Well, it’s gotta be said, week 9 of this season’s NFL was without a doubt entertaining right from the beginning as the monster that is Cameron Wake decided the outcome of Thursday night’s match-up between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Miami Dolphins with an overtime safety. Which was a monumental play in itself seeing as it’s only the 3rd time in NFL history that is has ever happened.
The games only got more exciting from then on in, with the Jets defence absolutely man-handling Drew Brees and his offensive line all night long, leading to a surprise victory over the leaders of the NFC South. There were more game-winning plays for the Kansas City Chiefs as a fumble-recovery TD and interception returned for a touchdown near enough carried them to remain perfect on the season at 9-0. And well, didn’t Nick Foles play well? Maybe that’s an understatement. He threw 7 touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders to tie a league record of passing TDs in a game, joining ranks with the likes of Peyton Manning and Joe Kapp. I don’t think anybody could have ever seen that happening. I mean, Nick Foles? 7 Touchdowns? Most people would just laugh. But that’s football! Week 9 also saw Aaron Rodgers injure his shoulder against the Chicago Bears in Monday’s game, and might be out for 3 weeks so that could be a big problem for the Packers. Finally, the Patriots put up a huge 55 points(the most so far this season) against a Pittsburgh Steelers side that just couldn’t seem to handle the partnership of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski; let that be a warning to every other team in the league, the Gronk is back and into week 10 we go!
Bye Weeks: Browns, Chiefs, Jets, Patriots
Washington Redskins at Minnesota Vikings
The Redskins come into this week’s Thursday night game on fairly solid ground, having dispatched the San Diego Chargers in OT last week. Their running game has been a big strength so far this season as Robert Griffin III continues to heal. Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr. have certainly picked up the slack over the past couple of weeks, as well as Darrel Young who hadn’t been used too much before last week, he finished the game with 3 touchdowns including the Overtime winner. To be fair to Griffin though, he played more or less the best he had all season, throwing for 291 yards on 23 out of 32 attempts and 1 interception. Most of those yards went to Pierre Garcon who had 7 receptions for 172 yards, boy will Redskins fans be thankful to see him firing again after being injured last season. As for the Vikings, they gave the Dallas Cowboys a run for their money but it wasn’t enough and they fell short of the win leaving them with a dismal 1-7 record. Christian Ponder actually looked good in the first half, though that might be because he was throwing against the last ranked defence in the league, that could make anyone look good. Still, it’s a glimmer of hope for the Vikings this week as after all the Redskins defence is a lowly 30th. Not that it really matters seeing as the Vikings are only ranked one place higher defensively. This game should go to the Redskins come Thursday night, I just don’t see the Vikings winning unless Adrian Peterson has the best game of his 2013 season. But stranger things have happened.
Prediction: Redskins 27 – 17 Vikings
Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers
What a better time to come to Lambeau Field than when Aaron Rodgers is injured. The Eagles will certainly be counting their lucky stars this week. Especially after the absolute destruction of the Oakland Raiders that Nick Foles masterminded last Sunday. He threw for 406 yards and 7 touchdowns with a completion percentage of 78.5%. Those figures are ridiculous. It’s Nick Foles! Come on now. But that’s how it went down and how the Eagles laid waste to a Raiders defence that had actually started to perform better in the last couple of weeks. But now Foles is facing a Green Bay defence that is not to be underestimated. The Packers might not be known for defensive prowess but they sit a reasonable 15th in the league on that side of the ball, though they have allowed an average of 23 points per game against them. This usually wouldn’t matter because the offence usually puts up an average of 29, but, that was with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. Without Rodgers at QB, the offence might just begin to crumble. His back-up, Seneca Wallace threw for a pretty poor 114 yards on Monday night. This adds to the Packers’ offensive woes if injuries to James Jones and Jermichael Finley weren’t already enough. This leads me to make a tough prediction for Sunday’s game. I just can’t see Wallace stepping up enough, especially as the Eagles are coming in to this one so hot. Eddie Lacy could bag a couple of touchdowns for the Packers but the run game alone won’t win it.
