NFL Watch List Week 9
We’re not quite halfway through the 2015–16 NFL season, and only 11 of the league’s 32 teams have winning records. No division embodies this trend more than the woeful AFC South, where Indianapolis and Houston are tied for first place with 3-5 records. There’s a good chance the winner of that division will have a sub-.500 record—and still get to host a playoff game come January. Should that come to pass, it will be the second straight season it’s happened, after last year’s Carolina Panthers won the NFC South with a 7-8-1 mark.
Hey, throw it on the ever-expanding pile of problems facing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his minions.
On to this week’s best matchups:
Sunday, November 8
Green Bay (6-1) at Carolina (7-0)
For the second consecutive week, Green Bay faces an undefeated opponent. Few observers predicted Denver would handle the Pack so convincingly last week, or make Aaron Rodgers look so ordinary en route to a 29–10 win. The Broncos D is just that good. Carolina, meanwhile, has scraped its way to seven wins, including last week’s overtime triumph over the Colts. The Panthers beat Seattle, but don’t really have what could be called a statement victory. This week is a chance to change that.
Oakland (4-3) at Pittsburgh (4-4)
The Raiders are exceeding expectations this year—two of their three losses are to the undefeated Bengals and Broncos—while the Steelers are struggling through injury woes. First they lost QB Ben Roethlisberger for several weeks and now they’re without running back Le’Veon Bell for the rest of the season. This one should be a dogfight—one with heavy implications for both teams’ playoff hopes.
Denver (7-0) at Indianapolis (3-5)
Peyton Manning returns to his old stomping grounds to face Andrew Luck, the young buck who replaced him in Indy. While Manning may not be the quarterback he once was, Luck hasn’t been himself this year, either: He’s currently lugging around a 71.6 QB rating, which ranks him an unsightly 32nd in the league.
St. Louis (4-3) at Minnesota (5-2)
Did you know the Vikings were 5-2? Seriously, it’s as if someone hacked into the NFL website, Ferris Bueller–style, and changed the NFC North standings. But there it is. This one features a matchup of marquee running backs in St. Louis rookie Todd Gurley and Minnesota veteran Adrian Peterson.