From a potential NFC Championship preview to a battle of all-time great quarterbacks, Breakout Live breaks down all the matchups for week 9 in the NFL.
Byes: Cardinals, Bengals, Colts, Jaguars, Giants, Eagles
Falcons @ Redskins
I’m riding a post-Halloween sugar high plus an 11-3 Week 8, but I can’t get too big for my britches. Falcons-Skins is a toughie right off the top, mostly because there’s no discernible advantage. The Falcons offense is high-flying, but their defense is thinner than a fly’s wings. Washington’s defense is really good, but their offense is as boring and predictable as they come. Both teams are on mini win streaks (WAS 3, ATL 2), but I like Atlanta coming off the bye. Desperation is a stinky cologne, and Atlanta has it lathered on. At 3-4, they need this game badly to stay in contention for a Wildcard spot – New Orleans and Carolina will put the division out of reach soon. Washington has a game-and-a-half lead in the NFC East, so they’re not feeling the heat quite yet and frankly, they excite me about as much as a pumpkin full of melted Almond Joys.
Lions @ Vikings
At 3-4, the Lions are just a game out of 1st in the NFC North and have a huge opportunity Sunday in a division matchup with Minnesota. So, why have they’ve given up on their season in Week 9? That’s the only explanation for trading your #1 receiver at the deadline despite being right in the thick of the division race. Not only that, but they traded Golden Tate to the Eagles, another NFC team who Detroit could very well be neck-and-neck with for a Wildcard spot. Look, the Lions weren’t going to win a Super Bowl this year, and maybe Tate, who’s a UFA at the end of this season, wasn’t going to stick around. But you can’t discount what winning games does for a fan base and a city – and you can’t win many games with WRs Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, Jr. as your 1-2, no matter how big of strides Golladay has made in 2018. Apologies to Minnesota, but I can’t ignore a team who decides to blow up their season midway through despite being only one game below .500.
Steelers @ Ravens
Another beaut of an AFC North matchup. And by “beaut,” I mean it in the way a Picasso is beautiful: a mish-mash of visuals with body parts all over the damn place. I love the AFC North. And while the Steelers played more like North Carolina early on, giving up college-level point totals on defense, they’ve looked much better the last few weeks and have won 3 straight. The Ravens, on the other hand, have looked like a true AFC North team, bludgeoning teams weekly with the #1 defense in the NFL. So, what gives in this one? It’ll have to be Joe Flacco against Pittsburgh’s leaky secondary. Flacco had his worst game of the year last week, and he’s only 11-12 vs. the Steelers all-time. But he’s also had some of his finest moments against them too, and he’s going to need to pull another one out of his McDonald’s bag in a must-win for Baltimore. Forget the Big Mac. Get a Big Win to go, Joe!
Chiefs @ Browns
Just when you think the Browns may actually turn the corner, they go full Browns. Head Coach Hue Jackson, fired. OC Todd Haley, fired. QB Baker Mayfield, not fired up about the situation but doing his best as a newly-minted leader. Mayfield said, “Bring it on,” this week when asked about the upheaval in Cleveland – oh, it’s about to be brought, Baker. There’s never a good time to fire your HC and OC when you’ve got a rookie QB, but it’s especially bad when you do it 8 games in, and it’s even worse when the top team in the AFC comes calling that same week. The last time Mayfield and Pat Mahomes played, it was a patented Big 12 bobsled race. 66-59 Oklahoma – Mayfield: 545 yds, 7 TDs… Mahomes: 734 yds, 5 TDs (+2 rushing TDs). It’ll be a similar-type shootout in C-town Sunday, except I expect the shooting to be vastly one-sided.
Jets @ Dolphins
A couple of former Pac-12 QBs meet up in Miami, with former USC Trojan Sam Darnold squaring off against former Arizona St. Sun Devil Brock Osweiler. Why is the college designation important? Because with both teams ravaged by injury, especially at WR, these two QBs will be playing alongside teammates who’ve probably seen a lot more action in the NCAA than the NFL. That doesn’t bode well for a game where the first iteration in Week 2 was a 20-12 snoozer won by the Dolphins. Neither USC or ASU are all that great this year, but I’d much rather watch them play each other than watch their alumni play point-starving football for perpetual 2nd place behind the Pats.
Bears @ Bills
The storyline with the Bills all year has been centered around their torrid QB situation, and it’ll be no different this Sunday with Josh Allen still out and Derek Anderson suffering a concussion late vs. the Pats. Nathan Peterman, aka the gift that keeps on giving to opposing defenses, is in line to start. If you have the Bears D in fantasy, you could probably clear your entire lineup and just start Chicago and you’d have a solid shot to win. Peterman said he’s “Ready to go win a game” this week – love the moxie, Nate, but I’m wondering if maybe you were misquoted. Pretty sure you meant you’re ready to “go win a game” for the Bears. I like those odds a lot better.
