*Team listed in BOLD is my pick to win the game
Dallas (@ Cleveland) – The Dallas Cowboys entered their bye week on a very high note by defeating the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field by the score of 30-16. They headed into their highly anticipated Week 8 matchup against the Eagles on a roll and full of confidence with their rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot. But Prescott got off to a shaky start against the Eagles and finished the day just 19 for 39 including an interception in the end zone, and Elliot had only 10 carries roughly halfway through the 3rd quarter and failed to rush for over 100 yards for the first time since Week 2. In fact, his streak of at least 134 rushing yards ended at four games. The two players did turn things around late in the game, helping the Cowboys erase a 10-point deficit in the 4th quarter and score 16 unanswered points including the game-winning touchdown thrown by Prescott to a wide-open Jason Witten in overtime. The win extended the Cowboys’ winning streak to six games and they will travel to Cleveland this week to take on the 0-8 Browns. Cleveland is a city made of winners like the Indians and Cavaliers, but the Browns have yet to get on board. Cleveland made a great trade on Monday afternoon, acquiring Jamie Collins from the Patriots and he will be huge upgrade on defense, but he won’t be enough help to get the Browns their first win of the season against Dallas. The Cowboys defense did a great job against Carson Wentz and held him to just 4.7 yards per pass and they should be able to keep Josh McCown and the Browns’ passing game in check this week. McCown torched the Jets’ secondary for 341 yards in their Week 8 loss to the Jets and Terrell Pryor finished with six catches and 101 yards, but that came all in the first half. McCown imploded in the 2nd half, throwing two interceptions, leading to the Browns blowing a 13 point 2nd half lead. McCown gets an extra weapon in Corey Coleman this week after he missed the last six weeks. I expect that the Cowboys will control the clock this week by handing the ball off to Elliot 25-30 times in this game which should also get him back on track to rush for well over 100 yards again and McCown will have trouble moving the ball against the Cowboys defense. If the Cowboys are available to you, there won’t be a better time to use them in your Survivor Pool.
Next 3 Games:
Dallas: @Pittsburgh, vs. Baltimore, vs. Washington
Cleveland: @Baltimore, vs. Pittsburgh, vs. NY Giants
Kansas City (vs. Jacksonville) – The Kansas City Chiefs handled the Indianapolis Colts pretty easily on Sunday despite Alex Smith and Spencer Ware being forced to exit the game due to concussions. Kansas City has ruled out Smith this week which means Nick Foles will take control of the wheel in Week 9. Foles played well last week against the Colts, completing 16 of his 22 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. Travis Kelce had his best game of the season, catching seven passes for 101 yards and one touchdown. I expect him to build on this game and continue to be targeted often against Jacksonville, although keep in mind that the Jaguars have only allowed 264 receiving yards to opposing tight ends. Spencer Ware is in concussion protocol so we may not know his status until later this week, and whether or not he’ll be able to suit up against the Jaguars. Jamaal Charles has been placed on IR, so if Ware can’t play, Charcandrick West will see a lot of touches. But the biggest reason why Kansas City will beat the Jaguars will be due to their defense. They held the Colts offense to just 14 points, which was their lowest point total for Colts this year. Andrew Luck was under pressure the entire game and was sacked six times and hit an additional 12 times and completed just 54% of his passes for 210 yards. I expect Kansas City to have the same defensive intensity against Blake Bortles in Week 9. Bortles was once again highly ineffective against the Titans last week, with the exception of garbage time, which is when he racked up the majority of his stats. I expect Bortles will be forced into throwing into coverage, resulting in an interception or two against KC, which will turn into points for the KC offense. And although the Jags have decided to part ways with offensive coordinator Greg Olson, I don’t expect an immediate turnaround in play for Bortles this week under Nathaniel Hackett. While Nick Foles is a downgrade from Smith, I still have confidence in him to get the job done this week against Jacksonville. With Kansas City’s schedule getting much more difficult for the rest of the season, this would be the most opportune time to use KC in your pool.
