What a bizarre week in the NFL – and Seattle wasn’t even a part of it. The Seahawks enjoyed their bye in Week 9, which saw more upsets than any other so far in 2021. From Denver’s complete demolishing of Dallas to Jacksonville’s Josh Allen besting Buffalo’s Josh Allen, it was a topsy turvy week, to say the least. Most importantly – for Seattle, at least – the Seahawks’ playoff positioning improved without them lifting a feather… or a finger in Russell Wilson’s case. The star QB has been sidelined since Week 5 with a ruptured tendon in a finger on his right hand (mallet finger), but he’s been cleared to play ahead of Seattle’s Week 10 matchup against a Packers team coming off a 13-7 loss to Kansas City.
It’s unclear whether Aaron Rodgers will be available for Green Bay as the reigning NFL MVP missed Week 9 due to a positive COVID-19 test. It was also discovered Rodgers lied about having taken the vaccine, which unsurprisingly goes against NFL policy. The Seahawks, who are sitting at 3-5 and a game behind Atlanta for the NFC’s final playoff spot, won’t necessarily complain if Rodgers misses the upcoming game as they still need some help to make the playoffs. With Green Bay, Dallas, New Orleans, Carolina, Minnesota, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, and the Rams – NFC teams with equal or better records than Seattle entering Week 9 – all losing last week, the Seahawks couldn’t have fared much better without having the chance to add to the win column themselves.
As we saw this past week, it’s difficult to win in the NFL, so whether the Hawks face Rodgers or Jordan Love in Week 10, the team needs to bring its A-game. Having an extra week to prepare along with the return of Wilson under center gives Seattle a better chance, but playing at Lambeau Field in November is never a gimme.
All that being said, let’s see if I can get back on track with my picks this week.
My season picks record: 7-7 last week, 83-53 overall
Seattle (3-5) at Green Bay (7-2)
The Seahawks are coming off a Week 9 bye. In Week 8, Seattle played its most complete game of the season in a 31-7 rout of Jacksonville. And that was with Geno Smith at quarterback. The win snapped a three-game losing streak and kept the Hawks afloat in the NFC playoff picture. Smith passed for 195 yards and hit DK. Metcalf for a pair of TD strikes. Metcalf finished with 43 yards on six catches. Tyler Lockett netted 142 yards on 12 receptions.
The Aaron Rodgers-less Packers fell 13-7 to Kansas City. In his first-ever NFL start, Jordan Love completed 19 of 34 passes for 190 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He also carried the ball five times for 23 yards. Love hit Allen Lazard for a 20-yard TD with less than five minutes to go in the fourth for the team’s only score. Aaron Jones had 53 yards on 12 carries while Randall Cobb finished with 50 yards on three catches.
This one is heavily dependent on Rodgers’ status. If he’s out, expect Seattle to take advantage. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t play, though, so I’m going with Green Bay.
Pick: Packers 31, Seahawks 24
Baltimore (6-2) at Miami (2-7) – Thursday
The Ravens trailed for most of their game against Minnesota but ultimately escaped with a 34-31 overtime win, thanks to a 36-yard field goal from Justin Tucker with 16 seconds left in OT. Baltimore fought back from 14 down with 21 straight points to briefly enjoy a 31-24 advantage before Minnesota knotted things up to force overtime. Lamar Jackson threw for 266 yards and three touchdowns but was picked off twice. Jackson also racked up 120 yards on 21 totes. Marquise Brown tallied 116 yards on nine catches.
Continuing with the bizarre theme, the Dolphins downed Houston 17-9 while committing five turnovers to the Texans’ four. Yes, arguably the two worst teams in football combined for nine turnovers, and the team that gave it away more (Miami) won. Jacoby Brissett threw for 244 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted twice and lost a fumble. Two other Dolphins – Myles Gaskin and Jevon Holland – lost fumbles as well. Holland lost his fumble following an interception. Fortunately for the Phins, Justin Coleman and Jerome Baker held onto their picks.
After last week, one should probably put money on Miami, but I just can’t do that. It’s Baltimore for me.
