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NFL: Week Nine Preview

As we reach the midpoint of the NFL we are left with more questions than answers. Maybe week nine will clear things up. Eoin Purcell is here to preview this week’s action.

Game of the week

Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots

It seems that Peyton Manning and the Broncos are involved in the game of the week each and every week. This week is a titanic battle in the AFC play-off race, and a repeat of last season’s AFC Championship match. Both of these teams are in the middle of a great run of form, and the winner of this match will be a step ahead in the race for home field advantage come January.

Since 2001 Brady and Manning have faced each other 15 times, with Brady holding a 10-5 record, including a 8-3 record in the regular season. The last time these two future hall of fame QB’s faced off it was Manning who came out victorious in last season’s AFC Championship match. The argument over who is the better QB of the two will rage on and on, for now we will just take a look at what promises to be an entertaining encounter.

The Broncos travel to Foxborough on Sunday off the back of a convincing win against their AFC West rival San Diego Chargers. This was Denver’s fourth win in a row and they are currently playing some of the best football in the entire league. Peyton Manning has settled into an incredible groove over the past few weeks producing dazzling performances in the victories.

It’s not just the Broncos offence which is playing at a high level. Through eight weeks of the season only four teams throughout the league have conceded fewer points than this Broncos unit. On the surface it appears that this team has very few, if any, weaknesses.

As for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots they also enter Sunday’s contest having won four straight matches. After two losses in the first four matches New England has taken firm control of the AFC East with four wins in a row. Worryingly for Denver, Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski have reignited their chemistry over the past two weeks to devastating effect, including three TD’s in last weekend’s rout of the Chicago Bears.

The Patriots have scored 14 points more than the Broncos this season, but they have also played on game more than the Broncos, having not had their bye week yet.

The Broncos are probably the best team in the NFL at the moment, but when it comes to Brady vs Manning anything can happen. The winner of this contest will be excellently placed to move on and lock up home field advantage for the coming post-season.

Staying with the theme of home field advantage, Brady, Coach Belichick and Gillete Stadium give New England the slight edge over the Denver Broncos.


Must see matches

Arizona Cardinals @ Dallas Cowboys

Both the AFC and NFC have matches this week, which could have a significant outcome in who gets home field advantage come January. Just like the AFC, the top two teams in the NFC go head to head this weekend when Arizona travel to Dallas.

Having toppled NFC East competition last week in the shape of Philadelphia, confidence in Arizona is sky high at the minute. Lead by veteran QB Carson Palmer, the Cardinals play an efficient style of football, and so far they have managed to win a handful of close games. The Cardinals have a points differential of only +25, which makes their 6-1 record all the more impressive.

The Dallas Cowboys must be the surprise of the entire NFL at 6-2 after eight weeks. Behind the MVP calibre play of RB DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys have a great opportunity to establish themselves as a legitimate contender for the number one team in the NFC this weekend.

A deciding factor in this game could be the health of Dallas QB Tony Romo. The Cardinals have health issues at the QB spot and managed to overcome them this season. If Dallas are to compete on Sunday they may have to do something similar. If Romo plays, Dallas have a good chance of winning. If Romo can’t suit up Arizona should claim the W here.


Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers

One of the NFL’s greatest, and most physical, rivalries resumes in Pittsburgh on Sunday night. For the best part of a decade both of these teams were known for their physical, defensive style of play. In recent years, as the league has become more QB friendly, both teams have changed to a more offence-first approach. Don’t let this fool you for a second, Sunday night’s clash will be a bruiser.

Baltimore have once again established a stingy defence, which is second in the league in total point allowed, behind the Detroit Lions. QB Joe Flacco has established a nice relationship with both of the Smith WR’s, Torrey and Steve and the running game has improved after the Ray Rice scandal of the past 12 months.

Having lost to AFC North rivals Cincinnati last weekend Baltimore can’t afford to let another divisional match-up go against them.

Following a dramatic win against the surging Indianapolis Colts last week, have the Steelers finally got some momentum going? It is impossible to predict which version of the Steelers will show up.

If QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB LeVeon Bell and WR Antonio Brown all show up on the same day this team is capable of beating any team in the league, as they showed last weekend when they scored 51 points against a good Colts defence. If the team that lost to the Browns in week six shows up this team is in trouble.

This match is a crucial tie breaker in the close AFC North. Both of these teams are still in the hunt to win the division, but a loss on Sunday will seriously diminish their chances. Pittsburgh have not yet shown the consistency required to put a run together and for that reason Baltimore will pull off the upset on the road.


Predictions for week nine

  • Thursday night football pits two teams trying to win the league’s worst division, the NFC South – New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers. Whichever team is victorious on Thursday will win the division outright.
  • The Eagles so talked about offence has yet to spark this season, and Sunday night will continue that trend as JJ Watt will produce (another) game changing performance in a Houston win.
  • Reports suggest that Robert Griffin III will start for Washington this weekend. Bad news for Redskins fans is that RGIII will have multiple turnovers and cost his team the win against the Vikings.
  • Another change at starting QB as the Jets replace Geno Smith with Mike Vick. This time the change at signal caller will result in a Jets win on the road in Kansas City.
  • Denard Robinson is quickly establishing himself as the lone bright spot in a dark Jacksonville season. Robinson will have another big weekend and will lead all rushers in the league in week 9.

Eoin Purcell, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.