AFC West

Pigskin Preview- National Football League Week 9

It’s the Pigskin Preview and Week 8 in the NFL. The trade deadline is approaching and teams are finally starting to show their true colors. We are learning who are the contenders and pretenders in the league.

The best record in the NFL belongs to potential MVP candidate Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles. They dominated the San Francisco 49ers 33-10 in Philadelphia to move the Eagles to 7-1 for the season and it’s 0-8 for first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Another top contender in the NFC, who are now winners of four straight games, the Minnesota Vikings after defeating the win-less Browns overseas in England 33-16. That was thanks to another strong performance from QB Case Kennum. Inching right behind the Vikings for the second-best record in the East are a few teams.

Teams like the New Orleans Saints who are winners of five straight and hold a 5-2 record after beating the Bears 20-12 in the Superdome. Right behind the Saints in their division are the Carolina Panthers at 5-3 who just imposed their dominance on a bad Bucs team for a 17-3 victory.

This week we saw three AFC teams move to 6-2 this weekend. The Patriots defeated the Chargers 21-13, the Pittsburgh Steelers got a big win on Sunday Night beating the Lions 25-20, and the Chiefs moved to 6-2 as well after dropping two straight, with a 29-19 victory.

But there is another team that is only a half game off the pace in the conference, and that is the Buffalo Bills. The Bills are 5-2 and have been in every game this season. They beat the Oakland Raiders 34-14 this past week thanks to 151 rushing yards and a touchdown from LeSean McCoy. The AFC is top heavy with the three powerhouses at 6-2, but the Bills are right there and they have been as competitive as any team in the NFL, as well as one of the most pleasant surprises in the entire league.

So here are the best matchups coming to Week 9 of the NFL Season!

Denver Broncos @ Philadelphia Eagles

The Denver Broncos are coming off a disappointing 29-19 loss on the road to Kansas City, due to a terrible performance on offense with five total turnovers. That makes it their third straight loss and they fall to 3-4 on the season. Things aren’t getting any easier for the Broncos as they have to once again go on the road and face a team that is trending in a much different direction.

Winners of six straight are the 7-1 Philadelphia Eagles.  The Eagles are led by MVP candidate Carson Wentz, who is coming off a dominating victory over the 49ers. In a rainy game in Philly, Wentz still managed to throw for 211 yards on 18/32 passing and had two touchdowns, with one interception.

On the season, compared to all passers in the NFL, Wentz is first in passing touchdowns with 19, compared to only five interceptions (T-7 lowest,) third in passing yards with 2063, sixth in passer rating at 101.6, and 200 yards on the ground. This is one of the most underrated assets of Wentz game, his mobility. Credit to the emergence of the second-year quarterback and thanks to his weapons around him.

The impact of Pro Bowl WR Alshon Jeffery has been felt as the former Bears receiver has 416 yards, and three TDs on the season. Even though he is not leading the team in yards, catches or touchdowns, his big-play ability is opening up the field for the man who is leading in all of those category’s, Zach Ertz. The fifth-year pro from Stanford is on pace for the best season of his career, with 43 catches, 528 yards, and six touchdowns, and his Wentz go-to target in the Red Zone, and third downs.

The Eagles have also seen their third-year pro, former 1st round pick Nelson Agholor move to the slot this season and he has five TDs, along with 392 yards. He has shown to be a threat down the field for Wentz, with two TDs of 50 yards or more.

The Eagles offense is more than just passing as head coach Doug Pederson. He has done a good job managing a trio of RBs, LeGarrette Blount who is averaging 4.6 yards per carry, second-year back Wendell Smallwood and undrafted rookie Corey Clement, which is good enough for the fourth best rushing offense in the NFL. The Eagles weren’t satisfied with that and made a trade deadline move for Dolphins RB Jay Ayaji, who rushed for 1272 and eight TDs a season ago and is on pace for over 1000 once again.

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles are led up the middle by DT Fletcher Cox, and Timmy Jernigan, who have a combined six sacks. The Eagles edge rushers are just as scary, led by Brandon Graham who has team-leading five sacks, and rotation of guys such as Vinny Curry, Derek Barnet, Mychal Kendrick’s, and Chris long who all have two sacks each on the year. To make things even worse for the Broncos coming into this game, CB Ronald Darby is expected to return in this game after missing the past eight games since a Week 1 dislocated ankle.

It will be hard to imagine, that this will be the week they get it together, after how poorly the Broncos have looked on offense lately. In the three-game losing streak quarterback, Trevor Siemian has thrown six interceptions and has struggled to get anything going offensively for the Broncos. The best chance for the Broncos to stop the Eagles team is getting pressure on Wentz, and try to force turnovers.

