NFL Week 9 2016
Week 9 in the NFL signifies the stretch run of the year. Eight weeks have been played, we’re in the heart of bye weeks (6 teams this week, Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England and Washington) and jockeying for playoff position is about to begin in earnest. If you haven’t been locked in to the action yet, you better start now.
4 Games You Can’t Miss in Week 9
Sunday Early Afternoon
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens, 1p.m. EST
First, do I really need to tell you why you need to watch this game? It’s arguable that no division has better rivalries than that of the AFC North (maybe the NFC North?) and these two squads are at the heart of it. Playoff contention and bragging rights are ALWAYS on the line.
Keys to the Game
Score, score, score. The Ravens’ secondary was abysmal in 2015 and will be the area of focus for the Steelers’ offense. Big Ben will likely be slinging the rock all day long to Antonio Brown and company while Le’Veon Bell gashes the Ravens whenever they drop the safeties back. Defensively, the Steelers will need to get to Flacco with the pass rush in order to take pressure off their own secondary.
The Ravens will come likely need the same gameplan as Pittsburgh: chuck it. With a run game that isn’t what it used to be and a formidable Steelers front seven, look for Flacco to be moving the ball through the air. Baltimore will need to take down Roethlisberger to keep themselves in this one, Pittsburgh’s offense will be tough to stop.
Sunday Late Afternoon
Tennessee Titans at San Diego Chargers, 4:25p.m. EST
The Titans travel to America’s favorite city to take on their old head coach. Ken Whisenhunt rebounded from his Tennessee firing to reclaim his offensive coordinator position with San Diego. This is as good a chance as any to see how each team is rebounding from a horrid 2015 season. Is San Diego ready to contend for the AFC West again? Are the Titans moving forward or still treading water?
Keys to the Game
Stop Phil Rivers. It’s no secret that he is the key to the San Diego offense — but that doesn’t make him easy to slow down, just ask opponents from 2015. The Titans will need to win battles up front to bring pressure and force some errant throws to create turnovers. Pounding the ball with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry should give them some offense to work with as well.
The Chargers will need to establish the run to create some balance in this game. Tennessee will be waiting on the pass and dropping as many defenders as they can to fill holes. They’ll also be rushing Rivers with reckless abandon, so the run game will help keep those rushers at bay. Containing Murray and forcing the Titans to put the ball in Marcus Mariota’s hands will go a long way in helping SD earn a victory here.
Sunday Night Game
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders, 8:30p.m. EST
These aren’t the Raiders of the past ten years. With Carr and Cooper leading the offense and Khalil Mack on defense, this team is quickly blossoming into a legitimate contender. You can bet the Broncos won’t be looking past this game like they may have in the past. This will have AFC West implications.
Keys to the Game
Run the ball, Denver, run the ball. It’s not going to be easy against a solid Oakland front, that got stronger in the offseason, but it’s going to be necessary to open up the pass. The Raiders added number one corner Sean Smith and he’s going to give the Bronco receivers fits. Shutting down Amari Cooper on the other side of the ball will force Oakland to get creative in their play-calling and likely force Cooper into some bad decisions.
Don’t miss opportunities. The defending champs may have lost some firepower, but they’re still the best in the west. Oakland will need to capitalize on everything Denver gives them to steal this primetime victory. Discipline and smart decisions will keep them in the game and stars stepping up (Cooper, Mack) will get them the W. They will need some big plays to win this matchup.
Monday Night Game
Buffalo Bills at Seattle Seahawks
Rex and the boys go West! Rex Ryan never met a spotlight he didn’t like, so expect this Monday Night matchup against the NFC’s elite to be exciting at the very least. Ryan will be looking to make a statement on national television while Seattle will be out to prove they’re still Super Bowl contenders. Get your popcorn ready.
Keys to the Game
First things first: Contain Russell Wilson. He’s the type of quarterback that can beat you no matter where you chase him to on the field. Flushing him out of the pocket might actually make him better. The Bills will need to keep him under wraps in order to succeed in Seattle.
The Seahawks will have a similar gameplan and will try to keep Tyrod Taylor from making plays with his legs. Putting pressure on him and getting him on the ground will also keep the ball out of Sammy Watkins’ hands, who is Buffalo’s best playmaker. Having success with the run game will keep Buffalo’s pass rushers at bay, ultimately letting Russell Wilson take over the game. If they can’t run, Wilson will take more hits than Seattle would like to see.