The Week 9 NFL schedule for the 2021 season is stacked with great matchups, and we have you covered with what you need to know heading into the weekend. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the biggest keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and, of course, final score picks.
Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a big stat to know and a betting nugget for each contest, and our Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. ESPN researcher Kyle Soppe hands out helpful fantasy football nuggets as well. Everything you want to know is here in one spot to help you get ready for a loaded weekend of NFL football.
Let's get into the full Week 9 slate, including an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers-Chiefs game, the Cardinals looking to bounce back against a division foe, Myles Garrett vs. Joe Burrow and a big showdown between contenders on Sunday night. It all culminates with a Monday Night Football matchup between the Bears and the Steelers on ESPN. (Game times are Sunday unless otherwise noted.)
1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 64.5 | Spread: DAL -10 (49.5)
What to watch for: How will Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott fare after missing a game? He was held out last week because of a calf strain, but remember that he threw for 403 yards and three touchdowns in the season opener after missing most of training camp. The Broncos are allowing only 17.1 points per game this season but won't have pass-rusher Von Miller, who was traded to the Rams at the start of the week. That will help Dallas make up for the likely absence of left tackle Tyron Smith. The Cowboys have scored at least 35 points in eight straight home games with Prescott as their starter. -- Todd Archer
Bold prediction: In the Broncos' first game without Miller, Denver will sack Prescott at least three times. But it will need a lot more than that for any chance at an upset, given Prescott has essentially been a TD factory this season. The Chargers are the only team to hold him to fewer than three touchdown passes in a game this season. The Broncos will need to defend far better in their nickel package on defense, and their own offense will have to be something more than the stuck-in-neutral group it has been for much of the year. -- Jeff Legwold
Stat to know: The Cowboys have 3,184 total yards this season (454.9 per game). They could become the fifth team with 3,600 total yards through the first eight games of a season in the Super Bowl era and first since the 2014 Colts. Looking to contribute will be receivers CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper. Lamb is attempting to become the first Cowboys player with 100 receiving yards in three straight games since Terrell Owens did it in 2007, while Cooper is seeking back-to-back 100-yard games for the first time since he was with the Raiders.
What to know for fantasy: Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton has three top-10 weeks this season but has finished outside the top 60 at the position in both games in which teammate Jerry Jeudy was active. See Week 9 rankings.
Legwold's pick: Cowboys 33, Broncos 24
Archer's pick: Cowboys 31, Broncos 20
FPI prediction: DAL, 69.7% (by an average of 7.0 points)
Matchup must-reads: Broncos to the Rams: How the Miller trade went down ... The story for Cowboys' Gregory now about football, his future ... From wide-eyed rookie to Super Bowl MVP, Miller an all-time member of the Broncos ... With no excuses, Cowboys' ride appears to be just beginning ... Rookies Surtain, Parsons 'as advertised' for Broncos, Cowboys
1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 62.7 | Spread: BAL -6 (50)
What to watch for: How will Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey contain Vikings receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen? Humphrey is a two-time Pro Bowl corner, but he's coming off one of his worst games, giving up 227 yards in coverage (the most allowed by a nearest defender since NFL Next Gen Stats started tracking the stat in 2016). Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins' 73% completion rate when targeting wide receivers is second best in the NFL, and his 11 touchdowns to wide receivers are tied for the fourth most in the league. -- Jamison Hensley
Bold prediction: Cousins will attempt at least six deep passes and the Vikings' offense will gain at least 400 yards. Their test against the Ravens will bring out the best of the Vikings' offense. Think of the way Cousins & Co. played in a last-second to loss to Arizona in Week 2 -- that's the type of game we'll witness in Week 9. The Vikings might lose this one, but the offense will actually take chances and look like it can contend with one of the top teams in the NFL. That would be the most fitting outcome for a team that has been on a roller-coaster ride every week of the season. -- Courtney Cronin
Stat to know: The Ravens' 149.4 rushing yards per game rank third in the NFL this season, and their 106.6 rushing yards before contact per game rank first. The Vikings, however, have the worst run stop win rate in the NFL (26.8%).
What to know for fantasy: Jefferson is the bigger name at this point, but Thielen has scored in five of seven games and has seen at least eight targets five times this season. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: All three of Minnesota's road games have gone over the total this season. Read more.
