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Biggest Week 9 NFL questions, stats and predictions

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Which defense will prevail in Philadelphia on Sunday? (1:20)

Bill Polian and Herm Edwards think Sunday's game between the Broncos and the Eagles will be a defensive battle. (1:20)

Taking a spin around the NFL to get you ready for Week 9:

The big questions

Are the Eagles the Super Bowl favorites?

If the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Denver Broncos at home on Sunday, they will move to 8-1 for the fifth time in franchise history. The previous four times they started with that record, they either reached the Super Bowl (1980 and 2004) or the NFL's championship game in the years prior to the Super Bowl (1949 and 1960).

Of the 90 teams to start 8-1 or better in the Super Bowl era, 44 percent reached the title game and 24 percent won it.

As impressive as quarterback Carson Wentz has been in his second year -- 19 touchdowns, 5 interceptions and a 101.6 passer rating to throw himself into the MVP conversation -- he's gotten some help from his defense, too. The Eagles have been able to give him the chance to play with the lead. They haven't allowed a first-quarter touchdown all season, becoming the first team since the 2013 Carolina Panthers (who finished 12-4) to accomplish that through eight games.

When will the Packers win again?

The Green Bay Packers haven't won since quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his right collarbone in Week 6 at the Minnesota Vikings. If they can't win in the next two weeks, then their best chance might not come until Dec. 10 at the Cleveland Browns.

They play on Monday Night Football at home against the Detroit Lions, who have are just 1-25 against the Packers in the state of Wisconsin since 1992. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is just 4-12 in prime-time games since 2009, and that includes a win earlier this season against the Giants. Stafford has the lowest winning percentage (.250) among starting quarterbacks in prime time in that stretch, worse than Kirk Cousins (.273, 3-8) and Andy Dalton (.294, 5-12).

Next week, the Packers will take on the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, where the Packers have won seven straight games (including playoffs). After that, it's the Baltimore Ravens at home, at the Pittsburgh Steelers and against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home before they play the Browns.

Coach Mike McCarthy and Brett Hundley, Rodgers' replacement, had the bye last week to figure out what went wrong in Hundley's first start, a 26-17 home loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Are the Saints for real?

The Saints were on nobody's radar after they opened the season with losses to the Vikings and the New England Patriots, but they've been as impressive as anyone since then. If they beat the slumping Buccaneers on Sunday, they would become just the third team in the Super Bowl era to win at least six straight games after an 0-2 start.

The other teams to do it -- the 2007 New York Giants (who won six straight) and the 1993 Dallas Cowboys (seven straight) -- went on to win the Super Bowl.

The Saints' turnaround can be credited in part to their defense and in part to the quarterbacks they've faced. After allowing an average of 512.5 yards and 32.5 points in their first two games (when opposing quarterbacks threw six touchdowns and no interceptions), they've cut those numbers nearly by half. In the five-game winning streak, they've held opponents to 277.6 yards and 16.0 points per game (while opposing QBs have thrown just three touchdowns and nine interceptions).

However, they have not faced a quarterback in the top 15 in Total QBR during their win streak (they avoided facing Rodgers with the Packers two weeks ago). The opposing quarterback this week, Jameis Winston, ranks 24th in Total QBR.

Numbers that matter

16: Touchdown passes, without an interception, by Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith so far this season. He's the first quarterback to start each of the first eight games of a season without an interception since Jason Campbell in 2008. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the only quarterback in the Super Bowl era to go further into a season without an interception was Bernie Kosar, who started the first nine games of the 1991 Browns' season without throwing a pick. Smith's 16 touchdown passes are tied for the third most in league history before his first interception to start a season. Only Peyton Manning (20 in 2013) and Nick Foles (19 in 2013) have more.

19: Deshaun Watson's touchdown passes this season, the most by a player in his first seven NFL games. The Houston Texans rookie needed two more to match Kurt Warner for the most ever through eight games, according to Elias, but won't get the chance after he tore an ACL in practice Thursday. He also had a legitimate chance to set the record for most touchdown passes by a rookie -- a mark that stands at 26, first set by Manning in 1998 and then tied by Russell Wilson in 2012. Watson had thrown at least three touchdown passes in four straight games, an NFL rookie record. The last player, regardless of experience, to throw at least three TD passes in five straight games was Wilson in 2015.

30.3: The key to the Los Angeles Rams' turnaround? New coach Sean McVay's offense. At 30.3 points per game, they're second in the NFL to the Texans (30.7). The 2016 Rams ranked last in the league at 14.0 points per game.

26: Percent of the Seahawks' offensive yards that has come on the ground, the lowest-rushing percentage since Wilson became their starting quarterback. The last time the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl (the 2014 season), they led the league in percentage of yards gained via rushing.

1980: The last time the Giants started 1-7, a mark they would equal with a loss at home to the Rams. Ben McAdoo's team is 0-3 at home this season, one of only three teams that hasn't won at home. The others -- Cleveland (0-5) and San Francisco (0-3) -- haven't won anywhere this season.

What we'll be talking about after Week 9

The Cowboys as a contender or pretender

Sunday's game against the 6-2 Chiefs could say a lot about the Cowboys (4-3). According to ESPN's Football Power Index, Dallas has a 43 percent chance to make the playoffs as things stand now. That would increase to a 51 percent chance with a win Sunday, but would fall to 31 percent with a loss. The Cowboys have made the playoffs only twice in the Super Bowl era when they did not have a winning record through eight games (in 1999 and 2006 after 4-4 starts).

The Raiders as a contender or pretender

There's even more pressure on the Oakland Raiders to turn things around. They started 2-0 and had a 66 percent chance to make the playoffs at that point, according to the FPI. After losing five of their past six games, they now have only a 4 percent chance to make the playoffs. A loss at the offensively inept Miami Dolphins would drop the Raiders to 3-6. Nothing has come easy for Oakland on the road, where they have lost four of their past five (including three straight).

The start of the Jimmy Garoppolo era

Although coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch said they plan to take it slow with their new quarterback, if C.J. Beathard continues the trend of poor quarterback play in San Francisco, perhaps they'll be compelled to go to Garoppolo sooner rather than later. The 49ers rank in the bottom five of the NFL in most major passing categories -- completion percentage (56 percent, 31st), yards per attempt (6.0, 29th), touchdown-to-interception ratio (0.86, 29th) and Total QBR (28.3, 30th). If they fall to 0-9 with a loss to the Arizona Cardinals, perhaps they'll turn things over to the former Patriots backup next week.