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NFL Picks Week 9

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Each week, the Steelers Now staff is picking each NFL game.

STANDINGS

Alan Saunders: 81-37
Parker Hurley: 73-45
Mike Asti: 73-45
Ron Lippock: 72-46

LAST WEEK

Mike Asti: 13-2
Parker Hurley: 11-4
Ron Lippock: 13-2
Alan Saunders: 13-2

THURSDAY

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals

Asti: 49ers
Hurley: 49ers
Lippock: 49ers
Saunders: 49ers, but not to cover, and beware Thursday night weirdness here.

SUNDAY EARLY

Houston Texans vs Jacksonville Jaguars in London

Asti: Texans
Hurley: Jaguars
Lippock: Texans
Saunders: Jaguars, I guess? Texans are a talented team, but have led me astray many times this year.

Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles

Asti: Eagles. The Bears were even lucky to beat the Chargers and Philadelphia has found their stride enough for this game.
Hurley: Eagles
Lippock: Eagles
Saunders: Eagles, even if their offense might struggle.

Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers

Asti: Steelers. This is a pretty even matchup. Both teams have been starting a backup quarterback and are ranked near each other in most categories. It took Rudolph and the Steelers a half to get going against Miami, which can be a reason for concern, but it’s also possible they finally figured out how to utilize Rudolph and this offense, especially with Johnson seeming to fill that number two receiver option that has been a big issue most of the season. Steelers 26, Colts 20.

Hurley: Steelers. The Colts have a good offense and good defense but the Steelers have a potentially great defense. Against a great OC and a backup QB we will finally get to see just how special this defense can be. As the offense settles in with Mason Rudolph if they can take care of the ball, they can put the game in the hands of their defense who could show up in a big way once again at home. Steelers 20, Colts 17.

Lippock: Steelers. Talk about two evenly matched teams. Both rank near each other in offense and defense – almost carbon copies – and both playing with backup quarterbacks.

The biggest differences are home field advantage for the Steelers and the fact the Steelers are much better at forcing turnovers. Om the backs of those two facts, I give this one to the Steelers, 23-20.
Saunders: Steelers. I think the Steelers have been fine, but I’m really basing this pick on my feelings about the Colts, which have an entirely unimpressive collection of skill players. Turnovers will be the key in this one. Colts have been stingy, but won’t be able to handle the Pittsburgh pressure off the edge. Pittsburgh, 28-20.

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins

Asti: Jets. I can’t pick the Dolphins and if the Jets don’t win this they may not win another game.
Hurley: Jets
Lippock: Jets
Saunders: Dolphins. Ryan Fitzpatrick is clearly the better quarterback.

Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs

Asti: Chiefs
Hurley: Vikings
Lippock: Chiefs
Saunders: Chiefs

Tennessee Titans at Carolina Panthers

Asti: Panthers
Hurley: Panthers
Lippock: Titans
Saunders: Panthers, I guess?

Washington Redskins at Buffalo Bills

Asti: Bills
Hurley: Bills
Lippock: Bills
Saunders: Bills are undefeated when playing teams that barely belong in the NFL, something they’ve done a ton this year.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Seattle Seahawks

Asti: Seahawks
Hurley: Buccaneers
Lippock: Seahawks
Saunders: Seahawks

Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders

Asti: Lions. The Lions start their emergence.
Hurley: Lions
Lippock: Raiders
Saunders: Lions, though I’d feel better if this were in Detroit.

Green Bay Packers at Los Angeles Chargers

Asti: Packers
Hurley: Packers
Lippock: Packers
Saunders: Packers

Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos

Asti: Browns. While Baker Mayfield and the Browns are falling apart, they just have to beat Denver.
Hurley: Browns
Lippock: Browns
Saunders: Broncos. I think things have totally gone off the rails in Cleveland.

SUNDAY NIGHT

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens

Asti: Patriots
Hurley: Ravens
Lippock: Patriots, 30-20
Saunders: Ravens, because Lamar Jackson really is that dude, and I’m not going to pick the Pats every week.

MONDAY NIGHT

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants

Asti: Cowboys
Hurley: Cowboys
Lippock: Cowboys
Saunders: Cowboys, but this would this would be a classic Cowboys game to lose and keep the division close.

NFL

NFL, NFLPA Announce Zero Positive Cases Among Players

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The NFL had zero positive cases among players and just five among staff members in their last round of COVID-19 testing, the league and NFLPA announced Tuesday.

This week’s results mark a slight improvement from the last testing period, where two players and five staff tested positive.

In the period spanning from Sept. 13 – 19, the league administered 36,664 total tests to 7,845 players and staff.

14,074 tests were distributed to 2,438 players. 5,407 staff members received 22,590 coronavirus tests.

Tier 1 and 2 individuals continue to be tested daily, while Tier 3 staff across the league are being tested on a weekly basis.

