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Week 9 of the 2023 NFL season is underway, and there were a few surprises in the Steelers' 20-16 victory over the Titans on "Thursday Night Football." Pittsburgh wide receiver Diontae Johnson snapped a streak of 119 consecutive catches without a touchdown, the second-longest streak by a wide receiver in NFL history, by catching the game-winning three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kenny Pickett with 4:02 left to play. With the victory, the Steelers improved to 5-3 and became the first team in the Super Bowl Era, since 1966, to have a winning record despite being out-gained in each of their first eight games of a season. 

Since anything can happen when it comes to the NFL, what's next, you ask? Well, here are five bold predictions for this weekend's Week 9 slate.          

Lamar Jackson lights up Seahawks' dominant defense

Lamar Jackson
BAL • QB • #8
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The Seahawks (5-2) have been the NFL's best defense since Week 4. Their 12.5 points per game allowed, 4.1 yards per play allowed and 21 team sacks all lead the league in that span. Seattle has an NFL-best eight different players with multiple sacks this season, and linebacker Boye Mafe has recorded a sack in five consecutive games, the longest active streak in the entire league. The Seahawks even beefed up their defense front at the trade deadline, acquiring Giants Pro Bowl defensive lineman Leonard Williams in exchange for a 2024 second-round pick and a 2025 fifth-round pick. 

On the back end, 2023 fifth overall pick Devon Witherspoon is living up to the hype. He has allowed fewer than 35 receiving yards in five consecutive games when targeted, and he leads the NFL in yards per pass attempt allowed (3.9). However, all of that won't be enough to slow down Ravens do-it-all quarterback Lamar Jackson. He is 17-1 against the NFC -- a conference that doesn't get to play against him on a regular basis -- the best quarterback win percentage against the opposing conference in NFL history among those with a minimum of five such starts. 

As for what makes Jackson such a challenge, no one plays the quarterback position quite like him. His 70.5% completion percentage is the third-highest in the NFL this season while his 380 rushing yards lead all quarterbacks. Those 380 rushing yards are the most by any quarterback with a completion percentage of 70% or higher though eight games of a season all-time. Jackson put up an incredibly efficient performance against the Lions in Week 7, throwing for 357 yards and three touchdowns on 21-of-27 passing while also tacking on a seven-yard rushing touchdown on the ground in a 38-6 beatdown. The Lions are 6-2 this season and half a game up on the Seahawks for the No. 2 seed in the NFC at the moment. Jackson, who is playing similarly to his 2019 NFL MVP form, will have another strong outing against one of the NFC's best teams, one that features the league's hottest defense. 

Lamar Jackson through eight games: 2019 vs. 2023





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* Won 2019 NFL MVP

Vikings win first game without Kirk Cousins since 'Minneapolis Miracle' in January 2018

Jaren Hall
MIN • QB • #16
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Jordan Addison
MIN • WR • #3
REC YDs482
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Saying that losing quarterback Kirk Cousins to a season-ending torn Achilles is a massive blow to the Minnesota Vikings is an understatement. He was playing like a top-five quarterback through the first eight weeks of the season with his completion percentage (69.5%, fifth-best in NFL), passing yards (2,331, second-best in NFL trailing only Tua Tagovailoa), passing touchdowns (18, co-leads NFL with Tagovailoa) and passer rating (103.8, third-best in NFL), all ranking inside the top five. Cousins also became the first quarterback in Vikings history with multiple passing touchdowns in seven of the team's first eight games in a season. 

Minnesota also hasn't won a game without Cousins starting at quarterback since their 2017 playoff run before he arrived, meaning the team's last victory without him under center was when Case Keenum threw a 61-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs as time in expired in their 29-24 NFC Divisional Round playoff win against the New Orleans Saints, aka the "Minneapolis Miracle," in January of 2018.

The Vikings (4-4) have won four of their last five games after an 0-3 start to 2023, including three in a row without 2022 NFL Offensive Player of the Year Justin Jefferson. They will win their fourth in a row on Sunday against the Falcons (4-4) without Cousins even with fifth-round rookie Jaren Hall out of BYU starting at quarterback. 

