Last week, we got a real good look at how valuable some of the most exciting young quarterbacks are to their teams. Huge games by sophomore gun slingers Carson Wentz and Jared Goff helped propel their respective teams to lopsided victories. Deshaun Watson’s importance was shown last week as well, albeit for a much more unfortunate reason. Without the dynamic rookie at the helm, there was no spark to be found in Houston’s offense. Let’s hope the young passer makes a full recovery from ACL surgery.
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 9 prediction record: 6-7
2017 season prediction record: 79-53
Seattle Seahawks (5-3) at Arizona Cardinals (4-4) - 8:25 PM ET on NBC
The Seahawks were absolutely robbed last week in a last second defeat to the Redskins. If Blair Walsh hadn’t been so wildly inconsistent, Seattle would have come away with a victory. Unfortunately, “what ifs” don’t mean much in the win column, so Seattle sits at 5-3.
Arizona, despite their sitting just one game behind the Seahawks, are in an entirely other world in terms of talent. Without Carson Palmer, the Cardinals offense won’t be able to put up many points against Seattle’s stingy defense no matter how many times they give Adrian Peterson the ball.
Score prediction: Seattle 24 - Arizona 13
Green Bay Packers (4-4) at Chicago Bears (3-5) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX
The Packers showed last Sunday just how much they rely on Aaron Rodgers to win games. Without the all-time great under center, Green Bay struggled to move the ball, especially with Aaron Jones failing to produce on the ground. Chicago’s underrated defense should be able to handle whatever the Packers throw at them.
Green Bay’s defense isn’t any better than it’s handcuffed offense. Matthew Stafford had his way with the Packers secondary on Monday night, and while Mitch Trubisky isn’t nearly the same threat, Chicago should find a way to move down the field with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen in the run game.
Score prediction: Chicago 20 - Green Bay 14
Cleveland Browns (0-8) at Detroit Lions (4-4) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS
The Browns were given a much needed respite with their bye week, but will now come out of it facing a powerful Lions offense. Matthew Stafford has started to find his groove as the season has worn on, and Cleveland’s secondary just isn’t talented enough to stifle the franchise quarterback. Cleveland’s offense however, is it’s real weakness. The team’s carrousel of quarterbacks haven’t played well all season, while the running game has been hot and cold week after week. Detroit should win this game handily.
Score prediction: Detroit 31 - Cleveland 10
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2) at Indianapolis Colts (3-6) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS
T.Y. Hilton is a special weapon, there’s no doubt about that. It’s the Colts’ inconsistency in getting him the ball that’s become the problem. Jacoby Brissett has shown flashes of talent with his athleticism and strong arm, but the young passer’s inexperience shines through far too often, leading to costly turnovers and sacks. Facing an offense that is able to capitalize on opportunities from turnovers and good field position, such as the one lead by Big Ben and Le’Veon Bell, will likely prove to be too much for Indianapolis. The Steelers’ rapidly improving defense won’t make things any easier on Chuck Pagano and Co.
Score prediction: Pittsburgh 33 - Indianapolis 21
Los Angeles Chargers (3-5) at Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS
This is one of my favorite matchups of the week. Jacksonville finally snapped it’s on-and-off streak last week with a second consecutive win. The Chargers haven’t been too shabby either in recent weeks. After losing four straight games to open the season, Los Angeles knocked out three wins before just barely falling to the New England Patriots.
This game will come down to whether or not the Chargers can contain Leonard Fournette. While Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram have formed a fearsome pass rush duo, Los Angeles’ run defense has not matched the productivity of its pass rush. If Fournette finds too many open holes, Jacksonville will find ways to win the time-of-possession battle and keep the ball out of Philip Rivers’ hands.
Score prediction: Jacksonville 26 - Los Angeles 20
New Orleans Saints (6-2) at Buffalo Bills (5-3) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX
The Bills were one of the hottest teams in the league before failing to show up to their Thursday night contest against the division rival Jets last week. Bouncing back against the streaking Saints will be a challenge for sure. Drew Brees finally has a supporting cast that can help him overcome opponents without needing to put up 400 passing yards each and every week. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have quickly formed into the best one-two punch at the running back position, while Sean Peyton’s defense has learned how to get off the field.
As evidenced by their loss last week, the Bills are not built to be a comeback team. If Buffalo wants any shot at a victory, Tyrod Taylor will need to find a way to launch into an early victory and salt the game away with LeSean McCoy. I just don’t see the Saints letting that happen.
Score prediction: New Orleans 28 - Buffalo 24
New York Jets (4-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS
Jameis Winston has officially been shut down for the next few weeks, which means that Ryan Fitzpatrick will be squaring off against his former team this Sunday. Fitzmagic led the Jets to a solid 10-6 season before melting down just one year later, leading to his dismissal from the Big Apple. The Harvard graduate is a capable backup who can win games in a pinch, but if the Bucs were struggling under Winston, there’s little reason to believe Fitzpatrick will be able to come in and suddenly save the day. As long as Tampa Bay’s defense continues to falter as much as it has in recent weeks, the Bucs will have trouble winning any games at all.