Cronin's pick: Ravens 30, Vikings 27
Hensley's pick: Ravens 31, Vikings 24
FPI prediction: BAL, 63.6% (by an average of 4.7 points)
Matchup must-reads: The Vikings keep coming up short; here are some of the reasons why ... Ravens linebacker Harrison shot in leg by stray bullet; injury not life-threatening ... Vikings DE Hunter out for season with torn pectoral muscle
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 53.6 | Spread: CIN -2.5 (47)
What to watch for: This outcome of this game will be determined by the ground attack. The Browns are the best rushing team in the NFL at 5.16 yards per carry, but the Bengals have a top-five rush defense and boast a front anchored by defensive tackle D.J. Reader. Cleveland will look to impose its ground game and control the clock, while the Bengals will try to test the Browns through the air. -- Ben Baby
Bold prediction: The Bengals will load the box and hold running back Nick Chubb to fewer than 50 yards rushing, taking advantage of the turmoil surrounding the Browns' passing game. Chubb had a season-low 61 rushing yards last weekend against the Steelers. -- Jake Trotter
Stat to know: Cincinnati receiver Ja'Marr Chase's 786 receiving yards this season are the third most in the NFL this season and second most all-time in a player's first eight career games (Harlon Hill had 802 in 1954). He needs 84 more on Sunday to pass Marques Colston (869 in 2006) for the most receiving yards through a player's first nine games.
What to know for fantasy: Bengals QB Joe Burrow has three straight games with three touchdown passes (tied for the longest streak in franchise history with Carson Palmer in 2006 and Andy Dalton in 2013). The Browns have allowed 17 TD passes this season (third most in the NFL), and Burrow had three TD throws in each of his games against Cleveland last season. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: Cleveland is 0-7 ATS against divisional opponents since the start of last season and 0-3 ATS against teams with winning records this season. Read more.
Trotter's pick: Bengals 30, Browns 19
Baby's pick: Bengals 28, Browns 17
FPI prediction: CIN, 52.9% (by an average of 1.0 points)
Matchup must-reads: OBJ excused from Browns practice for second straight day ... Francis is Bengals' one-man analytics staff
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 51.8 | Spread: BUF -14.5 (48.5)
What to watch for: The Jaguars have one of the league's worst pass defenses, as opponent QBs are completing 74% of their passes (No. 31) and have a 63.5 Total QBR (No. 32) against them. So this game could get ugly pretty quickly if Bills quarterback Josh Allen gets rolling. Allen has six straight games with at least two touchdown passes. Teddy Bridgewater, Tua Tagovailoa and Tyrod Taylor all threw for 300-plus yards against the Jags, so watch for Allen, Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley to have big days. -- Mike DiRocco
Bold prediction: Allen will have at least two rushing plays of 10-plus yards in Jacksonville and score on a run as well. The Jaguars have allowed only one rush of 10-plus yards to quarterbacks this season (tied for the fewest in the league), but Allen has nine such plays and three rushing scores. Against the league's fourth-worst passing defense (278.1 yards allowed per game), Allen will finish the day with over 300 passing yards and at least 50 rushing yards. -- Alaina Getzenberg
Stat to know: Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence has four interceptions when pressured this season, tied for second most in the NFL. And the Bills have pressured opponents at the fourth-highest rate this season (33%).
What to know for fantasy: The Bills have had three top-30 fantasy receivers in each of their past two games. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: Buffalo has covered games by an average of plus-9.6 points per game, best in the NFL. Jacksonville has a minus-7.4 cover margin per game, second worst in the NFL. Read more.
Getzenberg's pick: Bills 38, Jaguars 10
DiRocco's pick: Bills 35, Jaguars 14
FPI prediction: BUF, 86.6% (by an average of 14.9 points)
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 47.4 | Spread: NE -3.5 (41)
What to watch for: How will the run game play out? Both teams will want to take away the run and force the quarterback to beat them. Carolina has been efficient with that against a pair of rookie QBs this season, and the Panthers face another in the Patriots' Mac Jones. New England will likely face P.J. Walker with Sam Darnold in the concussion protocol, and Walker is prone to mistakes when he has to make a play. -- David Newton
Bold prediction: Panthers cornerback Stephon Gilmore will pick off Jones in his first game against his old team, and the kickers -- New England's Nick Folk and Carolina's Zane Gonzalez -- will ultimately be the top storyline in a low-scoring game. Folk is 20-of-21 on field goals and 16-of-19 on extra points, while Gonzalez is 13-of-15 on field goals and 13-of-14 on PATs. Gonzalez is hot, coming off a game in which he hit four field goals, including a career-long 57-yarder. -- Mike Reiss
Stat to know: Patriots running back Damien Harris has four straight games with a rushing TD, the longest streak by a Patriots player since Rex Burkhead scored in four straight in 2017. The last Patriots player to rush for a score in five straight games was LeGarrette Blount in 2016.
