We are nearly halfway through the 2017 NFL season and 17 teams are .500 or better. Pretty much everyone in the league — other than Cleveland, Indianapolis, San Francisco and the New York Giants — is still clinging to playoff hopes. And, after a wild trade deadline that saw a slew of marquee players moved, let us jump into Week 9 with five bold predictions.
The Dallas Cowboys can still run the football!
Losing Ezekiel Elliott to a suspension is a brutal blow. He has been especially good of late and it’s no coincidence that the Cowboys offense has gotten back on track, scoring no less than 30 points in each of their past four games. But this remains an elite offensive line with two capable veteran running backs in Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris. Make no mistake: Neither is anywhere close to Zeke, but the combination should prove effective, both against Kanas City on Sunday and the rest of the season.
2. Deshaun Watson throws for 400 yards, four touchdowns against Indianapolis
Watson is matchup-proof, so perhaps this no longer qualifies as bold. But after successfully predicting a monstrous performance in Seattle, I think it’s justifiable to double down on the impressive rookie. Watson is not only tied for the league-lead with 19 touchdown passes (in just six starts by the way), but he’s continually getting it done with the deep ball. His first quarter frozen rope to Will Fuller against the Seahawks not only showed off his excellent arm strength, but displayed his rare accuracy as well. Indy, meanwhile, has completely given up and is surrendering the second-most passing yards per game. Watson will torch them through the air and on the ground.
3. Mike Evans gets 15 targets against New Orleans
Jameis Winston has been atrocious all year. Curiously, he has yet to get on the same page as Evans, one of the most lethal wideouts in the whole league. Why? Who knows. But, in Sunday’s road tilt against division foe New Orleans, we can expect a healthy dosage of Evans from the get-go. In Sunday’s 17-3 loss to Carolina, he received a team-high 10 targets. Plus, he appears extra motivated to help the disappointing Bucs get out of the cellar. “Like I said before the season, on paper we are an amazing team, but we’re just not as good as we thought we were,” Evans told reporters.
4. Derek Carr’s disappointing season continues in Miami
One of the trendier MVP picks before the season, Carr has struggled immensely this year. Most notably, he is turning the ball over far too often, already amassing six interceptions. Remember, he had just six all of last season. Sunday night presents a new challenge against an angry Dolphins defense that was embarrassed in last week’s 40-0 drubbing to Baltimore. Marshawn Lynch back in the lineup should help, but Carr’s inability to find a rhythm with Amari Cooper has been the story all year. Expect two turnovers and under 250 yards from the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback.
5. San Francisco 49ers upset the Arizona Cardinals
The 49ers are bound to beat someone. At least, I think they are. Arizona — sans Carson Palmer — is reeling right now, having been throttled in London by the Rams in a game where the Cards couldn’t run or throw the ball, and certainly couldn’t generate a stop. We could say the same about San Francisco, who has given up a combined 73 points its last two games in losses to Dallas and Philadelphia. This isn’t to say Jimmy Garoppolo plays, because that would be foolish. It’s also not to say C.J. Beathard plays well, because that would be even more foolish. But in this toilet bowl matchup, I do like the 49ers at home to make enough defensive plays and get enough from Carlos Hyde to earn their first win of the season.
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Follow Jordan Schultz on Twitter @Schultz_Report
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