Friday Five, Week 9

Good, bad, and ugly from the Packers' win over the Chiefs

We made it to Week 9 of the NFL Season. While four teams are on a bye this week, there is still plenty of intriguing games on the Sunday slate. As is the case every Friday, I’ll be looking at the five Sunday games I find most intriguing. We’re in November and drawing closer to the post-season by the day. It’s time for teams to step up or get out of the way, so let’s look at the highlights of Sunday’s slate!

Sunday Early Games:

Cleveland Browns (4-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-3)
The battle for Ohio picks up on Sunday with two teams coming off tough losses. The Browns have been up-and-down, but a loss to the Steelers was a setback, dropping them to 4-4 on the season. The Bengals entered Sunday on a high, sitting as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. They left with a 34-31 loss to the Jets that has them now a half game back of the Ravens. With all four teams in the AFC North at .500 or better, this will have major playoff implications for both teams as neither can afford a second straight loss. This might be the most intriguing matchup of the early slate Sunday.

New England Patriots (4-4) at Carolina Panthers (4-4)
Both these teams are hanging around the playoff picture and both are coming off big Week 8 wins that got them back to .500. The Panthers were once 3-0, lost four straight, then survived a battle with Atlanta to move to 4-4. Without Christian McCaffrey the offense hasn’t looked the same, forcing the team to rely more heavily on its defense. The same could be said of the Patriots, whose defense is rounding into shape while rookie signal caller Mac Jones continues to make strides. A win over the Chargers was a big step for these Patriots, can they take another in Carolina?

Sunday Late Games:

Green Bay Packers (7-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-4)
This is a tale of two teams. The Packers stumbled on opening day in a 38-3 loss to the Saints. Since then, the Packers have been perfect, winning seven straight games including a Thursday Night contest against the previously unbeaten Arizona Cardinals. They again look like one of the NFC’s best teams. The Chiefs, meanwhile, got a big win over the Browns on opening day. Since then, the Chiefs have been middling, struggling with penalties and turnovers. They were pushed to the limit on Monday Night Football by the New York Giants as they finally got back to .500, tied for last place in the AFC West. This is a huge matchup as the Packers try to maintain their spot among the NFC elite while the Chiefs need a win to keep their charge toward a return to the AFC playoffs surging ahead.

Arizona Cardinals (7-1) at San Francisco 49ers (3-4)
Divisional matchups are always intriguing, this one more so because of the impact it could have on the NFC playoff picture. The Cardinals were the NFL’s last unbeaten team, but a late interception sealed their fate against the Packers on Thursday night. The 49ers, meanwhile, started off 2-0, lost four straight then got back on track in Chicago in Week 8. The 49ers need a win to get back to .500 and stay in the playoff hunt with both the Cardinals and Rams (7-1) starting to pull away in the NFC West. Can Jimmy Garoppolo get it done? Can the Cardinals rally despite injuries to J.J. Watt, Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins? There’s a lot riding on this battle by the Bay.

Sunday Night Game:

Tennessee Titans (6-2) at Los Angeles Rams (7-1)
Games don’t get much bigger than this. The Titans are on a roll. After an embarrassing loss to the Jets, the Titans rallied to beat the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs in consecutive weeks, then completed a sweep over their division rival Indianapolis Colts in Week 8. That has them sitting pretty at 6-2 with the best record in the AFC. BUT, the team lost star running back Derrick Henry, who could miss as much as 10 weeks. That’s a blow. Now they face a red-hot Rams team that just acquired fierce linebacker Von Miller from the Denver Broncos to bolster an already talented defense. The Rams are squarely targeted on the Super Bowl, meaning the Titans will need a heroic effort from quarterback Ryan Tannehill and receiver A.J. Brown to make it happen Sunday night.

Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.

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