Prediction: Eagles 24 – 17 Packers
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans
The 0-8 Jags head to LP Field this Sunday and frankly, I see them coming out of it at 0-9, I almost feel sorry for them. Without a doubt, Jacksonville are the worst team in football and the Titans will capitalise on it. Especially if Chris Johnson can continue his great performance in the run game from last week’s win against the Rams. The RB ran for 150 yards on 23 carries and scored 2 touchdowns. It was his best game of the season; almost as if he’d heard the noise about Shonn Greene cutting into his carries and thought “No, the Titans running game is my running game”. Well, I think he made his point anyway. Jacksonville have allowed an average of 264 rushing yards against them so far this season so expect Johnson and Greene to have a big day this Sunday. Meanwhile, Chad Henne will be without Wide Receiver Justin Blackmon who has been suspended for substance abuse, which puts even more limitations on an already limited offence. Needless to say, unless something magical happens the Titans should easily come away with the win this week and put themselves up to 5-4 on the season.
Prediction: Jaguars 10 – 24 Titans
Buffalo Bills at Pittsburgh Steelers
The Bills will feel slightly hard-done by coming into week 10, as you could argue that they lost to a very luck Kansas City team(recovering around two-thirds of fumbles is an absolutely outrageous statistic) but, sometimes that’s just how a season goes. In all fairness to the Bills, they are down to their 3rd string Quarterback who just so happens to be an undrafted rookie. They’ll be hoping Thad Lewis recovers from his bruised ribs quickly, with any luck he’ll be able to start come Sunday and that will give them a much better chance. The Steelers on the other hand got completely thumped into submission last Sunday against old rivals the New England Patriots. Questions will have to be raised over the defence after a season-high of 55 points were stacked against them and for all the efforts of Ben Roethlisberger who threw for 400 yards and 4 TDs on the day, the Steelers were always playing catch-up as you can tell from Big Ben’s 48 pass attempts. This game could be an interesting one to watch though, as both sides are trying to fight back from losing records (3-6 and 2-6 respectively) plus the Bill’s defence does have some play-makers in Mario Williams and the rookie middle linebacker Kiko Alonso. I’m not going to count either side out of this one, however, I am inclined to go with the Steelers purely because of the possible state of the Bills at Quarterback.
Prediction: Bills 13 – 17 Steelers
Oakland Raiders at New York Giants
Another match-up between two sides with losing records here as the Raiders attempt to recuperate themselves after Sunday’s harrowing loss and face the Giants who are coming back from a much-needed bye week. The Raiders will be bitterly disappointed with how badly their defence was torn apart last week, though their offence never really got going either especially after Darren McFadden got injured and Rashad Jennings had to come in to replace him at running back. Terrelle Pryor racked up 288 yards passing on the day with no touchdowns so you can argue redzone offence is the trouble here. Mind you, Pryor did only manage a completion percentage of 53% which didn’t help matters. The Giants, weirdly, actually seem to be the favourites this week. In this writer’s opinion anyway. I just think they have more to string together especially after being able to work a lot out during their week off as well as having receivers like Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz at their disposal. We might just see a completely different Eli Manning and New York Giants side this week, one that can actually put decent numbers up without amassing turnover upon turnover. We were beginning to see that in week 8 when the Giants played the Vikings so more time to practice can only help them in their endeavours.
Prediction: Raiders 14 – 20 Giants
St. Louis Rams at Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck sure knows how to keep fans on tenterhooks doesn’t he? The Colts were down 18 points against the Texans in the late game last Sunday and most people thought that it was all over by half-time. But this was the Colts remember. They weren’t going to lie down easily and Andrew Luck has a knack for coming from behind if his rookie season is anything to go on. The 2nd-year Quarterback threw 3 second-half TDs to T.Y. Hilton overcoming the deficit and leading the Colts to a 27-24 victory. Talk about never giving up. It’s that kind of calibre of QB play that leads me to believe that the Colts will have the edge of the Rams in week 10. The Rams are still without starting QB Sam Bradford of course which means that Kellen Clemens will have to take the reigns again which has certainly made the St. Louis offence a little lacklustre in the past couple of weeks. Though Clemons threw for 210 yards and touchdown last week he did also fumble late in the game which gave the Titans the game-winning drive. There is a very bright spark for the Rams though and that’s rookie RB Zac Stacy who has been outstanding in the past few weeks of his tenure as a starter in the side. He ran for 127 yards and 2 TDs against the Titans, if he can play that well again this Sunday we might just have a game on our hands.