Next 3 Games:
Jacksonville: vs. Houston, @Detroit, @Buffalo
Kansas City: @Carolina, vs. Tampa Bay, @Denver
Minnesota (vs. Detroit) – One of the more shocking games in Week 8 was Minnesota’s loss to the Chicago Bears by the score of 20-10. Minnesota’s offense was putrid for a second week in a row generating just 258 total yards of offense. This came just a week after they had 282 total yards of offense along with four turnovers against the Eagles in Week 6. Head coach Mike Zimmer ripped the offensive line again for poor pass protection, which has led to 11 sacks in the last two games after having allowed just eight in the first four. But it was the defense that deserves a lot of flack because they allowed a total of 403 yards to the Bears Monday night, which is by far the most yards they’ve allowed in a game this year. Everyone knows that their defense has to be the unit that wins them games, because the offense will continue to struggle to score points. Although the defense was a letdown last week, I believe that they will turn things around against the Detroit Lions. Detroit suffered a disappointing loss at the hands of the Texans last week and had problems moving the football and putting points on the board against Houston. The Lions offense had been playing well in the three previous games, but they were stagnant in Week 8 and I think they will have the same issues again this week against Minnesota. The Vikings defense will bottle up Theo Riddick and the Lions’ running game, and will limit the Lions’ passing attack. Matthew Stafford hasn’t thrown an interception in four straight games, but I believe that streak ends this week against Minnesota. As long as the Vikings defense gets back on track this week, they should come out winners against their divisional opponent.
Next 3 Games:
Detroit: BYE, vs. Jacksonville, vs. Minnesota
Minnesota: @Washington, vs. Arizona, @Detroit
New Orleans (@ San Francisco) – The New Orleans Saints have to be feeling pretty good about themselves after beating the Seattle Seahawks despite being the underdog at home. Things didn’t start out smoothly for the Saints as Mark Ingram fumbled the ball on his own 34-yard line and Seattle recovered the fumble and returned it for a touchdown. Ingram’s fumble opened the gates for Tim Hightower who finished the day with 102 rushing yards. It is expected that Ingram and Hightower will be splitting carries and will form a running back committee this week against the 49ers and their worst-ranked run defense. The Saints were forced to punt on their first and third drive of the game, but the Saints went on to score on their final six possessions. The Saints shouldn’t have any trouble moving the chains against the 49ers and much like last week, they will control the clock and dominate the time of possession. San Francisco’s defense only allows an average of 222 passing yards per game, but that’s primarily due to the fact that no other defense has been thrown against less frequently, which is due to the teams’ offensive game plans being built around the running because San Francisco doesn’t have an answer for the run game. The 49ers are coming off their bye week and are expected to have starting running back Carlos Hyde return to the lineup. San Francisco will go with a run-heavy attack against New Orleans in order to try to control the football, but at some point they will need to rely on Colin Kaepernick to throw the football when they are trailing in the game. Granted, the Saints defense isn’t great by any stretch, but Kaepernick hasn’t been accurate in his two starts and that will be his Achilles’ heel again this week. I believe the Saints will put up 30 or more points against the 49ers this week and San Francisco’s offense isn’t good enough keep pace against New Orleans this week.
Next 3 Games:
New Orleans: vs. Denver, @Carolina, vs. Los Angeles
San Francisco: @Arizona, vs. New England, @Miami
Atlanta (@ Tampa Bay) – The Atlanta Falcons are looking for revenge on Thursday night for their opening week loss to the Buccaneers. That game was a quarterback showdown between Jameis Winston and Matt Ryan. Winston was fantastic in that game, completing 71% of his passes along with four touchdowns. Winston has been up and down and very inconsistent since that game and I’m expecting him to have a more typical Winston-type game this week that should see him finish with approximately 250 yards and two touchdowns. Matt Ryan was also very good in their first matchup throwing for 334 yards and two touchdowns. Unlike Winston, Ryan has been consistently very good all season and I don’t expect that to change this week. Matt Ryan played very well against the Packers last week and led the Falcons on a game winning drive in the 4th quarter on a touchdown pass to Mohammed Sanu. That touchdown throw was also his 19th passing touchdown on the season which is tops in the NFL. Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense will move the chains against the Buccaneers defense that just allowed Derek Carr to throw for 513 yards and four touchdowns against them. Julio Jones only caught four passes in Week 1 against Tampa Bay, but I expect him to put up numbers closer to the ones that Amari Cooper tallied against the Bucs last week in which Cooper ended the game with 12 catches for 173 yards and one touchdown. Jameis Winston is undefeated in his career against Atlanta (3-0) but I believe that that streak will end this week as Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense will be too much for the Bucs to overcome.
