Week 9 of the NFL season promises to be fun. We have the defending champion Denver Broncos heading to the Bay Area to take on the 6-2 Oakland Raiders. Think about that last part of the sentence for a second.
Who is going to come out on top there? Will the Raiders step up and prove their worth among the league’s best? That’s among the top 10 bold predictions for NFL Week 9.
1. Bills come out of Seattle with a much-needed win
There’s a lot pointing to a Bills upset of the Seahawks on Monday Night Football in Seattle. Despite inconsistency on that side of the ball thus far this season, Buffalo’s defense is yielding an average of just 15 points per game in four road contests. On the other hand, Seattle is averaging just 13 points in its past two contests. These are trends that might point in favor of the visiting team.
In terms of this specific matchup, we really like what Buffalo might be able to do from a pass-rush standpoint. It’s tied with Denver for the most sacks (26) in the NFL. It is also taking on a Seahawks offensive that has allowed the fourth-highest pressure percentage in the entire league.
With Russell Wilson far from 100 percent and struggling to do anything of substance (five touchdowns in seven games), Seattle needs to find a way to protect him. Unfortunately for the home team, that’s unlikely to happen Monday night. It’s in this that we project an upset for the Bills in front of a nationally televised audience.
2. Dez Bryant puts up 200-plus yards and two scores
Bryant finally found the connection with Dak Prescott last week. He caught four passes for 113 yards, including the game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Interestingly, it took Bryant to be targeted 13 times to break through against an Eagles pass defense that came into Week 8 ranked in the top five of the NFL.
That’s not going to be a problem going up against a Cleveland Browns defense that’s been absolutely torched through the air during the team’s 0-8 start to the season.
Cleveland enters Week 9 ranked 25th against the pass and is yielding a 103.4 quarterback rating. Heck, opposing receivers are averaging 15.7 yards per catch against the Browns this season.
Look for Bryant to break out big time en route to leading the Cowboys to an expected blowout of the hapless Browns. We wouldn’t be surprised to see him put up 10-plus catches for 200-plus yards and multiple scores.
3. Jared Goff throws first touchdown on initial NFL possession
The rookie No. 1 overall pick received first-team reps during the Los Angeles Rams’ bye week. While head coach Jeff Fisher indicated this was simply for Goff to see action and take advantage of the week off, there could definitely be more to this.
Los Angeles is in the midst of a three-game losing streak that has seen the team turn the ball over eight times. Heck, starting quarterback Case Keenum threw four interceptions in the team’s most-recent defeat against the New York Giants in London back in Week 7.
Set to take on a Carolina Panthers squad that’s coming off a blowout win over the Arizona Cardinals, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see the Rams get blown out in this one. If so, Goff should make his NFL debut. When that does happen, we’re projecting the CAL product to take advantage of his recent run with the first team and throw a touchdown in his first possession as a pro.
4. Nick Foles dominates, creates quarterback controversy in Kansas City
The last time Alex Smith missed a game with a concussion, he never started another game with that team. Instead, Smith was shipped off from the San Francisco 49ers to Kansas City immediately after Colin Kaepernick led that squad to a conference title.
Now, after leading his team to a 5-2 start to the season, Smith is sitting after suffering another concussion. Does this ring a bell? It should, Smith led the 49ers to a 6-2-1 record back in 2012 before being “benched” in favor of Kaepernick.
No one is here saying that’s going to happen again. What we do know is that Nick Foles takes over for Smith after completing 16-of-22 passes with two touchdowns last week against Indy.
Set to take on the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars at home on Sunday we should expect a big game from Foles. If so, there will assuredly be a media-created quarterback controversy in Kansas City heading into Week 10.
5. Bryce Petty replaces an ineffective Ryan Fitzpatrick in Jets loss
The New York Jets have won two consecutive games after a disastrous 1-5 start to the season. During that span, Fitzpatrick has actually avoided the turnover bug that plagued him in the first month-plus of the season. It’s a turnover bug that actually saw him benched in favor of the now injured Geno Smith.
Can we really expect Fitz to continue this mistake-free level of football? One would think so considering his Week 9 opponent, the Miami Dolphins, have forced a total of six turnovers in seven games.
That’s until we realize that seven of Fizpatrick’s 11 interceptions on the season have come on the road.
Adding more to this, Miami has actually found a way to put up two consecutive wins, both against playoff-level competition in the form of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills.
Look for Fitzpatrick to be picked off three times in the first three quarters before being benched in favor of the only other realistic quarterback option on the Jets’ roster. And while it won’t be enough for the Jets to pull off the win, Petty might show enough to earn the starting job.
6. Marcus Mariota adds four more touchdowns in blowout of Chargers
The San Diego Chargers have actually performed well against the pass without top corner Jason Verrrett. That’s extremely surprising considering the rest of its corner group consists of a washed up Brandon Flowers and a player in Casey Hayward that was jettisoned from Green Bay quicker than a Viking fan mocking Aaron Rodgers.
