Sunday Picks: Week 9

By Chip Bayless (click Howie for more Chip)




Chargers @ Falcons

The Chargers and Falcons are more evenly matched than many pundits would have predicted at the start of the season.

This is large part because Marcus Mariota has suddenly had a career resurgence that has helped the Falcons inch back towards competence.

Mariota has shown a remarkably-skilled command of the offense, seemingly always making the best decision possible with the ball.

While underrated, his mobility and arm talent pale in comparison to the starting quarterback on the other side of the ball – Justin Herbert.

Despite the Falcons’ Cinderella season so far, Herbert is one of the top 3 QBs in the NFL, and Austin Ekeler is running and catching the ball like the best back in the league.

Ekeler runs with power, vision, and deceptive athleticism that has propelled him to fantasy football’s top-scoring RB through eight weeks.

Ekeler also ranks:

  • 1st in YAC among all players (not just RBs)
  • Tied for 5th in rushes for 20+ yards (per ESPN)
  • Tied for 5th in rushing touchdowns and receiving TDs
  • 23rd in YPC among qualified rushers (more than 50 carries)
  • 26th in rushing yards
  • Tied for 17th in runs for first downs
  • Tied for 14th in targets and is 46th in receiving yards among all players
  • 15th in catches for first downs among all players

Ekeler’s volume and usage can’t possibly be overstated for fantasy owners as its worth noting that he averages more receiving yards per game than: Brandin Cooks, Adam Thielen, Curtis Samuel, and Diontae Johnson.

The Chargers’ main man also has more receptions than Justin Jefferson, Travis Kelce, Tyler Lockett, Mike Evans, A.J. Brown, and Davante Adams.

Ekeler’s fantasy playground aside, the Chargers are simply a more talented, more well-coached, and better-run team and organization than the Falcons at the moment.

Keenan Allen looks like he might return this week and the Chargers defense doesn’t lack playmakers either, so its tough to see where exactly the Falcons are better than the Chargers even when scouring all phases of the game.

This one will likely be close and higher-scoring, but the Chargers should eventually come out with the win.

Pick – Chargers win: 42 – 30



Dolphins @ Bears

Similar to the game above, this one will be a little closer than the average fan might believe considering the Bears look like they may have turned a corner in terms of their offensive production.

In recent weeks, the Bears have built their game plan around Fields and his intangibles. The results have been more points and noticeably better ball movement.

Regardless of the Bears improved offense, they simply don’t have the firepower to keep up with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle in this Dolphins offense as evidenced by the fact that the Dolphins are 3rd in passing yards per game (trailing only the Bills and the Chiefs).

It puts defenses in an absolute pick-your-poison bind when the opposing team has two receivers who are arguably top-10 talents at the position on the same team.

Additionally, it presents unique problems when both of these receivers can take the top off the defense at any given moment. I’ll admit, I was a little fearful of Tua’s potential to start the season. But his accuracy and ability to dish the ball to his top two playmakers at will is propelling the Dolphins forward.

In 2022, Tua ranks:

  • 1st in adjusted QBR (per ESPN)
  • 9th in YPG
  • 3rd in completion percentage

Finally, the Bears offense has been abysmal with the exception of the past two weeks, and the Dolphins are more likely to figure out how to expose the Bears’ old weaknesses than the Bears are likely to continue their sudden, newfound success.

Pick – Dolphins win: 31 – 14



Panthers @ Bengals

With only two wins on the season and an abundance of offensive ineptness, its tough to pick the Panthers this week.

Granted, the Bengals offensive line provides about as much resistance as a thin napkin, but the Bengals quadruplet of playmakers in Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon, and Joe Burrow is more talent than the Panthers defense is currently equipped to defend.

The lone bright spot for the Panthers right now is that it looks like they’ve found a cheap, insanely productive replacement for CMC in D’Onta Foreman.

Foreman is flat-out fun to watch and runs like a Derrick Henry-lite. Foreman’s back-to-back 100-yard performances are the sole reason for optimism in this game from a Panthers perspective.

Even with Chubba Hubbard eyeing returning this week, D’Onta Foreman should still command 50% of the touches or more considering his production in comparison to how Hubbard struggled replacing CMC last season.

If the Panthers want to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in Week 9, it will have to be at the hands of Foreman and their running game.

I’ll give the Panthers some additional credit, P.J. Walker is showing promise and D.J. Moore is a top-10 talent at the receiver position.

Albeit a few tantalizing players, I wouldn’t count on the two-win Panthers to come out with the victory considering the opposing elite players at skill positions.

Pick – Bengals win: 33 – 19



Packers @ Lions

If its difficult to pick the Panthers with only two wins, its downright impossible to pick the Lions with only one win (and the worst defense in the NFL based on PPG allowed).

