Week 9 NFC North predictions: Vikings to keep rolling without Kirk Cousins?

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With the Detroit Lions on a bye, the rest of the NFC North embarks on Week 9 of the NFL schedule, looking to rebound in different ways. The Minnesota Vikings will try to build off a win despite losing quarterback Kirk Cousins to a season-ending Achilles injury, while the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers attempt to bounce back from losses and avoid the division basement. 

Here are our predictions for Week 9: 

Minnesota Vikings (4-4) at Atlanta Falcons (4-4): The Vikings and Falcons enter their Week 9 matchup with identical records and a fresh start at QB. Despite having added Joshua Dobbs at the deadline from the Arizona Cardinals, rookie Jaren Hall will get his first pro start while the latter gets acclimated with a new system. Meanwhile, veteran Taylor Heinicke gets the nod for Atlanta, taking over for rookie Desmond Ridder, who the Falcons benched in Week 8 against the Tennessee Titans. 

After allowing Titans rookie Will Levis to torch them in his NFL debut (19-of-29, 238 yards, four TDs), the door is open for a big game from Hall, who has plenty of weapons to lean on. On the flip side, Heinicke has experience over Hall and looked decent in relief of Ridder (12-of-21, 175 yards, 1 TD). Still, he might be without WR Drake London (groin), who had yet to practice as of Wednesday and carries a questionable designation ahead of Sunday. Furthermore, the Vikings defense, which has struggled, is coming off its best outing, holding the Green Bay Packers to 270 total yards in a 24-10 Week 8 victory. 

The Vikings suffered a big blow, losing Cousins to a season-ending injury, but the Falcons won’t be the team to halt their momentum. 

PREDICTION: Vikings, 23-20 

Chicago Bears (2-6) at New Orleans Saints (4-4): Coming off a win, the Bears came back down to earth in Week 8 against the Los Angeles Chargers and the fall is likely to continue against the Saints. The Saints defense ranks ninth in the NFL against the pass, which gives them a considerable advantage facing undrafted QB Tyson Bagent, who will get the start again for the injured Justin Fields. Conversely, Saints QB Derek Carr might have a field day against a Bears secondary, giving up 262 yards a game through the air, the worst in the NFL. 

Bears fans will get their first glimpse of new defensive end Montez Sweat, acquired at the trade deadline from the Washington Commanders. However, his presence alone won’t make enough of an impact to get the Bears a win. While the Bears are trending downward at 2-6, the 4-4 Saints are very much alive atop the NFC South and have a lot more to play for. 

PREDICTION: Saints, 28-13 

Los Angeles Rams (3-5) at Green Bay Packers (2-5): Something will have to give in a matchup of two teams going nowhere fast. The Packers have lost four straight, while the Rams have dropped three of their last four. Meanwhile, both are coming off horrendous, one-sided losses. 

The Packers might have an advantage on the defensive end if QB Matthew Stafford (thumb) misses the contest. Without Stafford, backup Brett Rypien would get the start for L.A. On the other side of the ball, this might be a get-right game for QB Jordan Love and the offense, which has looked inconsistent over the past few weeks. The Rams have allowed five of eight opponents to top 23 or more points and are fresh off a 43-20 pounding against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 8, where they gave up 387 yards of total offense. 

PREDICTION: Packers, 19-17 

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