Let’s just cut to the chase shall we. My picks for week 9.
New York Jets at Buffalo.
Very good matchup in the AFC East. The Bills are tied for first in the AFC East with a 5-2 mark while the Jets are a game back at 4-3. The Bills have been a surprise team this year and with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick signing a contract extension, the Bills are primed for a run. The Jets have been a slight disappointment so far and will need to step up their game. However I wonder if Rex Ryan’s big mouth has been a drain on the Jets. I think Buffalo wins in front of their rabid fans.
Seattle at Dallas.
I still think of that crazy playoff game in Seattle a few years back when Tony Romo fumbled the snap on a field goal attempt that cost the Cowboys the game. Thus started the legend of Tony Romo. Brilliant yet chokes at the same time. This one won’t have the magnitude of that game but it is a must win for the Cowboys. America’s Team is coming off an embarrassing loss to Philadelphia and are in danger of falling out of the race in the NFC East. The Seahawks were also thumped last week by Cincinnati and coach Pete Carroll is feeling the heat. Won’t be a classic but I got Dallas winning this one.
Cleveland at Houston.
The Houston Texans are in first place. I repeat. The Houston Texans are in first place! Now the question is can they stay there? Houston will rely on the running game and a defence which is getting better every week. Arian Foster provides a solid running game while the defence ranked third in the NFL continues its dramatic turnaround. The Browns do have a great run defence, but not much else. Peyton Hillis will miss the game due to a hamstring injury. The Browns offence is just too limited in what they can do. Houston wins.
Atlanta at Indianapolis.
Two teams headed in the opposite directions. The Falcons are on a 3 game winning streak led by the strong running of Michael Turner and an improving defence. The Colts have the 31st ranked run defence in the NFL so the Falcons should have a field day against the winless Colts. Still no Peyton Manning for Indy. Atlanta wins.
Miami at Kansas City.
Very quietly the Chiefs are making a move in the AFC West. After losing their first 3 games, Kansas City has racked up 4 wins in a row and is in a three-way tie for first in the AFC West. Matt Cassel is finding his groove after a tough start and along with receiver Dwayne Bowe, the Chiefs have formed a terrific pass combination. The Dolphins have come close the last couple of weeks, but remain winless. Is Andrew Luck the next Dolphin quarterback? Stay tuned. Kansas City wins.
Tampa Bay at New Orleans.
Big game in the NFC South. These two teams met 3 weeks ago with Tampa emerging with a 26-20 victory. The Saints are coming off a bad loss to St. Louis and are looking to avenge the previous loss to Tampa as well. The Saints are angry and with Drew Brees looking for a bounce back game, I don’t want to be in the Saints way. However their defence must be better. The Bucs do have pieces on offence as Josh Freeman is having a solid season and had a great game in the New Orleans win 3 weeks ago. Saying all that though, the Bucs are a young inexperienced team who will be going into a hostile environment. I like New Orleans to win this one.
San Francisco at Washington.
Another case where two teams are heading in opposite directions. The 49ers are a major story this year as they top the NFC West with a 6-1 record. Rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh has inspired and motivated his troops to an outstanding season led by a stifling defence. Linebacker Patrick Willis is a candidate for defensive player of the year and the rest of his compatriots are no slouches either. The offence makes few mistakes and quarterback Alex Smith make big plays when he has to. The Redskins are on the slide losing 3 straight and in the midst of a quarterback controversy. John Beck will get the start but if he struggles, Rex Grossman could very well go behind centre once again. Not a recipe for success. San Francisco wins.
Denver at Oakland.
The big question in this one is, which quarterback will make the fewest mistakes? Both teams have issues under centre which could lead to a wild game. Carson Palmer will make his first as a Raider after coming over in a trade with Cincinnati. Palmer did play in a relief role vs Kansas City in which he threw 3 interceptions. The Raiders are hoping that Palmer used the bye week to get himself more accustomed to the playbook and he is better prepared for this game. The Broncos are giving the overhyped Tim Tebow another chance at quarterback but he will be on a short leash. Tebow had an awful game against Detroit last week and if that trend continues, Kyle Orton may win his job back. I trust Palmer more than Tebow. Oakland wins.
Cincinnati at Tennessee.
