NFL Preview: Beware Carolina of Aaron Rodgers, Lethal after a Loss

A lot of interesting storylines for NFL Week Nine.

Can the beleaguered Cowboys stop their five-game losing streak against a beatable Eagles squad? Can the Panthers continue to win ugly with the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers coming to town? Will a change at offensive coordinator help the Colts’ Andrew Luck? Can the Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson out-duel up-and-coming runner Todd Gurley? Are the Raiders for real?

Lets’ take a closer look at Sunday’s NFL action . . .

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) at Dallas Cowboys (2-5)

The Eagles’ talented left tackle Jason Peters won’t play due to a back injury. This should help the Cowboys’ pass rush led by defensive Greg Hardy.

The Cowboys try to stay afloat until their franchise quarterback Tony Romo returns from a broken collarbone, which could happen in a couple of weeks. Getting to 3-5 keeps them alive. Dropping to 2-6 likely finishes them.

Look for the Cowboys, after coming close to beating Seattle last week, to end their five-game losing streak with an inspired effort.

Miami Dolphins (3-4) at Buffalo Bills (3-4)

The Bills try to pound the Dolphins on the ground against Miami’s 25th-ranked run defense to help cover for their pedestrian passing offense.

The Bills come off a bye-week, and are healthier than the Dolphins, who lost their best pass rusher, Cam Wake, for the season in their last game. They also will be without their talented right tackle Juwan James, and speedy receiver Devante Parker.

Miami seeks to avenge an embarrassing 41-14 loss in Week Three, so the Dolphins’ fiery interim head coach, Dan Campbell, will use this as a rallying cry. This game is a toss-up.

Green Bay Packers (6-1) at Carolina Panthers (7-0)

The Packers have the NFL’s 27th-ranked pass offense, which is somewhat shocking considering they start Aaron Rodgers under center. Facing the NFL’s 7th-ranked pass defense isn’t going to help. Carolina’s Josh Norman has emerged as one of the game’s finest corners.

But according to NFL.com’s Gil Brandt, in the last 14 games following a loss, Rodgers boasts a 14-0 record with 45 touchdowns and five interceptions, and has not lost consecutive games in the same season since 2010.

With that being said, it’s hard to pick against Rodgers in this game.

St. Louis Rams (4-3) at Minnesota Vikings (5-2)

Don’t expect passing records in this contest. The Rams’ last-ranked pass offense travels to Minneapolis to play the NFL’s 30th-ranked passing attack.

But this should be a heck of a ground war, featuring Vikings future Hall-of-Fame running back Adrian Peterson and the Rams rookie sensation Todd Gurley. The Rams yielded just 12 points in each of the last two games.

This one is too close to call.

Washington Redskins (3-4) at New England Patriots (7-0)

The Redskins love to run the ball, and will hand-off ad infinitum to eat up the clock and keep Tom Brady off the field.

While New England tight end Rob Gronkowski gets a ton of attention and rightfully so, the Redskins start a heck of a tight end themselves in Jordan Reed, who caught 11 passes in his last game. Both teams should have tight end coverage issues.

But here is why the Redskins are going to have big problem winning this game – they might be without their top three cornerbacks due to injury. That is a recipe for disaster against Brady.

Tennessee Titans (1-6) at New Orleans Saints (4-4)

Titans owner Amy Adams fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt. Why? Because she can.

From a football standpoint, it made little sense. The Titans aren’t very talented, and when they decided to hand the keys to rookie-project quarterback Mark Mariota, they were essentially writing off the season. So Adams firing Whisenhunt was a reactionary move.

The Titans field the NFL’s 31st-ranked passing offense, and traveling to New Orleans without one of their best receivers, Kendall Wright. They are also banged-up at cornerback facing the Saints’ red-hot Drew Brees, coming off a seven-touchdown performance against the Giants. The only silver-lining for Whisenhunt losing his job is he doesn’t have to coach this game, which could get real embarrassing for the Titans.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5) at New York Jets (4-3)

Last week the Jets lost their starting quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, to a left thumb injury, on their first series in Oakland, and the bottom dropped out. They got blown out.

The Jets got a huge break with the news that Fitzpatrick, who is having a terrific season, will be able to play with the injury. Another reason for the Jets’ loss to Oakland was awful tackling by their highly-ranked defense. Their defenders are tired of hearing about the bad tackling, after getting hammered by the New York press all week, so look for a much better effort this week.

With the return of Fitzpatrick, and a defense playing with its hair on fire, expect the Jets to win this game.

Oakland Raiders (4-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4)

The Raiders are much-improved, but their pass defense isn’t very good (31st ranked), and could be without starting CB T.J. Carrie. So, look for Ben Roethlisberger to get a lot done against this secondary, and for the Steelers to win at home.

Atlanta Falcons (6-2) at San Francisco 49ers (2-6)

The 49ers offense is offensive, ranked dead last in the NFL.

So they are making a quarterback change going from Colin Kaepernick to Blaine Gabbert. Helping Gabbert’s cause is facing a Falcons defense without two key members of the secondary – CB Robert Alford and S William Moore. Also, outside linebacker Justin Durant is out, and defensive end Vic Beasley is questionable.

Gabbert, a former first round pick of Jacksonville, struggled mightily as a starter with the Jaguars. He lasted just three years in North Florida. However, he’s been able to sit the last year-and-half in San Francisco as a backup, so we will see if the time spent sitting and learning helped him.

Over the last month, Atlanta hasn’t played well, and it wouldn’t be a total surprise, should Gabbert manage the game, if San Francisco makes this a game.

New York Giants (4-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)

The Giants defense ranks dead last in the NFL.

Saints QB Drew Brees threw seven touchdowns against them last week. Buccaneers rookie quarterback Jameis Winston says not to expect a repeat performance.

“That is Drew Brees that did that,” Winston said, “I’m no Drew Brees.”

And Winston thinks the embarrassed Giants defense will play a lot better this week.

“But you’ve just got to go to the next game because they’re coming with a different attitude, because they’re like, ‘Drew Brees just did this to us.’ So they’re going to try to play even harder. They’re going to rise up to the occasion.”

By the way, Giants QB Eli Manning comes off a six-touchdown performance against the Saints and should out-duel the rookie and lead the G-Men to a win.

Denver Broncos (7-0) at Indianapolis Colts (3-5)

Denver continues to be buttressed by their #1 defense, which has been dominant with Peyton Manning along for the ride.

Manning’s old team, the Colts, made a change at offensive coordinator, which should help them. The new coordinator Rob Chudzinski has an excellent reputation as a play-caller, doing a fine job in the role in Cleveland, Carolina, and at the University of Miami.

This game could go either way.


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