What to know for fantasy: That's now four straight games without a score for Panthers receiver DJ Moore, but he has seen at least seven targets in every single game, including five games with 10-plus looks. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: New England has gone over the total in four consecutive games. Read more.
Reiss' pick: Patriots 16, Panthers 12
Newton's pick: Patriots 18, Panthers 17
FPI prediction: NE, 58.9% (by an average of 3.1 points)
Matchup must-reads: Patriots living dangerously at CB after Gilmore trade ... Panthers' commitment to run snaps losing streak, as McCaffrey nears return ... Patriots turning their season around, with key stretch ahead
1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 44.0 | Spread: NO -6.5 (41.5)
What to watch for: The Saints have handled adversity remarkably well so far this season. But now they need to prove they can keep doing so without starting QB Jameis Winston after his season-ending ACL tear. The Falcons' offense will also have to adapt while star receiver Calvin Ridley takes time to focus on his mental health. An upset road win against their biggest rivals could provide a needed spark. -- Mike Triplett
Bold prediction: Saints running back Alvin Kamara will finally have a receiving touchdown against Atlanta -- and he'll add two rushing TDs as well. Kamara has never scored a receiving touchdown in eight meetings against the Falcons, and he has only two rushing TDs against them (both last season). With Atlanta's run defense struggling, Kamara will feast and almost single-handedly win the game for the Saints. -- Michael Rothstein
Stat to know: New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan has two straight games with a sack, and he has 21 sacks in his career against Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan -- the most sacks for a player against a single QB since sacks became official in 1982. He is 3.5 sacks shy of reaching 100 in his career, and he would join Rickey Jackson as the only Saints players to reach that mark with the team.
What to know for fantasy: In Week 3 of 2018, Ryan went off against the Saints, racking up 40.2 fantasy points and averaging 1.0 fantasy points per pass attempt. In the five games since, he's averaging just 14 fantasy points and 0.3 fantasy points per pass attempt against the divisional rival. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: New Orleans is 26-12 ATS against divisional opponents since the start of the 2015 season, the best mark in the NFL. Read more.
Rothstein's pick: Saints 31, Falcons 24
Triplett's pick: Saints 26, Falcons 19
FPI prediction: NO, 70.4% (by an average of 7.2 points)
Matchup must-reads: Falcons GM Fontenot wants to help rebuild weather-ravaged Louisiana hometown ... Winston has torn ACL, head coach Payton confirms ... Ryan says team can be inspired by Braves' run to World Series title ... Saints WR Thomas out for season after setback in ankle recovery ... Where does the loss of WR Thomas leave the Saints now and beyond?
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 36.2 | Spread: LV -3 (46.5)
What to watch for: If the Giants' offense is going to have any success without some of its top playmakers, it is going to have to find a way to slow Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby, who is among the league leaders with a 16.5% pressure rate and 36 pressures. Crosby against Giants right tackle Nate Solder is advantage Raiders. New York is going to need to provide help for Solder. -- Jordan Raanan
Bold prediction: Raiders running back Josh Jacobs will rush for a season high in yards. The Giants shut down the Chiefs' passing attack last week, but they are allowing a pedestrian 4.4 yards per carry this season. Jacobs came out of the Raiders' pre-bye win against the Eagles with a team-described chest injury, but his current rushing high is just 53 yards, and he is primed to eclipse that on Sunday. -- Paul Gutierrez
Stat to know: The Giants have 16 different players with a reception this season. Only the Saints (18) have more.
What to know for fantasy: Jacobs has five rushing scores in five games and takes on a Giants defense that had one fewer day of practice/rest this week after playing in Kansas City on Monday Night. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: Since the start of the 2018 season, New York is 5-16 ATS as a home underdog, the second-worst such mark in the NFL over that span. Read more.
Gutierrez's pick: Giants 25, Raiders 21
Raanan's pick: Giants 23, Raiders 21
FPI prediction: LV, 54.3% (by an average of 1.5 points)
1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 20.1 | Spread: MIA -5.5 (46)
What to watch for: The Dolphins rank 30th in yards per game and dead last in yards allowed -- but the Texans are 31st in yards per game and 30th in yards allowed. On either side of the ball, Sunday's matchup should prove to truly be a meeting between stoppable forces and movable objects. But Houston quarterback Tyrod Taylor is set to return, and in seven games against Miami, he has completed 66% of his passes for 1,443 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques
Bold prediction: The Texans will win. Yes, they're playing a team that is also 1-7, but in Houston's seven straight losses, the team has barely been competitive. Taylor's return from a left hamstring injury suffered in Week 2 will be the difference. Plus: The Texans are 8-1 all-time against Miami. -- Sarah Barshop
Stat to know: Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has three straight games with a Total QBR over 50 for the first time in his career, and he has the eighth-best Total QBR in the NFL in Weeks 6-8 (62.6).
