Derrick Gunn's NFL Week 9 picks: With Elliott playing, can Cowboys upset Chiefs?

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Derrick Gunn's NFL Week 9 picks: With Elliott playing, can Cowboys upset Chiefs?

Derrick Gunn makes his picks for Week 9 of the NFL season.

Broncos at Eagles (1 p.m. on CBS)   
The Eagles’ last test before their bye week is a big one. Carson Wentz and his offense must solve the rugged Denver Broncos' defense (see key matchups). And this is no ordinary defense. The Broncos come riding into town with the No. 1 overall D, allowing 261.0 yards per game. They are sixth against the pass (188.1 yards per game) and No. 2 against the run (72.9). Von Miller is one of the best in the business at harassing quarterbacks and his sidekick is finally back. Linebacker Shane Ray, who was on IR with a wrist injury, returned this past Monday night against Kansas City. 

As good as Denver's defense has played, the offense has been the opposite, mainly because of quarterback Trevor Siemian’s play. Siemian started the season by tossing six touchdowns and just two interceptions in Denver's first two games, as the Broncos won both. Over the last three outings, he's served up six interceptions and two touchdowns, and the Broncos have lost all three. Head coach Vance Joseph announced Wednesday that he's switching to Brock Osweiler, hoping to jump-start his lethargic offense. The six-year veteran has thrown just four passes this season. 

The Eagles’ defensive rotation up front needs to get after Osweiler to make him as uncomfortable as possible. Wentz cannot afford to hold the ball too long in passing situations or Denver will make him pay. If the Birds can establish their ground game, it will open things up in play action. 

After playing Monday night, getting home early Tuesday morning, traveling this weekend to the East Coast and making a QB change, Denver has a lot to deal with in a short amount of time. That's why I’ll go with the home team in a backyard, knockdown, drag-out brawl.

Pick: Eagles 24, Broncos 23

Ravens at Titans (1 p.m. on CBS)
These two teams have the playoffs on their minds. The Titans are tied for first place in the AFC South, while the Ravens are two games behind the Steelers in the AFC North. Joe Flacco passed his concussion protocol, which is huge for the Ravens. Both teams have been inconsistent on offense. The Titans should get speedy receiver Corey Davis back. I give Tennessee a slight edge at home.

Pick: Titans

Buccaneers at Saints (1 p.m. on FOX)
The Bucs have been one of the biggest disappointments of the season, while the Saints have been a big surprise, winning five in a row. Drew Brees has his offense rolling, and it will roll over the Bucs.

Pick: Saints

Rams at Giants (1 p.m. on FOX)
The Rams are second in the league in points scored (30 points per game). Meanwhile, the Giants are coming off a bye. Big Blue will be without their top cornerback, Janoris Jenkins, who has been suspended indefinitely. The Rams, just a half game behind the Seahawks in the NFC West, have been very creative in finding ways to score. L.A. will be Ram tough on the road.

Pick: Rams

Falcons at Panthers (1 p.m. on FOX)
The Falcons and Panthers were supposed to be at the top of the NFC South, looking down on the rest. Instead, they’re both looking up at New Orleans. Both squads have three losses, and the Panthers traded away Cam Newton’s big target, Kelvin Benjamin. Because Newton has been hot and cold this year, I look for 'Matty Ice' to put the Panthers in a deep freeze.

Pick: Falcons

Bengals at Jaguars (1 p.m. on CBS)
Cincinnati’s offense will have its hands full with one of the best defenses in the league. The Jags are No. 1 in pass defense and scoring defense. Too bad the Bengals can't run the ball because Jacksonville's D is very generous in that department. Andy Dalton is in for a long day. The Jags get it done at home.

Pick: Jaguars

Colts at Texans (1 p.m. on CBS)
Imagine going through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in less than 24 hours. The Houston Astros won their first-ever World Series Wednesday night, then on Thursday afternoon, we learned that the Texans’ sensational rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson tore his ACL and is done for the year. It's Tom Savage’s offense now. Good thing the Texans are playing the hapless Colts. 

Pick: Texans

Cardinals at 49ers (4:05 p.m. on FOX)
What a major disappointment the Cardinals have been. Expected to battle for a playoff spot, they're now battling just to get to .500. Meanwhile, the Niners remain winless and have all kinds of health issues along the offensive line. San Francisco traded for what it hopes will be the quarterback of the future in Jimmy Garoppolo, but C.J. Beathard will be under center Sunday. An Arizona win is in the Cards.

