As we reach the midway point of the season in Primetime, the NFL playoff picture is beginning to take shape.
With the trade deadline now behind us, each team has now finalized their 53-man rosters for the remainder of the NFL season, with some blockbuster trades occurring just hours before the cut-off point.
The deadline saw the Miami Dolphins bolster their Super Bowl hopes by adding Broncos pass rusher Bradley Chubb and running-back Jeff Wilson Jr., which was seemingly a knock-on result of the Christian McCaffrey trade to the 49ers.
Meanwhile, in the NFC, the Chicago Bears also remained active by trading away star linebacker Roquan Smith to the Baltimore Ravens, before acquiring wide-receiver Chase Claypool from the latter’s Divisional rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With week 9 now upon us, it’s the last chance saloon for some teams that many thought would be nailed on for a play-off berth come January.
Find out who we think is primed for icy-cold November football, as we predict all week 9 games…Embed from Getty Images
TNF: Eagles @ Texans
Thursday Night Football has come under huge scrutiny this year due to some exceptionally lackluster match-ups (Colts-Broncos, Commanders-Bears, only to name a few).
This week’s edition could arguably be proclaimed as the best team in football vs. the worst, with the 7-0 Philadelphia Eagles traveling south to face the 1-5-1 Houston Texans.
Jalen Hurts is continuing to prove doubters wrong after throwing for a season-high 4 TDs, as he and the Eagles comfortably disposed of cross-state rivals Pittsburgh last Sunday.
The former Oklahoma QB is now only second behind Josh Allen in the outright odds to win this year’s MVP and is showing no signs of slowing down, with this fixture being as winnable as they come.
The addition of defensive-end Robert Quinn has strengthened their already supreme defense, meaning it’s become almost impossible to poke any holes in this Eagles’ arsenal.
With a +14 turnover differential (more than double to second-best), this Philadelphia defense is simply impregnable, as well as their high-power offense which is spearheaded by former Titan AJ Brown.
Without a doubt, Nick Sirianni’s team is one of the surprise packages in the league this season, but when you look at the statistics, it’s not a surprise at all.
The Texans on the other hand, are priming themselves for the #1 overall pick in next year’s draft.
Lovie Smith’s team simply does not score enough points, as they remain tied last alongside Denver and Pittsburgh on touchdowns scored, with only 11 thus far.
Any optimism around Davis Mills has truly been wiped away, although much of the blame resides in the fact that the second-year QB’s best receiving threats consist of Brandin Cooks and OJ Howard, who both combine for a total of 3 touchdowns this season.
Derrick Henry was once again a nightmare for Houston this past weekend when he rushed for 219 yards and 2 TDs against the worst team in the league when it comes to stopping the run.Embed from Getty Images
Aside from that, however, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it’s going so wrong for the Texans, as they possess an average pass rush and a respectable O-line on the stat sheet.
Perhaps it’s just a general lack of confidence surrounding the franchise at the moment, as they’ve genuinely failed to recover from the Deshaun Watson mess.
Overall, it looks like a franchise that is simply hitting the reset button and one that can’t wait for the season to be over already.
Prediction: Eagles 33 Texans 7Embed from Getty Images
Bills @ Jets
Despite the Philadelphia Eagles’ rise to perfection, the Buffalo Bills remain the undisputed favorites to win Super Bowl LVII.
On paper, the Bills have had one of the toughest schedules in the NFL, yet somehow find themselves at an awe-inspiring 6-1, thanks to the work of leading MVP candidate, Josh Allen.
The 6′ 5″ quarterback has thrown for 2,198 yards and 19 TDs, only being pipped by his seemingly new nemesis, a man who he defeated at Arrowhead only a few weeks back, Patrick Mahomes.
Mahomes and Allen seem to be in a league of their own when we compare them to the rest of the quarterbacks in the AFC, which reminisces back to what we as fans got to experience with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning for many years.
It almost feels like the pair are destined to meet again in the post-season, and probably in the AFC championship game.
With that being said, much of the praise also deserves to go to the receiving core, with former Viking Stefon Diggs leading the league alongside Travis Kelce in receiving TDs with 7.
All of this without mentioning his fellow wideouts Gabe Davis and Isaiah McKenzie, who Allen himself has clearly installed a lot of faith into.
