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.

Dolphins @ Chiefs, 1:00PM ET
Amazing isn’t it? Over a month ago the Chiefs were 0-3 (and an ugly 0-3 to boot) and seemingly seconds away from firing coach Todd Haley. Now they’re 4-3 following a four-game win streak and have forced a three-way tie in the AFC West. With the hapless Dolphins in town this Sunday, KC has a chance to claim first place by itself if the Chargers (vs. Packers) and Raiders (vs. Broncos) both fall. Thanks to a stingy run defense and a better-than-average passing game, the Chiefs have remained competitive.

Browns @ Texans, 1:00PM ET
It’s time for Houston to push the pedal directly to the floor as it tries to run away with the AFC South. The Titans are hanging around but the Texans proved two weeks ago that they’re clearly the better team. But Houston has had major second half issues over the years and often underachieves in its final eight games. This weekend’s contest versus Cleveland is a nice test for the Texans. The Browns may be an inferior opponent but they won’t roll over either. Their defense, particularly their run defense, has played very well this season and they’ve been good in coverage as well. If they could get more explosive plays from their offense they’d be tough to deal with every Sunday. The Texans must show that they’re beyond the mental lapses that have haunted this team over the years.

49ers @ Redskins, 1:00PM ET
These are two teams heading in opposite directions. While the Niners continue to put a stranglehold on the NFC West crown, the Redskins have lost three straight and are an absolute mess offensively. Washington has been ravaged by injuries, most notably at running back where Tim Hightower is out for the season and at receiver, where Santana Moss will miss the next few weeks after having surgery on his hand. And when you don’t have a capable quarterback to lift you out of the wreckage, you get what you had last week in Toronto (a 23-0 loss to the Bills). That said, if Jim Harbaugh’s team starts reading its own press clippings, don’t be surprised if Mike Shanahan figures it out for one week and pulls off the upset. He’s certainly capable.

Seahawks @ Cowboys, 1:00PM ET
When the Cowboys lost to the Patriots in Week 5, the Rams were there in Week 6. After losing to the Eagles last Sunday in embarrassing fashion, the Seahawks come to town this weekend to cure Dallas’ woes. After playing the Bills next Sunday, the Cowboys will have the Redskins, Dolphins and Cardinals to recover. My point is that this Dallas team seems destined for 8-8. Beat the bad teams, lose to the good ones. Unless Jerry Jones’ team raises its game against the better opponents, then you can pretty much predict the rest of the Cowboys’ wins and losses this season.

Bengals @ Titans, 4:05PM ET
We’re about to find out what the Bengals are made of over this next month. The Titans are certainly beatable but they want to keep pace with the Texans in the AFC South so they won’t be pushovers this Sunday. Then Cincinnati hosts the Steelers next weekend before traveling to Baltimore, hosting the Browns and then playing Pittsburgh at Heinz Field. Given the way their defense has played to this point, there’s no reason to think the Bengals can’t fight for a Wild Card spot in the AFC. But what happens when Andy Dalton has to face one of the best defenses in the league? The Bengals managed just eight points at home against San Francisco in Week 3 so what will happen when they face the likes of Baltimore and Pittsburgh? We’ll find out soon enough.

Broncos @ Raiders, 4:05PM ET
If Tim Tebow plays as poorly this week as he did last Sunday against the Lions then John Fox might not have much choice but to send him back to the bench. Meanwhile, it’ll be interesting to see how Carson Palmer fares following his ugly debut with the Raiders two weeks ago. He had the bye week to get up to speed but now Oakland needs him to hit the ground running. They’re currently tied with the Chargers and the Chiefs in what has turned out to be an exciting race in the AFC West so it’s time for Palmer to step up (especially when you consider how much the Raiders gave up to acquire him from Cincinnati).

Rams @ Cardinals, 4:15PM ET
This matchup has all the intrigue of watching paint dry. Not only are both teams 1-6 but both quarterbacks are also questionable with various injuries. Sam Bradford is still dealing with a high ankle sprain while Kevin Kolb is battling a turf toe injury. If it’s A.J. Feeley versus John Skelton then the Cardinals might as well give tickets away and make their money off of parking and beer. This game would have been perfect for all the brutal matchups that were on display last week.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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