is coming off of a tough loss in Arizona; a game in which they probably should have won.  Now they will play in Houston against the 4-4 Texans.  Houston has been all over this place this season, but I would say that this is a 7-9 win team by the time things are all said and done.  10-12 win teams beat 7-9 win teams most of the time, therefore I am taking the Eagles in this game.  They are 1-2 on the road during this campaign, but the running game has been rolling lately.  When LeSean McCoy gets going, the birds will be soaring once again and that will take some of the pressure off of Nick Foles’ shoulders.  Arian Foster has been remarkable this season, but other than him the offense has been wildly inconsistent.  That does not bode well in a game that will be a shootout if the Texans hope to win.

Philadelphia 37, Houston 20

San Diego Chargers (5-3) @ Miami Dolphins (4-3)

Last season when the Bolts played in Miami, the team lost 20-16.  They were running the rock with great frequency in that game.  This year I see Philip Rivers taking it to them through the air.  Last week the Jaguars were able to move the ball on Miami’s defense.  The 27-6 score might cause you to think otherwise, but part of that is because of Blake Bortles’s turnovers (two pick-sixes).  Rivers isn’t going to serve up silly interceptions here.  I say he takes it to the Dolphins in a healthy San Diego win.

San Diego 30, Miami 16

Arizona Cardinals (6-1) @ Dallas Cowboys (6-2)

Boy has this game taken on a different shape after the events that transpired last week.  The Cowboys lost at home to the Redskins and their third string quarterback while the Cardinals eeked out a tough home win over the playoff-hopeful Eagles.  We look ahead to this game not knowing the status of Tony Romo.  That is a problem.  Even if he plays (which I’m sure he will) it is going to be tough for him to figure out the Arizona defense.  They shut down the running game and will blitz more than any other team in the league.  If they are bringing the heat all afternoon, it is going to be on the Dallas QB to make plays using his mobility and arm strength.  With his injury, I’m not sure he will be capable of doing this.  Give me Arizona.

Arizona 26, Dallas 17

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6) @ Cleveland Browns (4-3)

The Buccaneers have only one win this season, and it was a stunner on the road in Pittsburgh.  Here they are on the road again against another AFC north team; can they repeat that winning magic?  It wouldn’t shock me if they did.  The Browns have not been playing solid football as of late.  They struggled to put away the Raiders until late last week and were slapped around by the Jaguars a week before.  I actually think that Tampa Bay is better than Jacksonville and Oakland, therefore they may be able to have their way in this game.  Doug Martin survived the trade deadline and I think he will reward his team with a nice 100 yard rushing game with a touchdown.  Joe Haden may struggle to cover Vincent Jackson; the 6’3” target has had success against him in the past.  I like Tampa Bay to pull the upset on the road in a great game.

Tampa Bay 17, Cleveland 16

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) @ Cincinnati Bengals (4-2-1)

Just when you thought the Bengals were falling apart at the seams, they gut out a tough win at home over the Ravens.  This week, they host the Jaguars and are primed for a big win.  Blake Bortles has made a bunch of rookie mistakes this season and his team is going to struggle until he can iron out the kinks in his game.  Meanwhile, the Bengals should be able to run the ball on Jacksonville with Geo Bernard and Jeremy Hill.  I see Cincy shortening this game and taking advantage of the limited possessions.  The Jags will settle for field goals while the Bengals are punching it in the end zone for touchdowns.

Cincinnati 30, Jacksonville 9

New York Jets (1-7) @ Kansas City Chiefs (4-3)

It looks like Michael Vick will be getting his first start since Week 8 of last season, and it will come against his former head coach in Andy Reid.  Reid’s Chiefs have looked good over the past month whereas the Jets have not.  They have been turning the ball over way too much and haven’t been effective running the ball.  The opposite can be said for Kansas City.  Alex Smith has been superior while Jamaal Charles has really gotten it going.  When these two worlds collide its not too hard to pick the winner.  I like the team that won’t turn it over, and that is the Chiefs.

