Okay, so we had a pretty hectic week 8, with several surprised across the board. I don’t think anyone could have seen the Arizona Cardinals and playing that well against the Atlanta Falcons. Questions have got to be raised over Matt Ryan and company performances on Sunday. Marvin Jones setting a franchise record for the Cincinnati Bengals was another one of the big surprises of the weekend. The Wide Receiver caught 4 TD passes, 4! It seemed the Jets underestimated the power of the Red Rocket, Andy Dalton and his receiver corps. The final score of that game was 49-9, it put me in a state of delirium. Lastly, the Cowboys and the Steelers both lost very close games, especially for Dallas as Stafford made the game-winning lunge with only 12 seconds left on the clock. That one has to sting a little. But, onwards we go and here’s my look at the games that are on in week 9 of this year’s NFL.
Bye weeks: Cardinals, Broncos, Lions, Jaguars, Giants, 49ers.
Cincinatti Bengals at Miami Dolphins
Well, what can I say? The Bengals were outstanding last Sunday. Andy Dalton threw a career high of 5 touchdown passes and accumulated 325 yards through the air. Not only that, but his partner in crime Wide Receiver Marvin Jones made NFL history himself catching 4 of those passes making him the first receiver with 4 TD catches since Randy Moss and Terrell Owens did it in 2007. Not only that, but this was the first time a QH had thrown 5 TD passes against the Jets defence since the great Dan Marino in 1988. This was certainly a statement game for the Bengals. On the other side, the Miami Dolphins held a 17 point lead at one stage against the Patriots last week and it seemed they were set to cruise to victory with Tom Brady seemingly suffering from a bruised hand making him throw all sorts of poor passes. However, the Patriots being the Patriots, stormed back into the game and eventually won 27-17. This has got to disappoint the Miami Dolphins, and they will again be looking to prove themselves after falling to a 3-4 record. I still have belief in this Dolphins side, but I have to favour the Bengals in this match-up.
Prediction: Bengals 27 – 17 Dolphins
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers
Oh dear Atlanta. What kind of display was that last week? Or should I say this season? The lowly Falcons struggled to put anything together against the Cardinals and I can see them struggling even more against their NFC South rivals the Carolina Panthers this week. Not only have the Falcons got their own problems to handle, but this Sunday they are going to have to deal with a Cam Newton that has strung together the best performances of his career to date in his past 3 games this season. To add even more difficulty to the Falcons, they are playing this game in the Panthers’ house. This can only spell one ending to this match-up. Matt Ryan will likely have another awful game, though I don’t know if he’ll quite throw four interceptions again but his stats will end up looking similar; desperate rather than decent. The Panthers will continue onwards and upwards in a game that should see them content on both sides of the ball. Much like their divisional match-up against the Buccaneers last week. What’s that? I think. I think I hear sounds of the playoffs coming Carolina’s way. Too early? Maybe. Watch this space.
Prediction: Falcons 14 – 31 Panthers
Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys
After a disastrous and soul-diminishing end to their efforts last week, the Dallas Cowboys will be relieved that they face the 1-6 Vikings this Sunday at the AT&T Stadium. Tony Romo played reasonably well last Sunday, but he would have liked to play better, finishing with a pass completion of just 47%. Still, Romo did throw 3 TD passes of the 14 he actually completed and managed 206 yards. Really, it was the class of Calvin Johnson that made the difference against an injury-battered Cowboys’ defence, with Morris Claiborne and Barry Church both having to leave the game while J.J. Wilcox had been injured prior to it. The Vikings on the other hand, seemed to get off to a good start against the Packers. Rookie WR Cordarrelle Patterson set an NFL record with a 109-yard return on the opening kickoff but it wasn’t long before Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offence was making Minnesota pay. Christian Ponder’s return to the starting lineup was largely unsuccessful throwing for a mere 145 yards and no touchdowns, leaving the Vikings to slip ever further at 1-6. I can’t see the Cowboys losing this, not at this stage of the season. Romo will come out strong again and despite a slightly weakened defence I don’t see the Vikings stringing much together.
Prediction: Vikings 13 – 24 Cowboys
New Orleans Saints at New York Jets
Wow. That’s all I can say about how badly the Jets got beat last week. So much for that 6th ranked defence as they ruthlessly tumbled back to reality and down to 4-4. The Saints meanwhile enjoyed a rampagous victory over the Bills as Drew Brees threw 5 touchdown passes and 332 yards to take a wild victory of 35-17 and push them farther towards the playoffs with a 6-1 record. Now, I don’t think the Jets are going to suffer as badly as they did against the Bengals again this week, despite Brees being a better Quarterback and the Saints’ arguably having one of the best offences in the NFL. But the Jets will lose this game come Sunday. Rookie QB Geno Smith is playing far too inconsistently(throwing for 159 yards as well as 2 picks last week) to overwhelm a New Orleans defence that has improved tenfold since last season and currently sits a very respectable 12th in the league. The Jets will put up a score or two, but Drew Brees will be itching to get the ball back into the hands of his new favourite offensive playmaker Kenny Stills who came out of the game against the Bills with 129 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. This will only lead to one outcome, another loss for Rex Ryan and the New York Jets.
