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We’re entering Week 9, where the Monday night game is so bad we’re not going to talk about it below. All we can say is, Chicago at San Diego? This sounded like a good idea? Do better, NFL.

Fortunately, Thursday’s contest is compelling and the Sunday card is one of the best we’ve seen this season, spiced up due to the number of teams that remain in contention despite mediocre records. Here are the 10 best matchups:


Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton staged an impressive fourth-quarter comeback to continue a breakout season that won’t mean anything unless he wins a playoff game. Still, the Bengals looking to remain unbeaten on a national stage qualifies as a big game, so critics will be waiting to pounce if he doesn’t shine again. Browns coach Mike Pettine will throw varying looks his way, but not having Joe Haden (concussion) matching up against A.J. Green will present major challenges. Safety Donte Whitner (concussion) is out too.


Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers: This is an immense game as far as the AFC playoff picture is concerned. Let that soak in. The Steelers will be looking to make up for Le’Veon Bell’s absence and will be leaning on DeAngelo Williams to carry the ground game. The Raiders head East looking to solidify their status as a serious postseason contender, counting on the trio of Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Andre Holmes to continue hauling in Derek Carr’s accurate passes. Charles Woodson has turned back the clock, but we’ll see how he fares against the Steelers’ game-breaking wide receivers.

Jacksonville Jaguars at N.Y. Jets: It doesn’t sound like Ryan Fitzpatrick has a chance at being part of this one, which means the Jets will be in Geno Smith’s hands – if they’re lucky. Given the massive hit he took late in the win against Oakland, there’s concern he may not be able to go, leaving Todd Bowles’ team in a vulnerable position with a QB off the street, albeit someone familiar with the system.

St. Louis Rams at Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater sure took his time finding a rhythm against the Bears, nearly costing his team a winnable game. He found it in time to help move the Vikings to 5-2, rallying his team in the final minutes. He’s better at home than on the road, which is good simply from a point of self-preservation since an imposing Rams defense is on tap. Robert Quinn and T.J. McDonald have been playing through injuries impressively.

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills: Since both teams are 3-4 and in the AFC playoff fight, this is a massive contest for both. The Dolphins come off an embarrassing loss to New England, their first under Dan Campbell. The Bills come off a bye week and may have Tyrod Taylor, Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy back. That all remains to be seen, but with road games against the Jets and Patriots coming up, Buffalo is entering a critical stretch with Rex Ryan’s honeymoon period expired.

Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers: The Packers come off their first loss and are headed into the same type of environment that just did them in. While Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium isn’t Mile High, it does get loud and aid an aggressive capable defense. What the Broncos also did was expose the lack of explosive playmaking ability of Green Bay’s tight ends and receivers not named Randall Cobb. The Panthers come in off a short week.

Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers: These teams are both feeling miserable about themselves. Dan Quinn’s Falcons have been their own worst enemy in losses, committing ridiculous, juvenile turnovers that have rightfully cost them games. The Colin Kaepernick-led offense continues to produce little, but gets to face an Atlanta defense that has struggled to capitalize on opportunities to bail out the mistake-prone offense.

N.Y. Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: After losing in heart-breaking fashion in their return home, Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and Reuben Randle have to rebound quickly to try and take advantage of a vulnerable Tampa Bay secondary in a second consecutive road game. Bucs QB Jameis Winston is on pace to put up potentially historic NFL rookie numbers and could prove to be a dangerous spoiler the rest of the way if he can get Vincent Jackson and preferred security blanket Austin Sefarian-Jenkins back for the season’s second half.

Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts: The Colts come in off Monday night’s visit to Carolina and face the most feared defense in the game, not to mention a rejuvenated Peyton Manning. With Andrew Luck embroiled in controversy over just how healthy he is, this could be a dangerous game if his O-line can’t hold up.


Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys: The Sunday night game provides tremendous drama in that it’s fair to call it a must-win game for the Cowboys and Matt Cassel comes off a terrible outing against Seattle. The Eagles defense and a healthier Dez Bryant give him an opportunity to be more successful, but Cassel is still facing an uphill battle in ending a Romo-less losing streak that threatens to realistically end the season before his Week 11 return.

Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at Email: [email protected].

About the Author
Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national writer for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

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