NFL Radio Power 12, Week 9: Yeah, the Panthers are for real

Each week, SiriusXM NFL Radio’s hosts vote on the top six teams in both the NFC and AFC. This week’s voters include James Lofton, Bruce Murray, Alex Marvez, Bill Polian, Maurice Jones-Drew, Gil Brandt, other NFL Radio hosts, Brian Lauvray, Bobby Bonett, and you, the fans! (To participate in the fan vote, visit

All channel listings subject to change.


1. Carolina Panthers (7-0)

Week 9 opponent: vs. Green Bay Packers, Sunday 1 pm ET (XM channel 231, Sirius channel 82, Internet channel 804)

Sunday’s home game against the Green Bay Packers will be the stiffest test for Carolina’s defense so far this season. All season, pundits had been circling this quartet of games (Seattle, Philly, Indy and Green Bay) and saying, “Look, this is when the Panthers will prove if they’re for real.” Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game against Packers, Carolina has already proven that they are very much for real. Still, that Carolina defense should be relishing the opportunity to silence even more haters by shutting down Aaron Rodgers and crew.


2. Green Bay Packers (6-1)

Week 9 opponent: at Carolina Panthers, Sunday 1 pm ET (XM channel 231, Sirius channel 135, Internet channel 811)

On the other side of Sunday’s Carolina-Green Bay tilt, the Packers obviously see the game as an opportunity to rebound following literally the worst game of Aaron Rodgers’s career. The Denver Broncos defense, which is very, very good and very, very nasty, completely shut down Rodgers, his explosive wideouts and the limited, but by no means bad, Packer running game. Standing as the league’s only one-loss team, Green Bay would like nothing more than to knock Carolina off the undefeated pedestal and if Rodgers rebounds (NB: this is very likely), they very well could.


3. Arizona Cardinals (6-2)

Week 9 opponent: BYE

Off the bye week, Arizona returns to action next week at divisional rival Seattle and then faces: Cincinnati, St. Louis, Minnesota, Green Bay and Seattle again, all within the span of seven weeks. The Cardinals are a very good team, but if there’s been one thing to quibble about, it has been the strength of their schedule. All of that murmuring and doubt will be silenced following this back-loaded schedule, and if Arizona is still at the top of the NFC West come playoff time, that crown will have been earned.


4. Minnesota Vikings (5-2)

Week 9 opponent: vs. St. Louis Rams, Sunday 1 pm ET (XM channel 225, Sirius channel 83, Internet channel 817)

Following a tough road win against a surprisingly game Bears team, Minnesota now faces the St. Louis Rams at home. Similar to their game in Week 4 against the Broncos, this game projects to be a battle of strengths against strengths on both sides of the ball. On offense, Minnesota and St. Louis will both be leaning on superhuman running backs (Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley, respectively) to mask the deficiencies of both quarterbacks (Teddy Bridgewater and Nick Foles). Meanwhile, both defenses will be loading the box and trying to stop those superhuman running backs. Hopefully for Vikes fans, this match will swing differently than that Week 4 defeat at Denver.


5. St. Louis Rams (4-3)

Week 9 opponent: at Minnesota Vikings, Sunday 1 pm ET (XM channel 225, Sirius channel 136, Internet channel 828)

Holding tiebreakers over both the Seahawks and Cardinals thanks to beating both squads head-to-head, the Rams surprisingly control their own divisional destiny and have a rather easy back-half of the schedule. After this week’s game against the Vikings in the Twin Cities, St Louis faces only three teams with a better than .500 record. Mind you, that trio is Cincy, Seattle and the Cardinals, so, not “easy” … but the rest of the games are against the Bears, Ravens, Lions, Buccaneers and 49ers. The Rams, if they keep riding their impressive defense, even more impressive running game and if Nick Foles develops any semblance of consistency, will be a very tough opponent that nobody will want to face in the playoffs. That’s a lot of “ifs,” but still …


6. Atlanta Falcons (6-2)

Week 9 opponent: at San Francisco 49ers, Sunday 4:05 pm ET (XM channel 233, Sirius channel 81, Internet channel 801)

Fairly certain I covered everything regarding the Falcons last week when I unfavorably compared them to Sexy #PizzaRat costumes, but yeah, sheesh, losing to Tampa in that fashion is inexcusable.


