Once Week 9 is in the books, we’ll officially be halfway done with the NFL’s first 17-game season. While a few teams look like playoff locks, most of the league’s standings are still very up in the air with ten more weeks of NFL action to unfold.
The marquee matchup of Week 9 was supposed to be the first ever meeting between Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes, but Rodgers will miss the matchup after testing positive for COVID-19. But even with Jordan Love starting, the Green Bay Packers will have a solid chance to improve to 8-1, as Mahomes and the 4-4 Kansas City Chiefs haven’t looked like themselves this season.
In another high-profile game derailed by an injury, the Tennessee Titans take on the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football: but without star running back Derrick Henry. Will Ryan Tannehill be able to keep the Titans in the game against Matthew Stafford and a high-powered Rams offense?
Other important matchups include the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, clashing in the battle of Ohio to keep up in the AFC North, as well as the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers meeting in an NFC West affair.
To debate or discuss these picks, be sure to join the conversation with @SakSports on Twitter.
Week 1: 6-10
Week 2: 12-4
Week 3: 11-5
Week 4: 12-4
Week 5: 13-3
Week 6: 10-4
Week 7: 9-4
Week 8: 9-6
Overall: 82-40 (67%)
Despite a winning record, Week 8 was my worst pick performance since the opening week of the season. Some of my incorrect picks were straight upsets: how could I have known Mike White and the Jets would upset the Bengals? Even the Saints beating the Buccaneers seemed pretty unlikely. Other incorrect picks came on toss-ups or near toss-ups, like my selections of the Falcons and Bears. There’s no shame in my pick of Arizona over Green Bay, as the Cardinals nearly pulled off a Thursday Night win over Green Bay.
In Week 8 I incorrectly predicted:
- Cardinals over Packers
- Bengals over Jets
- Falcons over Panthers
- Bears over 49ers
- Chargers over Patriots
- Buccaneers over Saints
See Also: 2021-22 NFL Season Predictions
- AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West
- NFC East, NFC North, NFC South, NFC West
- Playoff Predictions and Super Bowl Matchup
Thursday Night Football
New York Jets (2-5) at Indianapolis Colts (3-5)
Line: Indianapolis Colts (-10.5)
The New York Jets are coming their second big upset of the season, beating the Bengals at home after doing the same to the Titans a few weeks ago. Any given Sunday definitely applies to this Jets team, as no one thought Mike White would be able to lead the Jets to victory i his first career NFL start.
The Indianapolis Colts might not be as good as the Bengals, but the Jets can’t be counted on to follow up Sunday’s performance. The Colts have been playing well, even if they fell 34-31 in overtime against the Titans this week. Unless White has another game for the ages, this is Indianapolis’ game to lose.
Colts win 27-17, Jets win ATS
Cleveland Browns (4-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-3)
Line: Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5)
Both the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns are coming off losses, and are desperate to get back in the win column to keep up in the AFC North. While the Bengals loss to the Jets last week was shocking, Cincinnati played well in the 34-31 loss. While the Browns also lost by less than a touchdown to the Steelers, Baker Mayfield and Cleveland’s offense mustered just 10 points. The Browns are reeling, and Joe Burrow and the Bengals would love to use Cleveland as a launchpad to get to 6-3.
Bengals win 24-20, Bengals win ATS
Denver Broncos (4-4) at Dallas Cowboys (6-1)
Line: Dallas Cowboys (-9.5)
The Dallas Cowboys beat the Vikings on Sunday Night Football with Cooper Rush at quarterback: a testament to how good their roster is even without Dak Prescott. With one of the most talented passers in the league set to return this week in AT&T Stadium, the Cowboys should be able to roll to 7-1. Teddy Bridgewater and the Broncos snapped a four-game losing streak last week, but just against Washington Football Team. Dallas is much more formidable opponent, especially on their home turf where they’re 3-0.
Cowboys win 31-17, Cowboys win ATS
Houston Texas (1-7) at Miami Dolphins (1-7)
Line: Miami Dolphins (-6.5)
This one’s a real barn burner, with the two teams combining for a 2-14 record, losing 14 straight games. The Houston Texans already had low prospects coming into the season, but for the Miami Dolphins, the abysmal 1-7 start has been shocking and disappointing. Tyrod Taylor has an outside shot of returning to the field for the first time since Week 1, which would definitely sway this game to be a bit closer. But assuming its Davis Mills at quarterback, Miami should be able to breathe a sigh of relief and get their first win since Week 1.
