NFL: Week 9 Predictions 2011-2012
A Look Back at Week 8
The grander picture of the NFL season has started to become more and more clear as we hit the mid season mark on the year. The Saints hit a roadblock as they faced the St. Louis Rams and lost by the score of 31-21. In that game, Steven Jackson returned to form and gashed the Saints defense for one hundred and fifty nine yards on the ground. The New York Giants struggled with the lowly Miami Dolphins but continued to improve their standing in the NFC East. The games of the week included the Patriots versus the Steelers and the Eagles versus the Cowboys.
The Steelers beat the Patriots due to the terrific play of Ike Taylor and his coverage skills against Wes Welker. Welker was held to six catches for thirty-nine yards and no touchdowns. Surprisingly, the Steelers offense had double the amount of yards as the Patriots. The depelted Steelers line backing group was still able to generate pressure on Tom Brady, while also keeping the Patriots running game in check. With Kevin Faulk back on the roster, the Patriots were looking to through more often.
The Eagles and Cowboys faced off on Sunday night in what was a very one sided affair. The Eagles came out very crisp and very efficient. The win against the Redskins followed by the bye week could not have come at a better time for the Eagles as they are flying high right now coming off two huge divisional wins. Surprisingly, the Eagles are the number one rushing team in the NFL behind LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick.
Stay Classy San Diego
A quick glance at the stats on their Monday Night affair with the Chiefs you'd ask how they lost. Well the quick answer to that question would be simple, turnovers. The Chargers on the season have a -5 turnover/giveaway differential which ranks them 26th in the league in that category. Philip Rivers alone, leads the league in total turnovers at 11 interceptions and six fumbles. The Chargers defense has been criticized for not making plays, but this season thus far they have managed to pick off opposing offenses eight times, and recover nine fumbles. The Chargers are a talented team and in no way out of the hunt for the division. It is not time for them to hit the panic button, it is time for them to play smarter and come together as a team.
Memo to Cam Cameron...
Joe Flacco is a good quarterback, but should he be throwing the ball fifty one times in a game. No sir. I understand you want to attack the suspect pass defense of the Arizona Cardinals, but the Ravens will not win games with the passing game. They have a top five running back in the NFL, that is incredibly under utilized in a system that seems ideal for his skill set. Against the Jaguars Ray Rice hardly touched the ball, in fact it seemed he was on the sideline more than on the field. The Ravens have a great defense that will constantly keep pressure off of the Ravens offense, but Cam Cameron's infatuation with airing it out is costing the Ravens. Now they need to make things easy on Flacco, the other best friend to a quarterback is a solid running game. You establish the run and it opens up the passing game for any quarterback no matter how good or bad they are.
Big Red Machine?
Andy Dalton has the Cincinnati Bengals playing like a team that can compete not only in their own division, but also in the AFC. Big words, yes, but with the one of the best defenses in the business on the other side of him and a solid running game that they constantly depend on the Bengals are looking solid. Very quietly even Andy Dalton is having a great rookie season and has made the loss of Carson Palmer easy for the Bengals faithful to deal with. He and A.J Green look to be quite the duo for the next few years. The biggest test will be the next five weeks for the Bengals as they face the Titans, Steelers, Ravens, Browns and then the Steelers once more. It'll be a good test for the team and it will also be interesting to see how the young team deals with the tough defenses they will see.
The Eagles have been a passing team under the tutelage of Andy Reid, but suddenly this season with Howard Mudd in charge of the offensive line there has been a slight change in their game plan. The Eagles have utilized their fast offensive lineman to help LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick get into the open field much more effectively. McCoy is on pace for what would easily rank as a career year, even though he is only in his third season. McCoy has managed to be compared to the great Barry Sanders this season due to his elusiveness. He has currently rushed for 754 and 8 touchdowns (career high), and his rushing total is second to none other than Adrian Peterson on the season. McCoy's success Sunday Night made the Cowboys eat their words and also made life ten times easier on quarterback Michael Vick. Vick on the game was 21 for 28 passing, and 18-20 inside the pocket.