Score prediction: New York 24 - Tampa Bay 17
Minnesota Vikings (6-2) as Washington Redskins (4-4) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX
The fact that the Vikings are 6-2 with a backup quarterback is extremely impressive. Case Keenum has played well in Sam Bradford’s absence, but it’s this team’s defense that has carried the biggest load. Now, Teddy Bridgewater is finally healthy enough to play football and will be present on game day, albeit as a backup to Keenum. It’s only a matter of time before Bridgewater takes over, and it’s truly a miracle that he was able to recover from such a gruesome injury in the first place.
As for Washington, their problems lie at the wide receiver position. Promising pass catcher Terrelle Pryor has quickly flamed out in our nation’s capital while ever-injured tight end Jordan Reed is... you guessed it... injured. Kirk Cousins will need to work some magic to overcome Minnesota’s battle tested defense.
Score prediction: Minnesota 26 - Washington 16
Cincinnati Bengals (3-5) at Tennessee Titans (5-3) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX
Marcus Mariota is getting healthier by the week, meaning teams will need to begin accounting for his rushing ability. After a slow start, the Titans are beginning to look like the playoff contender that many prognosticators anticipated they’d be. Cincinnati’s defense may be equipped to put up a fight, but it’s offense is not. The Bengals’ offense ranks last in the league in total yards per game. A team facing Mariota and Tennessee’s dynamic rushing duo needs to put up points, and the Bengals just don’t have the wherewithal to do so.
Score prediction: Tennessee 28 - Cincinnati 14
Houston Texans (3-5) at Los Angeles Rams (6-2) - 4:05 PM ET on CBS
Poor Houston fans. The city got to celebrate a World Series victory for just a few hours before learning about the devastating injury suffered by their newly minted franchise quarterback. Here’s to hoping he makes a speedy recovery.
One thing about the NFL though, is that no matter who goes down, the season goes on. Deshaun Watson’s absence is a real hit for this Texans team though, as the offense isn’t nearly as dangerous with Tom Savage running the show. With the Rams rolling over every opponent in sight, the outlook of this contest isn’t looking too bright for Houston.
Score prediction: Los Angeles 35 - Houston 17
Dallas Cowboys (5-3) - at Atlanta Falcons (4-4) - 4:25 PM ET on FOX
The Cowboys churned out an impressive victory over the Kansas City Chiefs last week, proving that they are going to be in contention for a deep playoff run later this season. The murky situation regarding their uber-talented running back makes projecting the outcome of this game difficult though. If Ezekiel Elliott sits, the Cowboys will need to put the weight of their offense on the shoulders of Dak Prescott, though the rookie has proved he can carry a load in the past.
The Falcons offensive predicament may be even more confounding than Zeke’s legal case. With most of their pieces returning from last season, why can’t Matt Ryan and Julio Jones score with as much consistency? Losing Kyle Shanahan is the easy answer, but the fact remains that historical production is difficult to maintain.
Score prediction: Dallas 31 - Atlanta 27
New York Giants (1-7) San Francisco 49ers (0-9) - 4:25 PM ET on FOX
I’m just going to come out and say it... the 49ers get their first win of the season here. The Giants practically quit on their head coach last week in what turned out to be an absolute thrashing at the hands of the Rams. Eli Manning just isn’t what he used to be, nor is Big Blue’s defense. I’m betting on Kyle Shanahan to get Carlos Hyde running wild in this game on the way to San Francisco’s first victory of 2017.
Score prediction: San Francisco 21 - New York 20
New England Patriots (6-2) at Denver Broncos (3-5) - 8:30 PM ET on NBC
When the 2017 season schedule was released, this looked like one of the best primetime games on tap for the year. Over the past few weeks however, Denver has fallen flat on both sides of the ball, culminating in one of the worst losses of the entire season against Carson Wentz and the Eagles. With the Patriots getting into their annual mid-season stride, I doubt Brock Osweiler puts up much of a fight here. I see Tom Brady throwing for 300+ yards, three touchdowns, and the Patriots defense forcing three turnovers. Let’s give the Patriots 33 points just to keep the theme going.
Score prediction: New England 33 - Denver 16
Miami Dolphins (4-4) at Carolina Panthers (6-3) - 8:30 PM ET on ESPN
Do I know the audience that reads my articles given the name of the website I write for? Yes. Does that mean it’s fair for me to predict a Miami win here? Unfortunately, no. The Dolphins put up a real tough fight against the Raiders last week, but the Panthers are an entirely different beast, especially on defense.
I certainly think the Dolphins has a shot if the team avoids going completely cold as they have in recent weeks, but Jay Cutler will need to put up another impressive performance and Kenyan Drake will need to continue to produce on the ground. The trick here will be putting pressure on Cam Newton, as well as making sure that whoever plays right tackle, especially if it’s not Ja’Wuan James (who’s suffering from a hamstring injury), plays better than Sam Young did last week.
Score prediction: Carolina 27 - Miami 21