Ross Williams previews Week Nine of the NFL season and provides his best bets of the weekend, looking to build on a 75% success rate over the last fortnight.
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Las Vegas Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers
- Sunday at 2105 GMT
Although it won’t get the hype it deserves, this AFC West clash may well be the game of the week.
I went with the Raiders to beat the Cleveland Browns last week and Jon Gruden’s side came through for us, putting together an understated but thoroughly professional performance in Ohio.
Production in the pass game was minimal for Derek Carr, but he did his job and remained error-free as the rest of his offensive unit executed the game plan and killed the Browns on the ground.
Josh Jacobs had a standout day, racking up 128 yards, and we may well see more of the same this weekend as the Raiders face a defence that puts up very similar numbers to the Cleveland Browns.
The Chargers remain a frustrating football team in 2020. It’s become a long-running joke within the NFL that Los Angeles are the best team in the league at finding ways to lose, and Sunday’s last-second defeat to the Denver Broncos was yet another perfect example of their inability to close out games.
Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert has been exceptional since taking over the starting gig in LA, but his numbers shouldn’t hide the fact that his team have won just one game during his tenure.
Herbert may well carry the Chargers into a fourth-quarter shootout in this one, but it’s hard to not side with the team that has made winning much more of a habit.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Dallas Cowboys
- Sunday at 2125 GMT
The best team in the NFL right now, taking on a team that is having a real stab at being the worst.
By every single metric, this should be a landslide for the Steelers as their undefeated season continues.
Pittsburgh have been excellent so far – mixing a tough, hardy defence with an explosive offence that has had success against every team they’ve come up against.
As for Dallas, things have just gone from bad to worse since Dak Prescott went down with his season-ending injury. The fact of the matter is, we still don’t know who will take to the field as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback on Sunday evening, and that may be the least of their worries.
Defensively, the Cowboys are shot to pieces. They concede over 33 points-per-game on average and against the run, they are nothing short of hopeless. This should be music to the ears of Steelers’ running back James Conner.
Ben Roethlisberger has no reason to take a gung-ho approach on Sunday, as he’s unlikely to be chasing a Dallas lead at any point. Therefore, the Steelers will likely commit to Conner in the run game and exploit Cowboys’ flimsy run defence in a big way.
The Steelers average 118 yards-per-game on the ground and the Cowboys have been leaking over 170 yards-per-game. It doesn’t take complex maths to come to the conclusion that this game should be very, very fruitful for Conner.
Seattle Seahawks @ Buffalo Bills
- Sunday at 1800 GMT
The Buffalo Bills of the last four weeks have looked a far cry from the team that began the 2020 NFL season.
Although the Bills come into this game on a two-game win streak, the results over two of their AFC East rivals have been less than impressive. Buffalo were touchdown-less in an 18-10 victory over the hapless New York Jets, winning the game purely via the boot of their kicker, and only a Cam Newton fumble late in last week’s game allowed the Bills to avoid defeat to the New England Patriots.
On the flip side, Seattle are looking every inch a Super Bowl contender.
The Seahawks haven’t been able to defend (at all) so far this season, so they’ll be hoping the addition of Carlos Dunlap to the roster this week will stiffen up the Seahawks in the middle of the field.
But even if Seattle continue to ship points and an historic amount of yardage, they appear to have the perfect antidote to any and all defensive issues in leading MVP contender Russell Wilson.
The outstanding quarterback has been phenomenal so far this season and he has a receiver tandem in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett that is the cream of the NFL at present.
Buffalo sit 11th in the league against the pass, which is not terrible by any means, but Wilson has already carved up better defences this year and there doesn’t seem to be any stopping the former Super Bowl champion.
Buffalo haven’t scored 30 points in a game since early October, and that kind of form simply won’t be good enough against a Seattle team that are averaging a league-best 34.3 points per game.
Houston Texans @ Jacksonville Jaguars
- Sunday at 1800 GMT
The Houston Texans have to be the unluckiest 1-6 team in NFL history.
At first glance, their record is damning and a clear sign of a bottom-five team in the league. However, there’s a big pinch of salt to be taken when you view the schedule that the Texans have had to battle through in the first two months of the season.
The Texans’ defeats have come at the hands of the Chiefs, the Ravens, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, the Titans and the Green Bay Packers. All told, the combined record of these six teams is 32-12.
Houston have been forced to run a gauntlet of the NFL’s big hitters so far, but mercifully they finally face a team with zero play-off aspirations this weekend.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were widely touted to be the worst team in football before the season got underway.
As it happens, the New York Jets have stolen that dubious honour from them in a big way, but by no means does this let the Jags off the hook. Jacksonville haven’t recorded a win since Week One, and their losing streak is set to continue on Sunday.
You’d usually expect a lot of points in this one, with the second and third worst defences in the NFL going head-to-head, but with Gardner Minshew out and untested rookie Jake Luton set to start at quarterback for Jacksonville, Jaguar touchdowns are far from guaranteed.
Due to the Texans’ run of fixtures, it’s hard to really know how good they can be. They’ve been swallowed up by some exceptional defences so far and barely given a chance to flex their muscles.
On the rare occasion that they did get a little bit of respite against Tennessee, they pushed the then-undefeated Titans all the way to overtime.
There may well be a competent football team in there, they just need the opportunity to show what they can do. As for the Jaguars, we pretty much know what we’re dealing with, a poor football team in rebuild mode that isn’t all that interested in winning games.
Odds correct as of 14:30 on 06/11/20