Next 3 Games:
Atlanta: @Philadelphia, BYE, vs. Arizona
Tampa Bay: vs. Chicago, @Kansas City, vs. Seattle
Green Bay (vs. Indianapolis) – Green Bay loves to feast on sub-.500 teams and have yet to suffer a loss against those opponents. But against teams that are over .500, Green Bay is still trying to record their first win against winning teams. Fortunately for the Packers, they are facing the Indianapolis Colts who are currently sitting at 3-5 on the season. The Packers suffered a gut-wrenching loss to the Falcons a week ago by allowing Matt Ryan to orchestrate a 75 yard touchdown drive and milk the clock down to 31 seconds left in the game. But I’m going to look at the positives in that game for Green Bay. In that particular game, they were without Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery, but Aaron Rodgers still produced his best game of the season. Rodgers finished the day with 246 passing yards and four touchdowns, but his offensive line needs to do a better job protecting him. Indianapolis doesn’t have a great pass rush and their defense is susceptible in the passing game which is in Green Bay’s favor. If Cobb can’t go, Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams will be the focus on offense. As for the Colts, Indianapolis had their worst offensive game of the season and only scored 14 points which was a season low. Andrew Luck was under pressure the entire game and I expect the Packers’ D-line to dominate the Colts’ offensive line throughout the game. The Packers will bottle up Frank Gore throughout the game, but my one concern is how the Packers’ secondary will contain T.Y. Hilton, even if he’s not at 100%. I believe the Packers offense will play very well in this game, but because I don’t have complete faith in their offense, especially with some question marks surrounding the health of Montgomery and Cobb, I have to list the Packers as a risky play this week.
Next 3 Games:
Indianapolis: BYE, vs. Tennessee, vs. Pittsburgh
Green Bay: @Tennessee, @Washington, @Philadelphia
Seattle (vs. Buffalo) – The other upset in Week 8 was Seattle losing to the New Orleans Saints by the score of 25-20. Seattle took a 14-3 lead in the second quarter, but the offense stalled and the defense couldn’t get Saints off the field in the second half. What’s troubling for Seattle is the fact that Russell Wilson hasn’t thrown for a single touchdown in the last three games and has only five on the entire season. It’s definitely concerning if Wilson couldn’t sustain drives and score points against a Saints defense that allows an average of 30.7 points per game, which ranks 2nd to last in the NFL. Seattle gets an extra day of rest and are set to host the Buffalo Bills on Monday night in Week 9. The Bills defense, which had been one of its biggest strengths, was just demoralized by the New England Patriots in Week 8. But I’m not going to crush them for allowing 41 points to the Patriots because every team has had problems trying to slow down Tom Brady and New England’s offense. The Bill should have a much easier time against the Seahawks this week, but they too will also struggle on the offensive side of the football. LeSean McCoy sat out against the Patriots and I’m expecting that Rex Ryan will hold him out one more week with their bye coming up next week. Seattle is looking to snap their two game win-less streak after tying the Cardinals 6-6 in Week 7 and losing last week, but I think this is going to be a hard fought, low scoring game between these two teams. And because it will be a defensive battle, I think it’s too risky to take Seattle this week in your pool.