Betting nugget: Miami has failed to cover five straight games. Read more.
Barshop's pick: Texans 20, Dolphins 17
Louis-Jacques' pick: Dolphins 24, Texans 20
FPI prediction: MIA, 73.7% (by an average of 8.6 points)
Matchup must-reads: Dolphins decide against trading for Texans QB Watson before deadline ... Dolphins GM Grier on Watson: My job to improve roster ... Texans QB Taylor ready to return, to start Sunday vs. Dolphins ... Dolphins coach Flores: Not worried about job security
4:05 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 51.8 | Spread: LAC -1.5 (49.5)
What to watch for: The Eagles finally dedicated themselves to the ground game last week against the Lions and rumbled for 236 yards and four touchdowns on 46 carries in a 44-6 romp. The Chargers, meanwhile, are yielding a league-high 160 rushing yards per game, leaving them vulnerable to a similar fate as Detroit. Los Angeles quarterback Justin Herbert needs to get off to a fast start and force the Eagles to play catch-up through the air. -- Tim McManus
Bold prediction: Chargers defensive end Justin Jones will get his first two sacks of the season -- more than he had in his entire career (1.5). The Chargers rank 26th in sacks with 14, but they will get it going this weekend. Los Angeles will bounce back overall, and Justin Herbert will throw for at least 300 yards for the second time in his past six games. -- Shelley Smith
Stat to know: Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has 12 straight games with 30 or more rushing yards, tied for the second-longest such streak by a QB over past 20 seasons (Lamar Jackson had 14 straight in 2019).
Betting nugget: All three of Los Angeles' road games have gone under the total this season. Read more.
Smith's pick: Chargers 27, Eagles 20
McManus' pick: Chargers 28, Eagles 23
FPI prediction: PHI, 50.4% (by an average of 0.2 points)
4:25 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 79.3 | Spread: SF -1 (45)
What to watch for: These teams met less than a month ago, but a lot has changed on both sides. Cardinals QB Kyler Murray and receiver DeAndre Hopkins are dealing with injuries, receiver A.J. Green is on the COVID-19 list and defensive end J.J. Watt is out for the season. The Niners, meanwhile, expect to have kicker Robbie Gould and tight end George Kittle back from their injuries, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will be available this time around. The first meeting was decided by seven points, and this one should be similarly close, with the team that handles attrition better being the likely winner. -- Nick Wagoner
Bold prediction: Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray will throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns in a big divisional win. He will likely have his mobility limited to some degree, which will lead to him throwing the ball. -- Josh Weinfuss
Stat to know: Arizona tight end Zach Ertz has seven catches for 108 receiving yards and a touchdown in two games with the Cardinals. He is one of four tight ends with 100 receiving yards and a TD over that span (Robert Tonyan, C.J. Uzomah and Mike Gesicki).
Betting nugget: Arizona is 4-0 ATS on the road this season, while San Francisco is 0-3 ATS at home. Read more.
Weinfuss' pick: Cardinals 27, 49ers 20
Wagoner's pick: 49ers 23, Cardinals 20
FPI prediction: ARI, 61.5% (by an average of 4.0 points)
Matchup must-reads: Blocking for Murray: 'I never really know what's going on' ... To make a playoff push, 49ers need highest-paid players to perform ... Murray should be 'good to go' when Cardinals take on 49ers
4:25 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 61.0 | Spread: KC -7.5 (48)
What to watch for: The Chiefs have been lousy in defending the pass for much of the season, but recent history suggests they will play well against Green Bay quarterback Jordan Love. The Chiefs allowed a higher QBR than the league average of 51.6 against the five top QBs they faced this season (Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, Josh Allen and Ryan Tannehill) -- but they allowed a QBR of well below league average against Jalen Hurts, Taylor Heinicke and Daniel Jones. That speaks well for their chances against Love, who will make his first career start with Aaron Rodgers out on the COVID-19 list. -- Adam Teicher
Bold prediction: Love will play better than you think, throwing for a TD and rushing for another. He led only one scoring drive in two preseason appearances and is making his first meaningful regular-season appearance since he was drafted in 2020, but Love is jumping in with a team that knows how to win. -- Rob Demovsky
Stat to know: Packers receiver Davante Adams' two games with 10-plus receptions this season trails only Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill's three for the most in the NFL. Hill leads the NFL with 64 total catches this season. The only Chiefs players since the 1970 merger to lead the NFL in receptions in a season are Tony Gonzalez (2004) and MacArthur Lane (1976).
