The Jaguars and Giants are two of the six teams on bye, so you'd think we might get some good match-ups. No such luck: Not a single game this Sunday features two teams above .500 (Bears-Packers is your best game by this measure, but you'll have to wait until Monday for that one). Here are your Week 9 NFL viewing maps:
Tennessee at St. Louis: The Titans got "lucky" with the timing of Jake Locker's injury—they lost their starting QB for three games that they were very unlikely to win anyways (Chiefs, Seahawks, 49ers). Locker played pretty well at the start of the season; Football Outsiders gives him a DVOA of 9.1%, 13th among the 47 QBs with at least twenty passes this season. The Rams will start Kellen Clemens again, who ranks 46th.
Kansas City at Buffalo: Another week goes by, another backup QB has to face the Chiefs' defense.
San Diego at Washington: In a very ugly week for football, I think that this game could turn out to be...OK. The Chargers have a top-five offense by both traditional and advanced metrics. Before their ridiculous fourth quarter implosion against the Broncos, Washington had scored 63 points in their last six quarters, versus just 110 points in their previous 21. Most importantly, the remarkable incompetence of the NFL East as a division means that the the 'Skins are still very much in contention.
Pittsburgh at New England: The Steelers lost to the Raiders last week and Tom Brady put up one of the worst halves of his career against the Dolphins, so let's all stop pretending that it's 2011 and this is a good game.
Baltimore at Cleveland: The defending champs are a disappointing 3-4 with close losses to the Bills, Packers, and Steelers. The culprit isn't the young defense—the Ravens are posting essentially the same points allowed/game as the 2012 squad—but rather a completely ineffectual running game which is averaging 45 yards per game fewer than it did in 2012.
Tampa Bay at Seattle: The Buccaneers are pretty much in open revolt at this point, and have stopped narrowly losing games in favor of badly losing them. They have one of the worst offenses in the NFL, their star running back is injured, their defense has been middling, and they're 16-point underdogs against the Seahawks.
Philadelphia at Oakland: The fastest, most revolutionary offense in NFL history has now gone 131 game minutes without a touchdown. Injuries to Vick and Foles have hampered Chip Kelly's game plan, which has always relied on the performance of elite passers.
Minnesota at Dallas: In Matt Cassel's two starts for the Vikings this season, he got Minnesota its only win and lost to one of the best defenses in the NFL. That looks like all the chances he'll get, which is kind of inexplicable, since Ponder and Freeman have been among the worst quarterbacks in the league this year. It shouldn't matter, because if there's any justice in the world Dez Bryant is going to catch 10 touchdowns.
Atlanta at Carolina: Falcons receivers Drew Davis and Darius Johnson combined for nine receptions in last week's 27-13 loss to the Cardinals, which more than doubled their career receptions (now at 16). The Falcons are now in the same position the Patriots were at the start of the season, except a) they're in a 2-5 hole, and b) they don't have the same sneaky-good running game the Patriots have.
New Orleans at NY Jets: The vaunted Jets defense gave up five touchdowns to Andy Dalton last week, so have fun against the Saints!
Who's Getting Screwed?
This week's winner is Orlando, Florida, which might deserve to win every week this season. Florida has one mediocre and two absolutely terrible teams this year, leaving Orlando, right in the middle of the state, stuck with all sorts of awful games.
So how does the schedule look when the Jaguars are on bye, and the Dolphins have already played? Still awful, it turns out, as Orlando gets Tampa Bay at Seattle, Pittsburgh at New England, and, cruelly, Tennessee at St. Louis. An ugly Sunday afternoon for the the most magical city in the country.