NFC fantasy football spotlight: Jeremy Langford (RB, Chicago)

2015 stats: 80 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns, 3.0 yards per carry, 2 receptions, 5 targets, 31 receiving yards

With the rest of Matt Forte’s season in doubt thanks to a knee injury suffered on Sunday against the Vikings, Langford is the “next man up” at Halas Hall. The talented rookie will surely get all the touches he can handle on Monday night against a very porous San Diego running defense.



1. New England Patriots (7-0)

Week 9 opponent: vs. Washington Redskins, Sunday 1 pm ET (XM channel 228, Sirius channel 84, Internet channel 818)

After dismantling the Miami Dolphins last Thursday, New England likely won’t face another serious challenge until Week 12 when they face the daunting Broncos defense at Denver. The Patriots, so long as they stay healthy, are absolutely in the pole position of the AFC.


2. Denver Broncos (7-0)

Week 9 opponent: at Indianapolis Colts, Sunday 4:25 pm ET (XM channel 231, Sirius channel 83, Internet channel 809)

Denver and their somewhat famous quarterback, Peyton Manning, are heading to Indianapolis this week in what’s being dubbed a reunion of sorts for the citizens of Indy and Peyton. Colts fans, however, should be far more aware and concerned about the welfare of their current QB Andrew Luck. Luck has faced an onslaught of pass rushers practically since Week 1, when Rex Ryan’s blitz-happy Bills got to Luck early and often. The hits haven’t stopped coming, and they definitely won’t stop this week against Denver’s punishing black shirts. Offensively, the Broncos will likely run Ronnie Hillman and CJ Anderson until the wheels fall off against Indy’s hopeless run defense (28th in the league, and allowing an average of nearly 125 yards/game).


3. Cincinnati Bengals (7-0)

Week 9 opponent: vs. Cleveland Browns, Thursday 8:25 pm ET (XM channel 226, Sirius channel 93, Internet channel 806)

Divisional road games are always tough for any NFL team, and so far this season, the Bengals have aced them. Sporting a 2-0 record in divisional road games after Sunday’s win at Pittsburgh, Andy Dalton and the gang now face a divisional home game against their in-state rivals from Cleveland. The Browns announced this week that Johnny Manziel will be starting against the Bengal -s and that should likely not matter too much. The Bengals are far too deep and balanced on both sides of the ball.


4. Oakland Raiders (4-3)

Week 9 opponent: at Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday 1 pm ET (XM channel 226, Sirius channel 138, Internet channel 822)

Congratulations if you picked the 2015 Oakland Raiders to light up THAT New York Jets defense. Now, after congratulating yourself, go into the mirror and admit that you’re a liar. That Oakland win is, possibly, the most surprising beatdown of the season thus far. Not that the Raiders won – I hope we’re all past the point of cheap jokes at their expense – but because of how they won. The Jets had been stifling teams on the ground and through the air all season. Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and the offense deserve all the credit in the world for attacking the Jets through the air, but make no mistake: this Oakland Raider defense is very good (third in rushing and 13th in receiving). It’s November and the Raiders are in the playoff hunt.


5. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4)

Week 9 opponent: vs. Oakland Raiders, Sunday 1 pm ET (XM channel 226, Sirius channel 93, Internet channel 824)

Le’Veon Bell’s season-ending MCL tear is a major bummer. Not just for your fantasy team, not just for the Steelers, but for the league. This Steelers offense is a humming and glorious points machine when all of its parts are healthy and snarling. Pittsburgh still has a leg up on a wild-card berth, especially with Ryan Fitzpatrick’s injury in New York, but the squad won’t be the same without the services of Le’Veon.


6. New York Jets (4-3)

Week 9 opponent: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday 1 pm ET (XM channel 230, Sirius channel 112, Internet channel 821)

One of the most pleasant surprises of the season was the ascent of the New York Jets. After a few seasons of wandering the desert, the Mean Green faithful were thinking playoffs and now, with Ryan Fitzpatrick’s season very much in doubt, those playoff chances are evaporating. The defense will keep them in games and they should probably win two of their next four based off the defense alone. Still, without an adequate quarterback to keep teams from loading up on Chris Ivory, it’s tough to see the Jets getting any closer to the playoffs.


AFC fantasy football spotlight: Malcom Floyd (WR, San Diego)

2015 stats: 21 receptions, 40 targets, 409 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns

With Keenan Allen done for the season, Philip Rivers will have to throw the ball to someone – and that someone likely can’t just be Ladarius Green or Danny Woodhead. Floyd took two to the house against Baltimore’s leaky pass offense last week, and now faces a just-as-terrible Chicago Bears D at home.


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