Next 3 Games:
Buffalo: BYE, @Cincinnati, vs. Jacksonville
Seattle: @New England, vs. Philadelphia, @Tampa Bay
Tennessee (@ San Diego) – The Tennessee Titans evened their record at .500 on Thursday night in their drubbing of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The final score of the game was 36-22, but it wasn’t even as close as that score even indicates. The Titans tallied 494 total yards with their run heavy attack leading the way against the Jaguars. Marcus Mariota completed 18 of his 22 passes for an impressive 270 yards and two touchdowns. Mariota has played well over the last four games, completing 77 of his 112 passes (69%) including 10 touchdowns and throwing just one interception. He is also making things happen with his legs and has run for 149 yards over that four-game stretch. DeMarco Murray was impressive yet again last week, rushing 21 times for 123 yards and one touchdown. He has now rushed for at least 107 yards in three of the last four games. Equally as impressive was rookie running back Derrick Henry who had 16 touches for 60 yards and even found the end zone. I expect that the Titans will be handing the ball off often in this game against a Chargers team that has allowed 11 rushing touchdowns on the season, which ranks 30th in the NFL. I think if Henry can be productive again in this game and could approach 10-15 touches again this week, taking the load off of Murray who may only see roughly 22 carries. But it is going to have to be the Titans defense that steps up and helps lead them to this win. Phillip Rivers was picked off three times against the Broncos but the fact that he was constantly under pressure the entire game was instrumental in his poor play. Rivers offensive line couldn’t keep defenders off of him as he was sacked four times and hit a total of 17 times. Tennessee’s defense has 22 sacks on the season, which ranks 3rd in the league, so you should expect a lot of blitz packages from every angle in order to get to Rivers. The Titans have been playing well over the last month and have won three out of their last four games. If Mariota can continue to play smart, sound football and they can control the clock with the running game, then I like the Titans chances’ of going into San Diego and coming away with a victory.
Next 3 Games:
Tennessee: vs. Green Bay, @Indianapolis, @Chicago
San Diego: vs. Miami, BYE, @Houston
Miami (vs. NY Jets) – The Miami Dolphins come off their bye week to host one of their divisional rivals, the New York Jets. The Dolphins went into the bye week on a high note having won two straight games against the Steelers and Bills. Running back Jay Ajayi ran for 204 and 214 yards, respectively, in those two games and hopes to carry over his stellar play in Week 9 against a very tough Jets’ run defense that has allowed a total of 79 rushing yards over the last two games. The Jets’ run defense has been so good this season, they have only allowed more than 86 rushing yards in a single game just one time this season, so Ajayi will have his work cut out for him. The Jets’ pass defense on the other hand has been pretty awful. This will arguably be the worst secondary that Ryan Tannehill has faced this season, so he could possibly be in line for his first 300 yard game since Week 3. The Jets offense wasn’t completely inept against Cleveland in Week 8, but Ryan Fitzpatrick still managed to struggle, completing just 47% of his passes. Matt Forte did gain 82 yards on the ground, but it took him 25 carries to do so (3.3 yards per carry). I don’t trust Miami and don’t have complete faith in Ryan Tannehill or the Miami offense, which is why I’d be hesitant to trust them this week in your Survivor Pool.
Next 3 Games:
NY Jets: vs. Los Angeles, BYE, vs. New England
Miami: @San Diego, @Los Angeles, vs. San Francisco
Baltimore (vs. Pittsburgh) – The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers are both coming off much needed byes in order to regroup (Baltimore) and get healthy (Pittsburgh). Baltimore started the season 3-0 but are currently riding a four-game losing streak. They’ve allowed 95 points during the four-game stretch but have held opponents to 62 rushing yards or less in three of those four losses. As of today, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is hinting that Ben Roethlisberger could return to the lineup this week, and if he does, that will be huge boost to their offense. If he’s unable to go, the Ravens will focus on stopping Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams with the hopes of holding those two runners to just 62 rushing yards or less. The Ravens’ pass defense has also played pretty well this season, but they didn’t have an answer for Odell Beckham in the 2nd half of their matchup against the Giants. That would make me believe that Antonio Brown will torch the Ravens’ secondary, but Baltimore has done a nice job against Brown in his career holding him to 659 yards and one touchdown in 11 career contests. Granted, Brown can explode at any moment, especially if Roethlisberger is starting. But no matter whether Roethlisberger starts the game or not, I’m avoiding both teams because the Steelers have lost three in a row to the Ravens and have lost four out of their last five on the road in Baltimore. So even though the Ravens haven’t won a game in the last month, I believe they can find a way to pull out the win this week.