Kansas City 24, New York 13

Washington Redskins (3-5) @ Minnesota Vikings (3-5)

Coming off of surprising road wins in overtime, both squads are ready to prove that their win was not a fluke and climb back into their respective division races.  Teddy Bridgewater has hardly been a touchdown machine this year (he only has two through the air) but he has been relatively smart with the football.  A simple game-plan has helped him to this point, and will again.  The Redskins will be coming to town off of a short week and I think that hurts their chances.  I like Washington’s offense, but it might struggle this Sunday against a Minnesota “D” that has been solid as of late.  I’ll take the Vikes, but not by much.

Minnesota 21, Washington 19

Sunday, November 2nd, 4:05 e.t.

St. Louis Rams (2-5) @ San Francisco 49ers (4-3)

In Week 6 when these two teams last hooked horns, it was the 49ers who came away with the win.  They were not able to mount much of a ground game, but Colin Kaepernick’s 343 yards and three touchdowns through the air made that a moot point.  The 49ers (who are coming off of their BYE week) will likely recommit to the running game as teams have been able to make some room in that department against the Rams lately.  That does not bode well for the visitors.  Also, they were putrid on offense last week (save for one opening drive touchdown against Kansas City).  I don’t have much confidence that they will get things right here in San Fran.

San Francisco 34, St. Louis 13

Sunday, November 2nd, 4:25 e.t.

Oakland Raiders (0-7) @ Seattle Seahawks (4-3)

I like what I’ve seen from Derek Carr so far this season, but he has had to do it all on his own this year and will have to on the road in Seattle.  Good luck with that.  The ‘Hawks were barely able to avoid falling below .500 last week against Carolina, but with that said this is still a playoff team.  They will prove that by demolishing the winless Raiders at home.

Seattle 40, Oakland 10

Denver Broncos (6-1) @ New England Patriots (6-2)

While the Patriots have been red-hot over the past month, the Broncos have been equally good.  Their only loss on the season was in overtime on the road in Seattle.  Denver is a team that does not have a big weakness, making them tough to stand up to.  Yes, the Patriots have been great lately and Rob Gronkowski has appeared to be the man that he once was, but I don’t see their defense standing up to Peyton Manning the way they need to and the way they did last year in Week 12.  I like Denver to pull out of Gillette with a big win, proving they are the best team in football.

Denver 37, New England 27

Sunday, November 2nd, 8:30 e.t.

Baltimore Ravens (5-3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)

The Ravens and Steelers usually play very close games, but in Week 2 when these two locked up it was a 26-6 final with Baltimore earning the bragging rights.  Now Pittsburgh looks to redeem itself coming off of the best team win in years where Ben Roethlisberger had the game of his life.  522 yards with six touchdowns ain’t nothing to shake a stick at.  With that said, the Steel defense did allow 34 points of their own, and Andrew Luck was able to throw three touchdowns behind 400 yards.  In short, I don’t trust this defense to stop the Ravens, even at home.  These two teams usually split the season series, but I’m calling for a Ravens’ sweep this year.  Joe Flacco hooks up with Owen Dainels for a six-yard touchdown with less than a minute left to seal this game away for the visitors.

Baltimore 27, Pittsburgh 23

Monday, November 3rd, 8:30 e.t.

Indianapolis Colts (5-3) @ New York Giants (3-4)

The Colts saw their impressive five-game winning streak come to a screeching halt on the road in the Steel City a week ago and will look to get back on track against the Giants, who are coming off of their BYE.  Indianapolis’s defense was litter against Pittsburgh and they will have to be better if the team hopes to go anywhere further than the divisional game this postseason.  The New York defense has also been suspect at times this year, but they have been better at home than on the road.  Andrew Luck may struggle a bit but I still see his team winning.  The Giants should give Indy a lot of problems in this one but the Colts rarely lose back-to-back games.  It does not happen here.

Indianapolis 30, New York 28

Week 9 Bonus Predictions

Upset of the Week: Tampa Bay over Cleveland

Sure Bet of the Week: Cincinnati over Jacksonville

Rookie of the Week: John Brown (May be a week too late here)

Offensive Player of the Week: LeSean McCoy

Defensive Player of the Week: LaVonte David

Best Overall Offense: Seattle Seahawks

Best Overall Defense: Cincinnati Bengals

Feel free to leave a comment stating what you think will happen in this weekend’s games!

