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ProCanes NFL Preview: Week Nine

It’s another pivotal week for a portion of the ProCane fraternity.

NFL: Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Just like that, we’ve hit the nine week mark of the NFL regular season. For the ProCanes, it’s been a mixed bag. The Jaguars, who are mercifully on a bye, have been a trainwreck the past few weeks. The Browns sacked most of their coaching staff in a Black Monday massacre. Tuesday’s trade deadline came and went, leaving some ProCanes in limbo.

There’s still plenty of football to be played — and, unlike the Canes’ inability to adjust to their personnel, play calling won’t be an issue on Sunday.

Game Previews

Kansas City Chiefs vs Cleveland Browns 1PM EDT

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With the Browns undergoing yet another coaching change, perhaps this iteration will allow RB Duke Johnson Jr. to see more carries and targets on offense.
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Outside of a small hiccup against the Patriots, Kansas City continues to flash fry all those who standing on the opposing sideline. Led by QB Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs’ offense has been able to outscore almost every team by a wide margin, averaging _ points-per-game. The lone ProCane on Kansas City’s roster is DE Allen Bailey. After securing a sack in three straight games, the sack faucet appears to have run dry. However, Bailey’s priority as a 3-4 defensive end is to manhandle blockers at the line of scrimmage, allowing the Chiefs’ linebackers to make plays without interference from a free offensive lineman. In two career games against Cleveland, Bailey has just two tackles.

Just when it appeared that the Browns had turned their fortunes around, the clouds of discontentment have blocked out the sun over Berea, Ohio. Our ProCanes fantasy selection, RB Duke Johnson Jr., was snakebitten against Pittsburgh last weekend. With a grand total of zero rushing yards on two carries, Johnson was unable to get going running the ball. Perhaps we overestimated Johnson’s role on Cleveland’s offense. Johnson’s career rushing average is 4.3 yards-per-carry, and most of his production over the previous three seasons in the league have come from catching the ball out of the backfield. With the trade deadline having passed on Tuesday, Johnson figures to be in the Browns’ plans for the remainder of the year at least. Oh, and Cleveland fired both head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams takes over the head coaching duties on an interim basis.

As bad as the Hurricanes feel their offense is, what does it say about the Browns when David Njoku gains zero yards, receptions and targets against the Steelers in week eight? It was the first time in his career that Njoku was not targeted and the first time since week 14 of the 2017 season that the ProCane TE did not gain a single reception. The Chiefs are ranked towards the bottom half in the league in pass defense, allowing an average of 304.8 passing yards. Once again, this should be an ideal opportunity for the Cleveland passing game to get back on track.

New York Jets vs Miami Dolphins 1PM EDT

Miami Dolphins v Houston Texans
Frank continues to ‘Gore’ his way into the NFL record books.
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

While Njoku got shut out last week, rookie ProCane TE Chris Herndon continues to endear himself to Jets’ fans each week. Herndon scored his third touchdown of the season on a 16-yard reception from QB Sam Darnold. It was Herndon’s only reception of the game, yet it extended his TD streak to three games. Week nine will see Herndon return back to the 305 for the second and final meeting with the Dolphins this season. Miami has allowed 264 passing yards per game and 16 TDs through the air recently. In their first meeting, Herndon blew an opportunity to score his first career TD against Miami. Herndon has more games under his belt this time around, which could provide a chance at revenge for the rookie.

The Dolphins beat the Jets on their own field and will look to defend Hard Rock Stadium this time around. A day after the Hurricanes’ lost to Duke, the Phins will try to get their own win in soggy confines of Hard Rock Stadium. Since RB Frank Gore rushed for 101 yards against Chicago in week six, the ageless tailback has picked up 29 and 53 rush yards in consecutive weeks. It could be an outlier, but Miami lost both of the games since Gore’s 100-yard day. So should the Coral Gables standout receive more carries if the Phins want to climb back into the AFC East race? Sorta. The Dolphins assuredly need to establish the run against a Jets’ defense that allows 114.9 rushing yards a game. Gore’s 10-15 carries-per-game have been the sweet spot for him, with Kenyan Drake taking the rest of the carries. It’s going to be all hands on deck in the divisional matchup.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Baltimore Ravens 1PM EDT

The Steelers are surging once again. Winners of their last three games, Pittsburgh has taken the Le’Veon Bell drama in stride. However, their last loss came against their vaunted rivals, Baltimore, in week four. While the Steelers are hitting their stride, the Ravens skid into this AFC North battle on a two-game losing streak, with a loss today putting them below .500.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

LB Anthony Chickillo continues to punch the clock for Pittsburgh’s defense, rotating in on late downs to provide a pass rush, or even drop back in coverage. Chick was more of a special teams contributor to begin the season, yet has begun to see anywhere between 15 to 30 snaps each game, primarily as the right outside linebacker.

