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Phinsider Week 9 Game Previews and Predictions

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Welcome to another edition of Justin Hier’s weekly game previews and predictions!

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL landscape looks very different now than it did just one week ago.

Tom Brady’s heir apparent is now playing across the country. The Carolina Panthers’ most reliable pass catcher is catching passes from Tyrod Taylor. The engine of Miami’s offense will be running behind a far more capable offensive line looking for a Super Bowl ring. And Russell Wilson now has a capable blocker protecting his blindside. These changes are sure to shakeup the course of the rest of the NFL season, but how will they impact teams this week?

Each week of the NFL season, I’ll be giving you a sneak peak of the action ahead, as well as my own forecast for the outcome of each contest. Feel free to leave your own predictions and opinions in the comments below!

Week 8 prediction record: 9-4

2017 season prediction record: 73-46

Thursday

Buffalo Bills (5-2) at New York Jets (3-5) - 8:25 PM ET on NFLN

Week 9 kicks off with a surprisingly exciting matchup against two AFC East teams who have more on the line than many thought they would heading into the season. The Bills continue to roll through competition with a simple formula consisting of a solid running game, a stout defense, and an ability to win the turnover battle.

The Jets are getting by on grit, steady quarterbacking from a journeyman signal caller, and the occasional big play. After just barely falling to Atlanta last week, the Jets are hanging on with a 3-5 record. A loss this week to a divisional opponent that would put them three games under .500 halfway into the season would be a big blow. Expect a tough and physical game come Thursday night.

Score prediction: Buffalo 24 - New York 14

Sunday

Indianapolis Colts (2-6) at Houston Texans (3-4) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

The Houston Texans are better than your average 3-4 team. Deshaun Watson has played impeccably to start off what looks to be a promising NFL career, but without J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing, Houston’s defense has been unable to string together consistent performances. Unfortunately for head coach Bill O’Brian, his entire team is never playing at full capacity. Over the past few seasons, it’s been the offense that’s been unable to pick up the slack. Now that the offense is firing on all cylinders, his defense is holding the team back.

The Colts are an absolute mess without Andrew Luck. Jacoby Brissett has filled in as best as anyone could have asked for, but without a proper offensive line and defense that can win him the ball back, there’s only so much the young passer can do. I’m expecting the Texans to put up serious points on this Colts team, and Brissett will have a tough time keeping up.

Score prediction: Houston 35 - Indianapolis 17

Update: The Texans reported that Watson tore his ACL during practice and will miss the remainder of the 2017 season. Tom Savage will start against the Colts on Sunday.

Revised score prediction: Houston 21 - Indianapolis 17

Cincinnati Bengals (3-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-3) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

It’s at this point in the season where the good teams separate themselves from the pack, meaning it’s time for the Jaguars to prove the doubters wrong. Jacksonville’s defense has been dominant this season, and an anemic Cincinnati offense seems like the perfect opponent for Calias Campbell and the rest of Doug Marrone’s defense to assert some authority. However, just when the Jaguars have looked like the team to beat in the AFC South, they’ve taken the league on a roller coaster of up and down performances.

The Bengals defense has also been playing good football this season, keeping a lackluster offense within reach of winning games. They’ll have to do so once again this week with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green going up against such an imposing secondary. Expect this one to be a defense-heavy slugfest.

Score prediction: Jacksonville 16 - Cincinnati 13

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5) at New Orleans Saints (5-2) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

Who expected the Bucs to have a 2-5 record by week 9? Better yet, who thought the Saints were capable of going 5-2? These two teams have been on opposing tracks this season, with New Orleans’ defense exceeding expectations while supporting an explosive offense. Tampa Bay’s defense has taken the opposite path and is currently occupying the 29th overall position in yards allowed. Drew Brees should have no trouble picking the Buccaneers’ secondary apart, meaning Jameis Winston will be playing catchup in the second half. If the Bucs want any shot at victory, they’ll need to ride Doug Martin all game to keep the ball out of Brees’ hands.

Score prediction: New Orleans 28 - Tampa Bay 20

Los Angeles Rams (5-2) at New York Giants (1-6) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

The Rams and Giants are both coming off of bye weeks and should be well rested as they begin the second half of their 2017 campaigns. That is just about the only similarity between these two teams. The Rams have soared so far under first year head coach Sean McVay, while the Giants are in an inescapable rut without their most important playmaker. An improving Los Angeles defense should have a field day against Eli Manning and his non-existent offensive line.

Score prediction: Los Angeles 23 - New York 10

Atlanta Falcons (4-3) at Carolina Panthers (5-3) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

Carolina’s defense will quietly enter this game as the league’s 2nd ranked unit, while Atlanta’s heavily scrutinized offense is actually coming into this contest ranked 5th in yards per game. This just goes to show how unfair expectations can be when a team is coming off of a season in which their offense was historically explosive. The departure of Kyle Shanahan certainly hurt, but getting the ball to Julio Jones more often should be enough to start putting more fear in opponents and clearing up the perspective of people who are judging Matt Ryan’s attack too harshly.

Cam Newton’s aerial attack is in more dire straights than Ryan’s. Newton has been wildly inconsistent this season, and losing Kelvin Benjamin in a trade to the Bills won’t help matters. Expect Devin Funchess to be heavily involved going forward until, and even after, Greg Olsen returns from injury.

