NFL Contenders and Pretenders for Week 9
Entering Week 9 of the 2023 NFL season, the league’s top defenses are distinguishing themselves. Some top Ds are on peaking teams that are clear playoff contenders. In other cases, momentum may be working against their team’s chances for the postseason.
In this post, we’re going to look at the teams that have allowed the fewest points per game (PPG) since the start of the regular season and assess their next matchup. As of this writing, the Top 10 defenses are: Baltimore (15.1 PPG allowed), Kansas City (16.1), Buffalo (17.0), Dallas (17.1), San Francisco (17.5), Houston (18.3), Tampa Bay (18.3), the New York Jets (18.4), New Orleans (19.3), and Jacksonville (19.5).
Week 9 is a bye for both Jacksonville and San Francisco, so we’ll focus on assessing the other eight teams. Who is a legit contender and whose defense has what it takes to help you win your Pick X contest on Splash Sports? Let’s get into it!
Baltimore Ravens (15.1) vs. Seattle Seahawks (19.7)
Baltimore’s league-leading defense has done its job the last three contests, allowing Lamar Jackson’s offense to control the flow of the Ravens’ last three games, which were all victories. On the other side of the ball, Seattle’s offense is cooling a bit, averaging just 20 points over their last three contests while going 2-1. Seattle’s defense, however, is peaking -- they’ve allowed 4 fewer PPG (15.7) the last three weeks vs. their season average (19.7). Seattle is a good team but I think that Baltimore is the class of the league right now. Pick the Baltimore Ravens.
Kansas City (16.1) vs. Miami (25.5)
KC’s #2 ranked defense did not look good in a loss to Denver in Week 8 but don’t let that scare you away. The Chiefs D is 4.5 points better at home than they are on the road and the offense is almost 9 points better. Meanwhile, Miami’s offense is not nearly as good as an away team and the Dolphins defense is in the bottom third of the league overall, though the return of CB Jalen Ramsey may help to improve that ranking over the back half of the season. It’s still not enough to beat a highly motivated Chiefs squad at home in Week 9. Pick the Kansas City Chiefs.
Buffalo Bills (17.0) @ Cincinnati Bengals (20.6)
Buffalo is cooling both figuratively and literally. As temperatures drop in one of the NFL’s coldest cities, the Bills offense and defense have both tailed off a little over the last three games. Buffalo’s defense gives up more points on the road (20.0) than they do at home (17.0). The Buffalo offense also loses about 6 points of production in road games, on average. On the other sideline, both the Bengals’ offense and defense are heating up as we head into November. Over the last three weeks, Cincinnati has scored about 27 PPG on O (9 more than their season average), while the D has given up less than 17 (about 4 less than season average). In short, Cincy is hot, the Bills are not. Pick the Cincinnati Bengals.
Dallas Cowboys (17.1) @ Philadelphia Eagles (21.5)
The Cowboys defense is cold, having given up 26.3 PPG over their last three, more than 9 points higher than their season average. The Dallas offense is also down about 4 PPG in that timeframe, though they have won two games in a row. Oddly, Philly’s defense is worse at home by about 4 points than it is on average. Philly’s offense, meanwhile, is sitting at third in the league overall with 28.0 PPG, just behind Dallas 28.1 PPG scored. This is a key divisional matchup that Dallas will be desperate to win and it should be an entertaining game. It’s close but I’ll take the home team. Pick the Philadelphia Eagles.
Houston Texans (18.3) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (18.3)
If defense is your thing, then this may be the game of the week. C.J. Stroud’s offense and Houston’s rising D will take the field against a statistically decent but perhaps declining Tampa Bay squad. Houston’s D has allowed just 16.3 PPG over the last three weeks while scoring 17 PPG and posting a 1-2 record. Meanwhile, TBY has allowed 20 PPG while scoring just 17 PPG and posting an 0-3 record over their last three games. It’s a fair matchup on paper but, long story short, I don’t think the Bucs are for real in 2023. Pick the Houston Texans.
New York Jets (18.4) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (24.0)
The trending New York Jets (4-3) host the struggling Los Angeles Chargers (3-4) in what looks to be a cold weather game in prime time on MNF. The Jets have won three in a row by limiting their opponents to just 15 PPG, while doing enough on offense to win (21 PPG). The Chargers have a bottom-third defense but it’s been playing a little better over the last three (21 PPG), despite facing pretty good offenses (Cowboys, Chiefs). The Chargers have a top 10 offense that plays worse on the road, and have looked inconsistent lately. I think this will be a low scoring game. Pick the New York Jets.
New Orleans (19.3) vs. Chicago Bears (27.3)
An evolving Saints squad will host the hapless Chicago Bears in what appears to be a lopsided game. Yes, New Orleans’ defense is slipping the last few weeks having allowed 26.3 PPG, but the Saints offense is finding its legs, as well, scoring 25 points, or about 4 better than their season average. On the other side of the ball, the Chicago Bears defense has been playing a little bit better lately, but they are still ranked in the bottom five in the league. The Bears middling offense has also taken a step back since the loss of QB Justin Fields. New Orleans is a competitive team that’s playing for something tangible. Chicago isn’t. Pick the New Orleans Saints.
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