The NFL postseason is inching closer to January, and more teams are competing for division leads and wildcard spots. Who will take the next step/s into locking up playoff births?
Indianapolis Colts (5-3) v. Tennessee Titans (6-2)
The first of two meetings in three weeks between these two teams, this will get physical and tense. Both teams want to win not just the series but the division. The Titans and Colts have good offensive lines, but Tennessee can control the tempo on offense better. Since both teams played Sunday, expect the running games to be the pivotal factor in who wins.
Prediction: Titans win 30-28
Houston Texans (2-6) v. Cleveland Browns (5-3)
Cleveland’s bye week came at the right time, and runningback Nick Chubb returning cancels the loss of Odell Beckham Jr. Expect quarterback Baker Mayfield to have a bounce-back performance.
Prediction: Browns win 28-14
Washington Football Team (2-6) v. Detroit Lions (3-5)
Kenny Golladay may not play again for Detroit, and Matthew Stafford looks doubtful. The Football Team’s offense is awful. They couldn’t score over 24 points against the Giants in either of their two meetings. Detroit’s offense can make plays and run the ball better.
Prediction: Lions win 20-13
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) v. Green Bay Packers (6-2)
One of the few games Green Bay could relax and coast through since the Jaguars are imploding and couldn’t beat the Texans in two tries. Despite the opponent and more than a week off, the Packers need to win in order to stay the number one seed in the NFC.
Prediction: Packers win 35-21
Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1) v. New York Giants (2-7)
The Eagles barely beat New York a few Thursday nights ago, but more of the offensive line is back and that helps Carson Wentz read the field longer. Giants coach Joe Judge can’t help his team close out games.
Prediction: Eagles win 24-21
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3) v. Carolina Panthers (3-6)
Another injury to runningback Christian McCaffrey again puts the load on Teddy Bridgewater, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing playing a Tampa defense that was embarrassed last Sunday night. Tom Brady took a personal loss to Drew Brees, so he might play some of his best football for the rest of the year.
Prediction: Buccaneers win 38-20
Denver Broncos (3-5) v. Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)
Denver has an awful second-half schedule and lost a winnable game in Atlanta last Sunday. Raiders can’t play close games with menial opponents, divisional or not.
Prediction: Raiders win 24-20
Los Angeles Chargers (2-6) v. Miami Dolphins (5-3)
Brian Flores’ Dolphins find ways to win while Anthony Lynn’s scrambling for wins that the Chargers keep giving away. Tua Tagovailoa may not need a stellar game, but Miami should capitalize on Charger mistakes.
Prediction: Dolphins win 27-24
Buffalo Bills (7-2) v. Arizona Cardinals (5-3)
It’s hard to get a read on both teams. Buffalo wins ugly, but had their best win last week against Seattle. Arizona should be 7-2, but took ugly losses to teams trying to stay alive for the playoffs. What tips the scales are the Cardinals matching up well against quality opponents, followed by better offensive depth.
Prediction: Cardinals win 37-33
Seattle Seahawks (6-2) v. Los Angeles Rams (5-3)
A fun NFC West matchup will get gritty for both offensive and defensive lines, but the secondaries highlight who could win. The team who had a week off can pull off one of their best wins this season.
Upset Prediction of the Week: Rams win 40-34
San Francisco 49ers (4-5) v. New Orleans Saints (6-2)
The 49ers were gifted more than a week off after two blowout losses. They’re rewarded by traveling to New Orleans, playing a Saints team with Michael Thomas back at full health. Ouch.
Prediction: Saints win 28-17
Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1) v. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-0)
The best defensive line in football against the worst offensive line in the AFC makes this a lock for Pittsburgh. Zac Taylor should pull quarterback Joe Burrow if this becomes a blowout to avoid injuries.
Prediction: Steelers win 35-20
Baltimore Ravens (6-2) v. New England Patriots (3-5)
The Patriots barely beat the Jets on a Monday night and face a deep running game featuring the reigning NFL MVP. This could get ugly early. NBC made a mistake not flexing this game.
Prediction: Ravens win 42-21
Minnesota Vikings (3-5) v. Chicago Bears (5-4)
The Vikings have two quality division wins and can pick up a third against an opponent who’s in ruins on offense. The Bears take a lot of unnecessary penalties and struggle with the running game on both ends of the ball. There’s more confidence Mike Zimmer can out-coach Matt Nagy.
Prediction: Vikings win 20-14
Week 9 Picks: 8-5
Overall record: 89-41