(Bonus: Nathan Peterman: 7-22, 61 yds, 4 INTs)
Bucs @ Panthers
I pretty much had this one penciled in as an easy win for Carolina a week ago, but then a funny thing happened: Jameis Winston tossed 4 picks against Cincy, got pulled for Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Fitz led a 16-point 4th quarter comeback to tie the game and nearly send it to OT. Now the Bucs are going to get a steady sprinkling of Fitzmagic moving forward as their new starter. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Tampa is better with Fitz at the helm. The team responds to him in a way they never have with Jameis, and it’s impossible to ignore. As for Carolina, they’re coming off their best performance of the season last week, trouncing the Ravens convincingly. Rookie WR D.J. Moore has started to look like the 1st round pick that he is, which is huge for a team that had gotten almost nothing from their receivers outside of Devin Funchess. I’m ready to see some Fitzmagic fireworks, but the Panthers are already on fire and they’ll keep it stoked this week at home.
Chargers @ Seahawks
This is a “prove it” game for the Chargers. I think they’re the 3rd best team in the AFC behind KC and New England, and they’ve been playing like it recently, winning 4 in a row going into their bye last week. Now they’ve got a tough road test in a loud environment against a sneaky good team in the Seahawks. The rest should’ve done RB Melvin Gordon’s hammy some good after missing the game two weeks ago in London, but the key for LA will be getting the ball to Keenan Allen. Allen has been productive, but he hasn’t seen the end zone since Week 1. That changes Sunday. For all their faults, Seattle still has the NFL’s 5th-ranked rushing attack and 5th-best total defense, plus they’re always tough at home. If Philip Rivers can find some holes in Seattle’s secondary and LA’s defense can at least contain Russell Wilson, then I think we have a legit AFC contender on our hands. If not, they’ll be just another also-ran.
Texans @ Broncos
Man, things can change in an instant in the NFL. The Texans have won 5 in a row, Deshaun Watson is hitting his stride, and they look like legit contenders. Then Will Fuller tears his ACL last on an underthrown deep ball and they appeared to have lost steam, even with the emergence of Keke (do you love me) Coutee. Buuut wait, here comes Demaryius Thomas as a gift from Denver for a 4th rounder, and suddenly they’re even better than they were before. And as fate would have it, Houston plays that very same Denver team this week. In other words, it won’t take long for the Texans or the Broncos to see what Thomas can do with a capable QB.
Rams @ Saints
The game of the week and a potential NFC Championship Game preview. I went out on a limb a bit and picked the Saints to win it at all in Breakout Live’s Mid-Season Predictions because I think their bend-but-don’t-break defense is just good enough to give the Rams fits, and because New Orleans’ offense can’t be stopped by anyone, including LA. We’ll find out a lot about both teams Sunday. Adding Dante Fowler at the trade deadline only bolsters a Rams pass rush that ranks first in the NFL in win rate, but Fowler only has 2 sacks this year. The quick release and pinpoint accuracy of Drew Brees will negate LA’s pass rush and wreak havoc on their underperforming secondary.
Packers @ Patriots
Sports pundits nationwide are taking the low-hanging fruit of the Brady-Rodgers comparison, and it’s already an exhausting narrative. They’re certainly two of the best to ever play the QB position, but the comparisons need to stop there. This game is about internal temperatures. The Packers’ team thermometer is sky-high after the Ty Montgomery debacle last week in LA, with the team’s “best players” voicing their displeasure with Montgomery’s motives, while others like All-Pro OT David Bakhtiari calling it BS that those players gave their opinions anonymously. Meanwhile, New England’s team temp is where it almost always is: a Beli-tick below freezing (that’s a good thing, if you’re wondering). Green Bay is talented, but who knows how things in locker room will affect their on-field play. I know this: Brady is going to have a field day with Green Bay’s untested secondary sans Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and you won’t hear a word about internal discord from Belichick’s gang afterward.
Titans @ Cowboys
Look, I like Amari Cooper. Clearly, Jerry Jones LOVES him. But how silly does Dallas feel after giving up a 1st round pick for Cooper, only to watch Golden Tate and Demaryius Thomas go to new teams for a 3rd rounder and 4th rounder (plus 7th round swap), respectively at the trade deadline? Jerrah won’t admit it, but he got hosed. Cooper will make some plays, but considering he didn’t make a ton in Oakland with a QB who’s a better thrower than Dak is, there’s little chance he’ll make enough to warrant what Dallas gave up. The Titans are reeling, but they still have one of the best pass defenses in the NFL. If Dallas fans are expecting an immediate breakout from Cooper, they’ll be left wanting this week. Luckily for them, they still have Zeke to run the rock, they’re at home, and the Titans can’t move the ball to save their lives.