Score prediction: Atlanta 26 - Carolina 21

Denver Broncos (3-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-1) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

The Eagles have been flying high behind the impressive play of second year signal caller Carson Wentz. The strong armed passer has shown an Aaron Rodgers-esque ability to create magic under pressure, and is now armed with Pro Bowl runner Jay Ajayi as an extra weapon in the running game. Philadelphia’s offense was scary before, and Ajayi’s presence makes them even more dangerous.

The Broncos have disappointed since starting the season 3-1. After quickly enduring three straight losses, head coach Vance Joseph is turning to Brock Osweiler to spark a revival of such a putrid offense. That move hasn’t worked in the past for the Texans or Browns, and I’m not expecting new results for the Broncos.

Score prediction: Philadelphia 28 - Denver 17

Baltimore Ravens (4-4) at Tennessee Titans (4-3) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

Baltimore’s defense showed up big time against Miami last week, although that doesn’t mean much considering the state of the Dolphins’ offense over the course of this season. Marcus Mariota is a far greater threat than Matt Moore, although Mariota’s hamstring needs to be fully healed in order for the Titans’ offense to truly click. Expect a heavy dosage of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry against a Baltimore run defense that has struggled thus far in 2017 (save for their game against Miami).

Score prediction: Baltimore 20 - Tennessee 17

Arizona Cardinals (3-4) at San Francisco 49ers (0-8) - 4:05 PM ET on FOX

The Cardinals simply pose very little threat in the passing game when Drew Stanton is under center. Adrian Peterson will need to carry this team week in and week out, or else the Cardinals will be unable to win games.

San Francisco may have just acquired their quarterback of the future, but head coach Kyle Shanahan reiterated to the media that Jimmy Garoppolo is just that, the future. Don’t expect Garoppolo to start over the next couple of weeks, even though the 49ers will likely want at least a small sample size of what Brady’s former understudy can do before committing to a big contract when Garoppolo hits free agency in the spring.

Score prediction: Arizona 17 - San Francisco 14

Washington Redskins (3-4) at Seattle Seahawks (5-2) - 4:05 PM ET on FOX

This is one of my favorite matchups of the week. The Redskins are a more complete team than their 3-4 record might suggest, especially when Kirk Cousins is playing well. Their lack of a run game is concerning, especially when they start having to funnel the offense through pass-catching running back Chris Thompson, but Thompson has been a reliable weapon with the ball in his hands, so that approach may work for now.

Seattle’s defense was exposed by rookie sensation Deshaun Watson last week, meaning the Redskins will have a chance to put up points. Winning a game at CenturyLink field is a big challenge though, and if Russell Wilson is given adequate protection, he light up the scoreboard as well.

Score prediction: Seattle 28 - Washington 23

Kansas City Chiefs (6-2) at Dallas Cowboys (4-3) - 4:25 PM ET on CBS

Ezekiel Elliot’s presence means a great deal to these Dallas Cowboys. He has been the focal point of their offense since being drafted out of Ohio State 4th overall, and is an otherworldly talent. Without him, the pressure will be on Dak Prescott to win the game for his team. Without a strong defense, Prescott will need to make plays to put his offense in scoring position, while Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden must keep down and distances manageable.

Andy Reid’s Chiefs can score, there’s no doubt about that. Travis Kelce, Kareem Hunt, and Tyreek Hill are a phenomenal trio, and if Alex Smith continues to play at such a high level, the sky is the limit for Kansas City.

Score prediction: Kansas City 30 - Dallas 21

Oakland Raiders (3-5) at Miami Dolphins (4-3) - 8:30 PM ET on NBC

The Dolphins are lucky to be 4-3, we know that by now. With the league’s worst offense in just about every category, head coach Adam Gase decided it was time for a change. The team traded Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi to the Eagles and will now rely on Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams to carry the load. With starting guard Ted Larsen, wide receiver DeVante Parker, and quarterback Jay Cutler all possibly returning to the lineup Sunday night, it will be interesting to see where Miami’s offense goes from here.

The Raiders offense was finally starting to click against the Chiefs two weeks ago before being smothered by the white hot Bills last weekend. The defense is suspect at best, so Derek Carr will need to find a groove early to win this contest. Luckily for Carr, the Dolphins have been absolutely horrid in the first half of games this season. This primetime showdown is shaping up to be a matchup between two wobbly teams badly in need of a win. The unit that makes fewer mistakes and takes care of the football should end up with the win.

Score prediction: Miami 20 - Oakland 19

Monday

Detroit Lions (3-4) at Green Bay Packers (4-3) - 8:30 PM ET on ESPN

This contest would be so much more exciting if Aaron Rodgers was playing. But alas, that is not to be. The Lions are coming off of a close loss to one of the league’s best outfits in the Pittsburgh Steelers, and have the personnel to pull of a win at Lambeau Field. The Detroit defense held Big Ben and Co. to just 20 points, and that was despite yielding a 97-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Holding off Brett Hundley shouldn’t be any more difficult. I’m expecting Matthew Stafford to pull away with this one in the second half.

Score prediction: Detroit 31 - Green Bay 21