NFL Week 9 Preview
Jets @ Colts
Mike White... Mike freaking White. Who would have thought? Last week against the two-loss Bengals team, he put on an absolute show. In the upset victory, White became just the second quarterback to ever throw for 400 yards in their first start. He was able to find success against a defense with Jessie Bates and Trey Hendrickson; I would be shocked if he did it against Deforest Buckner and Darius Leonard. This Colts defense is tenacious and was a Carson Wentz turnover away from leading the Colts to the top of the AFC South. Against Robert Saleh's suspect defense, Wentz won't make the same mistake. Recently, Michael Pittman Jr. has been playing out of his mind. Lined up against Brandin Echols, Pittman Jr. should have a big day once again on Thursday Night Football. Pittman Jr.'s ball skills have gotten better every game and he has emerged as Wentz's go-to guy. On the ground, Jonathan Taylor is now the favorite to lead the NFL in rushing yards. Without Derrick Henry playing, this is Taylor's title to lose. I expect him to run all over the Jets' defense on the NFL network. While I love coach Saleh, and I believe he has set the foundation for the future, I don't think the Jets' offense will be able to keep up with the Colts'. Michael Carter is really good, but he will have a hard time running against Buckner and Leonard. Quinnen Williams is the star for the Jets defense, but he will be lined up against Quenton Nelson who is the star offensive lineman for the Colts' offense. Nelson vs Williams will be a great matchup to watch, but in the overall game, this is a great matchup for the Colts.
What to Watch For: Quinnen Williams vs Quenton Nelson
Player of the Game: Michael Pittman Jr. WR Colts
Final Score: Jets 17 Colts 31
Raiders @ Giants
This is a huge game for the Raiders. With the Chiefs at a low point and the Chargers coming off of a loss; this is the Raiders' chance to take claim of the division. Derek Carr has stepped up as a leader and has shown that he trusts his teammates. In the past, Carr has been passive and wasn’t willing to take shots downfield; that has changed this year. While Carr won’t have Henry Ruggs for obvious reasons, he still has Darren Waller, Bryan Edwards, and Hunter Renfrow. The loss of Ruggs has major implications on this offense, not because he was some amazing number one receiver, but because he was able to stretch the defense. The entire situation is tragic, and my heart goes out to the family of the victim. Without Ruggs in the offense, defenses don’t have to be as worried about the deep ball. They can start playing the run more until someone steps up as a deep threat for Vegas. As for the Giants' offense, the big question revolves around their star running back. Saquon Barkley hasn’t been cleared from COVID protocols yet and this would be his first game since week five. With a healthy Barkley, the Giants can kill a terrible Raiders’ run defense. In the NFL, it is all about exposing weaknesses, and this is a major weakness in the Raiders’ defense. As for the Giants’ passing game, Kadarius Toney needs to be the focus. He is the biggest playmaker on this offense outside of Barkley. If Jason Garret can’t find a way to get Toney the ball, Maxx Crosby will eat this offense alive. Crosby has been an elite pass rusher this year and he is capable of making Daniel Jones’ life a living hell. After all that has happened this week for the Raiders, I expect Waller and Carr to step up in this offense and win this game.
What to Watch For: Can the Giants exploit a weak Raiders' run defense?
