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2011 Week 9 NFL Primer

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tries to get off his pass as he gets hit by Baltimore Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb and safety Haruki Nakamura in the fourth quarter of their NFL football game in Baltimore, Maryland September 11, 2011. REUTERS/Joe Giza (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Giants @ Patriots, 4:15PM ET
There are a couple of really good matchups on this week’s schedule, including Ravens-Steelers, Bucs-Saitns and Packers-Chargers. But none of them compare to this one when you think about the intrigue surrounding this game. Not only were the Giants the ones to ruin the Patriots’ perfect season back in 2007, but New England is also coming off a loss and Bill Belichick never loses when coming off a loss. But for whatever reason, New York has had New England’s number over the years. Could you imagine how burned Belichick would be if the Giants were the ones to end his non-consecutive losing streak? Game…of…the…week.

Ravens @ Steelers, 8:20PM ET
It doesn’t get much better than this, especially when you considering how hot the Steelers are and how badly the Ravens beat Pittsburgh in Baltimore in Week 1. The Steelers are coming off an emotional win against the Patriots but Pittsburgh and Baltimore always get up for each other so don’t expect Mike Tomlin’s squad to suffer a letdown. But can Ben Roethlisberger bounce back from his rough Week 1 performance in order to create even more of a divide between these two teams in the AFC North? After brutal matchup after brutal matchup for the Sunday Night Football gang, finally NBC gets a good game.

Bears @ Eagles, 8:30PM ET, Monday
Are the Eagles back? That’s the question on everyone’s mind. They might be but don’t forget Michael Vick has never beaten the Bears, which includes losing 31-26 in Chicago last season. For whatever reason, Vick has never been able to get the best of Brian Urlacher and with the Bears having two weeks to prepare for this game, it’ll be interesting to see how Philly plays following its 34-7 dismantling of Dallas last Sunday.

Bucs @ Saints, 1:00PM ET
I wouldn’t want to be Raheem Morris’ Bucs this weekend. Not only are the Saints steamed that they lost to Tampa three weeks ago but they’re also coming off an embarrassing loss to the previously winless Rams last Sunday. No wonder oddsmakers set the spread at New Orleans –9 despite the fact that this is a divisional game and should be close. If the Bucs can drum up some pressure on Drew Brees using their front four and force turnovers, Tampa could hand New Orleans its second straight loss. But I wouldn’t count on the Bucs pulling off the upset. The Saints have been a different team at home this year. A 62-7-type of team.

Packers @ Chargers, 4:15PM ET
We’re about to see what Norv Turner’s squad is made of. They had a win in the bag on Monday night before Philip Rivers fumbled it away and now the undefeated defending Super Bowl champions come in this Sunday. San Diego’s pass rush has been very good this season but its secondary has been picked apart at times. If the Chargers can get after Aaron Rodgers then there’s no reason to think that San Diego can’t pull off the upset – especially at home. But on the other side of the ball, if the Chargers can’t get their running game going then Rodgers may eventually start to pick apart the Bolts’ secondary. This is an extremely interesting matchup.

Jets @ Bills, 1:00PM ET
What a great matchup this will be between one of the best passing attacks in the league and one of the best pass defenses. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills’ offense have moved the ball through the air at will but the Jets don’t wilt in coverage. That said, Rex Ryan better get more consistency out of his pass rush or else the Bills could walk away with yet another divisional win. The Jets can’t afford another divisional loss on their record.

Falcons @ Colts, 1:00PM ET
The Falcons have a great opportunity to right the ship after a slow start. If they beat the Colts on Sunday, they’d be 5-3 heading into their big showdown with the Saints next week. But beware the trap. The Saints overlooked the Rams last Sunday and we all saw what happened. Because of the conservative ways of Mike Smith and OC Mike Mularkey, the Falcons have tendency to leave opponents in games. If they allow the Colts to stick around at home, there’s no reason Indy can’t pull off the upset. Atlanta better use New Orleans’ loss to St. Louis last Sunday as a warning of what could happen if it doesn’t come to play this weekend.

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T.G.I. Friday’s NFL Weekend Preview

“This series is brought to you by T.G.I. Friday’s, where every Sunday means Food, Fun & Football! Hut, hut, hut!”

The Scores Report has teamed up with T.G.I Friday’s to promote the action in Week 9 of the NFL. Here’s a look at Sunday’s top games.

Buccaneers (5-2) @ Falcons (5-2), 1:00PM ET
If someone would have told me before the season started that the winner of this game would have sole possession of first place in the NFC South, I would have said, “That’s crazy! You mean Tampa hasn’t already taken sole possession of the division?” Look for the Bucs to stick to their ground game with LeGarrette Blount in hopes that he’ll set up the play-action pass for quarterback Josh Freeman. That said, Blount could have trouble finding running room against an Atlanta defense that ranks sixth against the run (95.9 YPG). For whatever reason, Tampa has given the Falcons trouble over the years, so don’t expect a blowout inside the Georgia Dome this Sunday. That said, Matt Ryan has only lost once at home over his career and the Falcons will be fresh coming off their bye.

