We’ve had a couple standard weeks without many upsets, as the premier contenders have separated themselves from the rest. Still, without a lot of tight matchups this week, we’re bound for chaos, and although it’s tough to predict, the entertainment it produces more than compensates for that. So, who will win those aforementioned matchups? Let’s predict the entire slate of games for Week 9!
TNF: 49ers (8-0) at Cardinals (3-4-1)
Spread Pick: SF (-10)
Over/Under Pick: Over (43)
Score Prediction: 49ers 34 Cardinals 13
On Thursday Night Football, we’ll get to see the top two picks in this year’s draft face-off for the first time; Nick Bosa and the 49ers will travel to Arizona to take on Kyler Murray and the Cardinals in a matchup that should become a rivalry in the future. Unfortunately, this appears to be an absolute mismatch. Murray and the Cardinals have overachieved to this point, but he’s essentially their entire offense, and against arguably the best overall defense in the NFL, I don’t expect a productive outing from him. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, Arizona was exposed defensively by the Saints offense, and now, they’ll face Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which will almost certainly gash the Cardinals’ weak rushing defense, as well as their questionable secondary. The 49ers are by far the better team, better coached, and match up incredibly well to Arizona on paper; this should be a three-score blowout.
Texans (5-3) at Jaguars (4-4) (LONDON)
Spread Pick: JAX (+1.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (46.5)
Score Prediction: Texans 27 Jags 30
In their annual London game, the Jags will “host” the Texans in what may be one of the biggest games of the weekend. If Jacksonville were to win this game, the landscape of the AFC South would change in their favor. However, if they lose, they’ll be in a very tough position. Luckily for them, there is no better time to play the Texans. Houston’s secondary will be without cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Lonnie Johnson, safety Tashaun Gipson, and to make matters worse, dominant pass rusher JJ Watt is out for the year with a pectoral injury. With arguably the league’s worst secondary and now a depleted pass rush, this should be a very easy matchup for Gardner Minshew, who continues to play well as he looks to “steal” Nick Foles’ job under center. However, this certainly won’t be an easy game for Jacksonville, as Deshaun Watson remains the superior quarterback and could take advantage of a defense that misses Jalen Ramsey. There’s something to be said though, about Jacksonville’s experience in London, and if I had to pick one defense to get a timely stop, it would easily be the Jaguars; the over pick looks like a shoo-in, but I’ll take the healthier team in a very important international game.
Redskins (1-7) at Bills (5-2)
Spread Pick: WSH (+9.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (36.5)
Score Prediction: Redskins 10 Bills 16
Will it be Case Keenum or Dwayne Haskins under center for the Redskins? With Keenum still in concussion protocol, that remains to be seen, but either way, who starts doesn’t make a huge difference for Washington, a 9.5-point underdog in Buffalo. The Redskins are an extremely run-heavy offense, and for once, it might work in their favor. The Bills may have a solid pass defense, but they’re relatively weak in run defense; Washington’s power rushing attack could have some success and set the tone in this game, regardless of who’s at quarterback. Plus, their strong defensive line can help take away the Bills’ rushing attack, and as the secondary improves, they face a struggling pass offense led by incosistent second-year quarterback Josh Allen. Therefore, I definitely see the Redskins covering their spread, but still, their inability to move the ball through the air and the few big plays Buffalo’s offense should have against a defense that looked incapable of tackling any receiver on a short pass still favors the Bills to win at home.
Titans (4-4) at Panthers (4-3)
Spread Pick: TEN (+3.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (42)
Score Prediction: Titans 27 Panthers 17
Texans-Jaguars is pretty rough to predict, but in my opinion, Titans-Panthers may the most evenly matched game of the week. On one side, Tennesee is 2-0 with Ryan Tannehill under center, and are the better team on paper. Yet, on the other hand, Carolina is coming off a humiliating loss to the 49ers, and the Titans are one of the most unpredictable teams in the NFL. In this case, I guess I’ll go with how this game looks on paper, and take a mini-upset; Tennesee will make it three straight. Tannehill not only is playing well with a great supporting cast, but he’s done well against zone coverage and should have success against another zone-heavy defense, especially since he’ll be complemented by a rushing attack this week. Additionally, the Titans secondary is built to face non-vertical offenses, and there’s no one is Carolina who’ll take the top off the defense. Their pass rush, meanwhile, is starting to look scary with edge rusher Cameron Wake and rookie defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons, and against a poor quarterback in Kyle Allen, who has fumble issues, they should make an impact in this game. Oh, and with the top run defense grade, per Pro Football Focus, they’re in good position to neutralize Carolina’s relied upon source of offensive production: Christian McCaffrey. This game is just a good fit for the Titans, who are playing with much more energy, and should be able to replicate some of what the 49ers did last week to the Panthers, who happen to be a very streaky team; they may go on a mini-losing streak, as they did last year.
