The halfway mark has now officially been passed in the regular season, and with last week’s 10-3 effort, now reaching me up to 75-45, maybe it’s the turning point for the predictor after a pretty mediocre few weeks.
This week we’re without the Manning/Denver fireworks, Megatron and his 300 yards of ridiculousness, the painful-to-watch Jags, the inevitable Carson palmer pick and the Big Blue circus in New York: all on byes. However there is still plenty of intrigue and many stories to play out come this week’s round of games.
It’s starting to hit that time of year too – football in the cold, rain, snow and wind. Don’t know about you, but I love it: so let’s go to week 9… starting in sunny Miami.
BYE WEEK: Cardinals, Broncos, Lions, Jaguars, Giants, 49’ers.
Cincinnati Bengals 30-21 Miami Dolphins
Coming off a dismantling of Geno Smith and the Jets, the Bengals will be confident that they can do the same to the Phins, who, after a bright start in New England, were comfortably beaten (24-0 in the 2nd half). The Phins won’t be able to run the ball as effectively against this Cincy D, so it could be a difficult night at home against a team that seems to be getting better and better. The fact that relative unknown Marvin Jones caught 4 TD passes last week can only be good for an offense with weapons like AJ Green, Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard in the background.
Atlanta Falcons 27-30 Carolina Panthers
There’s something about Matt Ryan and that Arizona defense that just doesn’t mix. 4 interceptions killed the Falcons’ chances last week, although Ryan still threw for 300 yards and a TD, and he can’t afford a repeat of that in Carolina if the Falcons are to get anywhere near the race for the playoffs in this division. This game is huge in terms of getting to the post season: a loss for Atlanta will almost mean they can say goodbye to the season, while a win for Carolina will give them real hope, with a favourable slate left, of making it to the playoffs behind the strong Saints. This game could end up being a shootout in Charlotte, and the Falcons will need to do more on defense to make sure Ryan’s efforts are not wasted again. But Cam Newton is in a rich vein of form and the Atlanta D doesn’t look like being strong enough to stop the upward curve the Panthers are on right now.
Minnesota Vikings 20-38 Dallas Cowboys
Although Christian Ponder and Adrian Peterson had decent games against the Packers last week, their abysmal defense haemorrhaged yards on the ground and through the air, and facing a good offense in the Cowboys on the road this week looks to be a very difficult obstacle to overcome. After his craziness on the sidelines in last week’s defeat to Detroit, expect Dez Bryant to be targeted 15 times, with 8 catches, 100 yards and a TD, and if DeMarco Murray can return in the ground game, he should have a big day too.
New Orleans Saints 30-17 New York Jets
That wasn’t pretty from Geno Smith and the Jets last week. Rex Ryan will just clean the slate and start again, the best thing to do after a thumping like they suffered in Cincy, and with the Saints coming to town, they’d better buck up their ideas fast. Rex’s brother Rob has worked wonders with the New Orleans D, which will cause Geno more problems, and that Saints’ offense, led by Drew Brees is a thing of beauty, with multiple weapons and multiple ways to hurt a defense. As you may be able to tell, I like the Saints here, but don’t be surprised to see the Jets bounce back with a much better performance.
Tennessee Titans 27-17 St Louis Rams
The Rams really surprised me with how they took the Seahawks all the way on Monday Night Football, and maybe they’re not the pushover many thought they might be after Sam Bradford went down for the year. But this week they host the Titans coming off a bye week, who have had plenty of time to get healthy and study for this one. Tennessee have been good on the whole this season, and their offense under Jake Locker seems to be full of potential with the added extra of Chris Johnson’s ‘I can break off a massive play from anywhere’ brand of football. I think one of those plays could be the difference here, as well as the Titans forcing Kellen Clemens to throw the ball 35 times.
Kansas City Chiefs 23-10 Buffalo Bills
Kansas City are 8-0. That is a stat that Chiefs fans couldn’t even dream of after last season, and this week’s matchup in Buffalo offers a huge opportunity to extend that record to 9-0 with Thad Lewis still in charge of the Bills’ offense. He makes a good play, he makes a bad play: it’s like a law of nature. The Bills’ defense is improving with the return of some key players, and they aren’t a pushover by any means, but this is another game that Andy Reid and his roster can churn out on the way to the playoffs.
