Five quick takes on Week 9 in the NFL:
1. The first week in November is usually one of the highlights of the season. The World Series is over and the holidays are still a few weeks away. The season is half over and the NFL tries to stage some of its best games to kickoff the second half of the season. And Sunday night, it has its best attraction of the season– the New England Patriots vs. the Green Bay Packers. Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers. For star power, it doesn’t get better than that. And they’ve only met once in their careers (at Lambeau Field, when Rodgers won), and unless they play in a Super Bowl, they won’t meet again for four years if they are both still playing then. Since neither quarterback has a great supporting cast, this could come down to which one plays better and which one has the ball last.
2. The unbeaten Los Angeles Rams take on the once-beaten New Orleans Saints in an interesting matchup of a young quarterback in Jared Goff and a veteran in Drew Brees. The game also features two good running backs in Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara. Like the Pats-Packers game, this should be an offensive shootout and could come down to the team that has the ball last. The game could have homefield advantage implications for the playoffs.
3. The Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes will meet the Cleveland Browns’ Baker Mayfield for the first time since they played a classic game in college in 2016, when Mayfield’s Oklahoma team beat Mahomes’ Texas Tech team 65-59 Each team had more than 800 yards of offense, and Mahomes passed for 734 yards and Mayfield 545. This game isn’t likely to be a classic because the Chiefs are much better than the Browns, although it could be the start of a great rivalry if the Browns find a good coach in the future. After Hue Jackson was fired last week, Gregg Williams was named interim head coach. Nobody expected him to get another head job after the Bountygate scandal, but it’s only on an interim basis. Still, he will be good for some outrageous quotes like saying 11 teams have written him about a head job and four were ready to sign him without an interview.
4. The Dallas Cowboys remain a prime time attraction because they still have the mystique from their past glory days, even though they haven’t won a Super Bowl since 1995. That is why their game against the Tennessee Titans is on TV Monday night, but they’re struggling against this year at 3-4 and need a victory to avoid a 3-5 mark at the break. Tennessee is also 3-4 but could be 4-3 if rookie coach Mike Vrabel hadn’t gone for two at the end of the Los Angeles Chargers game instead of kicking the extra point and playing for overtime.The Cowboys are favored at home, but a Titans victory wouldn’t be a surprise because they appear evenly matched and both teams are desperate.
5. Baltimore was swept by the Pittsburgh Steelers last year and is trying to sweep the Steelers this year after beating them in the fourth game of the season. The Ravens have struggled since that victory and have fallen to 4-4 while the Steelers have rebounded and are now 4-2-1 in this important AFC North game. The Ravens are favored at home, and they shut down Pittsburgh’s James Connor in the first game, holding him to 19 yards in nine carries. How they contain Connor this time will be a major factor in the game.