Week 9 record: 7-6
Overall record: 76-57
Cleveland Browns (0-9) @ Baltimore Ravens (4-4)
Game Pick: Ravens – Game already played, pick was as follows:
Green Bay Packers (4-4) @ Tennessee Titans (4-5)
Game Pick: Packers – In perhaps the biggest surprise of last weekend, the Packers were upended at home by the Colts 31-26, in a score that was very flattering to Green Bay. It was 31-13 part way through the fourth quarter until two garbage time touchdown passes by Aaron Rodgers. The Titans put up a good fight against the Chargers in San Diego, but ultimately came up short in a 43-35 shootout loss. The difference in the game were the two defense touchdowns the Chargers scored off of costly Titans turnovers.
Is this the game that finally gets the Packers going? Theoretically it could be, given the weaknesses in the Titans secondary that Rodgers is sure to exploit. However, the Green Bay defense has been hemorrhaging points the past few weeks, and might have trouble keeping the Tennessee offensive attack in check. The Packers should be able to keep the Titans running game under control, but after that, all bets are off. This game has definite shootout potential, and while the Packers should find a way to win, it won’t come easy.
Minnesota Vikings (5-3) @ Washington Redskins (4-3-1)
Game Pick: Vikings – It might be time to start worrying in Minnesota, as the Vikings dropped their third straight game after starting the season 5-0, losing 22-16 in overtime. It looked like the Vikings had the game wrapped up after taking the lead with 23 seconds left, but they couldn’t hold the Lions offense in check and allowed them to kick a game tying field goal. The Redskins are coming off their bye week after playing in London two weeks ago against the Bengals. in a game that finished in a 27-27 tie to keep them afloat in the hyper competitive NFC East.
This is one of many games that really could go either way this week. Can the Vikings get back on track and stop their slide? Or will the Redskins carry over the offensive momentum they showed in London and stay in the NFC East race? Minnesota’s defense should be able to handle the Redskins passing attack, especially now that WR DeSean Jackson is out this week, and they may get after QB Kirk Cousins too with LT Trent Williams suspended for the next four games. As long as the Vikings offense can be just average, they will end their losing streak and beat Washington.
Atlanta Falcons (6-3) @ Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)
Game Pick: Falcons – The high flying Falcons offensive attack was again in full display last Thursday night as they dismantled the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay 43-28. QB Matt Ryan eviscerated the Tampa Bay secondary to a tune of 344 yards and four touchdown passes. It was a game the Eagles had numerous opportunities to win, but two early interceptions by QB Carson Wentz and multiple blown scoring drives deep inside Giants territory proved costly in a 28-23 loss to New York.
The Eagles have had some big performances against some tough teams at home this season, and they will need another one if they hope to take out the Falcons. If the Eagles can find a way to get after Ryan and force some turnovers, they might be able to pull off an upset. If they don’t, expect Ryan to slice and dice his way through a mediocre Philadelphia secondary. Atlanta’s pass rush has really come alive the past few games, which has given the Falcons defense a big boost. Eagles LT Lane Johnson’s absence has definitely been felt and will be felt again this week. It will be close, but the Falcons go on the road in a tough spot and take out the Eagles.
Chicago Bears (2-6) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5)
Game Pick: Bears – It has been a tough season in Chicago for the Bears, but they went into their bye week on a high note, taking out the Vikings 20-10 at home thanks to RB Jordan Howard’s 202 yards of total offense (153 rushing yards, 49 receiving yards). The Buccaneers continued their home struggles, as they dropped a big divisional tilt in Tampa 43-28 to the Falcons. WR Mike Evans can’t be blamed as he hauled in 11 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
This is not a marquee game by any stretch of the imagination, but it has the potential to be one of the more entertaining games of the week because of the offense that might be put up by both squads. QB Jay Cutler looked great against the Vikings and now gets to go up against a woeful Buccaneers secondary, while Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston and Evans are one of the best QB/WR combos in the league. Given the Buccaneers struggles at home and the fact the Bears are coming off a bye and getting healthier, take them to win this one.
Kansas City Chiefs (6-2) @ Carolina Panthers (3-5)
Game Pick: Chiefs – It wasn’t overly pretty, but the Chiefs won their fourth game in a row, defeating the Jaguars 19-14. They were down QB Alex Smith and RB Spencer Ware, and also lost WR Jeremy Maclin early but they persevered to improve to an impressive 6-2. The Panthers meanwhile slugged their way to a 13-10 win over the Rams on the road to keep their season alive. Carolina’s defense has really stepped up since their bye week, especially their run defense as they held David Johnson and Todd Gurley to a combined 72 yards the past two games.