Prediction: Rams 17 – 27 Colts
Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons
The Seahawks looked like they were in trouble against the Buccaneers last Sunday, but Russell Wilson and company came back fighting in the second-half to overcome a 21 point deficit, which just so happened to be a franchise record comeback. What does that tell us? If the Seahawks are playing badly and still winning games then the NFL had better be worried when they start playing well. I see this week as the beginning of that streak for Seattle as they face a Falcons side that is down to 2-6 for the season and has been struggling for the entirety of 2013. It seems that Atlanta just hasn’t been able to adjust to the injuries they have sustained over the course of the year, with Roddy White still out as week 10 approaches. As such, Matt Ryan just hasn’t found his form having thrown 219 yards, 1 TD and 3 interceptions last week against divisional rivals Carolina. If the Panthers can force Ryan to throw 3 picks, then so can the Seahawks who have been forcing a minimum of two turnovers per game so far this season. Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing a Falcons offence that is playing this poorly.
Prediction: Seahawks 21 – 13 Falcons
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
What happened to the Andy Dalton that had been throwing over 325 yards and 3 touchdowns the past 3 weeks? He disappeared on Thursday night thanks to some classy performances by the Miami Dolphins defence especially Cameron Wake, Dimitri Patterson and Dannell Ellerbe who all made huge plays to help the Dolphins to victory. Instead of 3 touchdowns Dalton threw 3 picks as well as losing a fumble, he was somewhat rescued by the play of rookie RB Giovani Bernard who took the ball into the endzone twice in the second-half, it wasn’t enough though as the Bengals were sent to 6-3 in overtime. Ever since Dalton came into the league 3 years ago he has always struggled against his toughest division rival the Baltimore Ravens so this does not look like it will be a comeback performance for him on Sunday. However, this is not the same Ravens that Dalton has faced over the years. In fact, they seem to be weaker more or less everywhere this season. Ray Rice is having the worst season of his career and is only averaging 2.7 yards per carry and only racked up 34 rushing yards last week against the Browns. Meanwhile, Joe Flacco, the NFL’s most expensive QB has the worst rating of his career so far at 79.3. So this one isn’t over just yet, despite losing Geno Atkins to a torn ACL the Bengals defence is still a strong unit with players like defensive end Michael Johnson and Cornerback Adam Jones who both played well against the Dolphins on Thursday. This battle of the AFC North may just be decided with which defence is able to step up on Sunday.
Prediction: Bengals 17 – 13 Ravens
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
The Lions will be content coming off their bye week with a 5-3 record having notched a good win against the Cowboys the week before. They challenge the Bears who managed to pull off a victory against the Packers on Monday thanks to an injury to Aaron Rodgers forcing the match-up to become a game of back-ups. Not that I’m trying to take anything away from the Bears’ win, Josh McCown threw for 272 yards and 2 touchdowns so he and the Bears offence did come together quite well with Matt Forte running for 125 yards and a TD also. The Lions will fancy their chances though, after all they have Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson; a partnership that in itself has more or less created the NFL’s 3rd ranked offence and won them several games so far this season. Both defences are average at best which means that this game will definitely be a matter of simply who puts up more points on the board. Somehow, I don’t think McCown will be able to keep up with the pace of Stafford who has been throwing an average of 327 yards a game as well as a Quarterback rating of 94.7. In other words, Stafford his having one of the better seasons in the span of his 5 year career in the NFL. With that in mind I can only vote one way on this match-up.
Prediction: Lions 27 – 17 Bears
Carolina Panthers at San Francisco 49ers
The Panthers have been one of the surprises of the season, Cam Newton is having a massive season putting up his best completion percentage(64.4%) as well as 13 TDs so far – when you consider he only put up 19 total last season, things are going well for the young QB. This has put the Panthers in a great position after winning 4 games on the trot to actually challenge for their division, especially if the Saints start slipping up more like they did against the Jets last week. However, this is a true test of Carolina’s quality, going up against the 49ers is no easy task for any team. With a defence full of all-star players such as Patrick Willis, Navorro Bowman and Justin Smith, there is always something to worry about for offences trying to find holes and offensive lines attempting to stop sacks. Not only that but the offence should be feared too, especially after the acquisition of Anquan Boldin in the off-season. Though it only ranks 16th overall in the league, the Niners offence has stacked up the points so far this season, most recently putting up 42 against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London. The running game is where the 49ers have been strong this year, putting up and average of 153 yards per game to become the best in the league on the ground so the Panthers will need to be wary of Frank Gore come Sunday if they are going to make it out of this game with their win-streak intact.