The Broncos pass rush is led by Von Miller who has seven sacks on the season, and he could make it a long day for new LT Vaitai, the replacement for All-Pro Jason Peters who suffered a torn MCL/ACL against the Redskins. Denver will be looking to answer the Eagles offense with their dominate CB trio of Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., and Bradly Roby. This game is going to come down to whether the Broncos can limit their turnovers with Trevor Siemian, and can try be the first team to contain the Eagles offense and Carson Wentz.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Dallas Cowboys 

This should be the best game of the day on Sunday with two high-powered explosive offenses when the 6-2 Kansas City Chiefs head to Dallas to play the 4-3 Cowboys.

The Chiefs come into this one after a dominating victory and saw one their best performances on defense this season forcing five turnovers, including an interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery which he returned 45 yards for a touchdown.

The Cowboys are winners of two straight, after a dominating performance from Ezekiel Elliott who ran for 150 yards and had two touchdowns in a 33-19 win on the road against the Redskins. But, Elliot will be out for the next six games after a New York judge finally ruled on the suspension. It’s a big hole to fill without Elliot as he has had 690 rushing yards on the season, 900 all-purpose yards and has eight total touchdowns.

The initial suspect to replace Elliot is former Redskins running back Alfred Morris, who only has 13 carries this season for 105 yards.

Second-year year quarterback Dak Prescott has played well this season, and has been able to spark big plays, and take care of the football. Throwing for 1569 yards 14 touchdowns compared to four interceptions. He has rushed for 168 yards and three touchdowns as well.

Dak has relied on the Cowboys bread and butter for years, star wideout Dez Bryant who has 366 yards and four TDs, and veteran TE Jason Witten who has 314 yards and three touchdowns. Dak has been able to utilize a trio of receivers in Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, Terrence Williams, who have combined for 47 catches 564 yards, and four TDs.

The Chiefs answer to try and contain the Cowboys? More offense. Alex Smith has his own argument to MVP of the NFL, having a 70% completion rate, throwing for 2181 yards, second highest in the NFL, a 115.9 passer rating, and an improbable 16-0 touchdown to interception ratio. Along with Smith, the Chiefs have a potential rookie of the year candidate and breakout star from Toledo, Kareem Hunt. Hunt has 763 rushing yards along with 307 receiving, for 1070 total All-Purpose yards, and six touchdowns.

The impact of Hunt has helped open up the field for Star TE Travis Kelce, and WR Tyreek Hill.  Kelce has 596 yards with four TDs, and Hill has 553 receiving yards and three TDs. Kelce has been Smith’s favorite target for the year, with 1125 total yards a season ago.

It will be key for Cowboys to contain Hunt to try to avoid the play action, which opens up Hill downfield, and Kelce across the middle.

Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers 

A big game in the crowded NFC South as the 4-3 Falcons visit the 5-3 Panthers as they try and keep pace with division leader New Orleans Saints sitting at 5-2.

The Falcons ended a two-game losing streak with a victory on the road against the Jets 25-20. They were able to run for a total of 140 yards against, led by Tevin Coleman with 14 carries for 82 yards. The running game has been the most consistent part of the Falcons offense in 2017, with the two-headed monster of Devonta Freeman who has 466 yards and five touchdowns, and Tevin Coleman who has 311 yards and a touchdown. They have been efficient when getting the ball averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

2016 MVP Matt Ryan has come down to reality in the first half of 2017, with only nine touchdowns and six interceptions. He has made costly mistakes in late-game situations for the Falcons, and he hasn’t been able to find his superstar wide receiver Julio Jones as consistently as a season ago.

A huge key in this game will the ability to contain Cam Newton, and get pressure in his face. The Falcons will do that with their pass rushers who have done a great job getting to the quarterback. Tied atop in sacks are Vic Beasley and Brooks Reed with three, then Adrian Clayborn, and De’Vondre Campbell Campbell who have two sacks as well.

The Panthers and Cam Newton offense has been struggling the past few games and have not been able to run the ball the entire season. #8 overall pick and rookie RB Christian McCaffery has made his impact felt in the receiving game more than on the ground. He and starting running back Jonathon Stewart both average less than 3.0 yards per carry. Cam Newton has turned the ball over way too many times and this with an NFL leading 11 interceptions with only 10 passing touchdowns.

The Panthers defense was their savior in the 17-3 win against the Bucs and only allowed three points for the second consecutive week. The Panthers have benefited from Julius Peppers stepping into a time machine, and at 37 years old, he leads the Panthers in sacks with 7.5, with Mario Addison right behind him at 5.5.

This pivotal game in the NFC South will come down to which former MVP shows up, take care of the football, and steps up and makes a big-time play.

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