Miami Dolphins (0-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-3)
My Pick: Chiefs
The Chiefs have been playing very well since their horrid start to the season where they suffered key injury after key injury. Now that the Chiefs have their feet under them and have regrouped the teams has won four games in a row and went from last to first in the division. The Chiefs have been consistent, which is something you can't say about the Dolphins. In fact, I take that back, the Dolphins have been consistently bad. There is a reason why Tony Sparano put his house on the market. The writing is on the wall.
Atlanta Falcons (4-3) at Indianapolis Colts (0-8)
My Pick: Falcons
The Colts continue to struggle, while the Falcons seemingly have found their way in the past few games. Behind Michael Turner and Roddy White, the Falcons have returned to the way they won games last season when they cruised to the best record in the NFC. The Colts have had a hard time getting into any kind of rhythm on either side of the ball, and the defense is continuing to struggle as they are constantly on the field. On the positive side, second year linebacker Pat Angerer has improved upon his game becoming one of the team's bright spots moving forward.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3) at New Orleans Saints (5-2)
My Pick: Saints
It'll be another dogfight just like it was a few weeks ago. LaGarette Blount is back from his injury and will look to dismantle the Saints front seven once again as he takes pressure off of young Josh Freeman. The Saints however are coming off of a disappointing loss and can't afford to lose two games in a row and more importantly, two games to the Buccaneers on the season. The Saints would be in a big hole if they were to lose two games to their divisional rival on the season that they need to avoid if they want to make the playoffs.
New York Jets (4-3) at Buffalo Bills (5-2)
My Pick: Bills
The Jets will struggle to contain the balanced attack that the Bills will throw at them. The Jets have struggled against teams that come at them in three wide receiver sets with one lone running back, and when you consider the season that Fred Jackson is having combined with how accurate Ryan Fitzpatrick has been, it could potentially give the Jets defense for lack of a better word, fits. Corner back Darrelle Revis should be able to take out Stevie Johnson, the best receiver on the Bills, but the Bills have other dangerous weapons that the Jets don't match up well with. The Jets on offense have to run the ball against the Bills, if the Jets can manage the game and keep the Bills offense on the sideline and limit Sanchez throws then they have a chance to steal the game in the fourth.
Seattle Seahawks (2-5) at Dallas Cowboys (3-4)
My Pick: Dallas
The Cowboys were embarrased on prime time television Sunday Night, and they will be taking their revenge out on the lowly Seahawks. The game could be interesting due to the solid defense that the Seahawks have but ultimately, the Seahawks cannot score. The league has transitioned into a passing league, and clearly the Seahawks have no stable quarterback that can keep them in games on a consistent basis. Marshawn Lynch could give the Cowboys hell seeing how Sean Lee will likely be out for the game. Once he went down against the Eagles, the Eagles attacked the middle of the field against the Cowboys defense early and often.
Cleveland Browns (3-4) at Houston Texans (4-3)
My Pick: Texans
The Texans behind a now healthy Arian Foster have been quite the force. The loss of Mario Williams hasn't be too evident considering the defense is already extremely aggressive with it's front seven. Rookies Brooks Reed and J.J. Watt have played extremely well for new defensive coordinator Wade Philips. The Browns have struggled frequently on offense. Peyton Hillis might play this week, but it isn't certain that he will even be effective.
San Francisco 49ers (6-1) at Washington Redskins (3-4)
My Pick: Niners
The Redskins have fallen off quite a bit from a few weeks back when they led the NFC East, while the Niners have been one of the most consistent teams in the NFL. Jim Harbaugh has the Niners playing great football on both sides of the ball and even on special teams. Even more impressive has been the play of Alex Smith, even through all the injuries to his wide receiver group. Braylon Edwards, Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan have all missed games on the year. The Niners on the defensive side of the ball will have no problem containing the Skins running game, and the Skins don't have the ability to win with the passing game.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) at Tennessee Titans (4-3)
My Pick: Bengals
The Bengals have been one of the most surprising teams considering their youth and the crazy off-season they had with franchise main stays Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco leaving town. Rookies Andy Dalton and A.J Green have stabilized the offense in their departure while the defense has stymied opposing offenses. The Titans came out of the gate strong but have struggled due to Chris Johnson's ineffectiveness since his return and the injury of Kenny Britt has hurt the Titan's passing game. Britt was emerging as a go to guy within the offense and new quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's favorite weapon.