Prediction: Saints 27 – 10 Jets
Tennessee Titans at St. Louis Rams
I must say I sympathise with the Rams after Monday night’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks, who were no less arrogant in their display as per usual – Golden Tate earning himself an unsportsmanlike conduct flag as he scored the touchdown that ended up separating the two sides. But there are some positives that the Rams can take away, for one, the defence played outstandingly; the pass rush especially. Chris Long and Robert Quinn aka Black Lightning and White Thunder absolutely devoured the Seahawks offensive line scoring themselves 3 sacks each respectively. Their opponents this week, the Titans, come off an all-important bye which will have helped QB Jake Locker heal further after possibly coming back too early from injury to face the San Francisco 49ers in week 7. The Titans have a defence that has been playing really well so far this season and ranks 13th in the NFL. This is something the Rams are going to have to be wary of as back-up QB Kellen Clemens threw two interceptions against the Seahawks and I can see him doing similar here, meaning that a large portion of the offensive load will once again fall onto Zac Stacy’s back. The rookie running back played well against the Seahawks with 134 rushing yards on the night. Overall, I believe the Titans have the stronger side going into this match-up and should notch their 4th win of the season this Sunday.
Prediction: Titans 21 – 13 Rams
Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills
So the Chiefs have upped their unbeaten run to 8-0 and I can’t see it stopping this week. Their defence is just too strong for this Buffalo Bills side. We saw last week what happened when Buffalo took on an improved Saints’ defence and I can see a repeat coming. Though the Chiefs probably lack the firepower on offence to completely strong-arm the Bills aside, what they do have is one of the best game-managing QBs in the league in Alex Smith who threw for 225 yards and 2 TDs last week against the Browns. They also have a good running game; ranking 11th in the NFL with Jamaal Charles producing well so far this season with an average of 4.2 yards per carry in 2013. Speaking of the run game, the Buffalo Bills have scorched the ground this season with their duo of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller leading to them being ranked 7th at rushing. However, Spiller accrued an injury that severely affected the Bills offence last week and will continue to do so until his return. Again, I think that the Chiefs just have far too much going for them on defence across the board – Derrick Johnson amassed 12 tackles last week alone. I can only see one team who will be able to put a dent into the Chiefs’ record and the Bills certainly don’t have that quality.
Prediction: Chiefs 24 – 17 Bills
San Diego Chargers at Washington Redksins
Fresh off a bye week the Chargers face an inconsistent yet still dangerous Washington Redskins side this week. Washington’s record doesn’t say much at 2-5 for the team with the 7th best offence in the league. This leads me to believe that the Chargers will have their hands full this week but may have less to worry about than they might think they do. Especially as Philip Rivers has been playing some of the best football of his career this season as well as the team in general not self-destructing necessarily as much as Chargers’ fans are used to. A couple of years ago while under Norv Turner, question marks were being raised about Rivers’ performances but he’s been defying critics for the most part of the 2013 season. In comparison, Robert Griffin III didn’t finish the game last week as he injured his knee and it is unknown if he will start this game at the time of writing. I hope he does, he’s been plagued with injuries and I would love to see him back to his prime like we saw last season. If he doesn’t start, that leaves back-up QB Kirk Cousins to pick up the pieces. Cousins has actually led the Redskins to victories before so it wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen to them, the reality is, this game depends on how poorly the Washington defence plays. Ranked 29th in the league, Rivers and his receivers must like the match-up they have here. I certainly tip them to win this one.
Prediction: Chargers 30 – 24 Redskins
Philadelphia Eagles at Oakland Raiders
The NFC East game last Sunday between the Eagles and the Giants was a strange one to say the least. The Eagles had no offence until they scored a touchdown off a fumbled punt-return. Of course it didn’t help that both Michael Vick ending up leaving the game because of injury which meant that Matt Barkley, the rookie third-stringer had to play yet again and it was clear he wasn’t up to the task – the game ending 15-7 to the Giants while Barkley finished with 158 yards and 1 interception. Not good enough. Not in this league against a re-surging Giants team. Meanwhile the Raiders pulled out a slightly surprising victory against the Steelers which should put them in good stead coming into week 9 against this Eagles side. They currently sit 3-4 and this will be their first good chance to go .500 on the season. The Raiders will be wanting more of the same from QB Terrelle Pryor who ran 93 yards to record the longest touchdown run ever by a quarterback. And honestly, against practically the worst ranked defence in the NFL(the Eagles are 31st) I don’t see why Pryor can’t rack up the yards yet again. Especially as that defence will most likely been on the field for a large portion of the game if their offence continues to play like it did last week. This one could be close, it’s more of a wait and see in case the Eagles actually decide to show up on the offensive side of the ball this Sunday.