In addition to the worst PPG, the Lions defense is also allowing the 6th-most passing yards and the 3rd-most rushing yards per game.

This bodes well for the Packers because it is clearly apparent that the responsibility of winning falls squarely on their running game.

The plan for the Packers coming into the season was ride Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon with a stout defense while the young, inexperienced receivers slowly developed.

So far, none of those plans have coalesced.

Both teams in this matchup are struggling mightily as far as their 2022 success goes, but the difference will be whether or not the Packers can show any semblance of offensive rhythm.

Unfortunately for Detroit, if there was any week for the Packers offense to finally click, it is this one.

Its starting to look like Rodgers has found his comforted #1 target in Romeo Doubs, and hitting Doubs with some of the back-shoulder and 50/50 balls we saw on Sunday night like he was Davante Adams will be critical for a Green Bay victory in Detroit this Sunday.

Doubs’ seven targets last Sunday night led the team in addition to his 57% share of the air yards for the Packers offense. Hopefully for Packers fans, the chemistry between Rodgers and Doubs can continue in Week 9.

For you fantasy managers out there, the Lions are also the 5th-best matchup for receivers based on fantasy points. So Doubs isn’t the worst flier this week with all the byes.

In large part because the Lions defense is allowing the most points per game of any team this season with 32 PPG (no other team is even allowing over 30), I’m taking the underperforming Packers by a nose hair.

Pick – Packers win: 24 – 21



Raiders @ Jaguars

Trevor Lawrence’s play should be the difference on Sunday, like its been the difference for the Jaguars all season long.

Now that he’s out from under the dumpster fire that was Urban Meyer, Lawrence is finally beginning to look like the player everyone thought he was when was the undisputed #1 pick a mere year ago.

Lawrence’s raw arm talent and feel for the game is spectacular, as is his ability to make the absolute best of what he has to work with around him.

Regardless of the score or the situation, it is blatantly obvious Lawrence is rarely rattled and is always giving a stellar effort even if his teammates aren’t.

Through Week 9, Lawrence ranks among QBs:

  • 11th in passing yards
  • Tied for 8th in passing TDs
  • Tied for 2nd in rushing TDs

Don’t kid yourself, Josh Jacobs is the most talent player in this matchup and could take over the game; however, the Jaguars are the more-talented and more well-rounded squad.

As long as the Jaguars stifle Jacobs like the Saints did last week, they’ll leave with a victory considering Jacobs has accounted for 84% of the Raiders total offense.

This will be a close one and I expect the Raiders to make it tough, but after their dismal performance against the Saints last week there’s no way I can pick the Raiders here.

Pick – Jaguars win: 28 – 26



Colts @ Patriots

After firing their offensive coordinator a week after changing QBs, it would be easier to reduce CEO pay disparity to under 600/1 than predict what the Indianapolis offense will look like this weekend.

Given the fact that the Patriots made mincemeat of Zach Wilson and a competent Jets team last week, the inclination has to lean towards the Pats for the pick this Sunday due to all the Colts’ unknowns.

Although, Jonathan Taylor and the Colts have given the Patriots plenty of grief in the past. The last time the two met, Taylor sealed the Colts victory with a long touchdown run in the final moments.

Given all everything that is up in the air combined with the inconsistencies on both sides of the ball for both teams, I would advise against anyone betting on this game.

If I have to pick one, here it is:

Pick – Colts win: 13 – 10



Bills @ Jets

Cleary the more proficient team in this AFC East matchup, the Bills ought to meticulously run away with the win as they have one of the top QBs in the league.

With Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Knox, and now Hines thanks to the trade with the Colts this week, the Bills have a formidable group when it comes to pass catchers, and Josh Allen has a plethora of effective options on every play.

Through the first eight weeks, Josh Allen sits:

  • 1st in passing YPG
  • 2nd in TD passes to only Mahomes
  • 4th in passer rating
  • 4th in QB rushing yards and 3rd in YPC

In 2022, Allen is diming like an MVP candidate while dancing around and tossing defenders off his back like they’re his children in the backyard.

Moreover, all three of the Bills starting receivers have the speed to stretch the field combined with the after-the-catch skills to take even the shortest of passes all the way to the endzone, often leaving crumpling defenders in their wake.

Throw in Josh Allen’s legs and the significant damage he does on the ground, and this Bills team is practically unstoppable at their peak. After all, they are second in PPG to only the Chiefs.

The Jets could make this game more of a nail-biter than I’m envisioning if Sauce Gardner shuts down Diggs and the Jets defense causes some more problems up front, so this isn’t a confident pick.

Pick – Bills win: 35 – 22



Vikings @ Commanders

With the recent acquisition of T.J. Hockenson and the offensive prowess the Vikings already have with Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, and Adam Theilen, the Commanders should lose this game.

