The Three Best Must See NFL Matchups In Week 9
Matchup No. 3 - Dallas Cowboys’ Demarco Murray vs. the Arizona Cardinals defense
The Cowboys come into this contest trying to rebound from last week’s overtime loss. The Washington Redskins escaped with a 20-17 victory. Romo injured his back in that contest, so backup Brandon Weeden may have to start in place of Romo. Regardless of the quarterback, the Cowboys will need another big game from DeMarco Murray. The Cardinals are flying high, leading the NFC with a 6-1 record. Last week the Cardinals defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 24-20. The Cardinals’ John Brown caught a 75 yard touchdown in the final minutes for the victory. This matchup will have a major impact on the NFC playoff standings. Each of these two teams is leading their division and fighting for a potential first round bye.
Murray is having a season for the ages. Murray played in 14 games last season. In only his 9th game he will likely surpass last season in carries and rushing yards. Murray has a great opportunity to break Eric Dickerson season record for rushing yards in a season. More importantly than stats, the Cowboys host a critical NFC showdown on Sunday. With a win Dallas would regain the top seed in the NFC playoffs. A Cowboys loss could drop them to the five seed and out of the division lead. Through eight games, Murray and has run for at least 100 yards in each game. Murray possesses a unique blend of physical attributes. Not only is he very strong and physical he is fast and has breakaway speed. When he isn’t running through or past defenders he will likely juke, stutter step or throw a stiff-arm. He is also showing a much better feel for following the open holes and using cutback lanes for potential big gains.
The Cardinals run defense is one of the NFL’s best. They rank #3 against the run, allowing fewer than 80 rushing yards per game. This season no running back has topped 100 rushing yards against the Cardinals. Arizona plays a 3-4 defense which allows them to bring a variety of blitzes. No team has blitzed more than the Cardinals. Often times they will send several linebackers, safeties and even cornerbacks to create pressure, confusion and turnovers. This season the Cardinals have forced 14 turnovers which puts them tied for 5th overall. The Cardinals defense plays a very high risk/high reward defense. Keep a close eye on the Cardinals’ strong safety Tony Jefferson. He is moving on up in only his 2nd NFL season. He currently leads the team in tackles. Jefferson will likely be the last line of defense so he will have to tackle Murray when he faces him in one on one situations. If Murray wins the battle against Jefferson, I expect the Cowboys to win going away.
Matchup No. 2 - Pittsburgh Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell vs. the Baltimore Ravens defense:
The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a wild 51-34 shootout victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 522 passing yards and six touchdowns! This was Roethlisberger career high and one of the best quarterback performances of all time. That means it’s all downhill from here for Roethlisberger. Last week the Ravens lost 27-24 to the Cincinnati Bengals. Both the Bengals and Steelers need this divisional contest. The Bengals are undefeated in the NFC North at 2-0. The Ravens and the Steelers already have two divisional loses.
This battle always goes down to the wire. Big plays always are at a premium. In fact the last time a quarterback in this matchup threw for over 300 yards was November 6th 2011. Ultimately, the team that wins the line of scrimmage will be victorious. Bell gives the Steelers a physical identity, a tough hard-nosed running back. His ability to elevate his game to the next level is imperative to any Steelers success. This season he is one of the top running backs in the NFL. Bell is top three among running backs in; rushing attempts, rushing yards, receptions and receiving yards. Bell combines power with agility and elusiveness. He can run the ball inside and bounce outside for a big gain. He is also a great receiver out of the backfield. His importance in this matchup cannot be overstated. He will need a primetime performance to propel a Steelers victory.
The Ravens run defense is currently #7 in rushing yards allowed. This defense has always taken great pride in stopping the run. This season, only one team has exceeded 100 yards rushing. Amazingly the last time Steelers back ran for over 100 rushing yards against Baltimore was in 2004. Jerome Bettis broke through for 117 rushing yards on 27 carries. Defensive lineman Haloti Ngata is a rare player who can dominate a game without accumulating a bunch of stats. Ngata is 6’ 4” and 340 lbs. He is always a physical presence at the line of scrimmage. He has surprising speed and quickness and can overwhelm offensive lineman. Steelers will have to contain Ngata to create running opportunities for Bell. I expect the Steelers to answer the bell and win 17-13.
Matchup No. 1 - New England Patriots’ Tom Brady vs. the Denver Broncos defense:
The New England Patriots are coming off an October to remember. They finished 4-0 and averaged 39.5 points a game. Last week Brady put on a clinic putting up 51 points on the Chicago Bears. Brady had 354 passing yards, five touchdowns and only five incompletions. Four of Brady’s incompletions were receiver drops. Containing Brady will be a tremendous challenge for the Denver Broncos. Denver was also 4-0 during October. Manning can match firepower with firepower. The Broncos averaged over 37 points a game in October. Ultimately, the defenses are going to have to stop the other team sometime.
Any AFC team playing the Patriots is facing an uphill battle. The Patriots have won 33 consecutive home games against AFC opponents. The last team to beat Brady and Belichick in New England was the Steelers in 2008! Brady, whether you love him or hate him is a natural born winner. This was a guy who was drafted in the 6th round of the 2000 draft. The scouts said he was too skinny and awkward as an athlete. Brady also lacks the laser rocket arm of some of his peers. Three Super Championships and 15 seasons later he is still performing at the highest level. Brady’s accuracy has always been one of his best attributes. Brady’s preparation, competiveness and leadership are also off the charts. He has great awareness in the pocket and can make all of the throws needed. Brady’s go to guy is Rob Gronkowski. This dynamic duo is a tremendous challenge for any defense.
The Broncos defense is having a great season. They have the #1 ranked run defense; they rank in the top 10 in sacks forced and points allowed. The run defense is allowing only 3.5 yards a carry the 5th best overall. It will be very difficult for the Patriots to establish a running game against this Broncos defense. The Broncos pass defense is solid but not dominating. They rank only 17th in passing yards allowed. The Broncos pass defense is 2nd best in passing yards allowed per attempt. I expect Brady to have to throw close to 50 times against the Broncos. He will have some success moving the ball and score some touchdowns. Ultimately the x factor for the defense is cornerback Aqib Talib. He possesses shut down ability and is a defensive playmaker. In his career, Talib has picked off 25 passes with five going for touchdowns. Talib has the size, speed and skill to cover multiple players. Talib also played for New England in 2012 and 2013. It will be interesting if Talib’s familiarity will be an asset or will Brady pick him apart? This week there is no better matchup than Brady vs Talib. Enjoy everyone, first one to 40 wins!