Every NFL team isn't privileged enough to have CenturyLink Field at its back, but home-field advantage plays a part in many other games as well.
Week 9's NFL slate holds several matchups that are even on paper. Whichever team gets to have its home crowd behind it will grab a slight advantage, and in some cases that will make the difference.
As we enter the second half of the season, every game has added meaning. Teams are pressing for division titles. Wild-card races are taking shape, and some teams are already looking ahead to the 2013 draft order.
Let's take a look at three teams that will better their standing by grabbing a tight win at home.
CenturyLink Field is a daunting venue for opposing teams to enter, especially for a Vikings team that has lost two of their last three contests. Seattle has lost two straight games, but being on the road is a totally different story for Pete Carroll's team.
Seattle and Minnesota play very similar games. This one will be close, even though the Vikings have a slightly better passing attack with Christian Ponder running the show. Seattle's stalwart secondary should negate that small advantage though, using its physicality to eliminate the effectiveness of Minnesota's downfield weapons.
In terms of the run game, the Seahawks and Vikings are also virtually even. Adrian Peterson is the bigger name, but Marshawn Lynch runs very well behind Seattle's consistent offensive line.
Very few teams enjoy such a definite home-field advantage. Seattle and Minnesota are dead-even in terms of on-field ability, but expect the crowd in CenturyLink to make all the difference.
Atlanta has to lose sometime, and Dallas' third-ranked pass defense has the ingredients to make the difference in Sunday night's matchup.
If it wasn't for Tony Romo behind center against Atlanta's underrated pass defense, the Cowboys would be the pick here. However, I still expect Romo to make one critical mistake in a crucial moment.
The Falcons have struggled to defeat the Panthers, Redskins and Raiders, but they looked much better against Philadelphia in Week 8 after their Week 7 bye week. It's not like this team was going to demolish people, go undefeated and sail off unscathed. They're a dominant group, but a little competition never hurt anyone.
Dallas has the skill players to test Atlanta's secondary and the corners to stifle the Falcons' dynamic wide receivers, but Romo is still shaky. He doesn't have a consistent ground game to lean on, and he's not ready to carry this team past an elite opponent all by himself.
Look for another upset bid Sunday night, but Atlanta's undefeated record will survive for another week.
Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill have fallen into Robert Griffin III's shadow a bit this season, but that would have happened to anyone. It's nothing against either rookie; it's a testament to RG3's electric ability.
According to the Associated Press (via ESPN), Tannehill is questionable for Sunday's game. Even if he doesn't suit up, and Matt Moore takes the reins behind center, this game is going to be competitive.
Not only does this game pit two rookies against one another, but it's a battle of two surprising teams. With each at 4-3, both the Dolphins and the Colts are in the thick of the AFC wild-card race.
Indianapolis has struggled to run the ball this season, which should lead it to almost abandon that idea against Miami's excellent run-stopping unit. However, Miami's pass defense has been flawed, and Luck should find openings down the field.
Miami will look to run the ball between the tackles against the Colts' shoddy run defense on Sunday, but the return of Robert Mathis should help Indy play tougher up front. He's primarily a pass-rusher, but he's still another able body who is capable of making big plays. With Tannehill possibly out, or at least hobbled, a few struggles on the ground could make all the difference.
Look for Luck to continue his inconsistent, yet exciting, play on Sunday. The Colts are getting healthy and gaining momentum. Miami has won three in a row, but if Tannehill isn't mobile that hurts his ability to impact a game.
This is going to be very close, but a healthy Luck makes the difference.
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