Oct 20, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) reacts after throwing a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter during the game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field. The Packers beat the Bears 26-10. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
If you’ve somehow avoided elimination in your survivor pool, here are stone cold locks for NFL Week 9.
In NFL Week 8, I went 2-1 with my locks as the New England Patriots roughed up the Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Cowboys came back to beat the Philadelphia Eagles. I defy you to show me the person who thought the Minnesota Vikings would lose by 10 to the Chicago Bears. The Vikings are in somewhat of a tailspin as they suffered their second straight defeat and their offensive coordinator Norv Turner “resigned”.
Week 9 has four games that have a point spread of seven-or-more points and you should feel supremely confident about three of them. However, there are four or five games you should stiff-arm.
The first favorite to ignore is the Atlanta Falcons over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Yes, Tampa’s a mess at home, but they did beat the Falcons in Week 1. Second is Minnesota over the Detroit Lions. With so much upheaval on the offensive side of the ball, the Vikings are a scary pick—even if they’re facing a below average pass defense.
Third is the Miami Dolphins over the New York Jets. Both teams are completely unpredictable. Last is the San Diego Chargers over the Tennessee Titans. Chargers are great at home. However, the Titans have one of the best offensive lines in the game and a respectable defense.
The one game that had me on the fence is the Kansas City Chiefs over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags have largely been a disappointment, specifically on offense. That ineffectiveness caused them to fire their offensive coordinator. How can anyone expect them to play any better at Arrowhead? Well, Jacksonville still has a hungry defense and Nick Foles will start at quarterback for KC. Could be upset city.
Oct 30, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) celebrates his game tying touchdown in the fourth quarter with receiver Dez Bryant (88) against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas Cowboys over Cleveland Browns
The Cowboys are one bone-headed play away in Week 1 from being undefeated on the season. Dak Prescott has put to bed any notion of taking a seat in favor of a healthy Tony Romo. The NFL’s rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott has garnered comparisons to all-time NFL rushing leader Emmitt Smith, with some saying Zeke is better! Dez Bryant’s return hasn’t disrupted the apple cart so far.
Dallas continues to lead the league in rushing yards per game as they’ve ripped off nearly five yards per carry. Cleveland’s run defense has given up 143.8 rushing yards per game (second worst in NFL) and 4.8 yards per carry (third worst overall). Cleveland’s rush offense has owned a similar yards per attempt average to Dallas’. However, Browns ball carriers have fumbled the ball 14 times, which is tied for third most in the league.
Both offenses have similar passing yards per game, but Prescott has done a phenomenal job of protecting the pigskin by only throwing two interceptions. Dak’s tied for the third lowest interception percentage in the NFL.
Why? Because Prescott doesn’t face much pressure—the Cowboys O-line has only allowed 11 sacks (tied for second fewest league-wide)—and when he does get pressured, he’s shown a superb ability to move, shuffle, and scramble. He shouldn’t face much heat against a Browns pass defense that’s only managed 14 sacks and a QB rating of 103.4, second worst only to the Lions.
On the other hand, the Browns offensive line has allowed 22 sacks, third most in the league. Cleveland’s quarterbacks have thrown nine interceptions, tied for third most overall. Their 78 QB rating is sixth worst among all teams. Though the Dallas pass defense hasn’t been outstanding, they should be able to handle Josh McCown.
The Browns made waves this week by trading for Patriots outside linebacker Jamie Collins. The 2015 Pro Bowler has put up decent stats on paper, but has been ripped apart on film for his sloppy play. Regardless, Collins is an upgrade for Cleveland defense allowing a league-high 238 points (29.75 points per game) and 6.4 yards per play (second worst in NFL).
The Cowboys score on 48.6% of offensive drives (second best league-wide) and are favored by 7 points on the road.
The Packers suffered a back-breaking one-point loss the Falcons in Week 8. Aaron Rodgers can take out his frustrations on a Colts pass defense that’s allowed opposing quarterbacks to earn a rating of 103.1, third worst in the league. That Indy unit has allowed the second most passing yards per game and has only snagged two interceptions, worst in the NFL.
While the Packers pass offense has lacked punch, they’ve been able to punch it in when inside the opponent’s 20 thanks to Jordy Nelson. Though Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery are questionable, Davante Adams has stepped up.