The rookie will be making his first career start in Week 9 after completing three of his four passes for 23 yards in a 24-10 victory over the Packers in Week 8 after Cousins left the game. As long as he can find the Vikings 2023 first-round pick, wide receiver Jordan Addison, he'll be ok. Addison has seven receiving touchdowns in his first eight games, tied for the second-most in the Super Bowl era. The Falcons that Hall will be facing are coming off allowing four passing touchdowns to a fellow rookie, the Titans' Will Levis, in his debut as an NFL starting quarterback, two of which were 40 or more yards. Plus, Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith continues to underutilize his top 10-pick skill-position players: tight end Kyle Pitts (fourth overall pick in 2021), wide receiver Drake London (eighth overall pick in 2022) and running back Bijan Robinson (eighth overall pick in 2023). That's a recipe for a Vikings victory. 

Colts snap their seven-game losing streak vs. the NFC

Jonathan Taylor
IND • RB • #28
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The Colts (3-5) have lost three consecutive games after starting 3-2 this season, and they have allowed 35 or more points in each of their last three games, tied for the second-longest such streak in franchise history. They have also lost seven in a row against NFC teams dating back to 2022, the longest active winless streak against the opposite conference in the league. Both of those streaks end on Sunday against the Panthers

Running back Jonathan Taylor, the 2021 rushing champion, is starting to heat up: he totaled a season-high 95 rushing yards on 12 carries, an average of 7.9 yards per carry, last week. He also has at least 75 or more yards in each of his last two games. Taylor hasn't been a one-dimensional back this season; he is also averaging a career-high 10.9 yards per catch in 2023. The Panthers (1-6) are allowing 139.4 rushing yards per game, the fourth-most in the NFL. Taylor feasts, and the Colts ride him to victory, snapping two losing streaks with one win. 

Cowboys hold A.J. Brown under 125 receiving yards, snapping WR's historic streak

A.J. Brown
PHI • WR • #11
REC YDs939
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Normally, projecting a wide receiver to have 125 or more receiving yards would be considered bold, but that's just business as usual these days for Eagles Pro Bowler A.J. Brown. His six games in a row with 125 or more receiving yards give him the longest such streak in NFL history. 

Fortunately for Dallas, they have the personnel to keep up with him in second-year cornerback DaRon Bland, who recorded his third pick-six of 2023 on Sunday against the Rams -- setting a Cowboys single-season record -- and 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. Bland's 9.6 passer rating allowed as the primary defender in coverage is the lowest in the NFL among 50 players with 40 or more targets thrown their way this season while Gilmore's 46.3 passer rating allowed as the primary defender ranks third in the league. They also rank one and two in the NFL in completion percentage allowed as the primary defender in coverage with Bland's 41.5% rate just ahead of Gilmore's 42.9% figure. The Cowboys know the ball is going to go to Brown, and while it will be a challenge, Dallas' top two corners, who are both playing at an All-Pro level, will combine to hold Brown to under 100 receiving yards on Sunday. 

Davante Adams catches multiple passes of 20+ yards from Raiders rookie Aidan O'Connell

Davante Adams
LV • WR • #17
REC YDs539
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The vibes couldn't be much worse in Las Vegas. Raiders owner Mark Davis fired head Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler halfway into their second season after a 3-5 start in which their offense struggled get wide receiver Davante Adams going. Adams, a First-Team All-Pro selection in each of the last three seasons, had just one catch for 11 yards on seven targets in the team's 26-14 "Monday Night Football" loss at the Detroit Lions in Week 8, one of many performances this season that contribute to his 14% catch rate, the second-worst by anyone in the NFL among those with at least seven targets in 2023. 

Adams' 142 receiving yards and no touchdowns on 14 catches across the last four games are his fewest receiving yards in a four-game stretch since 2015, his second NFL season. He has also only caught one pass of 20 or more yards downfield on 12 passes of 20 or more air yards thrown his way in 2023, a noticeable decline from the 14-of-36 clip from 2022 with nine of those 14 completions going for touchdowns. A big contributor to the drop-off is Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who is averaging career-lows in yards per pass attempt (7.2), touchdown-to-interception ratio, 7-9 (0.78) and passer rating (78.1). 

Interim head coach Antonio Pierce, previously the team's linebackers coach, named fourth-round rookie Aidan O'Connell the starting quarterback moving forward. His 108.4 passer rating led all players in the 2023 preseason. He also started in a Week 4 loss at Chargers when Garoppolo was out with a concussion and came on in relief of Brian Hoyer in a Week 7 loss at the Bears when Garoppolo was out with a back injury. After the clearing of the air in Vegas following the regime change, O'Connell and Adams connect for multiple completions of 20 or more air yards against the Giants in Week 9, topping the Raiders' season total to Adams through the season's first eight weeks.