Time to make some Week 9 picks, starting with;
Jets @ Bills; Right off the bat, I'm a little stumped. The Jets have a great defense to match up with the Bills offense, and while the Bills defense put up 10 sacks last week that was against the Redskins (originally 9, but after review an additional sack was later awarded). The Jets O-line is hardly a startling example to all youngsters of great pass protection, but they've improved lately and are probably better than the Redskins. Weighing the options, I can't get behind Mark Sanchez. The Bills have strength on both sides of the ball, the Jets just don't right now. Bills win.
Seahawks @ Cowboys; Nope. Still can't back the Seahawks for anything. Cowboys win.
Browns @ Texans; Frankly this is a horrible mismatch. The Browns offense, whose production seems to routinely amount to a field goal or two, against the Texans offense, who routinely run people right off the field. I just can't take the Browns seriously at the minute, while I take the Texans very seriously indeed. Texans win.
Falcons @ Colts; Hmm, shall I take the Colts this week? Nooooooo. Not against a Falcons team that just has a feel about it, like they're starting to find their groove. The Colts have a better chance than perhaps it might seem on the surface, but they need to give their defense a serious kick up the butt for that to become a reality. Falcons win.
Dolphins @ Chiefs; No pass rush. No running game. No passing game. No pass coverage. No tackling. It can only be the Miami Dolphins c.2011. The Chiefs aren't quite the comeback team of the season that a lot of people are making them out to be, but they're still more competent than the Dolphins. Chiefs win.
Buccaneers @ Saints; These two last met not long ago in week 6 when the Buccaneers handed the Saints their second loss of the season and started a 3 game stretch for the Saints where they've picked up just one win, having lost to the Rams 21-31 last week. For me, a lot about this result depends on which Buccaneers team shows up to play. Other than the 49ers game, the Buccaneers have consistently scored in and around the 16 to 26 point mark, while giving up between 13 to 27 points on defense. Other than the 49ers game, every game the Buc's have played this year has been settled by just the one score difference. That means the Buc's are hanging in there in the games that they lose, while not pulling away from teams when they win. Can they really hang around with the Saints one more time? I'm just not convinced. Saints win.
49ers @ Redskins; The team that gave up ten sacks last week welcomes one of the NFL's leading defenses (as a 49er fan, I still can't believe I'm saying that). The only thing that worries me is how the 49ers offense will hold up against some very good Redskins pass rushers like Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. The 49ers have had to get creative lately to move the ball (a left tackle and a nose tackle catching passes!) but so far the defense and the run game has been enough to see them through. For one more week at least I think that continues. 49ers win.
Broncos @ Raiders; I've already made my feelings clear that I think the Tebow bashing has gotten way out of hand, so I'm not going to go down that route again here. I'm more interested in the Raiders, specifically the fact that without Darren McFadden available due to injury, where is the Raiders offense going to come from? Carson Palmer? Kyle Boller? Don't count on it. I feel more comfortable backing Tebow here. Broncos win.
Bengals @ Titans; The Titans offense is struggling at the minute and they're about to run into another road block in the form of the Bengals defense, who are solid and sound, if not particularly spectacular. Coupled with the gradual improvement in the Bengals offense, fuelled by the developing connection between Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, I have to favour Cincinnati here. Bengals win.
Rams @ Cardinals; Now here is probably the most interesting battle between two 1-6 teams that you're ever likely to see. The Rams are coming off a huge win against the Saints, where the pressure of their defense made a huge impact. The Kevin Kolb lead Cardinals are ripe for the picking really, combining a somewhat shaky O-line with a quarterback who holds onto the ball too long. If the Rams can get Steven Jackson going again, it may just be too much for Arizona. Rams win.
Giants @ Patriots; The Patriots had been putting up 30 points a game until they ran into the Cowboys, then went on their bye and came back to face the Steelers, only to be held to 17. The difference has really been the pressure that they're seeing and this is something that the Giants really excel at. The blue side of New York has seen a huge improvement in it's pass rush this year, which could come in very handy against Tom Brady. They're also getting much better play from the secondary, with Cory Webster finding a rhythm of late that could lead to picks. And for once, I'm beginning to trust Eli Manning. Giants win.
Packers @ Chargers; With the Packers playing at a level that is arguably higher than last year, while the Chargers find new and interesting ways to self-destruct, I can't look beyond Green Bay for this one. Until Phillip Rivers can kick whatever that funk is he's in, San Diego will struggle to beat anyone, let alone the reigning world champions. Packers win.
Ravens @ Steelers; Sunday Night Football hits the jackpot again, though a part of me does think this could get ugly, in the reverse manner to the way it did in week 1 when the Ravens blew the Steelers out 35-7. The Ravens offense just isn't playing very consistently. We've seen some big scores from the Ravens, but a lot of that is on the defense for creating turnovers. Flacco is struggling to build drives and Ray Rice must be thinking he's gone out of fashion the little he sees of the ball. Compare and contrast with the Steelers, who've been getting better and better offensively as Ben Roethlisberger gradually heals up that busted ankle and becomes more comfortable moving and throwing. The Steelers D has also done an amazing job in overcoming their injury woes and look primed for a shot at revenge. Either way, we the fans are the real winners this week. So are Pittsburgh though. Steelers win.
Bears @ Eagles; So then, bandwagon time? The Eagles played great against the Cowboys after coming off their bye week, but is all really forgiven? Can we really sweep aside the Eagles problems in the red zone? Well for me this all comes down to the Eagles defense. Their "wide nine" defensive end alignments give them a great pass rush against the already notoriously well beaten up Jay Cutler, but it also exposes them to the Bears great rushing attack. See I'm thinking that defensively the Bears have what it takes to at least contain the Eagles somewhat, though maybe not enough to shut them down, but I don't think the Eagles defense is stout enough to contain the Bears. It needs a few things to fall into place correctly, but I'm going to say that Chicago has this. Bears win.