This week Matt Lund and I are taking three tough match-ups for Week 9 and giving our picks. No point-spread, just straight-up, good old-fashioned pick ’ems.
New York Jets (4-3) @ Buffalo Bills (5-2)
Joe’s Pick: Jets 17 Bills 24
This is one of the best match-ups in Week 9. The Bills have a one-game lead over the division rival Jets, and are tied for the division lead with the New England Patriots. I think it’s safe to say at this point that the Bills are the real deal. Big wins against the Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles have proven that they aren’t the same team from the past decade.
This is the Bills chance to gain a comfortable lead ahead of the Jets. I don’t see the Bills winning the division, obviously, but this game is huge for a future wild card spot. More pressure is on Rex Ryan and Company as Buffalo is 4-0 at home, and the Jets are 0-3 on road. Also, the Jets are 0-2 after the Bye week under Rex Ryan.
OK, so those numbers may not tell the whole story, but the Bills are 4-0 at home for a reason. In their first 3 games at home, the Bills have beaten the Raiders (38-35), Patriots (34-31) and Eagles (31-24), you can see that they scored over 30 points in each of those games. In fact, the Bills average 30.1 points per game, which is good for 3rd in the league. They’ve gotten the job done with Mr. Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. Fitzpatrick has 14 passing touchdowns thus far, which is good for 5th in the NFL. The Bills may have gotten it down through the air, but the Bills’ former Division III running back out of Coe College, Fred Jackson, has been the Bills greatest story. Jackson is tied for 4th in NFL with six rushing touchdowns, and 4th in the NFL in rushing yards with 721 yards. Not to mention 27 receptions for 353 yards, giving Jackson a grand total of 1,074 yards.
But, how were the Bills able to put up so many points AND pull off the win? It’s simple. Hide your kids on this one….the Buffalo Bills lead the NFL in interceptions with 14. Yes, the Buffalo Bills have three more picks than that “scary” Rex Ryan defense. The Bills defense also has three touchdowns off turnovers. They allow 21 points per game, which is 12th best in the NFL. If the Bills can force Mike Vick to throw 4 picks in 40 attempts, then Sanchez will most definitely have trouble this weekend in Buffalo.
Let’s face it, the Jets offense is awful. Sanchez is averaging 207.7 yards per game. Believe it, or not, the running game is worse, averaging 92.4 yards per game, and only one 100-yard rushing game (112 yards by Greene)
The Jets are gonna have to get it done with their defense, but the Bills offense has been extremely impressive.
Matt’s Pick: Jets 14 Bills 23
This AFC East showdown has the Jets traveling to Orchard Park, NY to face a Bills team that has yet to lose at home. The Jets will want to make this a three-team race in the division to keep pace with both the Bills and Patriots.
The Jets have won two in a row after dropping three straight AFC games as HC Rex Ryan has turned the offensive game plan back to more of a ground and pound style, featuring RB Shonn Greene.
Greene is starting to run the ball better and the line is actually blocking for him, as he rushed for 112 yards in the win over the Chargers two weeks ago. He’s had success in the past against the Bills, but the defense, which transitioned to a 4-3, has improved greatly this season.
Clogging up the middle is rookie Marcell Dareus and former Raven Dwan Edwards who is filling in for an injured Kyle Williams. They helped to limit the Redskins to just 14 yards rushing last week.
Jets QB Mark Sanchez has completed nearly 56% of his passes this season, and in his only start last season against the Bills, Sanchez was efficient, throwing for 161 yards and 2 TD’s. Sanchez has been sacked 16 times and thrown six interceptions this season.
Sanchez will want to get TE Dustin Keller involved because if there is one area the Bills aren’t as solid yet, it’s defending the TE which they have been hit up for 192 yards total in the last two games.
For the Bills, the story has been their offense this season. Under HC Chan Gailey the Bills have dramatically improved, two players in particular have sparked the resurgence, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and RB Fred Jackson.
Fitzpatrick, now with a new contract to boot, has thrown for 1739 yards this season, good for 7th in the AFC. But he’s lining up behind a banged-up offensive line, missing two starters.
Luckily, Fitzpatrick is a mobile quarterback, so he’ll need to move around in space to make plays to WR Stevie Johnson.