Pick: Ravens 29, Dolphins 7
Atlanta (4-4) at Dallas (6-2)
Younghoe Koo’s 29-yard field goal as time expired lifted the Falcons to a 27-25 win over New Orleans. Matt Ryan threw for 343 yards and a pair of touchdowns while Cordarrelle Patterson took six catches for 126 yards. Surprisingly, Atlanta was held to a mere 34 rushing yards.
The Cowboys were pummeled in their 30-16 home loss to Denver. Dallas found itself down 30-0 before Dak Prescott found Malik Turner for a 5-yard touchdown with 4:08 remaining. Prescott found Turner again for a 4-yard score with under a minute to play. Both TDs were followed by successful two-point conversions. Prescott finished with 232 yards – much of that coming during garbage time – and an interception on 19-of-39 passing. Turner had 33 yards on five catches. Ezekiel Elliot was held to 50 yards on 10 carries.
Dallas should rebound in a big way against Atlanta.
Pick: Cowboys 38, Falcons 28
New Orleans (5-3) at Tennessee (7-2)
The Saints lost 27-25 to Atlanta on a last-second field goal as time expired. In his first start of the season, Trevor Siemian had 249 yards and two touchdowns passing. Alvin Kamara took 13 carries for 50 yards and a score while adding 54 yards on four receptions.
No Derrick Henry? No problem for Tennessee, which put together a resounding 28-16 win over the heavily favored Rams. Two interceptions – including a 24-yard pick-six from Kevin Byard – aided in the Titans building a 28-9 lead. Tennessee was out-gained 347 yards to 194. Ryan Tannehill netted a pedestrian 143 yards, one touchdown, and an interception through the air. A.J. Brown came down with five catches for 42 yards. The Titans ran for a mere 69 yards in their first game without Derrick Henry.
Both teams are missing key players and had struggles in their ground games in Week 9, but Tennessee just seems to find ways to win.
Pick: Titans 25, Saints 24
Jacksonville (2-6) at Indianapolis (4-5)
A week ago, this columnist nearly predicted the upset of the year. In predicting the Jaguars’ matchup with the Bills, I said, “In the biggest upset of the season… just kidding. It’s Buffalo.” Well, the joke was on me as Jacksonville indeed upset Buffalo 9-6. Perhaps even more bizarre than the score was the player that disrupted Bills superstar QB Josh Allen the most – Jags linebacker Josh Allen. That’s correct; the little-known Jacksonville linebacker had a monster game to shut down his namesake. The Jags’ Allen finished with a sack, a fumble recovery, two tackles for loss, and tied the team-high in tackles with eight. In all, Jacksonville forced three turnovers and had four sacks. Matthew Wright’s 21-yard field goal with 12:10 left in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference. It was Wright’s third field goal has he had all nine points for the Jags.
Jonathan Taylor is picking up steam. The second-year running back rumbled his way to 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Colts’ 45-30 win over the Jets. With 28 yards on two catches, Taylor finished with 200 yards from scrimmage. Carson Wentz has seemingly found a rhythm as he threw for 272 yards and three TDs. Michael Pittman Jr. caught five passes for 64 yards and a score.
Jacksonville beat the more impressive opponent, but Indianapolis simply looks better… plus, Taylor is a beast.
Pick: Colts 36, Jaguars 15
Cleveland (5-4) at New England (5-4)
The Patriots defense intercepted Carolina QB Sam Darnold thrice – on three consecutive Panthers drives – en route to a 24-6 win. In the third quarter, J.C. Jackson picked off Darnold twice and returned the first 88 yards to pay dirt. Jackson’s second INT came two drives later. Sandwiched in-between was an interception by Jamie Collins Sr. Mac Jones threw for only 139 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson logged the best game of his young career with 62 yards on 10 carries to go along with 44 yards on a pair of receptions.
The Browns made headlines during the week leading up to their showdown with Cincinnati by releasing disgruntled star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The Result? A 41-16 shellacking of the Bengals. Nick Chubb averaged nearly 10 yards per carry by racking up 137 yards on 14 totes, over half of that coming on a 70-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Chubb also plunged in for a 1-yard score in the second. Denzel Ward took an interception 99 yards to pay dirt midway through the first to put Cleveland up 7-0. Donovan Peoples-Jones had two catches for 86 yards, 60 of which came on a catch-and-run touchdown in the second.
