The NFL trade deadline period came and went with one trade of note - the Denver Broncos got tight end Vernon Davis from the 49ers. But the week also saw some eye-popping coaching fratricide via several coaching firings and the benching of a starting quarterback only recently considered a star of the future, while the story of the weekend was the league's shakedown of New England Patriots employees in a futile search for nonexistent transmitting devices, a search instigated at the behest of the New York Jets. We predict winners for Week Nine amid midseason chaos -
Bengals over Browns - The Browns will start Johnny Fumbles on Thursday Night at Cincinnati, and it won't matter given Manziel's spotty skill set and dubious work ethic. The Bengals come in unbeaten - a club first for this late in the season - and coming off a clutch win at Pittsburgh one hesitates to ponder who could beat them before the playoffs. People seem to be waiting for some inevitable Bengals collapse and there's certainly been reason for such expectation, but we aren't there yet.
Jaguars over NY Jets
- Suddenly the Jets have a quarterback problem with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith injured, while the Jaguars come in off their bye from their dramatic London win. Slowly but certainly the Jaguars appear to be establishing some level of respectability again.
Saints over Titans - Ken Whisenhunt was fired after Tennessee's pathetic loss at Houston, this a week after Zach Mettenberger blew a winnable game against a good Falcons squad. The move was certainly overdue given Whisenhunt's complete inability to develop anything out of Zach Mettenberger plus burgeoning O-line issues that contributed to Marcus Mariota's injury. Talk of bringing back Jeff Fisher ignores the need for new thinking and a fresh, analytical approach to the game, because the game is now won by acquisition and application of information. The sooner Mariota comes back the better, because he looks like he can make the Titans winners again, this as they presently face a Saints squad rejuvenated by their awe-inspiring 52-49 shootout win over the Giants.
Patriots over Redskins - The Redskins are better than expected, but the Patriots are the machine again.
Panthers over Packers - Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers got exposed again as frontrunning frauds; once they fell behind the Broncos 14-0 they were toast. Now they take on an unbeaten Panthers team that is fully Cam Newton's team and fully capable of winning the Lombardi Trophy. The only nits to pick right now are the receivers need to catch the ball, as shown by Ted Ginn's blown touchdown effort in overtime against the Colts.
Dolphins over Bills - This is not the same Dolphins teams beaten by Rex Ryan earlier this year, and the Bills are no longer as good as advertised with discipline - such as it is for a Rex Ryan team - appearing to be breaking down.
Vikings over Rams - The Vikings have advanced quite a ways from the start of the season, and while they've been pretty quiet about it they're nonetheless at 5-2 showing real growth. The Rams remain the team Fisher started with, basically 8-8, capable of some big wins but never good enough to go further.
Raiders over Steelers - Never mind that the Raiders are much better now than they've been since 2011 and the Steelers are not as good as they were last year; the Raiders have won four of the last five meetings with the Steelers and the games have usually been taut contests - cue Kenny Stabler vs. the Steel Curtain footage for this one.
Falcons over 49ers - The benching of Colin Kaepernick after increasingly poor performances and no sign the perceived improvement of Week One was in fact for real means Blaine Gabbert - nicknamed Blame Gabbert in Jacksonville for lack of accountability for useless play - has a chance to relaunch his career. He gets a Falcons team that may have been exposed by the Titans, as they were held to ten points in Tennessee and got embarrassed by the Bucs last week.
Buccaneers over NY Giants - The Bucs have started to show some growth with Jameis Winston as the season has gone on and they host a Giants team that can explode with points but hasn't stopped anyone, either. Even if they lose the Giants are in very good shape for a playoff push.
Colts over Broncos - The firing of coordinator Pep Hamilton amid continuing speculation about Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson would suggest a collapsing season - except Andrew Luck suddenly started playing his brand of Dan Marino football and erased a 17-point gap to force overtime in Carolina. That he threw the overtime pick that cost the Colts in the end doesn't change that Luck is a franchise quarterback, deeply flawed as he is. Earlier this year the reading between the lines suggested the Colts were swung over from the reckless Marinoball approach of Luck (and Peyton Manning) by the efficiency of Matt Hasselback's West Coast offense approach, and in the first half of the Patriots game Luck appeared to use more of a West Coast approach, but when the Patriots started putting the game away Luck and the Colts abandoned the conservative approach and reverted to Marinoball. The Carolina game suggests the West Coast is dead in Indianapolis, and the Colts now get a Broncos team that has a new tight end for Peyton and whose defense has gotten a lot of love - except the Broncos haven't held their own against good tight ends plus it's still a Wade Phillips unit as part of a Gary Kubiak team - not the most dependable of God's creatures, to coin a Spencer Tracy-ism.
Eagles overCowboys - The Eagles are substantially better now than they were in Week Two and the Cowboys are worse, shown in the serial refusal to hold players accountable by Jerry Jones to go with abysmal quarterback play.
Chargers over Bears - San Diego's season is over with continued bitter failure against quality opponents despite gaudy stats from Philip Rivers. They get a break this Monday Night as they get a Bears team chronically not ready for prime time and headed by the always-inept and stuck-up a-hole that is Jay Cutler.
And so it goes, hoping some teams down in the dumps can start a turnaround for the second half.