FOXBOROUGH — Missing Thursday’s game by a mile, here are my Week 9 NFL picks.
(Thanks, Red Sox.)
Chiefs (-4) at Bills (+4) — Alex Smith hadn’t thrown a touchdown in three weeks before coming up with two against the Cleveland Browns. Slowing him was the last hope for opposing teams facing the top-ranked defense in the NFL (12.3 points allowed per game).
My pick: Chiefs
Falcons (+7.5) at Panthers (-7.5) — The Panthers, sporting the second-ranked defense (13.7 points allowed per game), have exploded on offense in the past three weeks, scoring 30 or more points in wins against the Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
My pick: Panthers
Vikings (+10) at Cowboys (-10) — The Vikings are expected to start Christian Ponder at quarterback.
My pick: Cowboys
Saints (-6) at Jets (+6) — The third-ranked passing offense is facing the first-ranked rush defense. The problem here, though, is that the Saints don’t seem to care for their running game (85.3 rushing yards per game). It’s just not central to their offensive philosophy. And yet they’re 6-1.
My pick: Saints
Titans (-3) at Rams (+3) — Jeff Fisher, coaching the St. Louis Rams, gets to meet his old team in the Tennessee Titans. But despite losing three straight games, the Titans are favored in a game of really mediocre teams as the visitors. That’s because the Titans’ last three losses have come against the NFC and AFC elite, losing to Kansas City, Seattle, and San Francisco before taking the bye. This will be their pick-me-up game.
My pick: Titans
Chargers (-1) at Washington (+1) — Surprisingly, Phillip Rivers is having an immensely better year than Robert Griffin III. Unfortunately for RGIII, Washington’s defense is also giving up 32.7 points per game, second worst in the league.
My pick: Chargers
Eagles (+3) at Raiders (-3) — Terrelle Pryor threw for only 88 yards and the Raiders had three turnovers against the Pittsburgh Steelers, yet still came away with the victory. Surely they can handle the Philadelphia Eagles (3-5).
My pick: Raiders
Buccaneers (+17) at Seahawks (-17) — Every time I’ve gone for the 14-or-more-point favorite, I’ve been wrong. Well, not this time. The Bucs may be 0-7, but you can’t say they don’t compete.
My pick: Buccaneers
Ravens (-3) at Browns (+3) — The Browns are now back to their continued downward spiral after a brief hiatus in the winning column with Brian Hoyer at quarterback. At 3-5, some guy named Jason Campbell is now under center after Brandon Weedon was yanked. Yeah, it doesn’t look good. But that’s nothing new.
My pick: Ravens
Steelers (+7) at Patriots (-7) — The Steelers are having a tough time running the ball (68.7 rushing yards per game), a weakness of the Patriots in their past four games, and are having an even harder time stopping the run (121.9 yards allowed per game), something uncharacteristic of a Pittsburgh defense. It’s quite possible for the Patriots to blow this team out of the water if Tom Brady can regain his accuracy and feed Stevan Ridley the ball.
My pick: Patriots
Colts (-3) at Texans (+3) — The Texans are starting Case Keenum at quarterback again. He’s 0-1 as the team’s starter, falling to the Kansas City Chiefs, 17-16, last week. The Colts (5-2) are coming off the bye after a shocking 39-33 win over the Denver Broncos.
My pick: Colts
Bears (+11) at Packers (-11) — With the fourth-best rushing defense and second-best offense (438.9 yards per game), the Packers are a juggernaut right now. Rookie running back Eddie Lacy has rushed for 446 yards and three touchdowns.
My pick: Packers
Last week: 6-7
Zuri Berry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @zuriberry and on Google+.