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NFL Week 9 game picks: Broncos nip Raiders; Vikings lose again

Much midseason talk right now ...

Who's the MVP? Which winning team is going to come back to the pack? Which is the best team in the NFC? Where is the AFC Championship Game going to be played? When will the Browns win their first game?

(And of course, Tom Brady, Vikings, Cowboys, just kidding and Week 14 are your answers.)

Midseason is cool. Late-November football is cooler (literally and figuratively). That's when the real contenders start asserting themselves -- and slowly but surely, run games and defenses begin to assert themselves. Which, makes you wonder about the viability of, say, the Bills or Dolphins, who both can run the rock. On to other matters ...

It's Snapchat, broham.

As a kid who watched Shawon Dunston hum it to first on WGN, this gave me chills.

If you are wondering about the Bears winning it all someday (again), see below. Actually don't. They're part of another heavy bye week. We do have 26 teams in action, and your take on any one of them is more than welcome: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Now, let's get to it!

Elliot Harrison went 8-4-1 on his predictions for Week 8, giving him a record of 75-43-2 thus far this season. How will he fare in Week 9? His picks are below:

Look, I love a tie as much as anybody, but I am genuinely worried we could see one for the third consecutive week. The Lions haven't had a tie since Nov. 4, 1984. Their last one before that came back on Sept. 23, 1973, when starting quarterback Greg Landry threw for 91 yards. That's OK -- Packers QB Scott Hunter put up all of 80 yards. Landry was Detroit's last Pro Bowl quarterback before Matthew Stafford, who is in the midst of his best overall season in the NFL. He's going to face a heckuva motivated defense -- as the Vikings are riding a two-game losing streak -- in front of a charged-up Minnesota crowd. Every Lions win this year has come courtesy of a game-winning drive by Stafford. Speaking of quarterbacks ... Can Sam Bradford, under his new/old OC following Norv Turner's stunning resignation, stop the Vikes' bleeding? Not this week. #DETvsMIN

Sometimes the sked doesn't break your way, man. Schedule blues continue for the Eagles, who face a third straight opponent coming off of its bye. Philly blew a golden opportunity to tie things up in the NFC East last Sunday night in Dallas. Two things worth noting from that game:

A) The Eagles are better with Darren Sproles in the backfield.

B) The Eagles would be better with a run-and-catch wide receiver.

The latter is a problem, given the system they employ. What if they had a guy like Jeremy Maclin? Never mind. No one is noticing, but the Giants' defense has been playing well this year, having snagged four takeaways their last time out ( a win over the Rams in London). Thinking the offense will do more than tag along the more Rashad Jennings gets involved. If the Eagles use Sproles too economically, and the wideouts can't make a play, their division record will go to 0-3. #PHIvsNYG

How many times have you heard, or read, about the talent on the Jets' defensive line? Mo Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams are supposed to dominate. They're not dominating anything. Perhaps the loss of "Snacks" Harrison was a bigger loss than we all thought. OK, so opponents are averaging just 3.3 yards per carry, which is great. But the defensive front can't get to the quarterback fast enough to cover for a secondary that sucks right now. So while all the pregame talk will be about Jay Ajayi and the pair of 200-hundred yard games he can boast about, this will be Ryan Tannehill's deal to win or lose. #NYJvsMIA

Please forgive the lack of confidence for the reeling Jaguars. Maybe they will win 40-14. And maybe James Stewart will come out of retirement to rush for 200 yards. Jimmy Smith, Keenan McCardell and the thumper Kyle Brady couldn't have helped this football team in Week 8's Thursday night game. The lack of a running game is unnerving. Uninteresting. Unwavering. You realize the Chiefs have won 15 of their last 17 regular-season games, right? You know what that speaks to? Consistent, quality football. The Jags have been outscored by 71 points in the first half. They are plus-14 in the second half. You know what that speaks to? Garbage-time points. #JAXvsKC

The last time these two teams met, it took OT to settle the score. Dallas prevailed on a Dan Bailey field goal. I have no recollection of this game. That's true of most of Brandon Weeden's starts in Cleveland. Tony Romo led a victory there in 2008. And in 1991, Bill Belichick began his head-coaching career with a loss to the visiting Cowboys. Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant are all going to be too much for the Browns this Sunday. For Cleveland to have a chance, Terrelle Pryor must go nuts. And the Browns' run defense must halt Zeke. Unfortunately, Cleveland allows 4.8 yards per carry, while Elliott averages 5 per pop. Oy. Oh yeah: Jamie Collins' presence has been accounted for -- originally, I did have Dallas scoring 28. #DALvsCLE

Everyone waits to see whether or not Ben Roethlisberger will play. The guess here is no, although no one likes to make an unexpected, triumphant, he-doesn't-want-to-talk-about-it-but-he-does return like Big Ben. If he doesn't go, this important road matchup will be in the hands of Landry Jones. A Roethlisberger backup has delivered in Baltimore before. Charlie Batch pulled it off late in the 2012 season, in his final start in the NFL. The Ravens recovered from that late-season loss to win several close games, get into the postseason tournament and ultimately hoist the Lombardi Trophy. It's difficult to see this group do that this season, but a W here would put John Harbaugh's bunch in a tie atop the AFC North with the Steelers, head-to-head advantage in tow. #PITvsBAL