Denver Broncos (2-5) at Oakland Raiders (4-3)
My Pick: Raiders
Tim Tebow will get a lot of love and praise for his comeback two weeks ago but the fact still remains that his throwing motion and play needs to improve. Tebow isn't making correct reads, and isn't trying to lead his receivers. As a quarterback you have to throw to a spot where the receiver is supposed to be at, a good portion of it comes down to chemistry and timing between quarter back and receiver but instead Tebow is trying to dart the ball straight to the receiver. Obviously it has not been working out to well for him. The Raiders are coming off of a bye week in which Carson Palmer gets an extra week to understand the offense better and to have extra reps with the first team. It should greatly benefit him and the Raiders for this week.
New York Giants (5-2) at New England Patriots (5-2)
My Pick: Patriots
The Giants and Patriots are on the top of their respective divisons, but the Giants will not maintain their hold. Bold words, yes, but the fact is the Giants have struggled over the past few years in the second half of the season. The other fact of the matter is that the Giants have given up to many early leads to lesser teams and albeit they have made the comebacks, you can't consistently put yourself in a hole that steep. The Giants can continue to praise Eli Manning as well, but he just like the team has suffered in the past from second half slumps. Going into Foxboro this week, after the Pats suffered a loss to the Steelers, the Pats are going to be out for blood and the Giants will suffice.
St. Louis Rams (1-6) at Arizona Cardinals (1-6)
My Pick: Rams
The Rams shocked the world, in a way, by defeating the New Orleans Saints last week and will likely carry that momentum over into this week for a divisional win against the Cardinals. The Rams may not have Sam Bradford, but A.J Feeley has played well in his absence. The Cardinals have struggled mightily and it is no surprise that Kevin Kolb has finally suffered an injury seeing how he has constant pressure in his face. The offensive line has done a horrid job in protecting him and it has effected his ability to look down field at his receivers. The Cardinals have been able to run the ball decently, and should look to do that frequently seeing that Kolb will be out of the game this Sunday.
Green Bay Packers (7-0) at San Diego Chargers (4-3)
My Pick: Packers
The Chargers have continued to shoot themselves over and over in the foot with turnover after turnover. That kind of play will lead to a potential blow out by the hands of the Green Bay Packers. The Packers offense has been so crisp and so sharp that it doesn't seem like any one can stop them. The only thing that can stop Aaron Rodgers is himself, but eventually his terrific start to the year will begin to fade and the team will likely suffer a loss or two when that day comes. The Packers are benefiting from coming off of a bye this week as they get an extra week to prepare for the struggling Chargers.
Granted, this game could be the upset of the week if the Chargers do a few things. If the Chargers change it up a bit and go to a three wide receiver set predominantly than it'll greatly benefit them against the Packers thirty first ranked pass defense. The Chargers can leave their huge running backs in to block the pass rush that will certainly coming after Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates could have a field day seeing how the middle of the Packers defense is suspect in coverage.
Baltimore Ravens (5-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)
My Pick: Steelers
The Steelers as of late have hit their stride and have managed to play better over the past few weeks. The Ravens have struggled offensively over the past few weeks and have not established an identity on whether they want to be a running team, or a passing team. The Ravens handle the Steelers pretty easily in week one, but the ball did bounce their way. The Ravens played very well offensively as they spread the Steelers out and picked apart their suspect secondary. The Steelers, on the flipside, can do the same exact thing to the Ravens and with better success. The Steelers have better receivers in Ward, Wallace, Brown and Sanders that are also much more explosive than Boldin, Smith and company.
Chicago Bears (4-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)
My Pick: Eagles
The Eagles were extremely effective against the Cowboys last Sunday night on both sides of the ball and it was the first time they were even deserving of being called the "Dream Team." Nnamdi Asomugha has done a better job and seems to have a better grasp of the defense over the last few weeks. He and Asante Samuel managed to effectively take Dez Bryant and Miles Austin out of the game last week, and should have no problem this week with Johnny Knox, Devin Hester and Roy Williams. The Eagles have one of the top pass rushes in the NFL this season thanks to their terrific defensive line, and that has to be a nightmare to hear for the often sacked Jay Cutler. The Eagles have struggled in the past against the Bears but the losses have usually come on the terrible turf in Solider Field, the Eagles have the benefit of playing at home for this game and should come away with their third win in a row.