NFL Sunday Preview, Week 9: Rams-Bucs, Titans-Chiefs highlight another thrilling Sunday slate

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ed Zurga/AP/Shutterstock (13454837ao) Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce celebrates after scoring on a 4-yard touchdown catch during the second half of an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, in Kansas City, Mo Raiders Chiefs Football, Kansas City, United States – 10 Oct 2022

NFL Sunday Preview, Week 9: Rams-Bucs, Titans-Chiefs highlight another thrilling Sunday slate

Las Vegas Raiders (2-5) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6)

Time/TV: 12:00 p.m. CT/CBS

The Las Vegas Raiders head to Jacksonville for Sunday’s game, with the Jaguars thoroughly embarrassed, having been shutout on the road last weekend by the Saints. Las Vegas gained fewer than 200 yards of offense in the game, and top wideout Davante Adams hauled in only one catch for three yards. It’s been a soul-searching week for the Raiders, who spent it in Bradenton, Florida, practicing in advance of Sunday afternoon. Jacksonville, meanwhile, returns from London following a fifth consecutive loss. Despite their 2-6 mark on the season, the Jaguars have yet to lose a game by more than eight points through eight weeks. Sunday morning’s loss to Denver was yet another in a series of heartbreakers, as the Jags coughed up a lead in the final two minutes. Both teams ought to enter Sunday afternoon at maximum motivation, needing wins to pull their seasons out of the gutter at the halfway point. Vegas will look for their offense to return to the form it showed over the three games before last week’s loss, during which they averaged 33 points and went 2-1. For Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence, it all seems to hinge on his ability to avoid turning the ball over. Lawrence has lost four fumbles and thrown six interceptions this season, leaving Jaguars’ fans to wonder what their record might be in so many close games had he avoided critical mistakes. 

Los Angeles Chargers (4-3) at Atlanta Falcons (4-4)

Time/TV: 12:00 p.m. CT/FOX

The Los Angeles Chargers desperately needed last week’s bye but still find themselves remarkably banged up with injuries as they head to Atlanta for Week 9’s showdown with the Falcons. The defense is notably without both edge rusher Joey Bosa and cornerback J.C. Jackson, while the offense will once again be operating without its top two wide receivers, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Justin Herbert will need to lean heavily on Gerald Everett and Austin Ekeler in the passing game, with Joshua Palmer the best option out wide at receiver. The Atlanta Falcons’ first place standing in the NFC South through eight weeks has been a surprise to just about everyone outside their locker room, and they’ve hoping to stay there with a win over L.A. on Sunday. Atlanta’s rush offense leads the way, ranking fifth in the league, averaging 158.1 yards per game. While Cordarrelle Patterson remains on the sideline due to injury, rookie running back Tyler Allgeier has led the way on the ground, and quarterback Marcus Mariota has passed for seven touchdowns over the past four weeks. Sunday’s game is crucial for both teams, as Los Angeles tries to keep pace in a competitive AFC West while Atlanta looks to potentially extend their first-place lead. 

Miami Dolphins (5-3) at Chicago Bears (3-5)

Time/TV: 12:00 p.m. CT/CBS

A November trip to the Windy City may seem like a treacherous endeavor for a team from Miami, but current forecasts suggest Sunday might be a pleasant, sunny day in the 60s in Chicago. That ought to make the Dolphins’ offense a bit more comfortable, but these Bears have made significant improvements themselves on the offensive side of late. Chicago began to embrace quarterback Justin Fields’ ability to create on the fly, and they’ve scored 62 points over the last two weeks against the vaunted Patriots and Cowboys defenses as a result. Tuesday’s trade deadline may have hurt them on the defensive side of the ball, though, as edge rusher Robert Quinn and linebacker Roquan Smith were both dealt to teams on the east coast. Chicago did add to its offense, picking up wide receiver Chase Claypool from the Steelers to run alongside Darnell Mooney. Meanwhile, Miami brought in star edge rusher Bradley Chubb from the Broncos to improve their pass rush. The Dolphins’ offense has shown incredible explosiveness at times, and they’re 5-0 when Tua Tagovailoa is healthy enough to start under center. They’ll look to burn the Bears’ stripped-down defense Sunday afternoon, more firmly establishing themselves in the AFC Playoff race at 6-3. 