Thus far on the season, the Chargers are yielding an 83.2 quarterback rating to opposing signal callers. That’s good. Really good. That’s also going to change at home Week 9 against a quarterback in Marcus Mariota who has been dominant recently.
Marcus Mariota last four games: 68.8 comp %, 11 TD, 1 INT, 117.0 rating. pic.twitter.com/iOloTaHMI0
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) November 2, 2016
Look for Mariota to continue this stellar recent play. It won’t likely all come through the air, but his feet have proven to be an asset thus far during his young career. This year alone, Mariota is averaging nearly seven yards per rush and is just 32 yards from surpassing his rushing total from his rookie campaign.
On the other hand, the Chargers are yielding just 3.8 yards per rush and rank in the top six in that category in the NFL. This seems to be an indication that San Diego will be able to contain the two-headed running back monster of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.
If so, expect Mariota to take the game into his own hands, both through the air and on the ground. That will lead to four-plus touchdowns and a blowout win for the Titans. Book it.
7. Raiders drop 30 on Broncos, win by double digits
During their two-game win streak, the Oakland Raiders are averaging 31.5 points and 485 yards per game. Sure that’s come against the likes of Jacksonville and Tampa Bay, but this doesn’t mean it’s not an indication the 6-2 Raiders are clicking on all cylinders.
Flush with an MVP candidate at quarterback, two 1,000-yard receivers and one of the best pass-protecting offensive lines in the NFL, Oakland’s offense is among the most-dynamic in the NFL. And in reality, a lot of this has to do with Derek Carr’s performance under center.
Set to take on the league’s top defense Sunday night in Oakland, the Raiders find themselves at a crossroads. Will they be nothing more than wildcard contenders heading down the stretch or is this a legitimate title conference contender?
Expect the Raiders to answer this question in a resounding home win over the defending champion Denver Broncos. Aqib Talib is likely out for this huge AFC West battle, meaning that both Chris Harris and Bradley Roby will be moved up a notch.
It’s in this that the Raiders take full advantage in a 34-17 win over a Broncos squad that lost its last road date against San Diego back in Week 6.
8. Everson Griffen records three sacks of Matthew Stafford
It might be all about Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith and Anthony Barr on defense for the Minnesota Vikings, but Griffen may in fact be their best player on that side of the ball.
He’s among the league leaders in both quarterback hurries and hits from the 4-3 end position heading into Week 9. He’s been an absolutely dominating force since signing a five-year, $42.5 million extension back in March of 2014.
In order for the Vikings to break their current two-game losing streak, they have to place consistent pressure on Matthew Stafford. If that happens, it’s not improbable to believe Stafford himself will make a couple mistakes against one of the top secondaries in the NFL.
This is where Griffen’s matchup against rookie left tackle Taylor Decker comes into play. Decker has performed pretty well through eight weeks, but he’s had his lapses here and there. None more noticeable than a Week 3 loss to the Green Bay Packers when he allowed a sack and multiple pressures on Stafford.
Look for Griffen to take advantage of this plus-level matchup and come out of this game exposing Decker for the wide-eyed rookie that he is. In the process, expect Minnesota to break its mini two-game slump.
9. 49ers send Saints back to the bayou with a loss
San Francisco is riding a six-game losing streak. It is allowing 200-plus rushing yards per game during that streak. On the other hand, New Orleans has won three of its past four after starting the season 0-3. So why would we predict the hapless 49ers to win this game? Well, there’s a lot of factors working in favor of Chip Kelly’s squad here.
Drew Brees has been nowhere near as good on the road as he’s been at home this season.
Given drastic home/road splits, Drew Brees should rely more on Tim Hightower in San Francisco pic.twitter.com/Jmp3dDxNdu
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) October 31, 2016
Sure Brees has played well on the road, but his team is averaging 10 points less on the road than at home. For the struggling 49ers, they are being outscored by an average of two points at home. In comparison, San Francisco is losing by an average 22.3 points on the road.
Look for Chip Kelly’s team to come out of its bye and lay the hammer down on the Saints, pretty much squashing New Oreans’ playoff hopes in the process.
10. Andrew Luck leads Colts to win at Lambeau
Chuck Pagano’s job is on the line. Really, this isn’t a drill. A loss here by the Indianapolis Colts would drop his squad to 3-6 on the year and completely out of the playoff race in the AFC. This, as the team heads into a bye. We know when coaches are normally canned, as does Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
As we have seen with Luck throughout this season, he steps up when it matters. When Indy started the season with an 0-2 record, Luck responded by completing 24-of-37 passes for 331 yards in a late-game win over San Diego. Following a loss to Jacksonville the next week, Luck put up 322 yards and two score in a win over Chicago.
When the tough gets going, Luck responds. With Indy facing a season-defining game it’s time for him to step up. Look for that to continue Sunday.