After finally seeing an improvement in COVID-19-related absences, the NFL got hit by another spike with the Green Bay Packers revealing Monday that rookie running back A.J. Dillon tested positive for COVID-19. Now, their Thursday night contest against the 49ers is in jeopardy.
That’s obviously a game to keep an eye on, but here are three others.
Seahawks at Bills
The Seahawks, at 6-1, are a very, very good football team. There’s even an argument for Seattle being the best team in the NFL, with the only real challengers for that spot being Pittsburgh and Kansas City. Star quarterback Russell Wilson is probably the leading MVP candidate at this point of the season, and his two receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf are both playing like top-10 pass catchers in the league. Even their defense, despite giving up by far the most yards per game, is only giving up ninth-most points per game. It’s not ideal by any means, but they’re doing a solid job of bend don’t break. When you pair it with their explosive offense, any game is winnable.
The Bills, at 6-2, are masquerading as a very, very good football team. They got off to a hot start in the first four weeks, going 4-0 by beating the Jets, Dolphins, Rams and Raiders. The Jets are horrible, and while the other three teams are solid, only one is currently in playoff position — the would be seven-seed Rams. They then got manhandled by both the Titans and the Chiefs in back-to-back weeks, failing their first real tests against clear Super Bowl contenders. Then, they beat the Jets 18-10 in Week 7, which yes, it’s a win, but that is the smallest margin of victory against the Jets all season. This past week, they beat the spiraling Patriots 24-21, once again coming way too close to losing to a team they easily should have blown out of the water. They very well could have lost that game too if Cam Newton had not fumbled in the red zone with under a minute left in the game. It almost certainly would have at least gone to OT. I am really curious to see if Josh Allen, who has looked flat-out bad his past four starts, and the rest of the Bills can compete with an actual top team.
Prediction: They won’t. I really don’t have any confidence in Allen, and while his stat line may look fine at the end of the game due to how poor the Seattle defense is, he won’t be able to keep up with Wilson and the Seahawks. 37-24, Seahawks win.
Saints at Buccaneers
Antonio Brown is back. After serving an eight-game suspension for a violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy, he’s set to make his return in Week 9. He’s also teamed up with Tom Brady again, forming a three-headed monster in Tampa Bay at wide receiver with him, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. For now, it might just be Brown and Evans as Godwin is dealing with a fractured finger and his status for Week 9 is up in the air. Either way, reports say Brown looks great. Per FantasyPros, head coach Bruce Arians said “he is already in meeting and working with strength staff, in great shape and ready to go next week.”
This is also a battle for the top spot in the NFC South, with the Bucs sitting at 6-2 and the Saints right behind them at 5-2. It might not only be the return of Brown; it could also be the return of the Saints’ star wideout Michael Thomas. Thomas has missed almost the entire season, catching just three passes Week 1 and not touching the field since. His status is still unknown, but it’s possible we see two star wideouts making their return in the same game.
Prediction: I think it’ll be a really close, back and forth game, but the Bucs are just the more explosive team. I think the Saints are better in the long run, but I just have a feeling about Tampa here. 35-30, Bucs win.
Patriots at Jets
Remember all those legendary Jets/Patriots matchups? Yeah, this won’t be one of them. But what it could do is have serious implications on draft positions. That’s right — there’s actually talk the Jets could win this game. Yes, they’re probably the worst team I have ever seen, but it still takes a lot more than just being bad to go 0-16. It takes some really, really bad luck as well, at least historically. It wouldn’t be the craziest thing for them to stumble into a win. After all, that would be the most Jets thing to do, wouldn’t it? They would totally win a meaningless game to screw up their draft position.
Is it likely? Not in the slightest. But I just don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility. The Patriots have been in a downward spiral, it’s a divisional rivalry and it’s on Monday Night Football. That just sounds like a recipe for something weird to happen.
Prediction: Still, I’m not going to predict it. It COULD happen, and that’s why I’m really intrigued about this game, but I’d be an idiot to actually pick the Jets. I’ll go as far as saying MAYBE they’ll put up a fight, but that’s it. 23-17, Patriots win.