Carolina Panthers (2-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-4)

Time/TV: 12:00 p.m. CT/FOX

The Cincinnati Bengals seemed to have finally found their 2021 form, rattling off four wins in five games, scoring 27 or more in each of the victories before Monday night’s trip to Cleveland. Ja’Marr Chase was ruled out for four to six weeks with a hip injury ahead of that game, and the Bengals fell flat on their faces in a 32-13 loss that was a bit more lopsided than even the score indicated. Now 4-4, Cincinnati needs to pick up the pieces in short order to keep up with the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North. They return home for Sunday’s game with the Carolina Panthers, a stripped-down football team that has suddenly shown life over the last two weeks. Despite trading away star running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Robbie Anderson and moving forward with a quarterback that started the season third on the depth chart, Carolina has scored 54 points over the last two weeks and was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty away from winning both games. The Panthers have gotten better production from D’Onta Foreman at running back than anyone expected and seem to have finally unlocked D.J. Moore at wide receiver with PJ Walker under center. They face an uphill battle Sunday against a Bengals team looking to vent their frustration, but it’s hard to count out Carolina given the passion and fight they’ve shown since Week 7.

Green Bay Packers (3-5) at Detroit Lions (1-6)

Time/TV: 12:00 p.m. CT/FOX

The NFC North rivalry between the Packers and Lions has more closely resembled the rivalry that a hammer might have with a nail in recent years. Green Bay is 5-1 against Detroit since 2019, the lone loss coming in a meaningless Week 18 game last season with Green Bay resting a number of impact players. After years of being obvious and blatant favorites, things have finally changed a bit this season in Green Bay. The Packers are 3-5, have lost four in a row, and haven’t beaten a team that currently holds a winning record. Aaron Rodgers’ on-field frustration has been obvious, as the Packers’ offense looks sloppy without Davante Adams in the fold. The Detroit Lions have been a fun team to watch, especially at home, but haven’t produced the winning results needed to actually make them a competitor in their division. Despite sitting at 1-6 on the year, Detroit is averaging 35.8 points per game at Ford Field and have lost four games by four points or fewer. Given what we’ve seen from Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense this year, more of the same on offense just might be what Detroit needs to finally upend the rival Packers in 2022. 

Indianapolis Colts (3-4-1) at New England Patriots (4-4)

Time/TV: 12:00 p.m. CT/CBS

The Colts and Patriots each look completely different from the famous Peyton Manning and Tom Brady-led offenses of the 2000s and 2010s, but there are plenty of folks within both fan bases who will still tell you it is an AFC rivalry game when these two get together. Indianapolis and New England met last season at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy, a Sunday night game dominated by Colts’ running back Jonathan Taylor (170 yards rushing), resulting in a 27-17 win for Indianapolis. Indianapolis is on their second quarterback since then, moving from Carson Wentz to Matt Ryan and now to Sam Ehlinger. New England has been frustrated with their own quarterback play but seems poised to start Mac Jones as the Colts visit Foxborough, MA Sunday afternoon. It is becoming increasingly likely that Indianapolis will be without Jonathan Taylor, opening the door for Deon Jackson to take on a bigger role at running back with Nyheim Hines shipped to Buffalo. Each team’s season is seemingly hanging in limbo heading into Week 9, as both desperately need a win to stay relevant in the AFC Playoff picture. 

Buffalo Bills (6-1) at New York Jets (5-3)

Time/TV: 12:00 p.m. CT/CBS

The Buffalo Bills were expected to be the class of the NFL heading into the 2022 season and have seemingly established themselves as just that through eight weeks. Buffalo is 6-1, and two-thirds of their wins have come by double digits thus far. They’ll head to Metlife Stadium Sunday afternoon, a heavy favorite once again, but are taking on a Jets team with a surprising 5-3 mark to this point. New York’s four-game win streak finally came to an end last Sunday, a 22-17 loss at the hands of New England that felt all too familiar to Jets fans. The Jets’ offense has been dealing with tons of adversity the last two weeks, now missing both running back Breece Hall and wide receiver Corey Davis against Buffalo’s stout defense. New York will need their defense to come up huge if they hope to keep the game close, no easy task against Josh Allen’s relentless ability to make plays. Buffalo has beaten the Jets four consecutive times, including blowout wins by 17 and 28 points last season. 