What to know for fantasy: Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is QB20 over the past three weeks and hasn't finished a week better than QB8 since Week 4. His 10 interceptions are the most in the NFL. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur is 7-2 outright and ATS as an underdog since 2019. But Rodgers started all of those games. Read more.
Demovsky's pick: Chiefs 27, Packers 17
Teicher's pick: Chiefs 30, Packers 26
FPI prediction: KC, 58.9% (by an average of 3.1 points)
Matchup must-reads: Packers get top WR Adams back from reserve/COVID-19 list ... Unfulfilled dynasty? Why Chiefs' Mahomes could walk a path similar to Packers' Rodgers ... Packers QB Love gets chance to impress, similar to Rodgers' opportunity in 2007 ... Packers QB Rodgers tests positive for COVID-19, source says
8:20 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup rating: 72.6 | Spread: LAR -7.5 (53.5)
What to watch for: The Rams proved ahead of the trade deadline that they're once again all-in on a Super Bowl run, adding outside linebacker Von Miller to a defense that already included Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Leonard Floyd. The unit ranks No. 1 in the NFL with 25 sacks and brings in Miller, who has 4.5 of his own. Meanwhile, the Titans must move forward without running back Derrick Henry, the NFL's leading rusher who powered them to a 6-2 start behind 937 rushing yards and 10 rushing scores. -- Lindsey Thiry
Bold prediction: Titans edge rusher Harold Landry III will have more sacks than Donald, sacking Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford twice. The Rams have allowed seven sacks this season, while the Titans have allowed 24 sacks. But through eight games, Landry has 8.5 sacks, the most over such a span by any Titans player in franchise history. Landry will continue his streak of five consecutive games with a sack. -- Turron Davenport
Stat to know: The Titans allow a league-worst 216 passing yards per game to wide receivers, while the Rams average the most passing yards per game to wide receivers (253). Leading the charge is the Rams' Cooper Kupp, who is the first player in the Super Bowl era with 900 receiving yards and 10 receiving TDs through eight games. Kupp needs 76 yards to become the first player to reach 1,000 receiving yards in nine team games since the Titans' Julio Jones did it in 2018 (then with the Falcons).
What to know for fantasy: Tennessee receiver A.J. Brown's three best weekly finishes this season have come in the past three weeks, and now he figures to get as many looks as he can handle (despite a tough matchup) with Henry on the shelf. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: The over is 26-7-1 in QB Ryan Tannehill's starts with Tennessee, and all four of the Titans' road games have gone over the total this season. Read more.
Davenport's pick: Rams 28, Titans 24
Thiry's pick: Rams 26, Titans 17
FPI prediction: LAR, 70.9% (by an average of 7.5 points)
Matchup must-reads: Titans RB Henry to undergo foot surgery; no timetable for return ... Miller: Trade from Broncos to Rams 'like a movie' ... Replacing injured Henry won't be easy task for Titans ... By trading for Miller, Rams make another bold move for Super Bowl title ... Henry injury: The Titans' winning formula changes
What to watch for: The Steelers' secondary is itching for an interception -- something it hasn't had since picking off Teddy Bridgewater in a Week 5 win against the Broncos. The Steelers have just two interceptions all season, and Chicago quarterback Justin Fields has thrown at least one in five of his past seven games, including three against Tampa Bay. But to force him into bad throws, the Steelers will have the added challenge of keeping Fields, who rushed for 103 yards against the 49ers, in the pocket and preventing him from using his legs. -- Brooke Pryor
Bold prediction: Fields will pass for 200-plus yards. I know, I know, it sounds unlikely. Two hundred-plus passing yards is super bold for the Bears, who rank at or near the bottom in virtually every passing category. But Fields is coming off a pretty good performance versus the 49ers. The rookie is feeling it -- at least by Bears standards. -- Jeff Dickerson
Stat to know: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is 24-2 in his career against rookie QBs (including playoffs) -- the most wins against rookies in NFL history. The only rookies to beat him were Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott, both in 2016.
What to know for fantasy: Pittsburgh receiver Chase Claypool underwhelmed last week, and yet his WR38 finish is better than anything Bears receiver Allen Robinson II has offered up this season. Both were drafted as viable fantasy options, and neither should be considered a safe play as we head into the second half of the season. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: Chicago is 1-5 ATS as an underdog this season and has failed to cover in each of its past three games. Read more.
Dickerson's pick: Steelers 21, Bears 20
Pryor's pick: Steelers 27, Bears 17
FPI prediction: PIT, 67.9% (by an average of 6.3 points)