Only one real surprise last week led us to another good week of picks. That surprise came in the form of an overtime win by Tampa Bay over Atlanta. The Buccaneers seemed to have tried every possible way to lose the game and still somehow came away with the win. Matt Ryan and company waited way too long to get things going and couldn’t capitalize on opportunities even when they had a chance in the extra period. The Jets didn’t count on losing Ryan Fitzpatrick, though the Raiders looked to have that game won either way. And the Bengals got played well enough to leave Pittsburgh with a win while the Steelers lost Le’Veon Bell for the rest of the season. A little late to the party, we obviously picked Cincinnati to beat the Browns. It was closer than we thought it would be until the end. But here’s what we think for the rest of Week 9 in the NFL.
Week 8. 11-3.
Miami at Buffalo. LeSean McCoy is finally starting to get going and it couldn’t be at a better time. The Bills need to win to keep their playoff chances alive and will need McCoy to play well regardless of who is behind center because Charles Clay isn’t enough in the passing game and the defense hasn’t been as good as expected. The Dolphins have been really good outside of last week against the Patriots. But playing at home in presumably crappy weather will help out Buffalo. Bills 27, Dolphins 20
Green Bay at Carolina. A tough 2-game stretch for the Packers brings us to Carolina with Cam Newton on a high even after a close call against Indy on Monday Night Football. While the run game has been good and Newton has been able to make things work with Greg Olsen and others, I can’t see Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy not picking apart that defense after figuring out whatever it was that Andrew Luck realized later on. Yeah, some of it was just a lazy pass rush that was tired. But the Pack will score points either way. Packers 30, Panthers 24
Tennessee at New Orleans. Even with Marcus Mariota back to help out an offense without much of an identity, the Titans will have to put an unprecedented amount of offense (for them) to end up on the right side of the score in New Orleans. Last week saw Drew Brees with a throwback game while throwing for 7 touchdowns. The ball was spread around and the running backs even helped move the ball some. Defense was never this team’s calling card, but if they play half as well on offense it won’t matter what happens. Saints 24, Titans 16
Oakland at Pittsburgh. Derek Carr and the young Raiders were impressive. Michael Crabtree looks impressive thus far and Amari Cooper is already a first-tier talent. A tough defense on top of all of it makes this team a tough one each and every week. Unfortunately for Oakland they are playing a mad Pittsburgh Steelers team at home. With another week of practice Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger should get back on track while DeAngelo Williams will embrace the permanent lead back role for the rest of the season. Steelers 26, Raiders 17
St. Louis at Minnesota. Todd Gurley is basically the younger version of Adrian Peterson. Both will be on display in a game that features two good defenses. The Rams is scary and will make it tough for speedy receivers Mike Wallace and Stefon Diggs to get open. If Teddy Bridgewater can get it going quicker than last week, the Vikings should be in the driver’s seat in this home game. Vikings 20, Rams 17
Washington at New England. If this game were in D.C. then this game would be a blowout. The fact that it’s at New England just makes the final score that much more of a finality. With that said, I’d wager a good chunk of change that Kirk Cousins moves the ball against this defense. He’s been good recently and DeSean Jackson will finally be back to some degree. There will just be too much Tom Brady to everyone on the field and eventually LeGarrette Blount will come in and put the game away. Patriots 41, Redskins 27
Jacksonville at NY Jets. The Jags have been better than expected thus far and yet they are just 2-5. TJ Yeldon and Blake Bortles have been a nicer combo along with the Allens at WR. If Ryan Fitzpatrick is available and/or Chris Ivory is healthy then this game shouldn’t be as close as it might eventually be. Brandon Marshall has been an absolute beast. Expect to see a lot of him in this one. Jets 23, Jaguars 10
Atlanta at San Francisco. The Falcons better be mad after last week. Even still, they got good games from all their big name players. They just need more earlier on. Luckily they are playing a 49er team at home that is starting Blaine Gabbert and just traded away Vernon Davis. Not that Kaepernick or Davis were lighting the league on fire, but the locker room might be a bit different and that means something. Falcons 38, 49ers 7
NY Giants at Tampa Bay. Eli Manning was excellent against the Saints. He made things happen when all seemed lost. Odell Beckham made big plays when needed to as well but the defense was ridiculously inept. Don’t put too much stock in last week’s win over the Falcons. Jameis Winston was horrible and they couldn’t run the ball at all. Even if they get the ball down the field to Mike Evans it won’t be enough. Giants 31, Buccaneers 20
Denver at Indianapolis. With Vernon Davis on board there’s just another weapon for Peyton Manning and Gary Kubiak (who loves multiple tight end sets). Both CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman showed signs of life while the defense played huge against Green Bay. Even with a huge come-back that fell just short in Carolina, the Colts are really hurting and somehow in first place in their division. Was the end last week’s game what Andrew Luck needed to get going? Will it matter against the top-ranked defense in the NFL? Broncos 28, Colts 24
Philadelphia at Dallas. It’s going to be tough to expect much of anything from the Cowboys until Tony Romo is back and healthy. But with their resident wife-beater beating opponents to a pulp on the field, the defense is actually able to keep them in games. And Philly has been so woeful that this game just seems like the kind that will be close regardless of who’s playing well. Cowboys 17, Eagles 13
Chicago at San Diego. Two quarterbacks playing well recently get together in this boring Monday Night game. Philip Rivers has had some bad luck but needs help from a defense that couldn’t stop a nosebleed. Similarly, the Bears can’t make the stops when needed to pull out victories like last week against Minnesota (a game they should have won). It’s going to be tougher to win without Matt Forte lining up next to Jay Cutler. Even with Keenan Allen out for the rest of the season, Rivers will find a new favorite target and the Bolts will get the job done. Chargers 35, Bears 27