NFL Week 9 - Five Games To Watch
Baltimore Ravens (5-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)
Danny Lee: Steelers 27, Ravens 17 - Chances are, that 35-7 loss to the Ravens in Week 1 is still fresh on Steelers players' minds. Pittsburgh has won six of its last seven since then, with the most recent victory coming against New England in Week 8. Both teams do a good job of stopping the run so the Steelers' edge at QB in addition to playing at home will be the deciding factors in this grudge match.
Jeremy Bergman: Steelers - The last time these two teams met, the Ravens mopped the floor with Pittsburgh in Week 1. But now, with the Steel Curtain on a roll and the Ravens showing signs of weakness, we could be up for the complete reverse result in Pittsburgh this week. If Jacksonville could make Joe Flacco look like a rookie QB again, red-hot Pittsburgh may send him back to grade school.
Aaron Fischman: Steelers - The last time these teams met, it got ugly in a hurry. The Ravens walloped their intra-divisional rivals 35-7. Does this writer care? Not in the slightest. Does this writer refer to himself in the third person? Yes, sometimes he does. Long story short, the Steelers will win this one because they are clicking on all cylinders right now. I should add, however, that this one will also be a tight game.
Ryan Nunez: Steelers - It would be delusional to pick Joe Flacco over Ben Roethlisberger. He hasn't shown any ability to beat the guy, even when Ben is playing on one foot, as he was all last year. The Steelers roll and Big Ben shatters the 300-yard mark for the third week in a row.
Green Bay Packers (7-0) at San Diego Chargers (4-3)
Bergman: Packers - The Chargers are no longer an elite football team. Now in a three-way tie atop the AFC West, they have lost two close games in a row on the road when victory was well within their grasp. On the other hand, the Cheeseheads are the definition of elite. Showing barely any faults so far this season, they are undefeated and there are talks that they may run the table. I'll tell you one thing - they will not get that first L this week.
Fischman: Packers - I'm actually on upset alert for this game, but that is as far as I'll go. After a bitter Monday Night loss, I expect Rivers and company to turn in an inspired performance against the defending champions. Nevertheless, I like the Packers to ultimately prevail. The Pack won't be going undefeated this season, but this probably won't be the week that they lose.
Nunez: Packers - The most efficient team in the NFL vs. the most horribly inconsistent team in the AFC? Give me the Pack any day of the week and twice on the week that they play the Chargers.
New York Jets (4-3) at Buffalo Bills (5-2)
Lee: Bills 26, Jets 17 - First place in the AFC East could be on the line in this game, but who would have thought coming into this season that the Bills would thrust themselves into the conversation alongside the Patriots and Jets? New York is 0-3 away from MetLife Stadium this season and that winless trend will continue if they don't get more from QB Mark Sanchez and that receiving corps.
Bergman: Bills - This may be the toughest pick of the day. While the Jets have regained their swag, there are still problems with their line game; the Bills have lost a couple of close games, but last week's shutout in Canada proved that they have improved the one facet of the game that needed improving: defense. So what decides this game? Quarterback play. Ryan Fitzpatrick is having an MVP season; Sanchez is still eating a hot dog on the sidelines.
Fischman: Bills - I know the Bills played the Redskins last week, but how can I not get excited about their nine sacks and the fact that they held Washington to 26 rushing yards? Ryan Fitzpatrick, a recent recipient of a large contract extension, is contributing a tremendous season so far.
However, the Bills' offensive MVP has been RB Fred Jackson. He iss not only burning opponents on the ground; he's a serious pass-catching threat out of the backfield. He’s averaging 13.1 yards per catch, a number that is extremely rare for a running back. It will be interesting to see what Jets coach Sexy Rexy draws up after the bye week, but it better be good, because Buffalo is so tough to beat these days. Wow. Did I really just say that?
Nunez: Bills - No one has really figured out what kind of wide receiver gives Darrelle Revis the most trouble. It seems that no wide receivers give him any at all, but that's not entirely true. The quick receiver can get under his skin a bit and make plays in front of Revis while he protects against the deep ball. Stevie Johnson has a decent day despite being on Revis Island and Fred Jackson continues his MVP season by gashing the wannabe tough guy Jets.
New York Giants (5-2) at New England Patriots (5-2)
Bergman: Patriots - If there is one team in this league that holds a grudge and knows how to take revenge, it's the Pats. Remember last year's midseason Monday Night massacre against the Jets, who had beaten New England earlier in the season? What about the win against Dallas two weeks ago, a matchup against Rob Ryan, the defensive coordinator who made the Pats look silly last year in Cleveland? So when Belichick reminds his players in the locker room Sunday that a certain team from the Big Apple ruined their perfect season on the stage of all stages only four years ago, expect his players to bring hell.
Fischman: Patriots - Since 2009, Tom Brady and the Patriots are 19-0 in home regular season games. In fact, Brady's last regular season home loss dates back to November 12, 2006. Seriously! Meanwhile, the Giants just barely managed to defeat the hapless (and winless) Dolphins last week. I would be completely and utterly shocked if anyone on this “panel” picked the Giants.
Nunez: Patriots - Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are two of the best at what they do. They also seem like they have good memories and don't believe in forgive and forget. The Patriots channel their inner 2007 and run it up on the G-Men, just for old times sake.
Chicago Bears (4-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)
Bergman: Eagles - Finally! They have arrived! The Dream Team, assembled for this year's Super Bowl, finally lived up to the hype last week. Now, to prove their performance against Dallas wasn't a fluke, Philly will have to maul the Bears. While I don't think there will be a massacre of any kind on either end, I do expect the Eagles to win, with a heavy dose of Mike and McCoy.
Fischman: Eagles - Michael Vick has been far too inconsistent this season for me to be fooled by his impressive Week 8 performance. On the other hand, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is the real deal. The man is on pace for more than 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns by season's end. I also like what I have seen from the Philly defense in recent weeks. I will take the Eagles to hold serve at home, but if Jay Cutler and Matt Forte can do what they did against the Eagles last year, then I'll be dead wrong. Those guys absolutely torched the Birds last season.
Nunez: Eagles - Chicago will somehow keep this one close, but something in my DNA will not let me pick Jay Cutler in this one even though he has looked efficient in Chicago's two game win streak. The decision was more difficult than I had imagined. Going against Cutler is usually second nature for me. That said, this is the Michael Vick & Shady McCoy show two weeks in a row and no one can do anything about it.
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