Vikings (6-2) at Chiefs (5-3)
Spread Pick: MIN (-2.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (N/A)
Score Prediction: Vikings 27 Chiefs 24
With so many players injured on the Chiefs, namely star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, edge rusher Frank Clark, and nickel corner Kendall Fuller, it’s hard to find a spread for this Vikings-Chiefs game. However, with the early signs being that this will be a 2.5-point spread backing the road team, it’s very tempting to side with Kansas City, who’s bound for a home win; they’re just 1-4 in their last five home games. Still, with Mahomes doubtful to play in this game, it’ll be Matt Moore once again under center for them, and although he had success against the Packers last week, this will be a tougher challenge. For starters, Andy Reid won’t be able to scheme up plays to exploit the opposing linebackers, as the Vikings have a very strong linebacking group, while their pass rush could cause problems against a depleted offensive line. I do have concerns about Minnesota’s secondary in this game, as cornerback Xavier Rhodes is extremely slow and stiff, and not built to face off against this speedy Chiefs offense. Still, the more worrisome aspect of this game is Kansas City’s defense. They’ve been pretty atrocious all-around this season, particularly against the run, so this could be a HUGE game for star running back Dalvin Cook, both in the rushing game and the passing game. Plus, since this pass rush will essentially be relying only on interior rusher Chris Jones, Kirk Cousins will have time in this game, and with that time, he’ll be able to connect with the receiver duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Theilen against a secondary without Fuller and Breshad Breeland. I just have more confidence in Minnesota’s ability to constantly score against a very weak defense, and as a result, I’m backing them to win their fifth straight game.
Jets (1-6) at Dolphins (0-7)
Spread Pick: NYJ (-3)
Over/Under Pick: Over (42.5)
Score Prediction: Jets 38 Dolphins 10
It’s no secret that the Jets are a mess right now. Not only are they coming off of back-to-back convincing losses to fall to 1-6, but they’re clearly a poorly-coached team, and after putting practically their entire roster on the trade block to trade no one, there isn’t much connection between the players and front office. Still, how can they only be a three-point favorite against a team that isn’t even trying to win football games? Yes, Darnold has had his issues, but most of his problems have come against good pass rushes, and defenses in general, and now, he gets to face a Miami defense that has a non-existent pass rush, but also a talent-deficient secondary after putting top corner Xavien Howard on injured reserve; expect Darnold to have a tremendous game, and as a result, the offense will have easily its best game of the season. Plus, when you consider how aggressive Gregg Williams is in generating pressure on the opposing quarterback, he’ll have a field day against the league’s worst offensive line and a turnover-prone quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick. With a clear advantage on both sides of the ball, not only will the Jets win this game, but they should downright demolish the Dolphins; they’re the best bet of the week.
Bears (3-4) at Eagles (4-4)
Spread Pick: PHI (-4)
Over/Under Pick: Under (41.5)
Score Prediction: Bears 6 Eagles 24
In a rematch of the “double-doink” matchup of last year’s wildcard round, the Bears and Eagles will meet up in Philadelphia in a pivotal game; the loser of this game will be in a very tough position to make a playoff push. Yet, even if this team’s records are nearly identical, the way they’re trending is not. Whereas Philadelphia is coming off a statement blowout win in Buffalo, Chicago has lost back-to-back home games, and it looks like only a matter of time before Mitch Tribusky is replaced under center; the team has no trust in him. And because of that, the Bears are in danger of becoming the next edition of last year’s Jaguars; the defense is slowly starting to lose it’s intensity and is playing worse as a result. Now, they face an elite Eagles offensive line with the ability to neutralize their pass rush, and if that’s the case, Carson Wentz could actually be in line for a successful game against a secondary that’s struggled this season. Then, there’s Trubisky, who’s inaccuracy and misreads have become so noticeable, that it goes without saying that he likely isn’t capable of taking advantage of Philadelphia’s problems at the back-end of their defense. That’s an issue; the Eagles have the front seven to take away Chicago’s rushing attack, and since they’ll also pressure Trubisky, the Bears will be relying on their faulty quarterback to make plays while being harrassed; this could be the game where everything “blows up” for the Bears, and they have a miserable performance on both sides of the ball. Right now, these teams are heading in completely different directions, and I expect that to continue in this game.