As the 2020 season approaches week 3, the league’s COVID-19 protocols appear to be working perfectly with no significant virus outbreaks to date.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have not had any virus-related issues since running back Jaylen Samuels was removed from the COVID-19/ Reserve list on Aug. 13.

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Around the NFL: Ravens Roll as Texans Fall to 0-2

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Welcome to Around the NFL, where Cale Berger of Steelers Now will recap the week’s action and take a look ahead at some of the most important matchups from the Pittsburgh Steelers perspective.

Baltimore Ravens 33, Houston Texans 16

Houston’s nightmarish start to the 2020 season went from bad to worse Sunday, as they have now started 0-2 with losses to the Chiefs and Ravens.

The Texans did fairly good job of keeping quarterback Lamar Jackson contained on the ground, but Baltimore’s plethora of running backs picked up the slack. Gus Edwards, Mark Ingram II and J.K. Dobbins combined for 176 yards and a touchdown, averaging a startling 8.38 yards per carry.

Jackson still found a way to make an impact with his arm, throwing for 204 yards and a scores. He completed 75% of his passes and connected with nine different receivers.

Baltimore’s defense did their part as well, making like difficult for quarterback Deshaun Watson. They sacked him four times and intercepted him once. Former Steelers linebacker L.J. Fort also returned a Keke Coutee fumble for a touchdown.

With the Ravens firing on all cylinders and Pittsburgh also sitting at 2-0 on the year, their Oct. 25 meeting cannot come soon enough.

Things will not get easier for either team in Week Three. The Ravens are set for another heavyweight slugfest on Monday Night Football next week versus the Chiefs, while the Texan’s brutal opening slate continues against the Steelers at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Los Angeles Rams 37, Philadelphia Eagles 19

A week after he was sacked eight times by Washington in the season opener, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz struggled again on Sunday, but the pass protection was not to blame this time. Philadelphia’s patchwork offensive line did not allow a single sack to star defensive tackle Aaron Donald and company, yet Wentz still looked inaccurate and inconsistent.

The former No. 2-overall pick went 26 of 43 for 242 yards and no scores with two costly interceptions. Wentz was even booed off the field after missing a wide-open receiver on a crucial third down. Unfortunately for Wentz, there were no fans in attendance at Lincoln Financial Field.

Even in a pandemic, Philly gonna Philly.

The man picked prior to Wentz in the 2016 NFL Draft looked great in contrast, as quarterback Jared Goff completed 20 of 27 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns. All three of Goff’s touchdown tosses went to tight end Tyler Higbee, who made his fantasy owners across the country jumping for joy.

Former Steelers defensive tackle Javon Hargrave made his Eagles debut yesterday, but played sparingly and recorded no stats. In comparison, Hargrave’s replacement on the Pittsburgh defensive line Tyson Alualu was a problem for the Broncos’ offense all afternoon, posting a sack, a tackle-for-loss, batting down one pass and hitting the quarterback twice.

The Rams will travel to Buffalo next weekend. The Eagles will host the Bengals and visit the 49ers, before travelling to Pittsburgh in Week Five.

Arizona Cardinals 30, Washington 15

Reigning NFL Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray was stellar again on Sunday, accounting for three total touchdowns (one passing, two rushing) and accounted for 353 yards of offense, as the Cardinals improved to 2-0 to start the year.

Murray also looks to have seamlessly built a rapport with his newest weapon DeAndre Hopkins, who had eight receptions for 68 yards and touchdown in the win. The duo has already combined for 22 completions and 219 yards through two games.

Running back Kenyan Drake also rushed for 86 yards, as Arizona looks like a contender in a stacked NFC West division.

Washington’s offensive duo of the future did not disappoint either, with quarterback Dwayne Haskins completing 19 of 33 passes for 223 yards and a score. Fellow Ohio State Buckeye Terry McLaurin was the biggest beneficiary Sunday, catching seven passes for 125 yards and the score. Still, their connection was not enough to overcome their porous defense.

Washington will battle a pair of AFC North foes in the Browns next Sunday and the Ravens Week Four. Arizona faces Detroit next at home.

REST OF THE SCHEDULE

Cleveland Browns 35, Cincinnati Bengals 30 (Thursday)

Chicago Bears 17, New York Giants 13

Dallas Cowboys 40, Atlanta Falcons 39

Green Bay Packers 42, Detroit Lions 21

Tennessee Titans 33, Jacksonville Jaguars 30

Indianapolis Colts 28, Minnesota Vikings 11

Buffalo Bills 31, Miami Dolphins 28

San Francisco 49ers 31, New York Jets 13

Pittsburgh Steelers 26, Denver Broncos 21

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31, Carolina Panthers 17

Kansas City Chiefs 23, Los Angeles Chargers 20 (OT)

Seattle Seahawks 35, New England Patriots 30

New Orleans Saints at Las Vegas Raiders, 8:15 p.m. Monday, ESPN

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Around the NFL: The Browns’ Backs Pummel Bengals

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Welcome to Around the NFL, where Cale Berger of Steelers Now will recap early-week action and take a look ahead at some of the most important matchups from the Pittsburgh Steelers perspective.