Perhaps getting rid of the OBJ drama is just what Cleveland needed to become the contender it was thought to be. It will be a tough, defensive battle in Foxborough, but the home team comes up short.
Pick: Browns 20, Patriots 17
Buffalo (5-3) at New York Jets (2-6)
As mentioned above, I should have followed through on my sarcastic near-pick of Jacksonville as the Bills fell to the Jaguars 9-6. Also mentioned above, Jacksonville’s Josh Allen shut down Buffalo’s Josh Allen. The Bills quarterback threw for 264 yards but was picked off twice while running for 50 yards on five carries. Stefon Diggs finished with 85 yards on six catches. Kicker Tyler Bass hit two field goals to score all six of Buffalo’s points.
Quarterback Mike White injured his arm on a touchdown pass to Elijah Moore that tied things up at 7-7, but he had to sit out the rest of the Jets’ 45-30 loss to Indianapolis. Josh Johnson filled in to the tune of 317 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Moore finished with 84 yards and two scores on seven catches. New York trailed 42-10 before outscoring Indy 20-3 over the final quarter and a half.
If Buffalo has any hope to regain its form on offense, now is the time.
Pick: Bills 32, Jets 16
Detroit (0-8) at Pittsburgh (5-3)
The Lions are coming off a Week 9 bye. Detroit was absolutely massacred by Philadelphia in Week 8, getting blown out 44-6. Jared Goff threw for 222 yards, including 89 to T.J. Hockenson, who hauled in 10 catches. Jermar Jefferson’s 8-yard run midway through the fourth quarter proved to be the Lions’ lone touchdown.
Chris Boswell knocked through a 40-yard field goal with 26 seconds left to lift the Steelers to the 29-27 win over Chicago. Pittsburgh led 20-6 entering the fourth before surviving the Bears’ fourth quarter onslaught. Rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth caught both of Ben Roethlisberger’s touchdown passes en route to 43 yards on five catches. Roethlisberger finished with 205 yards through the air. Najee Harris also found the end zone on a 10-yard run in the first quarter. Harris totaled 62 yards on 22 carries.
This might not be the Steelers team we’ve been accustomed to over the years, but Pittsburgh is definitely better than Detroit this season.
Pick: Steelers 41, Lions 23
Tampa Bay (6-2) at Washington (2-6)
The Buccaneers are coming off a Week 9 bye. Tampa’s 36-27 loss to New Orleans in Week 8 was among the most surprising outcomes this season – more because starting quarterback Jameis Winston left the game early on, and the Saints rallied behind former seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian to knock off Tom Brady and Co. Brady finished with 375 yards and four touchdown passes but was intercepted twice. Chris Godwin racked up 140 yards and a score on eight catches.
Washington is also coming off a Week 9 bye. The Football Team dropped its fourth straight game in Week 8, losing 17-10 to Denver. Taylor Heinicke threw for 270 yards and a touchdown but was picked off twice. J.D. McKissic caught eight passes for 83 yards. Washington’s special teams unit didn’t offer much help as it allowed the Broncos to block two field goal attempts.
Tampa had an extra week to prepare, which is bad news for Washington
Pick: Buccaneers 40, WFT 20
Carolina (4-5) at Arizona (8-1)
How quickly 3-0 has turned into 4-5. The Panthers dropped their fifth game in six weeks with a 24-6 drubbing by New England. Sam Darnold completed just 16 of his 33 pass attempts for 172 yards and was picked off three times. Christian McCaffrey returned to the tune of 54 yards on four catches while adding 52 more on 14 carries. Zane Gonzalez knocked in a pair of field goals to score Carolina’s only points.
The Cardinals once again stand alone atop the NFL as the league’s only one-loss team following their 31-17 win over San Francisco. Colt McCoy finished with 249 yards and a touchdown through the air in replacement of Kyler Murray. James Conner ran for 96 yards and a pair of scores on 21 carries, while Christian Kirk netted 91 yards on six catches. Kirk also completed his only pass attempt for 33 yards. The Cards were also missing receivers DeAndre Hopkins and AJ Green.
Even if Arizona’s injured players can’t go, the Cards are the better team.