Pick: Cardinals

Redskins at Seahawks (4:05 p.m. on FOX)
The Redskins just can't get out of their own way. They’re talented enough to win games, yet they keep finding new ways to blow them. The Seahawks had to hold off the Texans in a shootout to win last week, but that’s the difference between these two teams. Seattle knows how to get it done, and the ‘Skins don't.

Pick: Seahawks

Chiefs at Cowboys (4:25 p.m. on CBS)
It turns out that Ezekiel Elliott will be playing Sunday after yet another twist in his long saga (see story). Dallas has gotten healthier on defense and it showed in its last game. But can the Cowboys' defense control Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill and the Chiefs’ offense? Alex Smith is a master at taking care of the ball, with 16 touchdowns and no interceptions. If the ‘Boys couldn't beat the Rams and Packers at home, don't expect them to get by the Chiefs.

Pick: Chiefs

Raiders at Dolphins (8:30 p.m. on NBC)
These are two of the more frustrating teams in the league. Both have playoff talent, yet both haven’t consistently shown it. Miami may have the home-field edge, but the Raiders have the QB edge in Derek Carr. The Raiders will enjoy their trip to South Florida.

Pick: Raiders

Lions at Packers (8:30 p.m. Monday night on ESPN) 
This was supposed to be an NFC North showdown between Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers. Unfortunately, Rodgers is out. His backup Brett Hundley has had a bye week to get his feet on solid ground, but can he put up big numbers to give the Pack a chance? Not on this night, he won’t. Lions leap at Lambeau.

Pick: Lions

What you need to know for Eagles-Vikings tailgate

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What you need to know for Eagles-Vikings tailgate

Several parking lots outside the Linc will open as early as 11:30 a.m. Sunday for fans who require extra time preparing for kickoff for the NFC Championship Game.

The Wells Fargo Center lots as well as the M and N lots — located just east of the stadium — and the P lot, next to Citizens Bank Park, are scheduled to open at 11:30 a.m., the Eagles announced.

The Linc's K lot, just north of the stadium, will open at 1 p.m.

The Citizens Bank Park lots are scheduled to open at 3 p.m.

Gates to the Head House Plaza open at 3:30 p.m. and the inner gates to the stadium open at 4:30 p.m. Located on the north end of the stadium, The Head House Plaza offers outdoor bars, food stands, live music and numerous other pregame activities for fans arriving early. It also includes an entrance to the Eagles Pro Shop.

The Eagles and Vikings kick off the NFC Championship Game at 6:40 p.m.

Eagles-Vikings NFC Championship Game predictions

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Eagles-Vikings NFC Championship Game predictions

Another week, another game with the Eagles being the underdog.

After a dominant defensive performance in a 15-10 win over the Falcons in the divisional round, the Eagles will welcome the No. 2 seed Vikings to the Linc for the NFC Championship Game (6:40 p.m. on FOX).

Despite the Eagles being the No. 1 seed and having home-field advantage, Minnesota is the favorite to advance and play the Super Bowl on their home field in Minneapolis.

Our analysts all had the Birds winning last week. This week, we’ll see who has the Eagles advancing to Super Bowl LII.

Reuben Frank (15-2)
Two great defenses blah blah blah. Underdogs blah blah blah. Carson Wentz got hurt blah blah blah. Forget all the storylines you've heard this week, and say these 16 words out loud with me: "Case Keenum is not going to come into the Linc and win the NFC Championship Game." OK, LOUDER: "CASE KEENUM IS NOT GOING TO COME INTO THE LINC AND WIN THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME." Maybe I'd feel differently if the Vikings were home or if a future Hall of Famer like Drew Brees were coming to town, but you're talking about a relatively inexperienced quarterback who plays his home games in a dome coming into South Philadelphia and dealing with crowd noise, changing weather, a hostile environment and a ferocious defense that's allowed five touchdowns and 9.2 points per game in its last six home games. I don't think Case Keenum can handle what he's about to face Sunday afternoon. I think we're all headed to Minneapolis. 

Eagles 18, Vikings 9

Dave Zangaro (14-3)
I never thought this day would come, if I'm being honest. If you told me in the summer the Eagles were going to be in the NFC Championship Game, I wouldn't have believed you. 

If you would have told me they were going to be in the NFC Championship Game without Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, Chris Maragos and Caleb Sturgis, I would have told you that you were crazy. 

