Is Derek Carr and the Raiders for real? Pittsburgh will be dying to find out on Sunday.
By: Elias McMillan
Last Week: 9-5
Big Five Games of the Week
Miami @ Buffalo – Miami was starting to gain some serious momentum under new head coach Dan Campbell. That was until they ran into the Patriots last Thursday. Now, their confidence is shaken and they are suffering some losses due to injury on both sides of the ball. Buffalo is coming off of a horrible loss in London two weeks ago. But they are coming off the bye, they had time to regroup and get healthy, and their starting QB, Tyrod Taylor, returns this week. The race for second place in the AFC East is still wide open and this Sunday at home will be the perfect time for Rex Ryan’s team to stake their claim. Tyrod Taylor had a great game vs. the Dolphins earlier this season and without Cameron Wake chasing him around, I think his return to the lineup on Sunday will be a triumphant one. I’m taking the home team. Prediction: Bills 28 – Dolphins 14
St. Louis @ Minnesota – No seems to be noticing either of these teams in the NFC. St. Louis is over .500 and is currently in second place in the NFC West. Minnesota is playing great football right now and with the way the Lions and Bears season is going, they pretty much have a cakewalk to second place in the NFC North. I don’t take St. Louis seriously because they seem to always under perform in big games. They have the talent on paper, especially on the defensive side of the ball, to be a serious contender in the NFC West. Minnesota on the other hand has great young talent at the QB and WR position. Plus, Adrian Peterson is leading this offense with the top-5 rushing attack in the league. St. Louis has a tough defensive front four and they’ll present a great test for Peterson. I think this game will turn on how the Rams offense wont be able to amount to much against this Vikings defense that ranks in the top ten in the league right now. I think the QB position is really holding back St. Louis especially since the emergence of rookie RB Todd Gurley. It like Sam Bradford never left. Prediction: Vikings 19 – Rams 13
Oakland @ Pittsburgh – I’m still kind of shocked that the Steelers lost that game last week at home to Cincinnati. The Bengals are undefeated but they really showed nothing that told me that they were a serious title contender this season. But then again, Pittsburgh played them tough as usual especially on the defensive side of the ball. Going into the season, everyone was talking about how the Steelers defense was going to hold the team back all season. That has yet to come into fruition. As long as the Pittsburgh defense continues to overachieve, they are going to find themselves in a lot of ball games this season. This Sunday, they’ll have another big game against the upstart Oakland Raiders. Pittsburgh will be hurting the rest of the season without RB Le’Veon Bell. DeAngelo Williams is a veteran who definitely still has some ability and is primed to at least attempt to fill the gap left by Bell’s absence. Oakland has a pretty stout run defense and an active front seven so the running the ball might prove to an adventure this week for the Steelers. Pittsburgh lost last week mainly because Ben Roethlisberger threw some horrible interceptions. He might be getting a pass because he is getting over an injury but he knows that the way he played down the stretch in that game was unacceptable. Ben will have a great chance to bounce back this week as Oakland has one of the worst secondaries in the league. The Raiders give up a lot of yards through the air but you cant blame that on Charles Woodson who is leading the league in interceptions this season at the ripe age of 39. Ben must avoid Woodson at all costs on Sunday, as he has been an absolute ball hawk this year. Oakland is playing well on offense recently. They are running the ball well and the passing game has been a driving force all season behind QB Derek Carr and rookie WR Amari Cooper. Though the Steelers don’t have a strong secondary, Oakland need to attack their defense with a balanced attack. If Carr comes out throwing, Pittsburgh will be ready for it and that would increase their opportunity to create turnovers. Oakland will have the chance to take advantage offensively but they must be calculated in their attacks. Playing in Pittsburgh can make average teams play below average and I think that’s what we’ll see on Sunday. Oakland has had a strange but positive recent track record against the Steelers recently. But this year, the Raiders aren’t awful which means that they wont be Pittsburgh on Sunday. That makes sense, right? Kind of. Prediction: Steelers 27 – Raiders 24
