LeGarrette Blount should get plenty of work against a weak Saints run defense in his return from injury. (William Mancebo/Cal Sport Media)
Last Week: 3-5; Season: 26-36-2
We've officially reached the point where I cannot get back to .500 on these predictions by going 8-0 in a week. I'm reaching Chris Johnson levels of disappointment.
But let's forget about me, for a moment: Week 9 could be a really, really entertaining one in the NFL. Scattered amongst the Rams-Cardinals and Falcons-Colts matchups are a host of important matchups that carry huge playoff implications.
It starts early Sunday with the Jets visiting Buffalo and Tampa Bay in New Orleans, and it doesn't stop until Monday night's Chicago-Philadelphia showdown.
Week 9 has the potential to be wild -- and wildly entertaining. And without further adieu, here are this week's prop bets:
• Tampa Bay will run it at least 30 times
When the Buccaneers beat New Orleans just three weeks ago, they did it by coming out firing. Josh Freeman threw the ball 41 times and Tampa Bay managed to survive Drew Brees' 383 yards passing.
It may be harder for the Bucs to keep pace the second time around, with the venue switched to New Orleans. To try to counter Brees' attack, Tampa Bay should get its run game going early -- remember, New Orleans had no answers for Steven Jackson last week, and the LeGarrette Blount/Kregg Lumpkin combo has to be excited about its prospects this Sunday.
• Houston won't allow a touchdown before the fourth quarter
Rather quietly, the 5-3 Texans have developed a top-five defense. At 18.1 points allowed and 189.4 yards per game, Houston has bought in fully to Wade Phillips' 3-4, not even missing a beat when Mario Williams fell to injury.
This week, that Texans defense draws a battered Cleveland offense, which is likely to be without running backs Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty. The Browns already have had issues stretching the field this year, and losing any real threat of a run game will put Colt McCoy even more openly in the crosshairs.
Houston's defense could turn this one ugly in a hurry.
• Miami will have a second-half lead in Kansas City
While the Colts are starting to take on the look of an 0-16 team, Miami actually has turned in some decent efforts lately and just has not been able to close. The Dolphins nearly beat Cleveland, gave San Diego a game, had Denver on the ropes and pushed the Giants to their limit last week.
And this one sets up as a classic letdown game for the Chiefs -- four straight wins and coming off an emotional and hard-fought Monday night overtime triumph against the Chargers. With Denver, New England and Pittsburgh lurking on the schedule over the next three weeks, K.C. easily could overlook this one, which would allow Miami to hang around.
• San Francisco will register at least five sacks vs. Washington
A five-sack day is a pretty big effort from an NFL defense, and this one still feels like it's underselling what the 49ers might do.
Washington gave up 10 sacks last Sunday against Buffalo -- the number was nine originally, but the league added a 10th sack to the Bills' total mid-week, furthering the Redskins' embarrassment. John Beck will start at the helm again for Washington Sunday, but how long will he last?
Mike Shanahan can't afford to watch his team lay another goose egg, so a move back to Rex Grossman might be in order. Either way, the 49ers' aggressive and physical pass rush will be in the Redskins QB's face.
• Eli Manning and Tom Brady will combine for 700 yards passing
The Steelers more or less shut Brady down last Sunday, holding him to 198 yards and dropping New England to 5-2. This is a big bounce-back game for Brady's boys, who now find themselves in a first-place tie with the Bills.
New York's defense has been susceptible against the run and leads the league in sacks, but its attacking approach could open up Brady's underneath options.
And Manning has the benefit of airing it out against a Patriots secondary that's the worst in the league against the pass -- and struggling so bad that Hines Ward didn't even feel the need to suit up in Week 8.
• Philip Rivers will throw at least three TD passes
The points will be flying up on the scoreboard during Sunday's late time slot. Rivers' San Diego offense might not be able to keep pace with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, but this could also be a big statement game for Rivers (not to mention one of Green Bay's last realistic chances to lose during the regular season).
While the Patriots are bringing up the rear in pass defense, Green Bay's on deck. The Packers continue to be opportunistic in the secondary, forcing a boatload of mistakes, but they're also serving up a ton of yards.
Rivers will have to air it out to keep San Diego within striking distance. He has just seven touchdown passes -- compared to 11 interceptions -- this season, but if he's ever going to turn it around, this is the week.
• Ray Rice will rush for at least 125 yards
Pittsburgh has to play better against Baltimore Sunday night than it did in Week 1, a 35-7 Ravens blowout. And the Steelers will try to make that happen, in part, by getting after Joe Flacco, much the same way they were constantly in Tom Brady's face last week.
Baltimore will counter by establishing the run. With James Farrior and James Harrison out, and LaMarr Woodley highly questionable to play, the Steelers' linebacking corps has more questions than answers right now. That ought to give Rice room to get going -- especially if the Ravens feed him 25 or 30 carries.
The Steelers might still have enough to come out on top in this one, but Baltimore won't be able to blame Rice's lack of production if that happens.
• At least five different players will score touchdowns Monday night
It's hard to say exactly how the Monday nighter between Chicago and Philadelphia will go. Can the Eagles ride their momentum from last weekend's dominating performance against Dallas? Will Matt Forte shred that Philadelphia defensive front?
Neither of the defenses in this game is quite as good as it thought it would be -- Chicago is 13th in points allowed; Philadelphia 14th.
There still might be some moments of brilliance from those defenses Monday. Both offenses, though, will spread the ball around and find ways to put up points.