Justin Blackmon Suspended; Week Nine NFL Picks

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The biggest news out of the NFL over the past couple of days has been the indefinite suspension handed out by league to Jacksonville’s promising wide receiver Justin Blackmon for violating the NFLs substance abuse policy for a third time. Blackmon had shown flashes this season of being a top player at his position, so from a playing stand point the Jaguars have lost someone who is probably their most talented player. More importantly Blackmon, the Jacksonville organisation and the NFL need to find a way to keep the wide receiver clean or his bright future will evaporate quicker than the Jaguars chances of a winning season. The problem is clearly a deep rooted one judging by the fact Blackmon has now tested positive three times, and the earliest he can return to action is next season if he applies for reinstatement during the summer and, of course, doesn’t fail any more drugs tests. Hopefully the youngster, last years fifth overall pick in the draft, can sort himself out before he blows (poor choice of words?) the opportunity of a lifetime. Moving on, here are my picks for week nine of the NFL season:

Kansas City @ Buffalo

The Chiefs head to Buffalo in a potential trap game before their showdown with Denver in week ten. However New Orleans showed last week that the Bills are indeed very beatable, and Kansas City should be able to stifle the Bills offense considering they have the AFCs best defensive unit. Cleveland nearly shocked Andy Reid’s men last week, and combined with the fact that these two teams are just a yard apart in overall offense per game I was tempted to pick the upset. But you can’t pick a 3-5 team against someone who’s undefeated.. can you? Chiefs 24, Bills 17

Atlanta @ Carolina

The Falcons season continues to sink to new depths, and last weeks embarrassing defeat to Arizona was surely their lowest moment in what has been a desperately poor campaign. Meanwhile the Panthers are looking like potential play-off material, with Cam Newton showing off a new found maturity while Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly have led an impressive defensive unit. Before the season you’d have been laughed out of the room for suggesting the Falcons would be 2-6 at the midpoint, yet that is exactly where they’ll be should the Panthers live up to their favourites tag tonight. Falcons 21, Panthers 31

Minnesota @ Dallas

Christian Ponder remains the starter under centre for the Vikings despite Josh Freeman being cleared to play following his concussion two weeks ago against the Giants. However it’s unlikely to make much of a difference in this one, where the Cowboys are heavy favourites. Tony Romo is having one of his better seasons and despite the Vikings holding onto Jared Allen at the trade deadline the remainder of the Minnesota D is average at best, which should result in plenty of points for the ‘boys. The Dallas defense is hardly better than their Vikings counterparts, but unless Adrian Peterson can score 30 points on his own it’s unlikely to matter too much. Vikings 14, Cowboys 34

New Orleans @ New York Jets

The Jets beat the Patriots, who in turn beat New Orleans, which would figure to make New York the pick here. However it’s not as simple as that, and as anyone whose been following the Jets progress this season will tell you they’re just not a very good team – particularly on offense. Geno Smith has been up and down (mainly down) which is understandable for a rookie quarterback in a dysfunctional offense, while Drew Brees has excelled after being reunited with Sean Peyton. If this was being played in the Superdome it would be a blowout. Fortunately for New York it’s not, though the end result will still be the same. Road win. Saints 28, Jets 20

Tennessee @ St. Louis

Two teams whose seasons have been blighted by injuries at the QB position square off in what promises to be a tight, if not high quality match-up. Kellen Clemens nearly steered the Rams to an unlikely victory last week against Seattle but although he couldn’t finish the job he did inspire hope that there is life after Sam Bradford this season. However the Titans have more to play for at this point of the year, mainly due to the fact the AFC south isn’t as strong as the NFC west, and that additional incentive could be enough to earn them a road win and see them move to .500 at the halfway stage of the season. Titans 27, Rams 24

San Diego @ Washington

Following their ‘Jacksonville bye’ last week, the Chargers are 4-3 and in position to mount a run at the second wild card spot in the AFC. Washington are also still in the hunt for the post-season thanks to a combination of their gutsy win over Chicago two weeks ago and the NFC east’s futility. Robert Griffin III looked good in that shootout and his mobility is near enough back to where it was before his knee injury. However the fact that the Washington D gave up 42 points in that Chicago game and 45 last week to the Broncos is extremely worrying, and gives the Chargers and Phillip Rivers the advantage heading into this game. Chargers 35, Redskins 31

Philadelphia @ Oakland

The falling Eagles welcome back Nick Foles at quarterback, in the process mercifully relegating Matt Barkley to the bench. Foles himself struggled the last time he played, against Dallas, but the Raiders defense hasn’t been performing brilliantly and offer Foles the opportunity to quieten his critics. The Philly D has been slowly improving in recent weeks but they’ll have to contend with the dynamic dual threat QB Terrell Pryor, who last week set an NFL record for the longest touchdown run by a quarterback with a 93-yard scramble. I picked the Eagles last week against the awful Giants and they let me down – I won’t make the same mistake this time. Eagles 20, Raiders 27

Tampa Bay @ Seattle

In one of the real mismatches of week nine, the hapless Buccaneers travel to Seattle to face one of the NFL’s truly elite teams. Tampa Bay are yet to win a game and they look set to fall to 0-8, while the Seahawks should strengthen their grip on the NFC west and move to 8-1. These two teams couldn’t be farther apart in terms of talent, and it could get ugly for under-fire Bucs coach Greg Schiano. Buccaneers 10, Seahawks 28

Baltimore @ Cleveland

The current Browns face the former Browns in Cleveland with both teams seasons hanging by a thread. Baltimore has missed the likes of Ed Reed and Ray Lewis who departed following their Superbowl victory in February, while the Browns never had that many talented players to lose. Ever since Brian Hoyer got injured Cleveland have struggled to make any impact on offense, and although the Baltimore D isn’t what it once was it still should have enough about it to give Joe Flacco every chance of outscoring Jason Cambell. Ravens 21, Browns 14

Pittsburgh @ New England

Once upon a time this was an AFC championship game fixture, but thanks to the Steelers malaise in 2013 the Patriots should be capable of winning their seventh game so far this season. Pittsburgh had shown signs of life until they were handled in Oakland last Sunday, but their astonishingly poor offensive line play has hindered both their passing and running game. Tom Brady hasn’t had one of his best seasons but he’s still just about getting it done, and that’s all he’ll have to do this evening to consign Mike Tomlin’s men to a second successive road loss. Steelers 17, Patriots 24

Indianapolis @ Houston

Sunday night football sees Case Keenum and the Texans attempt to upset the Colts in Reliant Stadium, a tough task for any quarterback let alone someone making just their second career start. Andrew Luck is maturing into an elite talent at that position and despite the Texans defense possessing the talented J.J Watt they’ll struggle to fill the void left by the injured Brian Cushing. While I think Keenum showed poise and potential in his first start he’s facing an uphill battle to earn his first win against the AFC south’s top team. Colts 28, Texans 17

Chicago @ Green Bay

Without Jay Cutler the difficult may have become impossible for the Bears, who visit what’s sure to be a hostile Lambeau Field on Monday night. Aaron Rodgers continues to cement his status alongside Peyton Manning as on of the leagues top two passers, and even without injured tight end Jermichael Finley he has plenty of weapons who he can target. A Chicago win would make things a lot more tight in the NFC north; unfortunately for Bears fans I can’t see them pulling off the primetime upset. Bears 16, Packers 34

There are my predictions for week nine, let me know what you think in the comments or tweet me @fredjstanley. Happy football day!

Bye week teams: Cardinals, Broncos, Lions, Jaguars, Giants, 49ers

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