Player of the Game: Maxx Crosby DE Raiders
Final Score: Raiders 26 Giants 20
Falcons @ Saints
Are we about to witness the Taysom Hill takeover game of 2021? This will be Hill’s first game back since suffering a brutal concussion and he has now taken over as starting quarterback. Without Jameis Winston, this offense will look very different. As a run-focused team, the Saints' offense could resemble the Ravens from 2018 when Lamar Jackson was a rookie. Lots of read-option and quarterback draws with the occasional deep ball. Last week, Mark Ingram showed that he can once again be Alvin Kamara’s robin. He brings out the best in Kamara; the trio of Hill, Kamara, and Ingram along with Sean Payton’s play-calling will be difficult to stop. Nobody knows what to expect out of this offense, not even Falcons’ defensive coordinator, Dean Pees. The mystery of the Saints' offense will be too much for Atlanta’s defense. As for the Falcons’ offense, this team struggled mightily without Calvin Ridley out wide. With Chauncey Gardner Johnson and Marcus Williams, the Saints have players who can match up against Kyle Pitts. This offense will have to operate through Cordarrelle Patterson. The key to winning this game for the Falcons is utilizing their Swiss Army knife all over the field. Arthur Smith has the potential to create mismatches with Patterson. Defensively, they need to force Taysom Hill to throw the ball downfield. Since Michael Thomas isn’t coming back anytime soon, Marquez Callaway will need to step up. Thankfully for New Orleans, I think he will. I believe Dean Pees is going to over-commit to stopping the run resulting in open shots to Callaway downfield. The Saints will capitalize on those shots and get a big division win on Sunday.
What to Watch For: Taysom Hill’s progress
Player of the Game: Marquez Callaway WR Saints
Final Score: Falcons 24 Saints 27
Bills @ Jaguars
The Bills are one of the most fun teams to watch when they are rolling, and I expect them to be rolling against a putrid Jaguars defense come Sunday. Cole Beasley is looking like himself once again; the Jaguars don’t have the defensive backs to match up with him, Stefon Diggs, and Emmanuel Sanders. Josh Allen will be attacking the Jaguars' pass defense all game long. The Bills are going to attack the Jaguars' defense downfield; Josh Allen's arm might be sore after this one. As for Buffalo's defense, the keyword is pursuit. All 11 men need to be running to the ball at all times and make sure Jacksonville's playmakers are down. Laviska Shenault and James Robinson are both fantastic at running through contact. They are physical and keep their legs moving. Tre'Davious White, Tremaine Edmunds, and Matt Milano all need to ensure all of their guys are rallying to the ball. Trevor Lawrence has had some growing pains in his rookie year, but he is successful when he trusts his arm. He needs to be willing to air the ball out. Laviska Shenault and Marvin Jones are both great targets; if Jacksonville is going to pull off this upset, they needed to be utilized. Realistically, the Bills should win this game without any problems. As long as they play in "attack mode" rather than passively, Brian Daboll should be running up the scoreboard.
What to Watch For: Laviska Shenault's usage
Player of the Game: Emmanuel Sanders WR Bills
Final Score: Bills 31 Jaguars 21
Ravens @ Dolphins Preview
Lamar Jackson is from Pompano Beach, Florida and Marquise Brown is from Hollywood, Florida… both of those cities are less than an hour away from Hard Rock Stadium. There is a different feeling when you play in your house. People you grew up with are watching you in the stands; there is an added motivation. I believe Lamar Jackson will shred this defense to millions and millions of pieces. The Dolphins’ run defense ranks middle of the pack, but they will have to devote all eleven-man to stopping Jackson from getting loose with his legs. What makes this challenge even more difficult this season is Marquise Brown’s development as a receiver. Brown has had either 100 yards receiving or a touchdown in 6/8 games this season; his top-end speed prevents defenses from bringing an extra safety down to stop the run. If the Dolphins defense overloads the box, Jackson will be able to buy enough time to find Brown running free downfield. On top of Brown, Rashod Bateman has been added to the mix. Bateman has only played two games in his rookie season, but he has shown glimpses of potential. While Byron Jones and Xavien Howard both have elite coverage skills, teams have been able to throw on this defense. If Lamar Jackson can connect with Brown, Bateman, or Mark Andrews downfield, Jacoby Brissett, Myles Gaskin, and Jaylen Waddle will have to rally the two-win Dolphins to an upset. Against this high-powered Baltimore offense that has been killing teams both in the run and pass game, I expect Jackson and Brown to light this defense up and get a commanding win on Thursday Night.
What to Watch For: Can Rashod Bateman make a name for himself in his first Thursday Night Game?
Player of the Game: Marquise Brown WR Ravens
Final Score: Ravens 34 Dolphins 20