Dolphins (4-3) @ Ravens (5-2), 1:00PM ET
The Ravens are 3-0 at home and the Dolphins are 4-0 on the road so something has to give this Sunday in Baltimore. Miami is only the fifth team in NFL history to go 4-0 on the road and 0-3 at home in its first seven games. If the Fish are to pick up another road victory, they better stay balanced offensively so that Ray Lewis and company can’t zero in on the run. Chad Henne has put together some good performances this year but he needs to be more consistent and find Brandon Marshall inside the red zone. For the Ravens, the Joe Flacco-Anquan Boldin combination has been outstanding this year but more was expected out of Ray Rice. Much more. Rice could have a tough time finding running room against the 11th-best run defense in the league.

Colts (5-2) @ Eagles (4-3), 4:15PM ET
While this is also true for most teams, the Colts have looked like a completely different team on the road this season. Both of their losses came on the road and Philadelphia is certainly a tougher place to play than Houston and Jacksonville (the cities in which the Colts have already lost in). While Dallas Clark and Anthony Gonzalez have both been ruled out, Joseph Addai and Austin Collie continue to battle injuries themselves. Peyton Manning has a penchant for making any receiver/tight end look like a Hall of Famer, but the Eagles’ have the weapons in their defensive backfield to keep the Colts in check. Michael Vick will make his first start since suffering a rib injury against the Redskins a month ago and it’ll be interesting to see if he can lead Philly to a win in order to keep pace with the Giants in the NFC East. This is a big game for both teams.

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NFL Week 9 Primer

Brad JohnsonSunday’s Best: Cowboys (5-3) at Giants (6-1), 4:15 PM ET
This game has lost a lot of its luster with Brad Johnson starting at quarterback in place of the injured Tony Romo and the uncertainty of Jason Witten’s (ribs) status. But it’s still a classic NFC East matchup and the Dallas defense is coming off its best performance of the season in a win over the Bucs. Let’s be frank – the Giants should roll. Their pass rush should eat Johnson alive, which could mean we see Brooks Bollinger before the day is over. But the wildcard in this scenario is Marion Barber. If the Cowboys can get him going and Johnson doesn’t turn the ball over, Dallas might be able to play conservative and sneak out a win. But if they get down early, a second half comeback is unlikely and New York might post a double-digit victory. The Cowboy defense will have to produce an effort similar to the one they did last Sunday against Tampa or else Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs and the rest of the G-Men offense should have no problem putting up 30 points.

Upset Watch: Cardinals (4-3) at Rams (2-5), 1:00 PM ET
Since Jim Haslett took over in St. Louis, the Rams are playing more physically sound football. They hung tough against the Patriots last week in Foxboro despite not having Steve Jackson in their backfield and the defense is starting to show signs of life. The Cardinals are coming off a disappointing loss to the Panthers, a game in which they led 17-3 early in the third quarter. Arizona continues to struggle on the road and although he’s played well this year, Kurt Warner can’t seem to avoid costly turnovers. Jackson might not play again this week, but the Cards’ defense doesn’t post that much of a threat and the Rams should have enough offensively to pull out a win. Obviously they’ll need to keep Warner and ‘Zona’s prolific passing attack at bay, but this could be one of the better upsets in Week 9 if St. Louis keeps playing hard under Haslett.

Indianapolis Colts
Intriguing Matchup: Patriots (5-2) at Colts (3-4), 8:15 PM ET
Boy this game has lost a lot of pizzazz hasn’t it? Who would have thought that when this game was schedule, it would feature a Tom Brady-less Patriots and a 3-4 Colts team? Regardless, this is still the most interesting matchup on the Week 9 schedule. Indy has to win this game to at least keep within sniffing distance of a Wild Card berth and New England is in a great battle with the surprising Buffalo Bills in the AFC East. The Colts have major issues on the defensive side of the ball and things got worse earlier this week when it was discovered that starting CB Marlin Jackson would miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Without Jackson and Bob Sanders in the secondary, the Colts are giving up big plays on third downs. If they sell out to stop the run, opposing quarterbacks are picking apart the beleaguered secondary. If they play not to get burned deep, opposing backs are having a field day running against Indy’s smaller front seven. A loss to the Pats on Sunday night could mean a Colts-less postseason in the NFL. That’s hard to imagine.

Other Notable Games:
Packers (4-3) at Titans (7-0), 1:00 PM ET
With “Elbow Bad” Johnson starting for the Cowboys this weekend in New York, the Green Bay-Tennessee game might wind up being the best matchup on the Week 9 schedule. With the Titans coming off a short week and finally getting the monkey off their backs in beating the Colts, are they primed for the taking? Aaron Rodgers vs. the Titans’ D should be an intriguing battle.

Ravens (4-3) at Browns (3-4), 1:00 PM ET
Some believe that Baltimore is a legitimate playoff contender in the AFC and Cleveland is starting to resemble the team that many thought would take the next step this year. You gotta love it when Art Modell has to travel to Cleveland, too.

Dolphins (3-4) at Broncos (4-3), 4:05 PM ET
Miami continues to be one of the better surprises this year in the NFL and will look to build off their impressive win over Buffalo last Sunday. Denver needs to shake off its embarrassing loss to the Patriots two weeks ago on Monday night.

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