Every game at this stage has to be considered must win for Carolina after they dug themselves into a hole with a 1-5 start. Can they keep the momentum going at home against a criminally underrated Chiefs team that seldom gets talked about as elite? Smith and Ware will both return for the Chiefs this week, which should help them move the ball better on offense. If the Panthers defense continues to play like it has, it will give them a good chance to win this one, but the Kansas City defense is no slouch either. They will keep QB Cam Newton in check and defeat the Panthers on the road.
Houston Texans (5-3) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6)
Game Pick: Texans – The Texans are still leading the AFC South after their bye week. They went into their bye on a good note defeating the Lions 20-13 at home, where they have won all five of their games this season. Things are continuing to spiral out of control for the Jaguars, as they lost their third straight game 19-14 to the Chiefs. Even a change at offensive coordinator couldn’t spark the under performing Jacksonville offense and get it going, though RB Chris Ivory had his best game as Jaguar, rushing for 107 yards on 18 carries.
In a wide open AFC South, the Jaguars must win this game otherwise they are going to have to waive the white flag on the season. The Texans are winless on the road this season, but given that Jacksonville has yet to win a true home game (they won their home game in London) that renders that point moot. Houston may be winning the division, but they aren’t exactly dominating the competition. When the competition the is the Jaguars though, it’s hard to see the Texans losing this one. Houston wins by a touchdown.
Denver Broncos (6-3) @ New Orleans Saints (4-4)
Game Pick: Saints – In a big AFC West showdown between the Broncos and Raiders last Sunday night, it was the Broncos who came out on the losing end, as they fell 30-20 in a game that was not as close as the final score indicates. The beat up Denver defense surrendered their second straight 100+ yard rushing performance, showing a vulnerability that we haven’t seen for a while. The Saints not surprisingly marched into San Francisco and pummeled the 49ers 41-23. Saints RB’s Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower combined for 245 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
A couple of weeks ago, it’s likely not many people would have given the Saints much of a chance in this one, despite being at home. How things have changed. The Saints have some positive momentum and have a defense that while still flawed, is getting healthier. And all New Orleans really needs is an average defense with all the firepower they have on offense. Meanwhile, the Broncos stalwart defense has struggled as of late. Injuries are playing a role, but there is still enough talent for them to be performing better than they have been. A defense that has been struggling now has to fend off QB Drew Brees at the Superdome is a bad combination. Take the Saints in a mild upset.
Los Angeles Rams (3-5) @ New York Jets (3-6)
Game Pick: Jets – Remember when the Rams were 3-1? Well they’ve now lost four straight games after dropping a 13-10 decision to the Panthers. Offense continues to be a major issue for Los Angeles as they have been held under 20 points in six of their eight games, including four games where they’ve scored less than 10 points. The Jets were in position to win a big divisional game on the road against the Dolphins, but their special teams allowed a kick return touchdown late in the fourth quarter in a 27-23 defeat to Miami.
This isn’t a very appealing match up given the state of the quarterback situation for both teams. The Rams used the top pick in the NFL Draft on QB Jared Goff, and he has yet to see a snap, which is troubling considering how lackluster the Rams offense has been. In New York, the Jets were forced to go back to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick after an injury to Geno Smith. Both of these franchises seem to be stuck in the mud, and whomever loses this one will essentially see there season finished before it is even over. Simple logic here says to take the home team. The Jets win an ugly, low scoring game.
Miami Dolphins (4-4) @ San Diego Chargers (4-5)
Game Pick: Chargers – The Dolphins were again carried by Jay Ajayi as he rushed for over 100 yards and a score in a 27-23 win over the Jets. However it was a 96 yard kickoff return touchdown by rookie Kenyan Drake that proved to be the difference in the Miami victory. Two second half defensive touchdowns and an astounding 196 yards rushing from RB Melvin Gordon helped guide the Chargers to a 43-35 win over the Titans last Sunday afternoon. Gordon added another 65 yards receiving, totalling 261 total yards of offense in the victory.