Week 9: Chicago Bears 27, Green Bay Packers 20- Post Game Thoughts

With Jay Cutler forced to sit this game out, many people discounted Chicago’s chances of winning this game, but they did their best to level the playing field.  Unfortunately that meant injuring the Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers (he now has a broken collarbone), and thus we had a battle of the backups in the NFL’s longest running rivalry on Monday Night Football.  Obviously the Packers were at a disadvantage since they were not planning for Seneca Wallace to play all but one drive in this contest while the Bears had a full two weeks to get Josh McCown ready to play.  That was the biggest difference.  McCown showed he can play when he threw a couple of touchdown passes and was not intercepted.  Meanwhile Green Bay decided to limit Wallace and run the ball 28 times with Eddie Lacy and James Starks.  Green Bay had a shot at pulling this game out, but the Bears advanced the ball from their own one yard line to the Packers’ 21 yard line to kick a field goal and bring the lead to 27-20.  Perhaps more importantly they ate up 8:58 in the process while running 18 plays.  Say what you want about Seneca Wallace being unable to lead the Pack back, I think you can blame this loss on Dom Capers and the defense for not getting off the field in the most desperate of moments.  Chalk one up in the win column for Marc Trestman and the play-calling.  His aggressive play-selection trumped the ultra conservative mood set by Mike McCarthy.  We will see how much more of the playbook McCarthy is willing to open up next week against Philadelphia, who (if on) is a team that you are going to need to score a lot of points to beat.  For the Bears, it looks as if Jay Cutler will be back under center next week against the Lions in a pivotal NFC North match-up.  Things are now mighty interesting in the black and blue division with three teams tied atop at 5-3 (sorry Vikings fans, they don’t have a seat reserved for this party).

Week 9: Tennessee Titans 28, St Louis Rams 21- Post Game Thoughts

Each team’s running backs were on display in this contest as both Chris Johnson and Zac Stacy ran for over 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  Yes, the Rams finally have a rushing touchdown on the season!  Too bad it didn’t help Jeff Fisher down his former team as the Titans have pulled their record back to a respectable 4-4.  The Titans ran the ball into the end zone four times in this games as Shonn Greene and Jake Locker joined in on the touchdown parade.  This really was an old school game with each team running the ball a lot with a bunch of short passes.  Six rushing scores serves as a breath of fresh air in today’s passing league.  Anyways, the Titans are able to pull off the win on the road and snap their three game losing streak.  I still think that these guys have a shot at the wild card in the AFC because of their wins over the Chargers and the Jets.  If they can continue to pound the rock like they did against the rams, these guys could find themselves relevant in December.  Now for the Rams, it is clear that they are hurting without Sam Bradford, but it is encouraging to see Zac Stacy tearing it up in the backfield.  Next season when Bradford returns, this team will have some key offensive components.  They do lack a true number one receiver on the outside so the team should take the rest of the season to try and find one or possibly draft one in the 2014 draft because it is clear that the Tavon Austin experiment has not gone the way that the team thought it would so far in the year.  This dude simply isn’t making big plays, and he will need to if he ever wants to live up to his first round pick status.

Week 9: Cleveland Browns 24, Baltimore Ravens 18- Post Game Thoughts

Joe Flacco loses to the Browns for the first time in his six year career as the Ravens drop their third straight game and fall to 3-5 on the season and third place in the AFC North.  The defending Super Bowl Champions would have slid to the cellar in their division if Pittsburgh were able to beat New England on Sunday.  That said, the Ravens are in some serious trouble this year if they can’t put a long winning streak together.  They take on the Bengals at home next week in a game that they simply have to have.  In fact, just one more loss within the division will kill their season if you ask me.  We already know that either Denver or Kansas City has the first wild card slot locked up and there is too much competition for the second spot so I think that the Ravens’ only hope of seeing the playoffs will be by winning their division, one in which they currently trail by three games.  Baltimore was unable to get their ground game going at all in this one, as the team had just 55 yards on the ground (25 of those from Joe Flacco).  Ray Rice’s longest run on the season is 14 yards; need I say more?  This Raven ground game is not good.  Meanwhile the Browns didn’t enjoy much success on the ground either, but they good some good play out of Jason Campbell, who has looked good in back-to-back starts.  I guess Cleveland is okay when they start any quarterback other than Brandon Weeden.  Just imagine how good these guys could be if they had an upper-echelon quarterback or a strong ground game (or both).  You would think that Cleveland is going to draft a quarterback in next year’s draft, but if Jason Campbell can keep playing like he did in this game (262 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no picks) they may look to spend their first round pick on a running back to bolster their backfield.  The final seven games of the season for the Browns will tell us a lot and help clarify the team’s greatest needs going forwards.  And don’t look now but these guys are 2-1 within their division.  Could Cleveland possibly push for a playoff spot?  It is certainly possible with this big win at home over Baltimore.

