NGSC Sports

NFL Match-Up Mania: Week 9

The season is now officially at least half over for all teams with the conclusion of the upcoming slate of games. Yet, there’s still so much we don’t know about the league’s landscape. Does Romo’s heartbreaking mid-game back injury against the Redskins mean their hopes are untimely dashed? Does it get any better than Peyton Manning at the quarterback position in 2014? Should anyone who dresses up as JJ Watt automatically win the scariest costume in a Halloween costume contest? OK, so that last one isn’t a compelling NFL question, but I still think a fair one to pose in this Week 9 edition of the Student of the Game’s Match-Up Mania.

Broncos v. Pats

If you didn’t know this game was happening this weekend, your welcome. . . Now kindly crawl out from under that rock you’ve been hiding under. This 16th installment of the Brady vs. Manning match-up looks to be an interesting one going into the contest, but I don’t expect it to be as closely competitive as last year’s regular season pairing that was decided by a muffed punt recovery with three minutes left in overtime. That being said, I expect it to be closer than the Bronco dominated AFC Championship back in January.

[airesizeimg src=”$-300×200$.jpg” alt=”NFL: New York Jets at New England Patriots” class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-7471″ ]

Sure the comparisons between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as signal callers will fly about this week leading up to Sunday, as they should, but there are other factors beyond the quarterback position that should be considered. For one, both teams are better in the 2014 season on defense. Brandon Browner and Darelle Revis represent the best cornerback duo the Patriots have had in this current decade. Put that behind Gerrod Mayo and the world’s fastest immovable object in Vince Wilfork and you have a reasonably balanced force. Now whether or not that will be enough to slow the Broncos production from their wealth of weapons moving the football will be the test.

As tests go, the recently resurgent performance of tight end Rob Gronkowski, the man they call Gronk, provides a scary challenge to defend — even if you’ve acquired Aqib Talib, Demarcus Ware, and TJ Ward in the offseason as personnel upgrades. With Gronk back in place to run passed those who are bigger than him and physically punish those who aren’t other options such as Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell and tight end Tim Wright will get their chances when a defense attempts to adjust.

This battle comes down to which offensive machine is slowed more by their opponent. Since Denver has more weapons on offense overall, including a solid run game, look for Manning to improve his record to 6-10 in pairings against Tom Brady.

Cards v Cowboys

This game not only features 2 teams that no one expected to succeed, it is oozing with playoff implication. Both teams are trying to stave of the rest of their division, both teams seeding would be affected by this game, and it would serve as a statement win for either side.

[airesizeimg src=”$-300×225$.jpg” alt=”55/365 ~ Dallas Cowboys Helmet” class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-1047″ ]

DeMurray vs. a Cardinal defense who slowed Philly’s LeSean McCoy.

Tony Romo (if healthy) and Dez Bryant vs Patrick Peterson and a solid Arizona secondary.

[airesizeimg src=”” alt=”Arizona Cardinals” class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-5460″ ]

Andre Ellington vs. the Dallas defensive front that contained Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson.

Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald vs a dramatically improved Cowboy pass defense.

Any of the match-ups above are X-Factors that may shape this outcome. But the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line looks to me like just too much to topple for the Cardinals despite a tough outing on Monday night.

Honorable Mention

Colts v. Giants

Sure, quarterback Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts lost to Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, but should you really be worried as a member of the Indy fan base? Not really. Luck and company put up 34 points and gave away 16 points on turnovers and safeties. . . Certainly distressing on paper, but even when mistakes are rampant, that offense still produces in an adverse it demonstrates an ability to move the football.

[airesizeimg src=”$-300×186$.jpg” alt=”Andrew Luck” class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-6580″ ]

But what about the fact they are going on the road again Sunday to face a Giants team who also boasts Eli Manning, another two-time Super Bowl winning field general? The fact that New York can’t boast the same veteran talent on defense makes this game instantly less threatening for Luck and company. Consider both teams relative weakness on defense, don’t be shocked if this shootout reaches past the 60 point mark for both teams combined, and the G-men loss since they don’t have Luck on their side.

Eagles v. Texans

[airesizeimg src=”$-300×200$.jpg” alt=”Houston Texans defensive weapon J.J. Watt” class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-6536″ ]

This pairing is intriguing due to the philosophy of these squads. One focuses on running 70 or more plays per game on offense while the other looks to punish you for merely existing on this Earth with their defense.

While this game represents an inter-conference affair, both teams are in desperate need of Ws to keep relevant for a push to the post season.

 Saints v Panthers

I’m not attempting to tell anyone that either of these teams, nor any member of the NFC South, is by any means elite. Both clubs have dealt with injuries to major offensive weapons, both have shipped assets that were more important to their franchise on the field than their front offices seemed to know and both have struggled on defense.

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The X-Factor of the game is the health of Saints tight end Jimmy Graham and Panther quarterback Cam Newton. For me, the Saints defense will be unable to make Carolina one dimensional moving the football. Rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin will enable the Carolina ground game to contribute as well. It’s not smart to bet against New Orleans’ signal caller Drew Brees, but it’s even less wise to depend on their defense. I see Carolina winning this game and making a decisive step towards the winning their division.

Ravens v. Steelers

I’ve made it clear in the past that I find this game to be must watch TV and that all football fans, regardless of team loyalty, will find watching this kind of spirited football truly awesome.

[airesizeimg src=”$-300×169$.jpg” alt=”Ben Roethlisberger broken nose” class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-6304″ ]

On paper, there’s little reason to believe the injury riddled Steelers to win this game, but the physics of this game have led to big moments of past Pittsburgh players like former back up quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch and a starter of former back up Center turned Bills starter Doug Magursky. People step up and wacky things happen can happen in this pairing, but the outcome will be epic football battling. Look for running backs Justin Forsett and Levon Bell to grind up yards for their respective teams on the ground, but the defense that forces more mistakes will win their team the game.

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Kyle NashThe Student of the Game

Host of the Student of The Game Podcast Monday @ 7:30pm EST

Writer for NGSC Sports

Narrator of Sport Symposium on NGSC Sports YouTube Channel.

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