Now, I'm the crazy one. Because despite all of that and despite the Eagles' technically being the underdogs in this game, I think they're going to win it. 

Had the Saints won last Sunday, I probably wouldn't think that. The thought of Brees coming to town would have been enough for me to pick against the Birds. But then the Minnesota Miracle happened and as great as it was for the Vikings, it could end up being great for the Eagles too. 

Sure, the Vikings are a really good team and maybe they have the best statistical defense in the league and maybe Case Keenum will never come back to Earth. But the Eagles have a pretty good defense too, a good defense that's even better at home. Nick Foles doesn't need to be Wentz, but he will need to make some big-time throws Sunday; I think he does. I think the defense clamps down at home. I think this improbable run somehow keeps going. 

I think the Eagles are going to the Super Bowl. 

Eagles 18, Vikings 13

Derrick Gunn (14-3)
These two teams mirror each other so much. Both are guided by quarterbacks who were backups on their depth charts when this long journey began. Both have defenses that can clamp down on opposing offenses. Both with identical records. And both have never won a Super Bowl (Vikings 0-4, Eagles 0-2). 

For Foles, it's imperative that he stays within himself. Stick to the short, high-percentage passing game and hopefully get some much-needed help from the run game. 

Against the Falcons, the Eagles had 49 yards rushing in the opening quarter but only 47 the rest of the game against Atlanta's ninth-ranked run defense. 

Minnesota's defense is ranked No. 1 overall, No. 2 against the run, No. 2 against the pass and No. 1 in points allowed. 

The Eagles' defensive front has to get to Keenum before he can find Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Both are excellent route runners with exceptional hands. What a matchup up this is. Pat Shurmur's offense against Jim Schwartz's defense. 

I've gone back and forth all week on who will win this game in what could be your basic backyard brawl. So what I came up with is this: In the final seconds of the game, the Eagles will be down one point when Jake Elliott gets the call and nails a 50-yarder as time expires. Eagles win and dance their way to the Super Bowl.

Eagles 23, Vikings 21

Ray Didinger (15-2)
Offenses are scoring at a record pace and yardage totals keep mounting. The typical NFL Sunday is all about the point totals climbing and fantasy owners cashing in. But now we're in the post-season and this is when the defense flexes its muscles. This is when scores go down and hitting picks up.

When the Eagles and Vikings meet for the NFC championship, it will be all about defense. The Vikings allowed the fewest points (15.8 per game) and fewest yards (276 per game) during the regular season. The Eagles allowed the fewest yards rushing (79 per game) and allowed just 26 points in the last three games, including the 15-10 win over Atlanta in the divisional playoff.

The Vikings had the best defense in the league on third down allowing 25.2 percent conversions. The Eagles defense was equally stingy at home (26.6 percent). The key to winning this game on the offensive side will be avoiding negative plays. A sack, a penalty, anything that creates a third-and-long situation will kill a drive. A five-yard run will be a big play in this game.

I think the Eagles pressure will eventually get to Keenum and that will be the difference.

Eagles 16, Vikings 13

Andrew Kulp (14-3)
The Vikings are a vastly better team than the Falcons in 2017-18, so I'm not sure I quite understand the confidence in the Eagles locally. Nonetheless, I tend to agree with the notion that it's hard to pick Keenum at Lincoln Financial Field in the NFC Championship.

Home-field has and will continue to be a big advantage for the Eagles. The crowd will rattle Keenum the way it did Matt Ryan last week, while simultaneously allowing Foles and the Birds' offense to communicate protection calls against the Vikings' exotic pressure packages.

Compare the two rosters side by side, and they're relatively close in terms of talent. It's pretty much a coin flip. The fans are what move the needle here. Plus, the way this entire season has gone, how can anybody around here possibly pick against the Eagles?

Eagles 26, Vikings 17

Corey Seidman (12-4)
Equal QBs. Eagles have the run game advantage. Vikings have the better WR group. Eagles have the better TEs and offensive line. Vikings have the better secondary. 

This one feels like an extremely close game. But with homefield advantage and a better kicker, I’m 52 percent confident the Eagles pull it out and advance to the Super Bowl. 

(Wouldn’t it be the most Philly thing ever, though, if the Jaguars upset the Patriots, Eagles fans go crazy, and then the Birds lose?) 

Eagles 13, Vikings 10