Colts (5-2) at Steelers (3-4)
Spread Pick: IND (-1)
Over/Under Pick: Over (40.5)
Score Prediction: Colts 23 Steelers 13
In probably the least exciting quarterback matchup of the week, Jacoby Brissett and the Colts will travel to Pittsburgh to face Mason Rudolph in the Steelers. Within being extremely difficult to trust either quarterback, this game will come down to the minor details: rushing, turnovers, and coaching. They may not be a 5-2 team, but Indianapolis has the chance to win in all those mentioned aspects. Facing an elite run defense, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to run as effectively, but neither are the Steelers, who are without running back James Conner. As far as turnovers are concerned, Indianapolis’ ball-control style of offense limits the number of mistakes they make, while Rudolph’s inaccuracy means that he tends to put the football in harm’s way. However, the real reason for picking the Colts is the coaching mismatch. Whereas Frank Reich has is aggressive, picks apart opposing defense’s main weaknesses, the Steelers are much more traditional, and struggle to make adjustments. Even without TY Hilton, there are ways to exploit Pittsburgh’s defense – they put linebackers on slot receivers, for example – and I expect Reich to do just that; in other words, receiver Zach Pascal could be in line for a breakout game. This may end up being a toss-up, but still, I’ll take the significantly better-coached team that continues to exceed expectations.
Lions (3-3-1) at Raiders (3-4)
Spread Pick: DET (+2.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (50.5)
Score Prediction: Lions 35 Raiders 27
For the first time since Week 2, the Raiders will play a home game this week; they’ve had a brutal schedule so far. Yet, despite that, they’re in the playoff hunt at 3-4, and are much more competitive than anticipated. The same goes for the Lions, who have done well considering they’ve had to play against some of the league’s toughest teams as well. While I do believe that the energy will be high back at home for Oakland, there’s a downside to being at home; they’ll likely be more relaxed. Then, there’s Detroit, who has actually been a quality team on the road, and is simply the better team. Matt Stafford is in the midst of his best season, and now, he’ll face arguably the worst pass defense in the NFL. As a result, I expect they’ll move the ball with ease in this game, especially if they go with a more pass-heavy approach in this game. Plus, while I do like what Jon Gruden has done with the Raiders offense, they don’t have the weapons to keep up in a shootout, and that’s what this game will likely turn into. So, while I could see Oakland winning this game (they have a huge early down success rate advantage, per Warren Sharp of Sharp Football), I’ll take the better quarterback to come out firing and lead the Lions to a huge victory.
Buccaneers (2-5) at Seahawks (6-2)
Spread Pick: TB (+5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (53)
Score Prediction: Bucs 31 Seahawks 34
Ever since their huge upset win over the Rams in Los Angeles, not only have the Bucs lost three straight, but Jameis Winston has struggled mightily. However, this is the most inconsistent team in the NFC led by the most unpredictable quarterback; they’re due for a breakout win. Plus, they do have some advantages over the Seahawks that cannot be ignored. Not only are they a more efficient team on early downs than Seattle, but with one of the top rushing defenses in the NFL, they also have a great chance of slowing down the Seahawks’ run-first offense. Still, it’s very difficult for me to fully believe Tampa Bay will pull off the upset. Their secondary hasn’t been able to even stop the likes of Teddy Bridgewater, Kyle Allen, and Ryan Tannehill, and now, they’re tasked with defending against MVP favorite Russell Wilson. Assuming Seattle opens up the offense in this game, he should have the best game out of any quarterback this week, and will single-handedly carry the Seahawks to victory, as he’s already done six times this season.