No one has been sacked more than Andrew Luck this season. The fifth-year signal-caller has been taken down 31 times, which is six more than the next quarterback in that category. Green Bay’s pass defense has the fourth highest sack percentage in the NFL, so they should consistently get to Luck, even if Clay Matthews can’t go. Both Phillip Dorsett and T.Y. Hilton are questionable, so expect Jack Doyle and Donte Moncrief to pick up the slack.
Neither squad runs the ball all that well, thought the ageless one, Frank Gore, has helped the Colts rush offense to the third highest expected points contributed league-wide, according to Pro Football Reference. However, Green Bay’s rush defense has been unbelievable, allowing only 74.4 yards per game, 3.3 yards per carry, and two touchdowns. Not to mention, a good chunk of rushing yardage comes via Luck’s scrambles, which most likely won’t happen at Lambeau.
The Packers rush offense has been plagued by fumbles, amassing 14, which is tied for third worst. Whoever totes the rock for Green Bay could have a career day as Indy’s allowed 114.8 yards per game, seven touchdowns, and 4.5 yards per attempt.
Indianapolis has allowed 230 points (third most in league) and 6.2 yards per play (tied for third most) while the Packers score on 43.2 percent of offensive drives, which is tied for fourth best league-wide.
If this were at Indy, I’d give the Colts a fighting chance, but, at Lambeau, the Packers are favored by 7 points.
Coming off a huge win at home against the Seattle Seahawks, Drew Brees and the Saints hit up San Fran to try to even their record at 4-4 and gain ground in the NFC South. Brees has thrown the second most touchdowns in the league behind Matt Ryan and owns the second highest completion percentage behind Tom Brady. Though the Niners pass defense hasn’t allowed a lot of yardage through the air, they have allowed the third highest touchdown percentage in the league.
The 49ers pass offense has been the worst in the league, averaging 161.4 yards per game, a QB rating of 68.6 and a 3.3 percent interception rate, tied for third worst overall. San Fran quarterbacks get sacked on 7.4 percent of attempts, which is fourth highest league-wide. The Saints pass defense hasn’t been much better, having totaled just three picks and 10 sacks.
New Orleans’ ground game has been considerably subpar, averaging 88.3 yards per game and 3.6 yards per attempt. But, Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower should stack up serious stats against the 49ers run defense, which is the worst in the NFL. That unit has allowed 185.1 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry.
While San Fran has the fourth highest rushing yards per game average, Carlos Hyde is hurt. The Saints run defense is tied for most rushing touchdowns allowed with the Washington Redskins. Should the Niners get into goal line situations, they should be able to score on the ground. Nawlins should stack the box and force the 49ers to throw.
The Saints score on 45.5 percent of offensive drives (third best in NFL) and are favored by 3 points on the road.
This has the potential to be a blowout. Seattle’s steamed after losing to the Saints in New Orleans and they’ll look to vent against a depleted Buffalo team that’s banged up at running back and wide receiver.
Seattle’s pass defense has the fourth highest sack percentage and opposing quarterbacks have the sixth lowest QB rating. Despite not forcing many turnovers, the Seattle defense has allowed 4.9 yards per play, which is third best overall. Moreover, they’ve only conceded 109 points, which is second least in the NFL. Buffalo’s pass offense has averaged 179.4 yards per game (second worst in league), and allowed sacks on 7.5 percent of pass attempts, which is tied for fourth worst in the NFL. The Bills will have Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, and recently un-retired Percy Harvin lining up at wideout.
After a monumental rushing attack in Week 7 against the Miami Dolphins that totaled more than 250 yards, the Bills got stonewalled against New England in Week 8 without LeSean McCoy or Reggie Bush. Both backs are listed as questionable for Week 9. Seattle’s run defense has only allowed 3.4 yards per attempt, good enough for second best in the NFL.
The Seahawks have been unable to get their ground game going, but could find room to rumble against an average Bills run defense. If Seattle’s offense struggles, it will be due to Buffalo’s pass defense, which leads the league in sack percentage and is tied for most sacks league-wide. Luckily, Russell Wilson has only been sacked on 4.5 percent of pass attempts, which is sixth lowest overall.