The Saints have an opportunity to pull even on the season, despite an awful start that saw them go 0-3 in September. Central to winning in San Francisco will be how much the ground game helps not only Drew Brees, but an oft-criticized defense that is coming around a little. Last week, Tim Hightower ran for 100 yards after Mark Ingram got the thanks-but-no-thanks treatment -- commonly known as Belichick Syndrome -- for fumbling. There should be plenty of opportunities for both of these running backs to gain yardage and eat clock against the worst run defense in the NFL. Dalton Hilliard could run for 100 yards on these guys. Have a feeling Colin Kaepernick is going to make a few big plays this week. Just a feeling. Don't get too excited. #NOvsSF

Can the Panthers' defense be trusted? Can the Rams' offensive line be trusted? Another of Week 9's challenging matchups to decode. On paper, you'd think Carolina's LBs would halt Todd Gurley, thus forcing Los Angeles to rely on Case Keenum to win. Right. Save for the fact that the Rams have won three close games with Gurley doing diddly poo in two of them. His best performance from a total yardage standpoint came in a two-score loss. My hunch tells me Keenum will be closer to the dude we saw in Detroit (20 straight completions) than the one we saw in London (turnover fest). Yep, you can blame the Panthers' much-destroyed secondary for that prediction. Of course, a 400-yard game in Ramsville is like a UFO sighting. Nah, rarer than that. #CARvsLA

Green Bay could have several players back healthy this week, including linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Quinten Rollins. A healthier Packer secondary might make Andrew Luck hold on to the football a half-second longer -- which means he gets trampled again. How often can Luck connect with T.Y. Hilton? When Luck's WR1 in reality -- I don't know who Luck's WR1 in fantasy is -- maybe he flexes Hilton? -- gains over 100 yards receiving, the Colts are 3-0. How about < 100? Zero and five. Yikes. If Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery come back, look out. Aaron Rodgers has been playing quite well the last two weeks.

 **Historical symmetry:** Luck could get hit a lot on Sunday (like he always does these days). So backup QB 
 Scott Tolzien better stay warm. And Indy were forced to go for some relief, there would be a little history worth repeating. In a playoff game between the 
 Colts and 
 Packers in 1965, the 
 Colts were down their top two quarterbacks (including Johnny U), pushing fullback Tom Matte under center. Don Shula made a play chart for his emergency QB on his wristband, so that Matte would know the play calls. And 
 *that's* why you see the Drew Breeses and Tom Bradys of the world with the playbook on their wrist now. 

Oooooooh, this is a sneaky-good game. I know, I know -- you aren't excited. Come on. The Titans are competing for the AFC South title, and have won three out of their last four. The Chargers have won two out of three and -- as you probably have noticed -- have been in every game this year. DeMarco Murray is leading the AFC in rushing, and has already surpassed his total from last season in Kellyball. The Chargers' run defense is legit, though. Too legit to quit. Too legit for Corey Liuget. That didn't work. Wondering if Marcus Mariota will be able to work it downfield off play action. Tough game to call, but it could come down to Josh Lambo ... *Nothing is over!* #TENvsSD

Broncos at Raiders definitely qualifies as a big game. Both are 6-2 (for the first time since 1998), with the winner getting a leg up until these two meet again in Week 17. I would love to see Oakland win simply so I can move them up in the Power Rankings. Fans think I've been way too hard on this team, yet all the narrow escapes and ridiculous amount of penalties can't be ignored. If Khalil Mack takes over like he did last season in Denver (pummeling Brock Lobster just for fun over and over again), then Oakland wins. Yet, even the most ardent Silver & Black supporters have to admit the Bruce Irvin acquisition has not assisted Mack in the same manner that the Broncos drafting Shane Ray helped Von Miller. Think Michael Crabtree wins once in the red zone, but the Bronco corners will be up to the Cooper-Crabtree challenge. #DENvsOAK

Don't like the Bills' chances. It's a long road trip. Buffalo managed well when they journeyed to Los Angeles to play the Rams. LeSean McCoy was a freaking machine that day. He's been nursing a bad hammy and, frankly, I wouldn't mind seeing the Bills sitting him this game. Playing Seattle is physically challenging for any running back, but more importantly, Buffalo needs Shady for the back stretch when the schedule offers opportunity. The Bills boast a fantastic turnover differential (plus-eight), yet Russell Wilson has thrown only two picks in 241 attempts. #BUFvsSEA


We're going to see how playoff-viable these Falcons are this Thursday night. Coming off an emotional win, on a short week, can they handle their business against a weaker opponent? Of course, the Bucs are also on a short week -- and they just played five quarters on Sunday. Remember this contest last year, when Atlanta, fighting for a wild-card spot, let Jameis Winston convert on third-and-150 with his legs? That loss was the undoing of the Falcons' 2015 season ... aaaand about 10,000 Falcons fans just cursed the hell out of me. #ATLvsTB

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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