RB Fred Jackson has been great this season, nearly 200 yards from scrimmage last week against the Redskins. The Jets D has had a tough time the last four games, giving up nearly 120 yards rushing in that span.
Of course the Jets have all-world CB Darrelle Revis, so if he can contain Stevie Johnson, the Jets may load up to stop Fred Jackson at all costs and this game could go either way.
The key to the Jets winning this game is to limit the turnovers on the offensive side and create some on the defensive side. But there are reasons the Jets are 0-3 on the road this season; more turnovers than creating them.
With the Bills offense clicking, I think they’ll be able to use the clock and have good scoring drives and the defense will force some mistakes by Sanchez. Bills send the Jets home with their 4th road loss of the season.
Baltimore Ravens (5-2) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)
Joe’s Pick: Ravens 17 Steelers 14
“There’s the Superbowl, and then there’s Ravens/Steelers” -Terrell Suggs. Everyone said that the Ravens’ Week One slaughter over the Steelers was Baltimore’s Superbowl. I beg to differ. It’s crucial to get that first division win, but THIS week is Baltimore’s Superbowl. Coming off two embarrassing performances against Jacksonville and Arizona, the Ravens need to win this week if they even wanna think about winning the AFC North. A loss would make the Ravens 5-3, putting them in the Wild Card mix with the Jets, Bills, Titans, and Bengals. The Ravens’ schedule doesn’t get any easier going forward. They still have four more divisional match-ups, as well as San Francisco and San Diego. A crucial win in Pittsburgh on primetime could possibly give them the division lead, and the confidence to start the second half of the season.
Many key injuries will factor into this game. All three Steelers linebackers are listed with injuries. LaMarr Woodley is out with a hamstring injury. James Farrior is listed as questionable with a calf injury, and James Harrison is listed as probable with the eye injury that has kept him out the last four games. Harrison will most likely play. However, the injuries to the Steeler defense has to be good news for the Ravens offense who looked like they finally broke out of their slump in the second half of last week’s game against Arizona. LaMarr Woodley is 3rd in the NFL in sacks (9). Anything that will relieve pressure on Joe Flacco will give the Ravens offense some breathing room against the Steelers’ defense. I like the odds of the Ravens offense pulling all the stops. Pittsburgh has only posted 2 interceptions and only 2 fumble recoveries on the season. So, with Woodley out this Sunday, it will be extremely tough for the Steelers’ defense to pressure Flacco, causing him to fumble or throw a pick. I give the edge to the Ravens offense on Sunday.
I gotta say, even though the Ravens are in the top 3 of nearly every defensive category, I’m a little worried about Big Ben and his offense. What makes Roethlisberger so good is that he makes the big plays when it matters. Plain and simple. He finds ways to get the job done, and he’ll make you pay. But, I believe this year is different. This is the best I have seen the Ravens defense since the Superbowl year. The Ravens are 1st in the NFL in points allowed (104), they’re 2nd in sacks (25). They only have 7 interceptions, but the defense has gotten it done on the ground with 9 fumble recoveries. With Steelers’ wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders missing Sunday’s game with a knee injury, and Hines Ward playing banged-up, it could be a long day for the Steelers’ offense. I’m giving the edge to the Ravens defense.
It’s going to be a chess match, as always. You can bet the Steelers are not going to let another “Week One” fiasco happen again.
Matt’s Pick: Ravens 21 Steelers 24
Terrell Suggs said it best. This isn’t a rivalry. It’s a war. That’s what this game always is, and usually comes down to the final possession of the game or who turns the ball over the least.
The Ravens come off a huge comeback win at home against the Cardinals, the biggest comeback in Ravens history. Meanwhile, the Steelers beat a tough Patriots team at home last week.
The Ravens marked Opening Day on the calendar since last January and destroyed the Steelers in Week 1. The Steelers looked old and slow, but have re-emerged as an AFC contender in the last few weeks.
The key to this game is if the Ravens and Joe Flacco can have sustaining drives against Pittsburgh’s defense. The offensive line has been an issue at times for the Ravens but they seemed to have counteracted that with a no-huddle offense that they ran very well last week.
Of course, for the Ravens to win any game, they need to have Ray Rice touch the ball 20+ times, both rushing and receiving.