Prediction: Panthers 14 – 24 49ers
Houston Texans at Arizona Cardinals
What can I say? The Texans blew a big lead against the Colts last week and crumbled to defeat when everything seemed to be pointing to their 3rd win of the season. They’ll be disappointed, that much is guaranteed, but at least they have found hope at Quarterback. That hope goes by the name of Case Keenum who threw for 350 yards and 3 touchdowns in his 2nd NFL start. I have a feeling that he will be a great quarterback for the future of the Houston Texans, he looked confident in the pocket and some of the throws he made were top-quality. Keenum and the Texans go up against the Cardinals this week, who come off a bye week and will be reasonably comfortable as they sit .500 on the season at 4-4. Surprisingly though, the Texans outrank the Cardinals in near enough every stat coming into this game. The Cardinals have been allowing 347 yards of total offence per game compared to the Texans’ 273.5 but personally, I don’t believe this match-up will come down to statistics or rankings. It’s going to be about which Carson Palmer shows up and whether or not Keenum can keep up his level of play. Remember, the Cardinals beat the Falcons last time they played which was a slight surprise to me so in trying not to underestimate them, I will give Carson the benefit of the doubt – he has average a QB rating of 88.5 over the past 3 games to be fair to him. He still won’t be able to topple the Texans’ defence though.
Prediction: Texans 24 – 21 Cardinals
Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers
This might be a divisional game but I still don’t see any outcome than the away side winning. Especially as the Broncos will be rested after coming off their bye week and the Chargers will be a little demoralised having lost to the Redskins last week. Frankly, the Denver Broncos are the best team in football right now, no matter what the Kansas City Chiefs record says they can’t compete offensively like the Broncos can. Having put up an average of 466 yards of total offence so far this season as well as 42.9 points per game, I doubt anybody would challenge my reasoning for backing the Broncos against the Chargers this week. The comparison at Quarterback for example, Peyton Manning versus Philip Rivers; I mean, you’re taking one of the NFL’s best ever and pitting him against a QB that, granted, is having a good season but he’s not on the same level as Manning. But the Chargers may throw a few surprises on Sunday, they’ve been playing well enough to maintain a .500 record so far in 2013 which is better than the majority of the other 31 teams. Still, I don’t like their odds, not one bit.
Prediction: Broncos 34 – 20 Chargers
Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints
The Cowboys will be looking to regain an impressive stead in the NFC East this week by moving up to 6-4, however the NFC South leaders the New Orleans Saints stand in their way of that goal. And the Saints are going to be mad. Losing to the Jets last Sunday and getting absolutely trounced by the pass-rush? Drew Brees is going to take that one out on the Cowboys’ secondary this week. Dallas don’t have the same calibre of player in their defensive line despite how well Jason Hatcher and George Selvie have been playing recently, you can still tell that they sorely miss DeMarcus Ware who remains out with a quad injury. To further add to the Cowboys’ worries on defence the side has been allowing 419 yards of offence and 23 points per game, this can’t continue if they want to beat the Saints on Sunday. New Orleans ranks 7th on offence and 9th on defence so they are certainly no pushover, especially when you consider they have one of the best quarterbacks in the league at the helm of the offence. In the loss to the Jets, Brees threw 382 yards and 2 touchdowns. Now, that isn’t bad considering they lost the game. The run game was nowhere to be seen though, totalling 43 yards between Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram. This one will probably end up in a shoot-out and something tells me that the Saints are going to bounce back in style.
Prediction: Cowboys 17 – 31 Saints
Miami Dolphins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Dolphins aren’t looking so bad over there in the AFC East are they? They’re still in the hunt in their division and can bolster their position further by winning in this week’s Monday night football. If the Buccaneers put on a display like they did against the Seahawks, they might actually win their first game of the season. Ryan Tannehill won’t be able to do what Russell Wilson did on Sunday however I don’t think that the Buccaneers will manage a 7 point lead in this match-up let alone 21 points. As far as I’m concerned, what happened on Sunday was a complete fluke, as you could see from the second-half when the Seahawks started making their way back into the game the offence of the Buccaneers simply vanished into nothingness. There’s a reason that the Bucs are 0-8 on the season and the Miami Dolphins are next in line to take advantage of it with Ryan Tannehill ready to progress from inconsistent to decent as he showed against the Bengals where he threw for 208 yards and ran in for a TD; but the most important stat-line of that game was his turnovers, 0. He keeps that up and the Dolphins will secure the win without much trouble.
Prediction: Dolphins 27 – 10 Buccaneers