Tough one to call. The Bengals are one of the biggest surprises in the NFL, sporting a 5-2 record and in a first place tie in the AFC North. Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton is making people in Southern Ohio forget about Carson Palmer with his stellar play. Dalton is a strong candidate for rookie of the year honours. It doesn’t hurt when fellow rookie AJ Green is leading all receivers with an average of 15.6 yards per reception. This passing combo is one to watch over the next few years. The Titans did win last week over Indianapolis but have struggled to get their running game on track. Chris Johnson continues to be affected by missing training camp due to a holdout and the offensive line has struggled as well. Matt Hasselbeck will need to use a strong passing game to set up the run. The Titans are solid at home going 3-1 and LP Field should be rocking for this one. Going on a hunch and picking Tennessee in what should be a very close game.
St. Louis at Arizona.
Ugh. Ugliness personified. Sam Bradford is questionable for the Rams but if he can’t go, AJ Feeley will start and he did look good in the Rams victory over New Orleans. Kevin Kolb is listed as doubtful for the Cardinals and if he can’t go Richard Bartel would start. The less said about this game the better. St. Louis wins.
New York Giants at New England.
The first meeting for these two teams since Super Bowl XLII. The Giants are sitting atop of the NFC East thanks largely to Eli Manning. Much maligned at times, Peyton’s younger brother is having a superb season throwing for 2,127 yards, 13 TDs and only 5 interceptions. Manning will need to be elite this week as the running game has struggled for the Giants. If Manning can exploit a soft Patriots defence, the Giants have a chance. The Patriots are 5-2 but are coming off a loss to Pittsburgh in which the 25-17 score flattered New England. Sure Tom Brady is having another MVP caliber season but the Patriots defence has struggled mightily and will need to be much sturdier against the Giants. The advantage the Patriots have is that the game is at Gillette Stadium where the Patriots are undefeated so far this season. The Giants defence hasn’t been great either and the Pats are too tough to home. New England wins.
Green Bay at San Diego.
The Packers are the only undefeated team in the NFL and are coming off a bye week well-rested, and healthy. Aaron Rodgers has been brilliant this year and is the leading candidate for NFL MVP. Rodgers has already thrown for 20 touchdowns and is on pace to throw for 45 touchdowns this season. Greg Jennings is a Pro Bowl caliber receiver whose speed can stretch defences. The only concern in Green Bay is the defence which has shown some holes this year. But the offence looks unstoppable. The Chargers are coming off a hearbreaking loss to Kansas City on Monday night in which quarterback Phillip Rivers fumbled the snap in the dying seconds of regulation, when the Chargers were in position to kick the game winning field goal. One wonders if San Diego can bounce back from that but the Chargers are still tied for first in the AFC West so there is hope in Southern California. Everything is pointing Green Bay’s way but as I’ve found out this year, there is no logic to this season. My upset special. San Diego wins.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh.
The best rivalry in the NFL right now! No arguments are allowed. These two teams flat-out hate each other with a passion and a massive TV audience will feel that passion in primetime. The Ravens won the first meeting 35-7 back in week 1 and many people anointed Baltimore as Super Bowl favourites. The Steelers would like nothing more to avenge that bitter loss. For Baltimore it is time for Joe Flacco to step up and win a big game on the road. Everyone is waiting for Flacco to become the star quarterback the Ravens desperately need him to be and there is no better time than winning this week in Pittsburgh. Expect Ray Rice to carry the ball at least 20 times for the Ravens and he’ll have to be successful in finding holes against the vaunted Steelers defence. Pittsburgh has been getting better every week since the week 1 embarrassment and last week’s victory over New England should give the Steelers plenty of confidence. Ben Roethlisberger is known to save his best performances in big games so expect Big Ben to be in top form. The Ravens traditionally struggle in Pittsburgh and I see that trend continuing. Pittsburgh wins.
Chicago at Philadelphia.
Interesting Monday night matchup. The Bears are coming off a bye week and lots of distractions. Despite being 4-3, all the talk in the Windy City is the contract situation involving running back Matt Forte. The Bears better realize that Forte is responsible for 46.2% of the Bears offence. Forte has been sensational for the Bears and he could be a huge factor playing against an Eagles defence that struggles against the run. Philadelphia is coming off a monster win over Dallas and are hoping they can continue that momentum. LeSean McCoy is having a fantastic season, rushing for 754 yards and 8 touchdowns. McCoy has been taking off some pressure from Michael Vick and this should really benefit Vick who can freelance even more for the Eagles. Yes the Eagles have distractions as well but I feel they are turning things around and Lincoln Financial Field should be a gong show for this one. Philadelphia wins.
Last week. 9-4.
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