Week 9 Preview: Super Bowl Champs Collide in New York
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: November 01, 2012
We’ve already reached November and with it, Week 9. Or, as I prefer to call it, “hump week”. After this next slate of games, we’re officially on the downward slide to the playoffs, then the Super Bowl, and then the dark, looming emptiness that follows. Sure, the combine and the draft are interesting enough, but they’re a mild substitute for real NFL action. Here’s hoping the next three months crawl by, but in the meantime, we’ve got your weekly game previews.
Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers: 8:30pm Thursday
After failing to top six points and losing in Cleveland, the Chargers are in an unquestionable slump. There is an overt lethargy and overall lack of urgency in San Diego’s play that’s troubling, to say the least. The Chargers have never put together a full dominant season under Norv Turner, but 2012 has been particularly disappointing, even with Turner’s track record. Say what you will about the Chiefs’ abysmal play and rampant turnover issues, the team at least looks like it wants to be on the field. This should be an easy one for San Diego, but Kansas City could go in and surprise some people. (That is, of course, assuming anyone actually tunes in.)
Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals: 1:00pm
Perhaps if these two teams played earlier in the season, a different outcome could be anticipated. Denver has improved in each of its seven games so far, while Cincinnati has deteriorated each week, falling far off its 2011 playoff season. The Bengals badly need the second year quarterback-receiver combo of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green to put up big numbers in order to get back on track, but it isn’t likely to happen this week. The Broncos defense, allowing just 213.3 yards passing each game, all but shut down 5,000 yard man Drew Brees last Sunday. There’s no telling what they’ll do with the return of cornerback Tracy Porter against a young offense, whose vulnerabilities were exposed against Pittsburgh.
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns, 1:00pm
In a previously scoffable development, Cleveland holds all the momentum going into Sunday’s matchup after securing its second win of the season. Sure, the Browns were only able to score seven points against the Chargers, but Trent Richardson’s touchdown run ended up being all the offense they needed. Baltimore had its bye week to recover from the shellacking it endured in Houston, but an extra week of rest likely won’t be enough to solve the issues facing its defense. Injuries have savaged Baltimore’s once-strong defense and could leave the Ravens vulnerable to a divisional upset. To put things in perspective, the cornerback Joe Haden-less Browns were in a position to potentially win a month ago, with Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb on the field, IN Baltimore. But, as always, if there’s a way to lose this game, the Browns are likely to find it. Especially if linebacker Terrell Suggs is back to full health.
Arizona Cardinals at Green Bay Packers, 1:00pm
For the second week in a row, the Packers will be heavily favored at home, this time against a Cardinals squad that is reeling; four straight losses after opening the season 4-0 has that effect. Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling has been a pleasant surprise, stepping in for injured alternatives Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, but Arizona needs more than a pleasant surprise on offense to turn its season around. Green Bay underwhelmed in its win against a Maurice Jones-Drewless Jaguars team in Week 8, and the Cardinals’ defense could very well affect the Packers in the same way division mates Seattle and San Francisco managed. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers probably won’t put up over 300 yards, but he probably won’t have to.
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans, 1:00pm
Both of these teams are coming off a bye, and both are likely to continue where last they left off; Buffalo losing a heartbreaker and Houston dismantling its opponent. The Texans appeared to have rebounded from the loss of linebacker Brian Cushing in its four quarters of domination against Baltimore, and should have plenty of answers for C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Watch to see how Bills defensive end Mario Williams performs. He had a nagging wrist injury for much of the season that was surgically corrected over the bye. But if Titans running back Chris Johnson’s 195 yards against Buffalo is any indication, any improvement from Williams may be a mere drop in the bucket when Arian Foster has the ball (which he will, early and often).
Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts, 1:00pm
With both teams guaranteed to be .500 or better at the midpoint of their respective seasons, it’s safe to say Miami and Indy are two of the NFL’s bigger surprises. That the bulk of their leadership has come from rookie quarterbacks only compounds the unexpected success. The Colts have lost just one game at home, but the Dolphins are soaring after a decisive road victory against the Jets, even with starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill essentially sidelined for the duration of the game. Tannehill suffered bruising in his knee and thigh, but has taken first team snaps this week. If backup Matt Moore is forced to play, we’ll be deprived of further rookie-on-rookie action, which would be a real disappointment. (Two months ago, it looked like this matchup itself would be the disappointment. This NFL season is just crazy.)
Detroit Lions at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1:00pm
The Lions have a little momentum going into Sunday’s matchup, after a second consecutive come-from-behind victory has them within a game of .500. Their chances of reaching .500 benefit from a 1-6 opponent that has yet to win at home. Much has been made of receiver Mike Thomas being traded from Jacksonville to Detroit (will he reveal all the Jags’ dirty little offensive secrets??), but the transaction isn’t likely to factor much in this game. In reality, if the Lions actually need the input of a second string receiver to break down the Jaguar’s pitiful offense, they’re in more trouble than any of us could imagine. (Which is to say the Thomas-spills-the-beans theory is less valid than Detroit’s kick/punt return coverage.)
Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans, 1:00pm
The truest test for Chris Johnson’s recent resurgence will be against Chicago. Johnson has averaged 110.8 yards in his last five outings; the Bears are allowing 77.8 yards total over the entire season. A middling Carolina defense (ranked 15th overall in overall yards per game) stymied quarterback Jay Cutler and the Chicago offense last week, which needed the help of a defensive touchdown to secure victory. The 30th-ranked Titans defense should open things up for running back Matt Forte and fourth-ranked receiver Brandon Marshall, while taking pressure off defensive stars like cornerback Tim Jennings and linebacker Lance Briggs.
Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins, 1:00pm
It’s all the rage to compare Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III this week. Sure, they both won Heisman trophies and made immediate headlines with dynamic early performances as rookies. They’re both as agile as they are accurate (at least Newton was last year..). Neither is terribly far into his career for a fair assessment of leadership abilities, but at this stage, Griffin III would earn a tip of the hat. He hasn’t trademarked any end zone hot dogging (Newton is a self-professed “Superman”) and despite five losses this season, he has yet to sulk his way through a post-game presser (Newton’s turning it into an art form). There are plenty of things to watch in this matchup, but quarterback comparisons will dominate the day.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Oakland Raiders, 4:05pm
The Raiders are playing an intriguing 4:00 game! What do you know? Two of last week’s biggest surprises (the Bucs for winning on the road in Minnesota; the Raiders for the decisiveness of their victory over the woeful Chiefs) will bring serious momentum to the field on Sunday. Josh Freeman has been a revelation since Tampa Bay’s bye week, averaging 336.6 yards a game and throwing three touchdowns in each. Rookie Doug Martin has been equally sensational, particularly after a 214-yard, 2 touchdown rushing/receiving performance against the Vikings. Oakland’s healthy receivers have made a massive difference in the Raiders’ performance as well; a healthy Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey have opened up some freedom for running back Darren McFadden. This game should be offensively dynamic and fun to watch, which is something coming from me after two consecutive drubbings of Oakland in my weekly previews.
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks, 4:05pm
Things don’t seem to be getting much easier for Minnesota. After last week’s shocking home upset against Tampa Bay, the Vikings travel across the country to face Seattle and the “12th Man” at CenturyLink Field. It could well be the most hostile environment second year quarterback Christian Ponder has faced in his short NFL career, not particularly conducive to getting his season back on track after turning the ball over six times (versus four touchdowns) in the last three weeks. Running back Adrian Peterson has decimated all expectations in his return from January ACL repair with a league-leading 775 rushing yards, and he’ll need to turn in another dazzling performance Sunday to give Minnesota a fighting chance.
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants, 4:25pm
Since Super Bowl XL, these two teams have accounted for four of seven Super Bowl titles without ever truly dominating a regular season (in 2011 Packers, 2009 Colts or 2007 Patriots fashion). Both feature an arsenal of talented receivers, questionable secondaries, inconsistent run games and never-say-die, clutch quarterbacks. Despite the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy, the Giants will host Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium. Due to a storm-related lack of hotel rooms, the Steelers will travel to New York Sunday morning, resulting in an unreasonably quick travel-to-game turnaround. It’s tough to tell what effect the storm’s aftermath will have on the attendance of the game, but as much as the Pittsburgh fan in me hopes to see a Steelers win, I’m hoping the Giants put on a display that inspires or, at the very least, distracts those in New Jersey and New York from the devastation they’ve endured this week.
Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons, 8:20pm
On paper, based mostly on record, it would appear the 7-0 Falcons should blow out the 3-4 Cowboys in Atlanta. But as is the case with just about every NFL team, the record is far from the full story. While the Falcons have narrowly escaped close games with a win (last-second field goals were required at home against Carolina and Oakland), the Cowboys have often drawn the short straw, losing narrowly in Baltimore and last week against New York. Under head coach Jason Garrett, Dallas appears to have lacked a killer instinct, the sort of tenacity that would earn a win with 200 yards rushing (as was the case in Baltimore). The Falcons, on the other hand, have thrived with their backs against the wall, under the poise and control of quarterback Matt Ryan. If Dallas is able to build a sizable lead (which is far from a given, especially with running back DeMarco Murray likely out yet again this week), it has a chance to win. But if it’s close down the stretch, put your money on Atlanta.
Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints, 8:30pm Monday
The 8:30 Monday night kickoff time is a joke. The ball’s never in the air before 8:42. East coast problems, amiright? With just five wins between the two teams through eight weeks, what once was considered a marquis matchup will sputter onto our TV’s. Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding Philadelphia, the Eagles aren’t entirely out of the postseason hunt, but they will face many must-win games. This week in New Orleans is one of them. Perhaps a players-only meeting held this week will impact Philadelphia’s performance, and head coach Andy Reid’s firm endorsement of quarterback Michael Vick as starter could positively affect Vick’s confidence and performance. But if the Eagles can’t put up enough points to win against New Orleans (the worst-ranked defense in yards allowed), it’ll only get doomier and gloomier.
Kim O'Hara is the Associate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @KimOHaraTFG
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