NFL Schedule Week 9: Previewing Sunday's Most Exciting Games

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIINovember 4, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 07:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts throws a pass during the NFL game against the Green Bay Packers at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 7, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Some things are simply more important than football. Week 9's NFL schedule offers up some exciting games, but Mother Nature will inevitably overshadow what might typically be the most titillating of these matchups. And rightfully so.

Here is a closer look at the pivotal Pittsburgh Steelers-New York Giants showdown and the best of the rest in Sunday's action.


Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts

No. 8 overall pick Ryan Tannehill (hopefully, barring injury) takes on Andrew Luck at Lucas Oil Stadium in a matchup of 4-3 teams with huge midseason playoff stakes.

Robert Griffin III may be playing the best of all the highly touted QB prospects in the 2012 draft class, but these two signal-callers have their teams in prime playoff position. Who would have thought that before the season began?

Then again, the NFL is crazy, and these are two of the most enigmatic teams of the year. The AFC is incredibly weak, which allows for the "any given Sunday" theorem to be even more prominent. This is the ultimate clash of teams everyone had given up on before the season began except for the guys in those locker rooms.

Both teams are fundamentally flawed. Miami can't stop the pass, the Colts can't stop the run and both of their quarterbacks are extremely aggressive in forcing throws into coverage.

Particularly if Tannehill's injury limits his mobility, the edge has to go to the Colts at home, since they have been nearly unbeatable. Luck also got the first road win of his career in Tennessee last week—no small feat against a defense that finally had underrated MLB Colin McCarthy back.

No one can run the ball on the Dolphins, but that doesn't matter to the Colts. They have Luck and Reggie Wayne on their side, which will be just enough to pull out this one.


Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants

Here's a doozy between two quarterbacks, each with two Super Bowl rings apiece. The amount of clutch between Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning is immeasurable, which means this game will likely be pulled out by either QB in come-from-behind fashion.

Despite so many key injuries early on, the Steelers find themselves just one game behind Baltimore for first place in the AFC North.

Just a year ago, this was argued as the best division in football by some. Now? Not so much.

A revamped Giants running game has the offense rolling at an astonishing rate, and a golden opportunity to go 7-2 and take a commanding NFC East lead awaits at home this weekend.

The obvious underlying story here will continue to be the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which has displaced many people in the New York/New Jersey area. CBS Pittsburgh reported earlier in the week that the Steelers even had to change their travel plans.

An entertaining football game can only do so much to take people's minds off of such a devastating situation in the wake of a natural disaster. This should be one of the week's most exciting games, sure, but that's not where the true focus should be.

It will be interesting to see precisely how the NFL handles this situation, and whether players might donate game checks to help the cause. Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade did just that (h/t The Sun-Sentinel) after Friday's NBA game in Madison Square Garden against the Knicks.

Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks

Home cooking is just what the Seahawks need after two consecutive road losses by one possession apiece at the hands of playoff-caliber teams. Speaking of which, this is a defining game for the Vikings, and will prove whether they are a contender or pretender as one of 2012's bigger surprises.

Rookie QB Russell Wilson bounced back from a dismal second half in San Francisco to put his team in position to win in Detroit. Ultimately, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was just due for a breakout game, and he made it happen against arguably the best secondary in football.

Qwest Field is nearly impossible for opponents to handle. Both teams are young, but this Seattle bunch has proven to be unbeatable in front of the home crowd.

Something will have to give between Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson and the Seahawks' stout rush defense. If the Vikings can't win that battle, it's going to be a long Sunday that will result in the team's third big loss in four games.

It's a must-win scenario for both teams' playoff hopes, and the athleticism of Seattle's D will allow the home team to come out on top. The Seahawks will take over the final wild-card spot in the NFC after Week 9, courtesy of this victory and a Packers blowout of NFC West rival Arizona.

Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons

It's redemption time for the Cowboys and Tony Romo. Their backs are against the ultimate prickly concrete walll, and they must make something happen in the Georgia Dome.

Atlanta has been notoriously tough at home since Matt Ryan began his tenure as QB. But the 7-0 Falcons are more flawed their record indicates. Although it's obviously impressive that they've won every game so far, the defense ranks 26th against the run.

Michael Turner is not the same for the Falcons' running game, either. He is averaging a career-low 3.7 yards per carry this year.

If not for the transcendent redemptive season by Peyton Manning, Ryan would be a runaway in the MVP race. That is, unless somehow Texans DE J.J. Watt wins it as a defensive player, something that hasn't happened for decades.

I see a dramatic Dallas triumph in the primetime slot, as the Super Bowl expectations finally weigh down the Falcons. The Cowboys will play their best game of the season and come out on top.