San Diego Chargers 30-27 Washington Redskins
RGIII is almost there, and the first half against Denver showed how the Skins’ D is finally improving, but the second half showed how Washington still have a long way to go. The Chargers, fresh off a bye week, will hope the Redskins of the second half take to the field when they come to town, and Philip Rivers can dismantle this defense. The Redskins will try to run the ball more with Alfred Morris to enable the play action passes and QB runs, and if the Chargers don’t manage to stop him, they could find it difficult to stop Washington scoring at a high rate. This is one of the most intriguing games of the week, and it wouldn’t surprise me if OT was the result, although I have to admit I’m not sure who the winner is. If in doubt, go with the defense: Chargers win.
Philadelphia Eagles 16-27 Oakland Raiders
The defeat of the Steelers last Sunday was big for the Raiders, as it showed they have the tools on both sides of the ball to win tight games. This could be another tight one in the Black Hole, although the Raiders face a completely different setup in the Eagles. Philly’s struggles on offense recently are the result of a never-ending carousel of injuries at QB, and if they could only keep Michael Vick healthy, who knows how many points they could score every game. It’s looking likely that Nick Foles will be back, but this is not an atmosphere or a defense that I would want to be subjecting my QB to coming off a concussion. Terrelle Pryor gives the Raiders something that they haven’t had for a while: explosiveness. It is this explosiveness that will allow the Oakland offense to score on this below-average Eagles D and win another home game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7-31 Seattle Seahawks
The 0-7 Bucs go to the 7-1 Seahawks. You see what I’m getting at here? Mike Glennon is shut down by the defense while Russell Wilson runs riot. 8-1 Seahawks. 0-8 Bucs.
Baltimore Ravens 17-20 Cleveland Browns
This is interesting. The Browns are a much better team than people give them credit for, and their defense is legit. With the steady, experienced presence of Jason Campbell at QB, it gives Cleveland their best chance to win, allowing Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron to rack up yardage. The Ravens have improved as a unit since the beginning of the year, but I’m not sure that the bye week will make any difference to the fact that playing against a good run defense and a backfield with Joe Haden, who can lock down Torrey Smith, this is not a good matchup for Baltimore. I can just smell another Joe Flacco road nightmare.
Pittsburgh Steelers 23-27 New England Patriots
More injuries for the Pats, this time RT Seb Vollmer is out for the season, yet they just keep finding a way to win. The trade for big DT Isaac Sopoaga will help them be stouter against the run, which they will need to be here, but there were still evident holes left by the loss of Mayo, Wilfork, Talib and Kelly from the defense. Talib may be back this week, which will help, but the Steelers would love nothing more than to pound LeVeon Bell down the middle 25 times come Sunday. Pittsburgh will be smarting after a loss in Oakland last week, but they will feel that they did enough to win the game after a slow start: Shaun Suisham’s 2 missed FG’s haunted them. Big Ben’s offense is beginning to click and Troy Polamalu is still hitting people as hard as ever, so don’t think that at 2-5, the Steelers will be a pushover. Having said that, you can always see Bill Belichick and Tom Brady conjuring a win out of something at home, even against the 4th ranked defense.
Indianapolis Colts 30-20 Houston Texans
Both teams are coming out of their bye week, and straight into what is a very important divisional matchup. The Colts win, and the Texans are a long way from the playoffs barring a miracle, but if they can somehow grab a victory at home against what looks to be a very impressive Indianapolis team, they will live to fight another day. The subplot here is the health of the Texans’ two stud RB’s: Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Both are questionable to play, and if neither can go, I can’t see Houston winning this. Andrew Luck and the Colts are doing something quite special in Indianapolis, and if they can get Trent Richardson rolling too, this could be a huge stepping stone towards the post season.
Chicago Bears 20-34 Green Bay Packers
What I noticed as the most impressive thing about the Packers last week was how balanced they were on offense, and that resulted in 44 points. Yes their defense isn’t the best unit, and they do have issues with their offensive line due to injuries, but they still manage to put up eye-popping offensive numbers. The Bears’ defense is a turnover machine as it has always been, but it also allows a lot of yards, something they cannot afford to do at Lambeau on Monday night. Without Jay Cutler, Chicago will lean heavily on Matt Forte, and that plays into the Packers’ hands as they have been pretty strong against the run all season. This goes two ways: it’s tight and hard-hitting in the cold of Wisconsin, or its turns into a shootout. However, both scenarios end up with the same team emerging victorious.