The Steelers are banged up defensively, LB LaMarr Woodley is out for this game, and Jerome Harrison has been limited in practice all week.
For the Steelers, they seemed to have sorted through their offensive line problems and Ben Roethlisberger is playing some pretty good ball. Having players like WR Mike Wallace helps things too, but RB Rashard Mendenhall has been an afterthought in this offense and has never really run well against the Ravens.
Everyone knows both defenses are going to come with their lunch pail and hard hats. Both teams run defenses are always at the top of the league and both teams always seem to find a way to create turnovers at the right time.
The Ravens secondary has slowly gotten healthy, getting CB Jimmy Smith back last week. They’ve started to play better as well; CB’s Cary Williams and Lardarius Webb have done a good job at defending top receivers. Safety Bernard Pollard has been a contributor, covering well and hitting hard. FS Ed Reed had made plays in the secondary as usual; he’s the player QB’s are always looking for.
The Steelers secondary has been solid too, CB Ike Taylor has defended well and of course you have SS Troy Polamalu making plays all over the field.
Last season, both regular season games were three-point victories for both squads. Week 1 was total domination by the Ravens. This week’s game will be closer to those of last seasons, and will be a slug fest.
The Steelers have been running on all cylinders and while the Ravens defense has shown up each week, in this matchup I don’t think the Ravens offense will be there enough to bail out the defense this time.
This one we’ll be close and most if not all reading this will say “WHAT?!” but I’m going to go with the hated Pittsburgh Steelers in this ballgame on Sunday night.
Chicago Bears (4-3) @ Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)
Joe’s Pick: Bears 24 Eagles 20
I don’t know much about either team. I’m an AFC guy, but living close to Philly, I hear from a lot of Eagles fans. Yeah, most of what I hear is ignorant, biased, incoherent opinions of how they’re the dream team. Really? I haven’t seen any of that this year. I’ve seen the Eagles win against teams like the Rams, Redskins and Cowboys. Congrats, Philly. You truly have proven everyone wrong. Let’s look at their losses. After their really big win against the Rams in Week One (sarcasm), they went on a 4-game skid, losing to the Falcons, Giants, 49ers, and Bills. Three of those games were decided by 7 points or less, but let’s face it, the Eagles cannot win that big game. Everyone knows the Eagles are a second half team, but don’t count out the Bears.
The Bears are 28-9-1 all-time against the Eagles. They got the opportunity to play each other each of the last four years. In those meetings, the Bears are 3-1 and each of those games were decided by 5 points or less.
Now, the Eagles are statistically better than the Bears on almost every category, but I’m throwing caution to the wind and picking the Bears. I expect Matt Forte to have a huge game against a mediocre Eagles run-defense, which will be the key to victory.
Matt’s Pick: Bears 16 Eagles 31
Chicago heads to Philly for a Monday night match-up looking to win their 2nd game on the road. Meanwhile, the Eagles are looking to win their 2nd home game.
The Eagles dominated the Cowboys last Sunday night on both sides of the ball, while two weeks ago in London, the Bears beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Bears have stud RB Matt Forte running the football well, and even the Bears line has started to protect QB Jay Cutler enough that’s he been producing decent numbers, despite one of the worst WR corps in the NFL.
They’ll face an Eagles defense that in the beginning of the season was pretty atrocious, but has tightened up their game the last few weeks. If the Bears plan to keep Cutler upright, the line will have to protect him from the likes of Jason Babin, and Trent Cole. And the Eagles still have Samuel, Asomugha in the secondary lurking.
Meanwhile, Eagles QB Michael Vick was superb last week against the Cowboys. Last season against the Bears, Vick threw for 333 yards and 2 TD’s, also throwing one INT. And with his ability to make plays out of the pocket and with his legs, this game could get out of hand pretty quickly.
RB LeSean McCoy ran all over the Cowboys and WR Jeremy Maclin made plays down field, those guys should find themselves in the same position again this week against the Bears defense who hasn’t generated much in the way of pressure to the QB, so Vick should have all sorts of time to throw or give the ball off to McCoy. The Bears did have 4 INT’s against Josh Freeman and the Bucs two weeks ago, but Eagles HC Andy Reid is a mastermind after bye weeks.
I expect Vick to stay on his feet, make plays and the defense to continue its better play at home on Monday night.