This is a huge game for both of these teams. The winner will keep their playoff hopes alive, while the loser will likely have to start planning for next season. Both these teams have found great success on the ground as of late, with Ajayi and Gordon being arguably the hottest two running backs in the league. The big difference between the two teams is that the Chargers have a more multi dimensional offense led by QB Philip Rivers and their defense has been very stout at stopping the run, something the Miami defense has struggled with. Look for the Chargers to squeak out a victory in this one.
San Francisco 49ers (1-7) @ Arizona Cardinals (3-4-1)
Game Pick: Cardinals – The 49ers season continues to go from bad to worse, as they were blasted 41-23 at home by the Saints last Sunday. Scoring points wasn’t an issue this week, but the defense again continued to wilt without LB Navarro Bowman. Simply put, this team can flat out not stop the run at all right now. The Cardinals went into their bye week on a sour note as they were dominated 30-20 by the Panthers two Sundays ago. They were down 30-7 at one point in the third quarter.
The tonic for any struggling team right now is a date with the 49ers, so the Cardinals will welcome them with open arms to Arizona. Coming off a bye, the Cardinals will be raring to go, knowing that they need a good second half run to get back into playoff contention. All Arizona really needs to do in this one is hand the ball off to superstar running back David Johnson. He legitimately has a shot to run for 200 yards in this one against a horrific 49ers defense. The Cardinals should win this one comfortably.
Dallas Cowboys (7-1) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4)
Game Pick: Steelers – The Cowboys did exactly what elite teams are supposed to when they face bad teams; blow them out of the water. Dallas went on the road against the winless Browns and pummeled them 35-10. QB Dak Prescott threw for three touchdowns and RB Ezekiel Elliott ran for two others to account for all the Cowboys offense. All of Steelers nation were thrilled to see QB Ben Roethlisberger return to the lineup so quickly, but after how poorly he and the offense performed in a 21-14 loss to the Ravens, they may have wished he took another week off.
If you just look at the records, the Cowboys seem like the no brainer choice to win this one. However as most people know, this is the NFL and anything can happen. The Steelers are always a tough out at home, and Roethlisberger should be much sharper in his second game back from injury. The Dallas defense has played much better than expected this season, but this game could be a prime spot for them to get exposed, especially in the secondary where they are very beat up. The Cowboys won’t go down without a fight, but take the Steelers to give Dallas their first loss since the opening week of the season.
Seattle Seahawks (5-2-1) @ New England Patriots (7-1)
Game Pick: Patriots – It was a nail bitter for the Seahawks on Monday night, but they held on for a 31-25 victory over the Bills at home. The good news for Seattle aside from the win, was the QB Russell Wilson looked great throwing the ball, connecting on 20 of 26 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns. The bad news is the defense didn’t have its best performance. The Patriots went into their bye on a good note, as they smashed the Bills 41-25 two weeks ago, getting revenge for their only loss of the year earlier in the season.
In a rematch of Superbowl 49, the Seahawks and Patriots will face off in a great prime time game Sunday night. The Seahawks have definitely had an uneven season thus far, but they currently lead the NFC West with a 5-2-1 record. Meanwhile, the Patriots have been on cruise control ever since getting QB Tom Brady back from suspension and sit atop the AFC with a 7-1 record. As good as Seattle can be, expecting them to beat the Patriots on the road with New England coming off a bye is one tall task. If their defense shows up, they can keep it close. If they play like they did last week, it might not be pretty. New England moves to 8-1 with a win over the Seahawks.
Cincinnati Bengals (3-4-1) @ New York Giants (5-3)
Game Pick: Bengals – The Bengals season has been middling at best, as they went into their bye week with a 27-27 tie against the Redskins in London two weekends ago. Getting TE Tyler Eifert back at full strength gave the offense some balance, but it wasn’t enough to get a win. The Giants meanwhile took advantage of some Philadelphia turnovers and red zone issues in a 28-23 victory over the Eagles. It wasn’t an overly impressive victory, but it was a victory none the less.
The bye seemed to come at a perfect time for the Bengals. They are a talented team that has struggled to find its footing, but they still have a chance in the AFC North if they can string together some wins in the second half. As noted earlier, getting Eifert back helped the offense tremendously and should give the team more balance on that side of the ball. Though the Giants are sitting at 5-3, they really are quite fortunate to be where they are in the standings. Kudos to them for finding ways to win, but they haven’t been sharp to say the least. This is reality check time for the Giants as Cincinnati walks into MetLife Stadium and takes out New York.