Dolphins win 27-20, Dolphins win ATS
Las Vegas Raiders (5-2) at New York Giants (2-6)
Line: Las Vegas Raiders (-2.5)
Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders are coming off a bye week, and before that, back-to-back wins over the Broncos and Eagles where the offense put up 34 and 33 points. Daniel Jones and the 2-6 New York Giants are coming off a narrow loss to the Chiefs last Monday night, but have dropped three of their last four games, failing to score more than 20 points in any of the three losses.
Las Vegas is easily the better team, but they’ll have a couple challenges to overcome: traveling across the country to playa 1:00 PM ET start, and the loss of leading wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, who was released after a DUI accident resulting in a death. The loss will sting, especially with Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller questionable. At the same time, this Raiders team has overcome adversity before, and the Giants just don’t have the drive to win games in the fourth quarter. The Raiders pull out a game that’s closer than they would have anticipated a week ago.
Raiders win 27-26, Giants win ATS
Atlanta Falcons (3-4) at New Orleans Saints (5-2)
Line: New Orleans Saints (-6.0)
The New Orleans Saints made the NFC South race, well, a race with an upset win over Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Week 8. But they unfortunately lost Jameis Winston for the season, which could obviously hamper their chances to challege Tampa Bay down the stretch. Luckily for Trevor Siemian and the Saints, the Atlanta Falcons are a very beatable opponent. Sean Payton has a talented roster, and can probably find a way to win with Siemian throwing less than 20 passes, as he’s done with Winston.
Saints win 24-17, Saints win ATS
New England Patriots (4-4) at Carolina Panthers (4-4)
Line: New England Patriots (-4.0)
Before last week, I was a little critical of Mac Jones and the New England Patriots, who had only been able to beat the Jets (twice) and Texans through seven games. But New England edged out a win over a solid Chargers team last week for their first quality win of the season, improving to 3-0 on the road in the process. Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers stopped the bleeding of a four-game losing streak with a 19-13 win over the Falcons last week, but will need to do better than that to keep up with the Patriots. I’m sure Bill Belichick has strategies to use against Darnold, as the former Jets quarterback used to face the Patriots twice a year, to little success.
Patriots win 30-20, Patriots win ATS
Buffalo Bills (5-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)
Line: Buffalo Bills (-14.5)
Man, I sure wouldn’t want to be Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars this week. The Buffalo Bills are absolutely not the kind of team to mess around with an inferior opponent. Buffalo has beaten the Dolphins 35-0, Washington Football Team 43-21, the Texans 40-0, and the Chiefs 38-20. While Buffalo isn’t a perfect team, they put their foot on the gas pedal and don’t let up. The Jaguars defense should be no problem at all for Josh Allen and the Bills electric offense.
Bills win 42-16, Bills win ATS
Minnesota Vikings (3-4) at Baltimore Ravens (5-2)
Line: Baltimore Ravens (-5.5)
The last time Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens took the field in Week 7, they were stunned by their AFC North rival Bengals, losing 41-17 at home. But prior to that, Baltimore had won six straight games, including wins over the Chiefs, Colts, and Chargers. Assuming the game against Cincinnati was more of a fluke, Baltimore has been one of the best teams in the league this season.
The Minnesota Vikings are 3-4, but might be sneakily decent. Their four losses all came by one score, and against good teams: the Bengals, Cardinals, Browns, and Cowboys. If Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense were more consistent, the Vikings would probably have a winning record. But with a middle of the road 23.3 points per game, compared to the 26.7 points per game Baltimore averages, the Vikings probably won’t outscore Jackson and the Ravens in Baltimore.
Ravens win 27-23, Vikings win ATS
Los Angeles Chargers (4-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-5)
Line: Los Angeles Chargers (-1.5)
Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers were the talk of the league through five weeks, with a 4-1 record and three straight wins against the Chiefs, Raiders, and Browns. However, Los Angeles was grounded with a 34-6 blowout loss to the Ravens in Week 6. Last week, the Chargers played a much better game against the Patriots, but still fell 27-24. Which Los Chargers team will we see this week?
Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles have sprinkled in some decent performances to earn their 3-5 record, but they’ve also had some pretty bad days. Specifically, the defense has given up 28 points or more four separate times. Hurts has proven his worth as the Eagles starting quarterback, I just don’t think Philadelphia’s defense will be able to hold the Chargers under 30 points.
Chargers win 33-26, Chargers win ATS
Sak Sports Blog Game of the Week: Green Bay Packers (7-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-4)
Line: EVEN/No Line
First things first: Aaron Rodgers will be out for the 7-1 Green Bay Packers after testing positive for COVID-19. It’s unfortunate timing for this big matchup, which would have pitted Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes against each other for the first time. The Packers and Kansas City Chiefs may not meet up for another four years, so unless they meet in the Super Bowl, we may never get a chance to see these two all-time talented quarterbacks go head-to-head.
But I’m still calling this my Game of the Week, because if anything, Rodgers’ absence makes this a close game to call. If Rodgers was suiting up, I would fully expect the Packers to handle the struggling Chiefs. However, with former Utah State first round pick Jordan Love making his first NFL start, I think the game becomes more of a toss-up than a straight up Chiefs advantage.
Kansas City has struggled this season, specifically with taking care of the football. If Green Bay’s defense can come away with a couple interceptions, Love should be able to get point on the board in Rodgers’ absence. I never thought I would be picking backup quarterbacks against Mahomes heading into this season, but that’s exactly the point we’re at.
Packers win 27-24
Arizona Cardinals (7-1) at San Francisco 49ers (3-4)
The Arizona Cardinals may have lost to the Packers last Thursday night, but by my measures, they’re still the strongest overall team in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers did give Arizona a good fight in a 17-10 loss with Trey Lance under center a few weeks ago, but I would still take the Cardinals in a rematch. However, Kyler Murray is dealing with an ankle injury from last week. While Arizona needs a win to keep pace with the Rams in the NFC West, is it worth further injury risk to Murray?
Since these are my picks and my rules, I’ll offer two separate predictions: one of Murray does play, and one if Colt McCoy is forced into the starting role.
Murray starts: Cardinals win 26-20
McCoy starts: 49ers win 24-17
Sunday Night Football
Tennessee Titans (6-2) at Los Angeles Rams (7-1)
Line: Los Angeles Rams (-7.5)
This should have been the best matchup of Week 9, but without running back Derrick Henry suiting up for the Tennessee Titans, it feels like we’re missing out on half the fun this game could have been. Losing an offensive starter is bad enough, but Henry is Tennessee’s offense. Henry’s 937 rushing yards easily led the league through eight weeks, with his closest competition nearly 300 yards behind him. How can the Titans possibly make up for the production lost with Henry out? Tennessee should be able to hold on and make the playoffs by beating up on weaker teams, but against the Los Angeles Rams, I don’t see how they can keep up. The Rams average 30.6 points per game, the fifth-most in the NFL, with a Top Ten defense to boot. Without Henry, I don’t think Ryan Tannehill will be able to lead a strong enough charge against the Rams defense.
Rams win 33-20, Rams win ATS
Monday Night Football
Chicago Bears (3-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)
Line: Pittsburgh Steelers (-6.5)
Justin Fields has been able to churn out some highlight plays, but it hasn’t translated to many points for the Chicago Bears offense. With the Pittsburgh Steelers possessing the league’s seventh-best defense in terms of points allowed, Fields and the Bears may continue to struggle on Monday Night. Chicago scores just 15.4 points per game, the second-worst mark in the league. But there is one saving grace: Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense aren’t too productive themselves, with 18.9 offensive points per game, 26th in the NFL.
The result should be a low-scoring, grind of a game. If it is a low-scoring affair, I like the Bears chances to pull out a win, but if the Steelers can eclipse even 20 points, then Chicago probably won’t be able to keep up.
Bears win 20-17, Bears win ATS
Teams on Bye
- After a 44-6 beatdown at the hands of the Eagles, Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions (0-8) will have the week off to devise a plan not to go winless this season.
- The Seattle Seahawks (3-5) get a bye week at a nice time, coming off a win over the Jaguars and giving Russell Wilson a week to progress towards a return to the field.
- Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2) can rest up and watch some film from their loss to the Saints before beginning a softer stretch in their schedule.
- Washington Football Team (2-6) takes Week 9 off after four straight losses, and then faces the Buccaneers next week in what is sure to be another difficult game.
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Header Photo: Lomardi Ave/FanSided