Green Bay @ Carolina – The media can rave all they want about Aaron Rodgers and the Packers but if you follow the NFL, you know that the Packers are very beatable if you have a strong defense. Denver proved that last week and I believe Carolina can do so this week at home. Green Bay still has a really good offense but they are truly missing a big play WR (Jordy Nelson). Green Bay is pretty average defensively and for the most part, they count on Rodgers to carry them. Carolina isn’t perfect. They don’t win with style points. But they simply get the job done. The defense doesn’t let up for all 4th quarters and Cam Newton has been able to do enough to win ball games late. Unless Carolina’s defense has an off day, I can see Carolina using that same formula into another home victory on Sunday. Prediction: Panthers 25 – Packers 21
Philadelphia @ Dallas – The woeful NFC East is still wide open so this game could have huge consequences. The Eagles still stink in my eyes, even coming off the bye week, but they’ll have a pretty great chance at leaving Dallas with a victory on Sunday. Dallas is getting great play out of their offensive line. They are consistently winning the battles on the line of scrimmage each week. The Cowboys are playing pretty decent on defense too. They really haven’t been blown out in a game yet this season. People may say that there are other reason why Dallas is in the middle of a losing streak but I think there is only one reason: they are not scoring touchdowns because they are not getting enough from the QB position. The Cowboys have two more games before Tony Romo returns. They cannot lose these next two and expect Romo to single handily save the season. Dallas must win one of these two next game and preferably both of them if they hope to make a strong push for the division once Romo returns. I would prefer that they would win this game against division rival, Philadelphia. Going into this game, I can say that the Eagles have two things going for them. First, they have a great front seven that can stuff the run and pressure the QB. Second, they have gotten better at running the ball and Dallas’ run defense is a bit suspect. Other than those two things, the Eagles don’t really have much going for them. Sam Bradford is not going to win this game for them. I think Dallas has a great chance at ending their losing streak on Sunday but I don’t know if the offense will continue to not score touchdowns. Dan Bailey is a great kicker but sending him out more than three times usually isn’t a great sign. If Dallas can’t get into the end zone, they’ll lose again on Sunday. Prediction: Eagles 23 – Cowboys 20
The Rest of Week 9
Bengals over Browns – I’m a big fan of Johnny Manziel but I cant help to think about his start again Cincinnati last season. Maybe he remembers that too and he’ll have a revenge game tonight. I doubt it.
Patriots over Washington – Washington doesn’t have the defense to slow down New England’s offense. Might be interesting to see Kirk Cousins attempt to out gun Tom Brady.
Saints over Titans – New Orleans’ defense is terrible but Drew Brees is back to playing elite football. Tennessee is a mess and they just fired their head coach. Things will get worse their before they get better.
Jaguars over Jets – Break up the Jags! The Jets are regressing and Jacksonville has realistic hopes in the god awful AFC South.
Falcons over 49ers – Atlanta is starting to fall off but San Fran has serious issues. Colin Kaepernick is getting benched and receiving the blame. This might get ugly quick for the Niners.
Giants over Buccaneers – I might give Tampa a chance here but both of their big receivers are fighting injuries. The Giants are able to score a lot of points but nothing much else.
Broncos over Colts – Is Andrew Luck injured? No one knows for sure. But he’ll be hurting after facing this Denver defense. No one is talking about this being Peyton Manning’s last game in Indy.
Chargers over Bears – San Diego has reached its “close loss” quota this season I think. I mean, enough is enough.
Fantasy Football Picks of the Week
QB: Matt Ryan (Falcons) – San Fran has one of the worst pass defenses in the league. Atlanta has the weapons to take advantage. Big day for Matt Ryan.
RB: Jeremy Hill & Giovanni Bernard (Bengals) – The Bengals didn’t use their running backs nearly enough last week against Pittsburgh. Cleveland has the worst rush defense in the league. They should get plenty of carries tonight.
WR: Antonio Brown (Steelers) – Oakland has the second worst pass defense in football. Brown and Roethlisberger will be able to get into a groove at home this Sunday.
TE: Jacob Tamme (Falcons) – Here’s a sleeper pick for Sunday. Tamme had a strong showing last week and he’ll be facing a weak 49ers defense on Sunday.
DEF: Jacksonville – With the QB situation in doubt for the Jets, the Jaguars could have a big day this Sunday.