Sean McDermott’s defense has also played a major part in the team’s success, as they currently lead the league in interceptions, as well as only allowing 1,422 yards through the air and 665 on the ground after 7 games (4th and 3rd best in the league respectively).
The only potential weakness the Bills possess is their apparent reliance on Allen, particularly in the running game.
However, the recent addition of Nyheim Hines from the Colts is evidently an attempt to change that.
The Jets’ four-game winning run came to an abrupt end last week at the hands of their in-division foes, the New England Patriots.Embed from Getty Images
Head Coach Robert Saleh said he’s ‘not worried’ about Zach Wilson becoming distracted after taking a virtual beating on social media, following the QB’s outrageous sideline interception that was thrown during the 22-17 home defeat.
Despite Wilson’s 300+ yards and 2 TD stat line, the Jets seem to compete when the second-year man doesn’t throw the ball over 300 yards, having won each game where the former BYU man has limited throwing attempts.
The Jets were able to put up 40 points against Miami a few weeks ago, with Wilson throwing the ball only 21 times, as well as an impressive victory at Lambeau, having only attempted 18 throws.
Regardless of the defeat to Belichick and the Pats, the Jets are clearly overperforming this year and still sit with a respectable record of 5-3.
Wilson has relied on his namesake and 10th overall pick, Garrett Wilson, whose been a standout at wide receiver thus far, as well as the ever-reliable Corey Davis.
The addition of James Robinson from the Jaguars is also a welcoming inclusion for their ground game, who will now join Breece Hall and Michael Carter in the running back position.
The Jets are also middle of the pack in most team statistics, which goes to show that they are a well-rounded team with no real eye-catching weaknesses.
Unfortunately, their next opponents are another divisional rival, only with a much more capable offense that put up 45 points the last time they visited MetLife Stadium to face the Jets.
Expect a spirited display from Wilson and co., but the Bills should take this one without a sweat.
Prediction: Bills 31 Jets 15Embed from Getty Images
Rams @ Buccaneers
Marcus Mariota, Andy Dalton and P.J. Walker.
Not to take anything away from Brady’s breathtaking career (or the 3 mentioned above), but if the 6-time Super Bowl champion can’t win a division with these 3 as his main adversaries, then it might just be time to hang up the cleats for good.
Tampa Bay has been a shadow of its former self this year, and no one can put a finger on what’s going wrong.
Things were looking up when Brady led the Bucs down the field for a touchdown on their first offensive drive against Baltimore last week but struggled to gain any real momentum after, having failed to score again until the 4th-quarter.
Lamar and the Ravens were able to take control of the game by dominating time of possession, which saw Todd Bowles’s defense give up 231 yards on the ground.
The loss was the first time in Brady’s 22-year-long career that ‘the GOAT’ has tasted defeat 3 games in a row.
The loss of Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen has clearly hurt Tampa, but there is more bad news for the offensive line now that guards Shaq Mason and Luke Goedeke are out indefinitely.
Mike Evans’ limited participation in practice due to an ankle injury is also a worry, while Julio Jones, Cameron Brate, and Russell Gage Jr. are all still sidelined for the upcoming battle with LA, leaving Brady with a very thin receiving core.
The defense is getting healthier, however, with Sean Murphy-Bunting and Akiem Hicks returning from injury, although safety Antoine Winfield Jr. still faces concussion protocol.
Much like Buffalo, the overreliance on their quarterback is something to worry about, as only Joe Burrow has thrown for more yards this year than 45-year-old Tom Brady.
The Bucs are also having a grievous time on the ground, as they only average 3 yards per carry when running the football, which ranks worst out of all 32 teams.
The only team that has rushed for fewer yards through 9 games is their opponents this week.
The reigning Super Bowl champions are another team that, for whatever reason, just doesn’t look right.Embed from Getty Images
Following the loss at home to divisional rivals the 49ers last week, Sean McVay is now 3-9 against his former colleague Kyle Shanahan.
As mentioned earlier, no one struggles to run the football more than the Rams, as Cam Akers has looked nothing like the player we seen towards the end of last year.
The retirement of sure-to-be Hall of Fame tackle Andrew Whitworth has been a gaping loss for the offensive line, which probably suggests how good of a run-blocker the 40-year-old was for this team.
