NFL Week Nine Thoughts and Predictions
San Francisco 49ers (-10) at Arizona Cardinals
I was really close to to picking the 49ers to make the Super Bowl in the NFL Mid-Season Awards. Only thing stopping me was youth. This is a really young team, and I think they will fall to a more experienced Saints team at the final hurdle.
Still though, this team is legit, and they get a favorable matchup on Thursday night.
In the Cardinals' backfield, Chase Edmonds will be missing significant time, and David Johnson is a game-time decision, but I'm leaning toward them sitting him, or at least limiting his carries.
Newly acquired Kenyan Drake will likely see a lot of game time against a straight up greedy defense only after being with the team for a couple days.
Score: 49ers 35, Cardinals 13
Houston Texans (-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Deshaun Watson is a strong contender for NFL MVP. He has the stats and is carrying his team, sometimes with only one functioning eyeball. If he gets protection from his line, watch out.
I'm still not sold on the Jaguars. They'll likely hang around in a weak AFC South, but their offense is fairly pedestrian, as is the defense.
I'm picking Houston to grab a much-needed divisional victory.
Score: Texans 27, Jacksonville 23
Washington Redskins at Buffalo Bills (-9.5)
You know what? I'll come out and say it. The Bills are this year's version of the 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars, albeit with an ever so sliiiiiightly better offense.
I predeicted yesterday that the Bills will make this year's AFC Championship game and lose to the Patriots. Sound familiar?
Both teams had elite defenses, and a somewhat mediocre offense. Josh Allen is better than Blake Bortles, no doubt, but honestly if you take away Allen's running threat and force him to win with his arm, the Bills offense can totally be stopped.
This Bills team has definitely exceeded my expectations, and they will get the win this week no problem, but the offense definitely needs work.
Score: Bills 21, Redskins 14
Tennessee Titans at Carolina Panthers (-4.5)
This is a tough one to pick. Both teams have solid defenses, and decent, but not great quarterbacks.
Christian McCaffery to be the difference-maker in this game. He's just so dynamic and can be used in a multitude of ways. He may not have a huge game, but he will contribute in multiple facets of the game.
I'll pick the Titans to cover the spread, but the Panthers to win the game.
Score: Panthers 19, Titans 18
Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles (-5)
Honestly, the Eagles should just take the same approach as they did against the Bills.
The Bills and Bears are pretty similar: Good defenses with sluggish offenses.
It's even better for the Eagles too, because Mitch Trubisky is nowhere near Josh Allen in terms of quality.
The Eagles secondary is terrible, but so is Trubisky, so I think they'll be fine.
Score: Eagles 28, Bears 19
Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs (TBD)
A lot has been made of the Chiefs' pass defense struggles, but I haven't heard too much criticism about their rush defense.
Kansas City's rush defense is the second worst in the league. Only one team has given up more rushing touchdowns.
That doesn't bode well for a unit that is going up against Dalvin Cook.
I'm still not super confident in Kirk Cousins' ability to lead a team to victory in meaningful games, but I think that the Vikings will squeak out a victory against a Mahomes-less Chiefs team, despite looking less than invincible against the Redskins last week.
Score: Vikings 23, Chiefs 21
New York Jets (-3) at Miami Dolphins
Score: Jets 17, Dolphins 14
Indianapolis Colts (-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers
I'm going back and forth on this, but I'll go with the Colts. I just trust the Colts more in close games.
Jacoby Brissett has quietly proven everyone wrong after Andrew Luck's retirement.
None of his stats leap off the page, but he is top ten in the league in passer rating, and does have two fourth quarter comebacks and two game-winning drives so far this year.
The Steelers are starting to turn a corner, but I'll go with the Colts in a close game.
Score: Colts 21, Steelers 20
Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders (-1)
The Raiders have been the surprise package in the NFL this year, especially following all the Antonio Brown drama. They've assembled a pretty good offense that should be able to move the ball on the Lions.
The Raiders on defense are kind of a mess, especially the rushing defense, but the Lions don't really have a rushing attack right now following Kerryon Johnson landing on injured reserve, and are back to being a one-dimensional team.
The Lions defense is decent, but the Raiders offense is much more multi-dimensional currently. That will make a difference.
Score: Raiders 23, Lions 21
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Seattle Seahawks (-6.5)
Seattle is an odd team. They are undefeated on the road, and all their losses have come at home, at the 12th Man of all places.
Still, the matchup against Tamp Bay should be a win.
Russell Wilson is having an MVP-caliber year, leading the league in passer rating. Now he is going up against a bottom ten pass defense.
The Bucs offense is so inconsistent. Jameis Winston will have a game where he lights up the stat sheet, followed up by three games where all he does is turn the ball over. It's a shame too, because that offense has weapons.
Score: Seahawks 30, Bucs 21
Cleveland Browns (-3) at Denver Broncos
The Broncos are a mess of a team. Joe Flacco is out for a while with injury, but still called out his team's intensity.
Joe Flacco of all people. Calling out people for not having enthusiasm or intensity.
I feel so bad for Von Miller and Bradley Chubb that they have to be on this garbage team.
The Browns are similarly dysfunctional, but at least they have the ability to have an offensive outburst any given Sunday.
Cleveland's defense is the least of its concerns though, that unit is legit and will likely have a field day with Brandon Allen, who was named the starter for the game (after a kind of odd chain of events involving Drew Lock)
The offense needs to get it together. The o-line is bad, Baker has been underwhelming, and Freddie Kitchens' decision-making defies belief. This will be a telling game.
Score: Browns 20, Broncos 16
Green Bay Packers (-3.5) at San Diego Chargers
This point spread should be higher. The Chargers are straight up stuck right now, and the Packers are definitely trending upward.
I hate to say it, but the Chargers should probably start making plans for their next franchise quarterback. Phillip Rivers has been a fantastic player for them over the years, and I'm not saying he won't start next year, but you have to at least be somewhat mobile at quarterback in today's NFL.
The Chargers have a decent defense, but Aaron Rodgers has been playing out of his mind recently. I think he'll continue to perform well.
Score: Packers 29, Chargers 20
New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens (-3.5)
This will be the game of the week, and a very telling week to see how legit the Patriots are.
New England's defense has been historic, but the teams they've had to play against so far have a combined record of 14-37. Not exactly stiff competition.
Not only do they play a good team this week, but they play against the most difficult team to gameplan against, with Lamar Jackson being an absolute nightmare to plan for.
I'm going with New England to win the game, although it will be their toughest test of the year besides the Bills game.
Jackson will give the Pats fits on the ground, but the stellar secondary will do the same to Jackson, who is still pretty raw as a passer.
Tom Brady and the offense will do barely enough to get by against the Ravens defense.
Score: Patriots 24, Ravens 19
Dallas Cowboys (-7) at New York Giants
I'll take Dallas coming off a bye. The Giants just can't get it together and I think Dallas will come into the first quarter to execute a carefully crafted first quarter gameplan.
The Giants have had issues with going behind in games fairly quickly, and with that defense and Dak Prescott having a year where he's likely to get MVP votes, I don't think thank will be enough.
Score: Cowboys 28, Giants 20