Prediction: Eagles 13 -17 Raiders
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Seattle Seahawks
Here comes the 8th straight loss for the Bucs then. As much as I hate to say it, that’s the only outcome I can possibly see coming from this match-up. Despite the improvements that Mike Glennon has made since becoming starting QB for the Buccaneers I don’t believe he’s ready to face the legion of boom in Richard Shermon, Earl Thomas, Brandon Browner and company just yet. Not only that but the Tampa defence has been struggling this season despite all of the expensive add-ons they made during the Summer, one of which (Dashon Goldson) might not even play on Sunday if his knee injury is still aggravating him. 0-8 it is then. Having faced a tough game against the St. Louis Rams this past Monday the Seahawks will be glad to have this one lined up as their next target. Russell Wilson was sacked 7 times Monday but he won’t be facing the same level of pass-rush this week and will be able to pick apart the Buccaneers secondary with relative ease. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Seahawks also keep their streak of forcing 2 or more turnovers on defence as well.
Prediction: Buccaneers 9 – 31 Seahawks
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns
Another team coming off a bye week coming into week 9 are the Baltimore Ravens. A much needed one too. The reigning Superbowl champions need to sort themselves out and fast. A current record of 3-4 and an offence ranked 20th after giving Joe Flacco that monumentous contract? Something tells me they regret not shelling out a little extra for Anquan Boldin already. But, that’s football, and that’s what being Superbowl champions does. Going into Ohio to face the Cleveland Browns this week the Ravens are in for a good challenge. The Browns have a top 10 defence that can make plays when they need to and against this faltering Ravens side I believe they will be. Offensively they managed to string together enough plays to give the Kansas City Chiefs a run for their money – and their winning streak, in week 8. Jason Campbell threw for 293 yards and 2 touchdowns which is actually more impressive than it seems given that he’s the 3rd choice Quarterback for the Browns and he was throwing on the Chiefs defence. What makes this match-up more tangible is that it’s a divisional game in the AFC North. And as any NFL fan will know, the AFC North much like any division has fierce rivalries that make teams just that little bit better sometimes. Because of that, I’m wanting to tip this game in the Browns favour, I just think they can pull out the one play that might separate the two sides, especially as they are in front of their home crowd.
Prediction: Ravens 17 – 20 Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots
This match-up pits two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks for the past 10+ years against each other. But times have changed and this season isn’t going as well as planned for either of the two sides. New England were forced to come back from 17 points down against the Dolphins last week, albeit Tom Brady managed to pick up his game after bruising his hand in the first quarter and the Patriots somehow pulled away to victory with 27 unanswered points. It must have been quite the shock for Dolphins fans across the globe. But that’s why you should never, ever, count out Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. They’re one of the best teams in the NFL for a reason. They’ll continue to prove that against a glum Big Ben and the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday. A 2-5 record isn’t quite how they imagined the season to go, nor was having a dwindled offence ranked all the way down at 23rd. However, there is a glimmer of hope for the Steelers. They have the 4th best defence in the NFL, despite letting Terrelle Pryor running 93 yards for a TD against they are much better than that display. After all, Pryor only threw the ball for 88 yards. But Tom Brady is a different kind of QB, dare I say elite? This one boils down to how well the Steelers can stop the Patriots offence, though I don’t see them doing particularly well.
Prediction: Steelers 13 – 24 Patriots
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
And so the woes of the Houston Texans continue, facing the Colts after a bye that saw the announcement that Case Keenum will be their starting QB even if Matt Schaub returns to full fitness. This AFC south match-up is almost over before it has begun. With a season-ending injury to Brian Cushing the Texans will be without one of their best and will miss his leadership on defence. While the Colts have been celebrating of late as they managed a victory against the almost invincible Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos last time they played. Andrew Luck will have to do without Reggie Wayne though, who tore his achilles in that game and has been placed on season-ending injury reserve. However, he still has option in T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener as well as a chance for the struggling ground game of traded-for Trent Richardson to get going. If it does, that will be a great boost to the offence of the Colts and will see them start utilising Richardson’s strength a lot more. All in all, despite this being a divisional game at home, I can’t see the Houston Texans powering past a Colts side that is most definitely heading straight for the playoffs and ultimately they will come out the other side of Sunday with a 2-6 record along with a lot more to think about.
Prediction: Colts 27 – 10 Texans
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
This is the only game this week where two teams with winning records face-off against each other, the Bears at 4-3 and the Packers at 5-2 respectively. Aaron Rodgers will be looking to continue his great season; having thrown two touchdowns against the Vikings last Sunday, making that 15 on the season. It’s no mystery why the Packers have the 2nd ranked offence in the NFL this season. Combining with Rodgers was rookie running back Eddie Lacy who made 94 yards and a touchdown in the ground game which can only boost his and the Packers’ confidence in him immensely. While the Bears will look to come back from their bye week and get a win this week it’s going to be struggle as their defence has been much more of a pushover this season, ranking 27th in the league and 391 yards per game to opposition offences compared to last season’s tally of 315 yards per game. I can only realistically draw one conclusion for this match-up and that would be for the home team to increase their winning streak to 5 and move on up to 6-2 while the Bears will have to make do with 4-4.
Prediction: Bears 17 – 27 Packers