Next 3 Games:
Pittsburgh: vs. Dallas, @Cleveland, @Indianapolis
Baltimore: vs. Cleveland, @Dallas, vs. Cincinnati
Carolina (@ Los Angeles) – Following their win against the Arizona Cardinals, Cam Newton made it known that he is not happy about the repeated late hits that aren’t called against the opposing defense. Newton makes a valid point, but I’m not sure if anything will change immediately, starting this week against the Rams. The nice thing for Cam this weekend is that the Rams have only 10 sacks on the season and have the 27th fewest hits on opposing QBs this season. So by those stats alone, he should be well protected and should be able to hang in the pocket with enough time to get the ball to either Greg Olsen or Kelvin Benjamin. The Rams’ run defense has been inconsistent this season, but I’m expecting that they’ll be able to contain Jonathan Stewart this weekend, leaving it up to the passing game to defeat Los Angeles. The Rams are on a three-game losing streak and had their bye last week, which came at a great time for them to regroup whereas the Panthers snapped a four-game losing streak and held David Johnson to just 24 yards on 10 carries. If they focus on stopping Todd Gurley, I believe they’ll hold the Rams to 14 points or less, which should be good enough for them to win the game.
Next 3 Games:
Carolina: vs. Kansas City, vs. New Orleans, @Oakland
Los Angeles: @NY Jets, vs. Miami, @New Orleans
Oakland (vs. Denver) – The Oakland Raiders return home for the first of four straight games at home after having spent the last two weeks in Florida. They remained undefeated on the road after beating the Buccaneers 30-24 in overtime, so maybe they don’t want to return home just yet. They are going to be tested on Sunday night having to play host to the Denver Broncos. Derek Carr was spectacular against the Bucs, passing for 514 yards and four touchdowns. The Broncos haven’t allowed more than 250 passing yards in a single game and have held opposing quarterbacks to 189 passing yards or less in six of their eight games, so Carr has his work cut out for him. The Raiders defense has played better over the last two weeks, holding their opponents to 344 and 270 total yards, respectively. They still struggle to stop the run, allowing an average of 125 rushing yards per game (28th) and 4.8 yards per attempt (30th). Denver will have a balanced offensive attack and will be handing the ball off to Devontae Booker roughly 25 times, assuming he’s cleared to play. This should be an exciting game with these two teams fighting it out for AFC West supremacy. I think Oakland ultimately wins the game, but because it’s going to be a hard-fought battle between a very good offense and one of the top defenses in the league, I’m going to strongly recommend avoiding both teams this week.
Next 3 Games:
Denver: @New Orleans, BYE, vs. Kansas City
Oakland: BYE, vs. Houston, vs. Carolina
NY Giants (vs. Philadelphia) – The Eagles were the hottest and most talked about team after the first three weeks of the season but then it seems like they lost all of their momentum when they went into their Week 4 bye week. Since the bye, the Eagles have lost three out of four games and all three losses have come on the road. Philadelphia hits the road again this week, although they don’t have to travel very far and will just have to travel north on the turnpike to MetLife Stadium. Carson Wentz played well in their overtime loss to the Cowboys on Sunday night, completing 32 of his 43 passes. The issue with the Eagles was that they didn’t have any big plays in them with their longest play of the game being a 19-yard run by Darren Sproles. The Giants are coming off their bye after having won two in a row. They narrowly got by the Rams in London two weeks ago, but the defense finally came up big with four interceptions. I don’t think Wentz is going to turn the ball over four times in this game, so the Giants will have to do what the Cowboys did and limit any big plays against Philadelphia. The Eagles defense will need to do the same, but I think Odell Beckham will figure out a way to break one or two big plays for at least one score. The Eagles run defense has been less than spectacular over the last three games, having allowed at least 187 rushing yards in two of the last three games. Rashad Jennings is only averaging 2.7 yards per carry for the Giants, but this could possibly a breakthrough game for him if he’s given 15-18 carries this week. If the Giants can establish the run and keep the Eagles defense honest, it should open things up for Eli Manning in the passing game. The Eagles have won four straight games against the Giants dating back to 2014, but I think the Giants break that streak this weekend. This won’t be a popular pick because the Giants aren’t the most trustworthy team right now, but if their defense gets stops during critical parts of the game, I think they can beat their division rival this week.
Next 3 Games:
Philadelphia: vs. Atlanta, @Seattle, vs. Green Bay
NY Giants: vs. Cincinnati, vs. Chicago, @Cleveland
Week 9 Survivor Pool Rankings:
1. Dallas Cowboys
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. Minnesota Vikings
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Atlanta Falcons
6. Green Bay Packers
7. Seattle Seahawks
8. Tennessee Titans
9. Miami Dolphins
10. New York Giants
11. Baltimore Ravens
12. Carolina Panthers
13. Oakland Raiders