Browns (2-5) at Broncos (2-6)
Spread Pick: CLE (-4)/PUSH
Over/Under Pick: Under (39)
Score Prediction: Browns 13 Broncos 9
Not only have the Broncos had a pretty uninspiring offense all season long, but it’s about to get even worse; with Joe Flacco sidelined 5-6 weeks with a herniated disc, Brandon Allen, who hasn’t played an NFL snap, will be the starting quarterback. Flacco is definitely not a game-changer, but he’s a stable presence, so the drop-off from him to Allen should still be significant. Therefore, Cleveland’s defense, which took strides last week in New England, should be dominant in this game. As far as their offense is concerned, though, this is a bad matchup for them. Denver has been able to manufacture a pass rush, and Von Miller and co. should thrive against one of the worst pass protecting offensive lines in the league. Furthermore, this isn’t a game for them to rely on their receivers to dominate their matchups in the vertical passing game; the Broncos’ secondary is amongst the NFL’s best. So, although I do believe Cleveland will win this game, I’m sure they’ll cover their four-point spread.
Packers (7-1) at Chargers (3-5)
Spread Pick: GB (-3.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (48.5)
Score Prediction: Packers 30 Chargers 24
Heading into the season, this looked like a prime matchup between two future hall of fame quarterbacks and two Super Bowl contenders. Well, the Packers have done their part, jumping out to a 7-1 start. The Chargers, on the other hand, are just 3-5, and needed a missed Bears field goal to finally got a win. Maybe that’s a breakthrough for them, as they’re starting to get healthier as Phillip Rivers is playing at a high level, but nevertheless, I don’t like their chances to beat Green Bay. Not only is Aaron Rodgers playing at an MVP level, but he finally has some help. Running back Aaron Jones is a dual-threat star, and behind an elite offensive line that’ll also protect Rodgers from Los Angeles’ pass rush, I expect him to expose the Chargers’ issues on the defensive line and at linebacker. On the other side of the ball, Green Bay’s pass rush is extremely strong, which is a problem for Los Angeles, who have failed to protect Rivers all season long; making matters worse, star receiver Keenan Allen could be limited by top corner Jaire Alexander. The Chargers won’t go down with a fight, but Green Bay looks like the easy choice to win this game.
SNF: Patriots (8-0) at Ravens (5-2)
Spread Pick: NE (-3)
Over/Under Pick: Under (44.5)
Score Prediction: Pats 20 Ravens 13
It’s going down on Sunday Night Football; Lamar Jackson has had a great start to the season, but is he truly a future star? Well, we’ll finally have a better answer to that question soon; he’ll be tested by not only the best defense in the NFL, but a mastermind in Bill Belichick, who may illustrate a way to stop Jackson and arguably the league’s most prolific rushing attack. With an offense that can’t take the top off of a defense, not a lot of team speed, and facing a coach who won’t be intimidated by Belichick, there’s definitely a chance the Patriots lose this game. However, at the same time, there’s also the chance that New England is able to limit Baltimore’s rushing offense, while also confusing Jackson with different coverage designs. This feels like the type of game in which he want to find a way for the Patriots to lose, but in the end, they’ll prevail to advance to a 9-0 record heading into their bye week.
MNF: Cowboys (4-3) at Giants (2-6)
Spread Pick: DAL (-7)
Over/Under Pick: Over (48)
Score Prediction: Cowboys 31 Giants 20
When the Giants and Cowboys met up in Dallas in Week one, these teams were different; the Cowboys had a much more innovative offense, and Eli Manning was the starting quarterback for New York. Now, this time around, it’ll be in New York on Monday Night Football, and with sixth-overall pick Daniel Jones as the starting quarterback of the Giants. Jones has had an up-and-down season; he’s made some big plays, but his turnovers have become a major issue. Against a strong defensive front, his fumbling problems will likely hurt him, and I expect the Cowboys’ secondary to also remain opportunistic in this game; though, at the same time, Jones also has the ability to keep the New York in this game, and Dallas may be rusty off of a bye. However, you don’t have to look any further than that Week one game to see why the Cowboys will win this game. Dak Prescott threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns, and since then, the Giants haven’t fixed their problems in the secondary; I expect Prescott to play really well, and when he’s clicking, this entire offense can be very dangerous. The Giants may make this somewhat of a close game, especially if Dallas starts off slow, but still, the Cowboys look the overwhelming favorite to win this game and to cover their seven-point spread.