Of course, the ever-present Aaron Donald is still causing headaches for offensive lines up and down the league, but it’s clear that the absence of Von Miller is allowing teams to focus solely on Donald, which of course results in the 3x Defensive Player of the Year being less effective.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson has also failed to live up to his hype, showing that the decision not to re-sign Odell Beckham Jr. has proved that a number 2 receiver is just as important as a number 1.
Speaking of number 1 receivers, it will be music to Rams fans’ ears that the injury sustained by Cooper Kupp at the end of last week’s game is not as serious as we had initially thought, but it is still doubtful that Stafford’s favourite target will kit-out this weekend against Tampa Bay.
McVay spoke of his regret to risk such an injury in a game that was seemingly over.
With a record of 3-4, Geno Smith’s re-birth for Seattle, and the 49er’s possible upside with McCaffrey and returning stars from injury, a loss here would be detrimental to McVay’s play-off hopes.
Despite both teams clearly being out of sync, this is still one of, if not, the game of the week.
Personally, this prediction solely weighs on whether or not Cooper Kupp plays, and my gut is telling me he doesn’t.
Bucs to win in a very close game.
Prediction: Rams 20 Buccaneers 21Embed from Getty Images
SNF: Titans @ Chiefs
The Chiefs will come into Sunday Night Football fully prepared after enjoying a week off thanks to the bye.
Since his days coaching the Eagles, Andy Reid’s 20-3 record after a bye is nothing short of spectacular, and he will look to add another win to that prestigious statistic.
However, it’s worth noting that the Chiefs have only beaten the Titans twice since Reid took over the reins in 2013, which certainly presents Mike Vrabel’s gang as one of KC’s bogey teams.
Patrick Mahomes on the other hand does not care about records or statistics, as the 27-year-old continues to play football at the highest level possible.
Despite the heart-wrenching defeat to Buffalo in week 6, the Chiefs bounced back with an eye-catching performance and victory on the road over the 49ers, the team they defeated in Super Bowl LIV.
Mahomes threw for an impressive 423 yards and 3 TDs on their way to victory over Jimmy G’s Niners, with new weapons JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling both chipping in for 100+ yard games.
The thing we perhaps admire most about Mahomes is how he gets the entire offense involved and doesn’t always rely on his number 1 target, in this case, Travis Kelce.
The spreading of the ball around is apparently working to their advantage, as the Chiefs rank first in offensive scoring with 28 total TDs.
Rookie Isiah Pacheco has also enjoyed early life as a Chief, as he and Clyde Edwards-Helaire have shared many of the running snaps so far this season, with Mecole Hardman picking up the pieces within the wild-cat formation, something Tyreek Hill flourished at under OC Eric Bieniemy.
Even though the defense is culpable of giving up yards through the air, only the Chief’s Sunday night opponents rank higher at stopping the run.
The Titans enjoyed another Derrick Henry masterclass at Houston on Sunday, a team in which ‘King Henry’ has now surpassed 200+ yards rushing against for the fourth time in a row, an NFL record.
In a game in which Henry was able to dominate, much of it can be contributed to the fact that 3rd round pick Malik Willis was forced into his debut due to the absence of Ryan Tannehill at QB.Embed from Getty Images
In spite of the win, Willis didn’t have the easiest of times under center, as he went 6/10 for 55 yards and an interception.
Mike Vrabel was keen on playing down the rookie’s performance by saying that there were some things that the former Liberty quarterback will have to get better at, albeit, no one will be expecting him to set the world alight at Arrowhead on Sunday night.
As we mentioned earlier, the Titans are the best team in the league when it comes to stopping the run, as they’ve only allowed 624 yards and 1 rushing TD all season.
There may be no true standout names on this Tennessee defense, but it seems that they work as a complete unit when it comes to forcing teams to throw the football.
Perhaps that has been their secret sauce since their sluggish start to the season, as they’re now undefeated in 5 games and improved their record to 5-2.
Unfortunately for them, however, Ryan Tannehill remains unavailable with an ankle injury for this week’s clash with the Chiefs on primetime.
Because of that, I can only see a Chiefs win here.
If the Chiefs can follow the trend in stopping Tennessee’s run game, they should have enough to prevent Willis from causing any real damage against KC’s secondary, and of course, enough on the other side to put up points.
