We have made it to Week 9 — the halfway point of this NFL season. It has been a long, strange trip already, and the twists and turns are only starting. Thankfully, this week seems fairly straightforward — at least on paper. Of course, that probably means that we are in for all sorts of trouble as we try to pick all of the straight up winners to dominate our NFL office pools:
Kansas City at San Diego - The Chargers are coming off a 7-6 loss. To Cleveland. The Chiefs haven’t had a lead for seven games. It is possible, and even likely, that this is the worst nationally televised game in the history of the league — and that’s saying something. Someone has to win — probably — so the home team gets the edge. Take the Chargers.
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Miami at Indianapolis - I like how Indianapolis is playing, and I think it is unfortunate that Andrew Luck is getting overshadowed by the flashier Robert Griffin III this year. Still, I have to pick against the Colts here. The Dolphins are playing ruthless defense right now, and their offense is surprisingly effective as well. They have quietly won three straight, and they have a chance to be a shocking contender in the weak AFC this year. Take the Dolphins.
Baltimore at Cleveland – The Browns showed a lot in their win against San Diego on Sunday, and they continue to impress me with their toughness. The offense is brutal, though, and they should be outclassed by what Baltimore — a well-rested team — can bring to the table. Take the Ravens.
Buffalo at Houston - Both teams are coming off bye weeks, so they will be rested. All the rest in the world, though, couldn’t get Buffalo to play up to the caliber that these Texans have for all but one game this year. I expect a better Bills team for the second half, but this is too much for them. Take the Texans.
Chicago at Tennessee - I really don’t want to believe in this Chicago team, but it is getting harder and harder to ignore the Bears 6-1 record — even if they only barely beat a sloppy Cam Newton on Sunday. Tennessee has a world of issues and will not perform well on the road. Take the Bears.
Denver at Cincinnati - Peyton Manning is doing a very good impression of Peyton Manning, and the Broncos can suddenly play very good defense. Put that up against a team with no heart and the outcome becomes clear. Denver has a chance to run away with the AFC West now, and they know it. Take the Broncos.
Arizona at Green Bay – The Packers made Blaine Gabbert look much, much better last week than they should have, but they should still have more than enough in the tank to beat up on this Arizona team coming off a short week and potentially playing in a climate that really doesn’t suit the Cardinals. Take the Packers.
Detroit at Jacksonville - Don’t look now, but there are signs of life from the Lions. I still don’t know where Calvin Johnson is, but they looked solid again beating the Seahawks and are much closer to their potential. Jacksonville was decent last week, but another tough road game will be a huge test — too much of one. Take the Lions.
Carolina at Washington - It’s last year’s Cam Newton against this year’s. I have no idea what has happened to the real Newton this year, but his attitude just stinks and he is impossibly sloppy. Washington returns home and plays a weaker team and that should be enough. Take the Redskins.
Tampa Bay at Oakland - No brainer here. I love how the Bucs played last week in Minnesota, and I don’t think it was a fluke. Oakland only barely gets credit for beating the Chiefs, and the Raiders have all sorts of issues. A win here gets the Bucs back to .500. They’ll get it in a cake walk. Take Tampa Bay.
Minnesota at Seattle - Tough game because both teams are coming off very disappointing efforts. I lean slightly to the Seahawks because they are at home and because their defense should bounce back well from their issues last week. This is the toughest game to call on the week, though. Take the Seahawks.
Pittsburgh at New York Giants - This may be the second toughest game. The Steelers are playing better recently. New York is tough at home, though, and is the better team on paper — certainly the deeper, at least. Take the Giants.
Dallas at Atlanta - Tony Romo has made the throwing of interceptions into an art form this year. Matt Ryan, meanwhile, is playing like a ruthless football robot programmed to destroy. The Falcons have yet to make a big misstep, and they won’t here against a very disappointing Dallas team. Take the Falcons.
Philadelphia at New Orleans - The Eagles are a total mess on both sides of the ball. Fortunately, they are up against a New Orleans defense that is the worst we have ever seen through seven games. If I could pick neither team I would. I have to take someone, though, so I’ll go with the Saints at home.
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