Pick: Cardinals 30, Panthers 13
Minnesota (3-5) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-3)
The Vikings fell 34-31 to Baltimore in overtime. Minnesota led by as many as 14 points but found itself trailing late in the fourth quarter. Kirk Cousins hit Adam Thielen for a 1-yard game-saving touchdown toss to tie things up at 31-31 and force OT. Cousins finished with 187 yards and two TDs through the air. Dalvin Cook had 110 yards on 17 carries while Justin Jefferson led the team in receiving with 69 yards and a score on three catches.
Justin Herbert was back to his usual self in the Chargers’ 27-24 win over Philadelphia. Following consecutive losses to Baltimore and New England – including a combined three of his six interceptions this season – Herbert put together an impressive stat line of 356 yards and two touchdowns on 32-of-38 passing. He also found the end zone on an 8-yard run in the fourth quarter that put Los Angeles up 24-17. Keenan Allen hauled in 12 catches for 104 yards.
When Herbert is on his game, the Bolts are dangerous enough to beat anyone… Fortunately for LA, Minnesota isn’t exactly elite.
Pick: Chargers 37, Vikings 27
Philadelphia (3-6) at Denver (5-4)
Rookie receiver Devonta Smith scored his first touchdown – a 28-yard strike from Jalen Hurts – and racked up 116 yards on five catches in the Eagles’ 27-24 loss to the Chargers. Hurts finished with 162 yards on 11-of-17 passing while adding 62 yards on 10 carries. Jordan Howard led the rushing attack with 71 yards and a TD on 17 totes.
In one of the most surprising outcomes of Week 9, the Broncos humiliated Dallas with a not-as-close-as-it-looks score of 30-16. Denver’s defense swarmed and the offense scored in building a 30-0 lead before the Cowboys scored a pair of garbage-time touchdowns with two-point conversions. Rookie running back Javonte Williams ran for 111 yards on 17 carries – his first time reaching the century mark in a game. Melvin Gordon III netted 80 yards and a touchdown on 21 totes. Teddy Bridgewater threw for 249 yards and a 44-yard scoring bomb to Tim Patrick, who totaled 85 yards on four catches.
Let’s assume Denver unlocked a formula, and it will continue against Philly in the Mile High city.
Pick: Broncos 34, Eagles 18
Kansas City (5-4) at Las Vegas (5-3)
The Chiefs took advantage of Aaron Rodgers’ absence in Week 9… barely. Kansas City edged out the reigning MVP’s Packers 13-7. Patrick Mahomes completed only 20 of his 37 pass attempts for 166 yards and a touchdown. Travis Kelce was the recipient of the 1-yard scoring toss on his way to 68 yards on five catches. Darrell Williams netted 70 yards on 19 carries. The Chiefs gained a mere 237 yards – well below their season average of 403 per contest – without committing a turnover.
The Raiders’ two-game win streak was snapped in their 23-16 loss to the Giants. Las Vegas lost despite out-gaining New York 403 yards to 245. Derek Carr was picked off twice and finished with 296 yards and a touchdown through the air. Darren Waller netted 92 yards on seven receptions while Josh Jacobs took 13 carries for 76 yards.
Mahomes and Co. look lost right now.
Pick: Raiders 27, Chiefs 22
Los Angeles Rams (7-2) at San Francisco (3-5) – Monday
The Rams committed 12 penalties for 115 yards in their surprising 28-16 loss to Tennessee. Matthew Stafford threw for 294 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice – including a pick-six in the second quarter. Robert Woods netted 98 yards on seven receptions while Cooper Kupp was just behind with 95 yards on 11 catches. Darrell Henderson Jr. had 55 yards on 11 carries. Sony Michel scored the Rams’ lone touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Stafford.
George Kittle returned in a big way with 101 yards and a touchdown on six catches, but it wasn’t enough as the 49ers lost 31-17 to a short-handed Arizona squad. Kittle had been inactive since Week 4 against Seattle. Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 326 yards and two TDs and was picked off once. Brandon Aiyuk re-emerged as a threat with 89 yards and a score on six catches.
While the Rams stumbled in Week 9, LA is still the superior team in this one.
Pick: Rams 32, 49ers 19
Teams on bye: Chicago Bears (3-6), Cincinnati Bengals (5-4), New York Giants (3-6), Houston Texans (1-8).