Week 9 in the NFL kicked off with a surprisingly exciting game in which Nick Mullens — a guy you very possibly never heard of before Thursday — quarterbacked the 49ers to a 34-3 win over the Raiders.
Today we’ll see a lot of quarterbacks we’re much more familiar with, including two of the best to ever grace the field going head-to-head on Sunday Night Football. Here are the five best games of NFL Week 9, ranked.
1. Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints, 4:25 PM (FOX)
Two of the NFL’s best teams and the teams that would be the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the NFC if the playoffs started this weekend will battle it out this afternoon. Will the 6-1 Saints hand the 8-0 Rams their first loss of the season?
The Rams offense is one of the league’s best and will match up favorably against the Saints defense.
But, the Saints offense is no slouch and will put the Rams to the test while finally giving us a better idea of how prolific the L.A. defense really is. The unit just added former Jaguars edge rusher Dante Fowler at the trade deadline and he is expected to contribute — especially on third downs — this afternoon. This game will have playoff implications and the stakes are high, even in Week 9.
2. Green Bay Packers at New England Patriots, 8:20 PM (NBC)
Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers on Sunday Night Football. Enough said? Probably, but let’s preview this matchup a bit further.
Rodgers, the six-time Pro Bowler, two-time First-Team All-Pro, 2010 Super Bowl MVP, and two-time NFL MVP, has led the Packers to a 3-3-1 record this season. Green Bay is currently in third place in a weird NFC North, but we know to never count out Rodgers. Ty Montgomery was basically traded to the Ravens for counting out Rodgers. He can serve as your warning.
As for Brady, he’s a four-time Super Bowl MVP, three-time NFL MVP, 13-time Pro Bowler, three-time First-Team All-Pro, and has made eight appearances in the Super Bowl with a 5-3 record in the biggest game of the year. The Patriots are heading toward their 10th-straight AFC East title.
There’s more than just a win on the line tonight. Brady (even if he says Rodgers is better than him) and Rodgers both know that everyone will be closely watching to see which of these quarterbacks plays better and who can add a talking point to the debate of which quarterback is the greatest of all time.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. (CBS)
The last time these AFC North foes played it was Week 4 and the Ravens pretty much dominated, winning the game 26-14. Since then, the Steelers have won three straight while the Ravens have lost two in a row and are now in third place in the AFC North. The Steelers have a slim hold of first place, which they’ll be looking to cling onto this week in Baltimore. James Conner has been killing it for the Steelers while Le’Veon Bell continues to sit at home and watch football on TV. The second-year running back has had three-straight 100+ yard games after recording only 19 yards on the ground against the Ravens earlier in the year. The Ravens boast the 11th-best run defense, second-best passing defense and overall are allowing the least yards per game in the league. The winner of this game will greatly improve their playoff chances.
4. Los Angeles Chargers at Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 PM (CBS)
The Chargers have been cruising through an easy part of their schedule with four-straight wins over the 49ers, Raiders, Browns, and Titans — those teams have a combined 8-23-1 record. This week Philip Rivers and Co. will face a Seahawks team on the rise that saw Russell Wilson finish last week’s win over the Lions with a perfect 158.3 passer rating. The Chargers average the sixth-most yards per game on offense and allow the 11th-least yards per game on defense, while the Seahawks offense is averaging the 26th-most yards per game on offense and allowing the third-least yards per game on defense. How effectively will Seattle limit Rivers—who has the sixth highest completion percentage among starting quarterbacks (69.1%), 17 touchdowns (tied for third most), three interceptions, and a 117.8 passer rating (third highest among starting QBs)? The answer to that question will likely play a large role in who wins this game.
5. Houston Texans at Denver Broncos, 4:05 PM (CBS)
The Broncos on Tuesday traded wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to the Texans. Now just days later, the four-time Pro Bowler will face his former team while donning a Texans uniform for the first time. The Texans are another team that’s been getting better every week and Thomas is sure to help them improve further. Deshaun Watson had five touchdowns and a 156.0 passer rating in the Texans’ win over the Dolphins last Thursday and he’ll be looking to avoid being sacked for the second week in a row when visiting Von Miller (8.0 sacks this season) and the Broncos. Watson has been sacked the second-most times of any quarterback this season, with only Eli Manning hitting the turf more.
Sunday NFL Week 9 schedule
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Chicago Bears at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m (FOX)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m (FOX)
Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m (CBS)
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m (CBS)
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m (FOX)
Atlanta Falcons at Washington, 1 p.m (FOX)
Houston Texans at Denver Broncos, 4:05 PM (CBS)
Los Angeles Chargers at Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 PM (CBS)
Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints, 4:25 PM (FOX)
Green Bay Packers at New England Patriots, 8:20 PM (NBC)