Prediction: Titans 10 Chiefs 37Embed from Getty Images
MNF: Ravens @ Saints
The call for the ‘Ravens, Pay ‘Em Now!’ was loud and clear after last Thursday’s victory in Tampa Bay.
You feel it’s a matter of when will Lamar Jackson receive a new lucrative contract from the Ravens’ front office, rather than the question of will, as the 2019 MVP continues to show why he can be an effective quarterback in this league.
Lamar himself posted a 110.4 QBR in the win over the Bucs, while the defense was able to frustrate Tom Brady all night by keeping them scoreless through the 2nd and 3rd quarters.
Of course, it comes as no surprise that the Ravens are second in the league when it comes to rushing the football, as Lamar’s game has hugely been elevated by his ability to move around both in and out of the pocket.
Having said that, it seems Lamar is beginning to trust his young receivers even more as the weeks go on, as he was largely reliant on the seasoned tight-end Mark Andrews to provide him an out.
Despite losing his favorite wideout Rashod Bateman to injury and ‘Hollywood’ Brown to the Cardinals, the 25-year-old has found trust in the likes of Devin Duvernay, Isaiah Likely, and James Proche II, along with the likes of Kenyan Drake and Gus Edwards coming out of the backfield.
It may be all sunshine and rainbows in the offensive world, but the Ravens’ defense is still conceding way too many yards through the air.
Only the Falcons and the Steelers have allowed more passing yards than Harbaugh’s team, but the Ravens’ will be hoping that the addition of star linebacker Roquan Smith might help sway opponents from throwing in his direction.
In regards to the upcoming game with the New Orleans, Lamar will be without his best offensive lineman in Ronnie Staley, as well as number 1 running back Gus Edwards, who picked up a hamstring injury last week.Embed from Getty Images
Even though there was very little expectation on the Saints to do anything remotely positive this year, it’s fair to say that they’re another team in the NFC South (along with Atlanta) that is giving every bit as much as they’re getting.
Despite their 3-5 record, 4 of those losses have all resided in one-possession games, while the wins have all been in very impressive fashion, particularly blowing out a hopeless Raiders team 24-0 last week.
The Saints’ defense reduced Derek Carr to 101 yards and an INT, without even allowing the former Fresno State QB to pass midfield when Vegas’ offense took the field.
Alvin Kamara, at last, seems to be back to his magnificent best, as he was the recipient of all three touchdowns in the blow-out win.
3x Pro Bowler Andy Dalton has produced some splendid performances that even Brady himself would be proud of, as well as rookie receiver Chris Olave who continues to fill the shoes of Michael Thomas, who just can’t stay healthy.
And of course, let’s not forget the Taysom Hill effect, which continues to give defensive coordinators sleepless nights, as you just don’t know where the former quarterback is going to lineup when he’s on the field.
The Saints will be without cornerback Marshawn Lattimore yet again on Monday night but have been given some hope regarding Jarvis Landry and Adam Trautman in the receiving department.
Alongside LA at Tampa, this is probably the hardest game of the week to pick.
It seems every time I go against the Saints, I get egg on my face and I’m not sure I want to fall for that again.
This will be the 2nd consecutive game both on Primetime and on the road for Lamar and the Ravens, and I see this Saints offense giving that defense fits.
Upset Alert: Saints, but only just.
Prediction: Ravens 21 Saints 23Embed from Getty Images
Other Games (in a few words):
Panthers 13 Bengals 27 – Burrow and Bengals to bounce back
Packers 34 Lions 28 – Rodgers and co. finally learn from their mistakes
Colts 10 Patriots 21 – Ehlinger no match for Belichick’s defense
Chargers 26 Falcons 28 – Mariota to keep Falcons flying high
Raiders 14 Jaguars 20 – Lawrence and Jags best of a bad bunch
Dolphins 27 Bears 21 – Fields to be competitive, but Tua to be a step ahead
Vikings 34 Commanders 9 – Vikings to roll to an easy win in DC
Seahawks 20 Cardinals 21 – Cardinals to shock Smith and the high-flying Hawks
Week 5 upsets: Saints, Falcons & Cardinals over Ravens, Chargers & Seahawks