Although, the unknown that is Taylor Heinicke poses significant risk for anyone’s confidence in the Vikings.

The Commanders offense looked resurgent – or at least promising – last week in comparison to the frequent sacks and INTs they were accustomed to with Carson Wentz at the helm.

The Commanders defense and running game were supposed to be their saving graces this season, but neither has lived up to preseason expectations.

So far the Commanders rank 27th in points scored per game and 11th-worst in rushing yards per game, and none of their top playmakers crack the top 20 in the most notable stats at their position.

Meanwhile, Justin Jefferson ranks:

  • 5th in receptions
  • 7th in targets
  • 2nd in catches for 20 yards or more
  • 4th in YPG
  • 4th in YAC
  • 5th in catches for first downs

Jefferson possesses maybe the best route-running and agility the receiving position has to offer, and is nothing short of a nightmare to cover one-on-one.

Furthermore, Jefferson is also one of the most explosive receivers in the league (trails only Tyreek Hill in catches for 20+ yards) so his receptions and targets are warranted and often lead to top-notch production.

He’s in midseason form and finding his groove, and if the Commanders want to win they’ll likely have to hold Jefferson to under 90 receiving yards – a feat which defenses have only accomplished twice this year and have failed to achieve in four weeks.

As long as Jefferson’s supremacy continues, the Vikings will steal the win in Washington via Jefferson’s production combined with Dalvin Cook’s ability to wear down a defense with his bruising runs.

Pick – Vikings win: 16 – 11



Seahawks @ Cardinals

Seahawks versus Cardinals is an exciting matchup, and one that is much more exciting than it was at the start of the season.

Prior to the start of the season, few analysts would have predicted Geno Smith would rise from the ashes to lead the NFL in completion percentage on his way to trailing only Tua and Mahomes in adjusted QBR.

Kenneth Walker has also burst onto the scene and is making his mark as the best RB of the 2022 rookie class.

Over the last four weeks, Kenneth Walker is averaging 101 rushing yards, a TD, and over 18 fantasy points per game.

Walker looks like he has that perfect size/speed combination that any coach would fawn over. He’s a running back coach’s dream, and an absolute lineup lock unless your other 3 RBs are somehow Ekeler, Derrick Henry, and Saquon.

Walker has the speed to accelerate past defenders for long TDs to go along with a body strong enough to bounce defenders away.

Moreover, the Seahawks defense is playing better than the Cardinals thus far and Geno Smith is truly outdueling Kyler Murray.

The Cardinals defense ranks worse than the Seahawks in points allowed per game, passing yards allowed per game, and turnovers forced.

So far this season Geno Smith ranks:

  • 3rd in passer rating (18 slots above Murray)
  • 5th in TD passes (three slots above Murray)
  • 6th in YPA (over 20 slots above Murray)
  • 1st in completion percentage (11 slots above Murray)

Geno’s league-leading completion percentage and Walker’s ability to wear down defenses is a dangerously efficient recipe, and it should be enough for the Seahawks to squeak by the Cardinals.

Pick – Seahawks win: 29 – 26



Rams @ Buccaneers

Of all the games this weekend, this game is perhaps the biggest toss-up, but almost nothing points in the Rams favor when you dig into the analysis.

Both teams have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball but are failing to put together productive seasons.

Will it be Cooker Kupp, Matt Stafford, and the Rams that finally put together a competent offensive performance?

Or will Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Leonard Fournette use their offensive firepower for good instead of evil for once?

The answers to those burning questions have been plaguing Rams, Buccaneers, and fantasy football fans the entire year.

If I had to take one group however, I’d pick the Brady-lead Bucs to ultimately put together a better offensive performance since they have more playmakers and their top weapons are at full health.

Meanwhile, Cooper Kupp’s availability going forward is a question mark after his injury last Sunday (UPDATE: After previously calling Kupp “day-to-day” he is now expected to play in Week 9.)

Since both offenses have been struggling the entire season, the game will likely come down to turnovers in terms of the point/victory difference.

In those departments, statistics skew towards the Buccaneers.

In addition to being the best possible matchup for defenses based on fantasy points (standard ESPN scoring), the Rams are:

  • 22nd in total takeaways
  • 5th in total giveaways
  • 15th in PPG allowed (15th-most points allowed, 12 slots worse than the Bucs)
  • 30th in YPG
  • 28th in PPG scored

Stafford has thrown for over 300 yards or more than one touchdown in a game just twice all season, hasn’t scored over 20 fantasy points in a single week, and has turned the ball over at least once in five of his seven games played.

With their compilation of garbage statistics, I wouldn’t take the Rams on Sunday unless someone paid me to, but both teams’ 2022 seasons have been so unpredictable that anything could happen so this is likely the softest pick on the list.

Pick – Bucs win: 28 – 20


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