Week 9 Preview: Who’s contending and pretending for the Lombardi?

Phew. What a weekend of football. In Week 8 of the NFL season, Justin Fields looked like Michael Vick 2.0, the Steelers won a game without their kicker, and MIKE WHITE of all people won a game for the JETS. That’s when you know it was a crazy weekend around the league.


Thus, as the halfway point of the 2021 campaign approaches, it’s time to sort out the legitimate contenders from the pretenders with inflated records.


Who’s got a real shot at the Lombardi Trophy? Who will not even sniff a conference championship? Time to get to the reactions!


Pretenders:


Las Vegas Raiders (5-2)

Next game: @ New York Giants (2-6)


For years, fans and analysts have waited for Derek Carr and the Raiders to repeat the success from their 12-4 2016 season and for the first half of the season, it looked like owner Mark Davis and his team finally hit its stride.


Then Jon Gruden resigned after derogatory emails were leaked, raising a plethora of questions about how this team would react to interim head coach Rich Bisaccia taking over. The team responded by convincingly winning back-to-back games, posting over 30 points in each contest.


Then, this week, the team cut wideout Henry Ruggs III due to his involvement in a fatal car accident. So where does this leave the offense?


Up until his release, Ruggs was setting new career highs in yards (469) and yards per catch (19.5) and tied his rookie season touchdown total (2), which leaves a massive hole to fill.


For the receivers, Hunter Renfrow presumably slides into the top outside weapon for Carr, but running back Josh Jacobs and tight end Darren Waller are both questionable going into the Raiders’ next game against the New York Giants.


Despite the Raiders impressive start, the turmoil within the organization and loss of perhaps their top weapon creates more problems than solutions.


Dallas Cowboys (7-1)

Next Game: vs. Denver Broncos (4-4)


This will be my hottest take:


The Cowboys will collapse in the first round of the playoffs.

Everything about this team screams choke. Yes, this offensive unit is the best in football at the moment, but the defense is middle of the pack in points allowed per game. Just like last season, this defense will be the biggest question mark about this team throughout the season.


Dallas’ Week 8 win over the Minnesota Vikings without Dak Prescott is impressive but it’s not sustainable. Three of Dallas’ first four drives resulted in no points because Minnesota knew the offense would run through Ezekiel Elliot, who was stuffed for 50 yards on 16 carries.


For the rest of the season, the Cowboys play only three teams above .500 entering this weekend, with four games against divisional opponents.


This team will look great on paper but until this team wins a playoff game, they will be the LA Clippers of the NFL.


Contenders


Green Bay Packers (7-1)

Next Game: vs. Kansas City Chiefs (4-4)


This feels like serious deja vu.


The Packers are rolling despite injuries early in the season, Aaron Rodgers is flicking touchdowns like that weird kid in class flicks boogers, and the team is positioned the top seed in the NFC at the moment.


That was until Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, knocking him out of a matchup with a desperate Chiefs squad in need of a win. But fear not, Packers fans! The good news is that this defensive unit for the Packers can keep this team in games.


In their last game versus the aforementioned Cardinals, the Packers’ secondary did a phenomenal job of locking up the Cardinals passing game, only allowing DeAndre Hopkins to rack up 66 yards and no touchdowns for the team high.


Furthermore, this defense rarely allows points, giving up only 20 points per game which ranks in the top ten of the entire league. Despite the star quarterback’s absence, this defense will create turnovers and keep Kansas City out of the endzone at least two times.


It’s all just a matter of Green Bay taking advantage of Kansas City’s mistakes.


Los Angeles Rams (7-1)

Next Game: vs. Tennessee Titans (6-2)


Wow so much for the NFL figuring out the Sean McVay offense. With Matthew Stafford leading the Rams offense, Cooper Kupp is putting up numbers that are straight out of Madden.

Through Week 8, Kupp has racked up an ABSURD 924 yards and 10 scores on 63 receptions.


Excuse me but…..WHAT?!


If Kupp keeps this pace, he’d tie Jerry Rice for third most receiving yards in a single season and his 20 touchdowns would put Kupp third behind Rice (22) and Randy Moss (23) for the single-season touchdown record.


But this team is not all about racking up points. The defense is allowing 21 points per game and has forced six turnovers, good for No. 5 in the league.


Aaron Donald has gone only three games this season without a sack and with Von Miller coming to LA, this defensive line will give offensive coordinators nightmares.


This team looks like the Greatest Show on Turf 2.0 but with a defense that nearly matches the offense, which is a deadly combination that will carry them throughout the season.

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