THURSDAY NIGHT HIGHLIGHTS

Cleveland Browns 35, Cincinnati Bengals 30 

An AFC North rivalry kicked off Week Two on Thursday night, as the Cleveland Browns rode their power running game to a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt made their case as the league’s best rushing tandem, carrying for a combined 210 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Hunt also caught a score. The Bengals, who had the worst rush defense in the league last year, had no answer for Cleveland one-two punch, which looks even better with the addition of fullback Andy Janovich this offseason.

Success in the running game led to play-action opportunities for quarterback Baker Mayfield, which he and his receivers took full advantage of. Mayfield finally got on the same page with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., with the two connecting on a 43-yard score in the second quarter. Thursday showed that new head coach Kevin Stefanski’s system can work when the Browns are successful in the running game early and often.

The Browns defense battered quarterback Joe Burrow all night, sacking him three times and hitting on plenty more occasions. Still, Burrow was impressive in front of a national audience Thursday, remaining calm and collected under constant pressure from the ferocious Browns pass rush. He completed 37 of 61 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns.

Cleveland will host Washington next, and Cincinnati will travels to Philadelphia for their second-straight road game.

AROUND THE NFL THIS WEEKEND

Los Angeles Rams at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. FOX regional

A week after allowing quarterback Carson Wentz to be sacked eight times by Washington, the Philadelphia Eagles will welcome the league’s most fearsome pass rusher to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday when the Los Angeles Rams and defensive tackle Aaron Donald come to town.

Donald dominated the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football last week, recording a sack, a tackle-for-loss and four quarterback hits. His success opened up rush lanes for his teammates as well, as the Rams had three sacks, three tackles-for-loss and six hits as a team.

Luckily for the Eagles, reinforcements are on the way. Not only will they return tackle Lane Johnson, but they will also get back starting running back Miles Sanders. Both will have to provide a major boost in pass protection for Philadelphia to get back to their winning ways.

Also, former Steelers defensive tackle Javon Hargrave will make his Philadelphia debut on Sunday as well after missing their season opener with both a pectoral and hamstring injury. He should provide a big boost to an Eagles defense that allowed two rushing touchdowns to Washington last week.

Washington at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m., WPGH-TV

Following the Steelers’ home opener against the Broncos, fans in the Pittsburgh area will be treated to a duel of young quarterbacks in the late afternoon slot when Washington visits the Arizona Cardinals. Both teams are also coming off upset victories over division rivals.

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2019 behind 3,722 passing yards and 24 total touchdowns. Murray was just as good kicking off 2020, posting 321 total yards and two touchdowns in Arizona’s shocking 24-20 win over San Francisco.

While his numbers may not be as eye-popping as Murray, Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins also led his squad to a Week 1 win behind 178 passing yards and a touchdown.

The two 2019 first rounders have been solid early, but both have struggled to protect the football throughout their short careers. Murray has 15 turnovers in 17 career games, Haskins has nine giveaways in ten.

As is often the case with young quarterbacks, success for Murray and Haskins on Sunday and going forward will be predicated on and determined by their ability to take care of the football.

Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans, 4:25 p.m. Sunday, KDKA-TV

No team was dealt a tougher hand to start the season than the Houston Texans, who begin 2020 facing three AFC juggernauts. Sandwiched between their opening night loss to the Chiefs and a Week 3 visit to Pittsburgh, the Texans will battle reigning MVP Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday.

Sunday’s matchup will be decided by which team dominates the redzone. The Ravens were phenomenal in the redzone offensively last season, scoring a league-leading 43 touchdowns. Houston was not as stellar defensively, allowing opponents to score touchdowns on 71.4% of their trips, the highest rate in the league.

The story was the same for Houston last week against Kansas City, as they allowed the Chiefs to score on seven of their eight redzone trips.

Baltimore also continued their trend of success from last season, scoring in the redzone at an 83% clip against the Browns last Sunday.

The Texans may have to do the impossible this week to get their first win of the season, which means stopping Jackson and Baltimore’s abundancy of running backs from finding the goal line.

REST OF THE SCHEDULE

New York Giants at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. CBS regional

Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys, 1 p.m, FOX regional

Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m., FOX regional

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m., CBS regional

Minnesota Vikings at Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m., FOX regional

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m., CBS regional

San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets 1 p.m., FOX regional

Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m., KDKA-TV

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m., FOX regional

Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m., CBS regional

New England Patriots at Seattle Seahawks, 8:20 p.m., NBC

New Orleans Saints at Las Vegas Raiders, 8:15 p.m. Monday, ESPN

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