While Chickillo’s snaps have gone up, CB Artie Burns’ have dropped off the face the earth. Burns got zero snaps last week and was replaced by CB Cameron Sutton. Burns has struggled in coverage, especially against receivers with any type of speed. His achilles heel has been his tackling, something that hasn’t improved much over the two previous seasons. Perhaps the saving grace for the Miami Northwestern star would’ve been to get dealt before Tuesday’s trade deadline. However, it’s now Sunday, which means that the Steelers see Burns as an insurance policy should injuries arise.

Houston Texans vs Denver Broncos 4:05PM EDT

Don’t call it comeback, because RB Lamar Miller has never left. After not surpassing 100 rushing yards in a game since the 2016 season, Miller has surpassed the century mark in back-to-back games for the first time since 2015. Can the Killian High star make it three in a row? This is a feat he has not accomplished since he wore the ‘U’ on his helmet during the 2011 season, where he rushed for a 100+ yards in four straight games. Miller is averaging 5.2 YPC in his prior two games against the Broncos. Denver ranks towards the bottom half of the league in run defense, giving up an average of 135.8 rushing yards a game. If Miller and the Texans can overcome the altitude, they could be running for miles this week.

Los Angeles Chargers vs Seattle Seahawks 4:05PM EDT

Miami v Duke
With some much needed rest from a bye in week 8, WR Travis Benjamin should be able to turn on the jets against the Seahawks this afternoon.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After some R&R during their week eight bye, the Chargers are back in action against a surging Seahawks team this week. The question on everyone’s mind is obviously whether or not head coach Anthony Lynn will stick with K Michael Badgley as the team’s starter this week. Badgley, a rookie, has made all his field goal attempts and extra points since signing with LA a couple of weeks ago. With only three of his attempts coming from 40 yards out, there’s some intrigue as far as which leg will stand out this coming weekend.

For LB Denzel Perryman and the Bolts’ defense, the focus will be on stopping the run game of the Seahawks, who rank fifth in the leagues with an average of 4.2 YPC game. Against a Chargers’ defense that allows 106.4 rushing yards a game, the Bolts will need to contain RB Chris Carson who has the bulk of carries for Seattle.

Former Glades Central High School alum, WR Travis Benjamin, made his return two weeks ago in London. Dealing with a pesky foot injury, Benjamin likely benefited from the extensive time off during the bye week. Predicting a monster game from the wideout would be wishful thinking, as Benjamin has yet to record more than two receptions in three games this season. It’ll just be nice to see him get snaps with offense once again.

Green Bay Packers vs New England Patriots 8:20PM EDT

The headline for this game is obviously going to center around the quarterbacks, as New England’s Tom Brady and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers are two of the most revered men at their position. Taking second billing should be the TE matchup between the Pats’ Rob Gronkowski and ProCane TE Jimmy Graham. It’s been a while, but there was a time years ago when these two TEs were considered 1 and 1A at the position. After Graham went to Seattle, and was underutilized season after season, there’s a chance that he can recapture some of the magic he enjoyed as a member of the Saints. Week eight’s one reception game doesn’t leave you thinking that Graham is in store for big day this week, however.

The Patriots will be playing their second game is six days after defeating the Bills on Monday Night Football. As mentioned in a preview a couple weeks ago, the addition of WR Josh Gordon was going to lead to less snaps for ProCane WR Phillip Dorsett. Even though Dorsett is still receiving snaps, his playing time has dropped sharply.

ProCanes Fantasy Player of the Week

Chris Herndon

New York Jets v Chicago Bears
Death, taxes and TE Chris Herndon finding his way into the endzone.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

For the first time in his career, we’re going to go with Chris Herndon as the fantasy selection this week. Coming back to the 305, having a good repore with QB Sam Darnold as well as a familiarity with the Dolphins’ defense… the stars could align for Herndon to extend his TD streak.

News and Notes

DT RJ McIntosh Makes his Debut on the Practice Field

NCAA Football: Russell Athletic Bowl-West Virginia vs Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

After being placed on the New York Giants’ illness list, RJ McIntosh returned to the practice field two weeks ago. While McIntosh has not talked about his condition with the media, it was reported that he had lost significant weight and was put on medication to treat the ailment that was discovered during the 2017 Scouting Combine medicals. It will be the first time that McIntosh has put on pads since Miami participated in the Orange Bowl.

G Danny Isidora Starting at Left Guard

Due to injuries along the offensive line, Danny Isidora has assumed the role of starting left guard for the Minnesota Vikings. Isidora has started the previous two games against the Jets and the Saints.

K Michael Badgley Gets Waived

We speculated whether or not Bagley would remain a starter for the Chargers coming off of the team’s bye week. On Halloween, Los Angeles waived the rookie kicker. Clearing waivers, Bagley was added to the Chargers practice squad as an insurance policy. For now, Caleb Sturgis is the team’s kicker, but it’s believed that he’s on a short leash.

S Adrian Colbert Placed on IR

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The former Hurricane cornerback fought hard in what has been a less than stellar second year in the league. Sadly, Colbert’s focus will now turn to rehab after the 49ers placed the safety on season-ending injured reserve with a high ankle sprain.