Week 9: New England Patriots 55, Pittsburgh Steelers 31- Post Game Thoughts

These are the New England Patriots we have all become used to seeing as they rolled up the Steelers at home on Sunday.  As the Pats looked dominant in this game, it came at the expense of Pittsburgh who has not been dominated like this in, ever.  Correct me if I am wrong, but I do recall hearing that these 55 points and the 610 yards were franchise worsts in terms of being allowed for this proud team.  Shoot, they got shredded as Tom Brady took the top off of this defense with his 432 yards passing and four touchdowns.  He got Rob Gronkowski involved early and often as “Gronk” finished the day with 9 catches for 143 yards and a score.  Danny Amendola (yes he was healthy) scored his first touchdown of the year in this one while Aaron Dobson chipped in with the other two receiving touchdowns (one of them went for 81 yards).  Stevan Ridley plowed his way into the end zone twice with 115 yards in this game.  The Patriots as a team ran the ball 34 times with their backs in this game, so the dedication to the running game was a big factor in this blowout win.  For the Steelers, things cannot get much worse than this.  They have dropped to 2-6 on the season despite Big Ben Roethlisberger throwing for 400 yards on the afternoon/evening.  The Pittsburgh defense got ripped apart in this one and when teams can have their way with Dick LeBeau’s unit, it is clear that this offense is not good enough to neutralize it.  Todd Haley’s job is going to be in question by the end of this season, speaking of which.  This was not a horrible offensive performance by any means, but all season long this Pittsburgh “O” has not been overly impressive.  It is pretty clear that Dick LeBeau and Mike Tomlin’s jobs are not in any real jeopardy, so someone’s gotta go following this down year and it may be Haley.  Things need to change for the Steelers before they can find themselves in contention for a playoff spot in the coming years, and this game was simply the crescendo of a forgettable season for the black and yellow nation.

Week 9: Seattle Seahawks 27, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 (OT)- Post Game Thoughts

Would it be fair to say that the Seahawks are lucky to be 8-1 at this point in the season right now?  Remember, they barely eeked their way by Carolina in Week 1 and nearly lost to Houston in Week 4.  Over the last four weeks they could have lost three of those games, including this one where they trailed 21-0 in the first half.  Could this be a 3-6 team?  Perhaps, but the fact that they are 8-1 speaks volumes about how good they are during the stretch in close games.  Let’s face it, there aren’t too many people out there who doubt the legitimacy of this team as they have an exciting young quarterback mixed in with a great running game and a great defense.  The fact that they almost lost at home to a winless team could be attributed to the fact that Russell Wilson was working with a severely depleted wide receiver corps.  However, help is on the way with Percy Harvin getting healthy and Seattle still has the beast in the backfield, Marshawn Lynch.  Not to mention both of their starting tackles have missed significant action this season, so this 8-1 record comes despite the slew of injuries on offense.  That, to me, is very impressive.  On the other hand, with Tampa Bay’s eighth straight loss to start the year, there will now be even more people calling for Greg Schiano’s job.  The fact that they were unable to close this game out after taking a large lead into the half is the most telling about the horrendous state of this squad.  It is a shame too because the Buccaneers have a lot of talent on their team and many of their losses this season have come late against some of the best teams in the NFL, but any way you look at it 0-8 is 0-8 and Tampa will be desperate to beat the Dolphins next Monday night at home.  They really need a win, if for nothing else, as a vote of confidence for this team going forward.