Minnesota Vikings (6-1) at Washington Commanders (4-4)

Time/TV: 12:00 p.m. CT/FOX

The Minnesota Vikings’ 6-1 start to the season has seemingly happened quietly, failing to garner the attention that teams like the Buffalo Bills have through eight weeks of football. Perhaps part of the reason why is that they’ve yet to win a game by more than one score, or perhaps it is because they’ve beaten one team all year that currently holds a winning record. In any event, the Vikings are out to prove that their start is legitimate, and a win over Washington Sunday would be a step in that direction while potentially increasing the distance between Minnesota and the rest of the NFC North. The Vikings also made a splash before Tuesday’s trade deadline, acquiring star tight end T.J. Hockenson from the Lions to fortify an already intimidating passing attack. The Washington Commanders enter Sunday’s matchup seeking a third consecutive upset win since Taylor Heinicke took over as the starter for Carson Wentz at quarterback and their first winning record since Week 1’s 1-0 mark. Heinicke has had a flare for the dramatic throughout his short career, never more obvious than on the Commanders’ incredible game-winning drive last Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Heinicke has seemingly unlocked star wideout Terry McLaurin in the process, finding the third-year receiver for 186 yards in the previous two games. 

Seattle Seahawks (5-3) at Arizona Cardinals (3-5) 

Time/TV: 3:05 p.m. CT/FOX

The Seattle Seahawks have been one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2022 season, getting Pro Bowl-caliber play from quarterback Geno Smith as they sit 5-3 through eight weeks. They’ve found different ways to win this season, doing so in shootouts (48-45 at Detroit) and in defensive struggles (19-9 over Arizona). Geno Smith will almost certainly eclipse 2,000 yards passing Sunday and has thrown for 13 touchdowns with just three interceptions this year. Seattle will head down to Arizona this Sunday to take on the Cardinals again, but now come face to face with a much more intimidating offense. Since DeAndre Hopkins’ return two weeks ago against New Orleans, the Arizona offense has put up 68 points over two games. Hopkins has been a huge part of that, already amassing a ridiculous 262 yards receiving while scoring a touchdown. With a win, Seattle can ensure they remain in first place alone in the NFC West before flying to Germany for a battle with the Buccaneers. 

Los Angeles Rams (3-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5)

Time/TV: 3:25 p.m. CT/CBS

The last time the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers met, it was widely believed that Tom Brady had just played his last NFL game. The Rams topped the Bucs 30-27 in that Divisional Round playoff matchup, part of a run that eventually saw Los Angeles win the Super Bowl this past February. Since then, Tom Brady has elected to return to the NFL to attend to “unfinished business,” but almost nothing has gone to plan. Tampa Bay finds themselves at 3-5 entering Week 9, having lost three straight and five of six. If they aren’t able to topple the Rams Sunday afternoon, their playoff homes will begin to look rather bleak at the midway point of the campaign. Luckily for the Bucs, they’re running into an LA Rams team in the midst of a frustrating season of their own. The Rams are 3-4, in large part due to their inability to win games in the trenches. Los Angeles has been thoroughly dominated along the offensive line, putting Matthew Stafford under a ton of pressure and rendering their run game invisible. Stafford has made his fair share of mistakes as well, throwing more touchdowns than interceptions so far this season. Both teams desperately need a win at Raymond James Stadium Sunday, which should make for great television in the late afternoon slot. 

Tennessee Titans (5-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-2)

Time/TV: 7:20 p.m. CT/CBS

The Tennessee Titans have quietly improved to 5-2 this season following five straight wins, including two over division rival Indianapolis. Their toughest test yet awaits Sunday night, a trip into very loud Arrowhead Stadium to face Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in Kansas City. Tennessee blew out the Chiefs last season, dominating defensively in a 27-3 home win on their way to the AFC’s top seed. If the Titans hope to topple Andy Reid’s team again this season, they’ll likely need to do so with rookie quarterback Malik Willis once again filling in for Ryan Tannehill. Tennessee got the job done a week ago in Houston, hardly throwing the ball at all, as their run game, led by Derrick Henry, produced 314 yards on the ground. That’ll be much harder to accomplish against a Chiefs’ run defense allowing only 92 yards rushing per game, good for third in the NFL through Week 8. Kansas City is looking for its fourth win in five games and a 6-2 mark that would keep them on top of the AFC West regardless of what else transpires Sunday. Patrick Mahomes has posted another excellent season to date, passing for 2,159 yards with 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

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