Week 9 NFL Picks: Predicting Games with Greatest Impact on Division Races

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIINovember 3, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 16:  Lance Briggs #55 of the Chicago Bears keeps his eyes on Aaron Rodgers #12 the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on December 16, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 21-13.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Week 9 of the 2013 NFL regular season will play a pivotal role in the postseason race, as teams in both conferences shape their postseason dreams. No teams are under more pressure than those facing division rivals.

The question is, which games will have the most significant impact on division races?

Week 9 NFL Predictions
DateRoad TeamPredictionHome Team
Thursday, Oct. 31Cincinnati Bengals34-24Miami Dolphins
Sunday, Nov. 3Kansas City Chiefs21-16Buffalo Bills
Sunday, Nov. 3Minnesota Vikings20-33Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, Nov. 3Tennessee Titans20-12St. Louis Rams
Sunday, Nov. 3New Orleans Saints28-17New York Jets
Sunday, Nov. 3San Diego Chargers28-24Washington Redskins
Sunday, Nov. 3Atlanta Falcons16-21Carolina Panthers
Sunday, Nov. 3Philadelphia Eagles27-30Oakland Raiders
Sunday, Nov. 3Tampa Bay Buccaneers14-34Seattle Seahawks
Sunday, Nov. 3Baltimore Ravens34-20Cleveland Browns
Sunday, Nov. 3Pittsburgh Steelers31-35New England Patriots
Sunday, Nov. 3Indianapolis Colts17-21Houston Texans
Monday, Nov. 4Chicago Bears21-35Green Bay Packers
Week 6: 9-3, Season: 69-36

 

Baltimore Ravens (3-4) at Cleveland Browns (3-5)

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Date: Sunday, Oct. 3

Time: 4:25 p.m.

TV: CBS

Prediction: 34-20, Ravens

It's safe to say that no one expected a Week 9 meeting between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns to have a significant impact on the AFC North race. The Cincinnati Bengals own a commanding lead at 6-2, but Baltimore has two games remaining with Marvin Lewis' group and Cleveland has one.

Nothing is certain in the AFC North, but the winner of this game will be back in the hunt, and the loser could be eliminated.

Baltimore is fresh off a bye week, which is a welcome sight after it lost three consecutive games to postseason-caliber opponents. The defending Super Bowl champions have played excellent defense, but poor play-calling and Ray Rice's inefficiency have led to a sub-.500 start.

Should Cincinnati lose to the Miami Dolphins and the Ravens defeat the Browns, Baltimore would move to within 1.5 games of the lead.

As for Cleveland, the fact that it already has a win over the Bengals not only inspires confidence but creates an advantage in the standings. Three games back is an uncomfortable place to be, but with a win here, Cleveland would significantly improve its postseason odds.

One way or another, the division race will be altered during this game.

Like many other games, this one comes down to quarterback play. Joe Flacco is far from an elite regular-season quarterback, but Brandon Weeden has been nothing short of inconsistent during his NFL career.

Baltimore will move right back into the division race as Flacco delivers.

 

Indianapolis Colts (5-2) at Houston Texans (2-5)

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Date: Sunday, Nov. 3

Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: NBC

Prediction: 21-17, Texans

The Indianapolis Colts have jumped out to an extraordinary 5-2 record with wins over the Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. The Houston Texans have fallen to 2-5 after seven games and appear to be a distant contender in the race for the AFC South.

With a win on Sunday, however, Houston would be right back in the hunt for the division title.

Indianapolis currently own a three-game lead over the Texans with its ferocious defense and mature offense leading the charge. Preparing to play their first game without Reggie Wayne, however, the potential for Andrew Luck and company to struggle against what is still a vicious Houston pass rush is present.

Three games may be a comfortable edge, but Indianapolis still has two games against Houston—that lead is far from insurmountable.

The Texans have lost five consecutive games, but they enter Week 9 fresh off of a much-needed bye. J.J. Watt is still an elite pass-rusher, the pass defense ranks No. 1 in the NFL, and the group of Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Ben Tate and DeAndre Hopkins deserves to be classified as elite.

The only question is whether or not Case Keenum will be able to lead the team to a win.

I believe in Indianapolis as a Super Bowl contender, but this is as must-win a game as Gary Kubiak has ever experienced. With the No. 1 pass defense in the league and a Colts offense that has never played without Wayne during the Luck era, that all adds up to an upset.

Forgive me, but I fail to see how a team as talented as Houston can lose six straight.

 

Chicago Bears (4-3) at Green Bay Packers (5-2)

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Date: Monday, Nov. 4

Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Prediction: 35-21, Packers

In a rare instance, Monday Night Football will host a game that pits two postseason contenders against one another. This time around, it will be the 5-2 Green Bay Packers going toe-to-toe with the 4-3 Chicago Bears.

As the records display, the winner of this game will move into first place in the NFC North.

Green Bay enters this game on the heels of a 44-31 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Aaron Rodgers continues to torch opposing defenses, but the true reason for encouragement is the fact that the Packers are fourth in rushing yards per game.

By comparison, Green Bay ranked 20th in rushing yards during the 2012 regular season.

Chicago was on bye during Week 8, which was a welcome scenario for a Bears team that has been plagued by injuries. Zach Zaidman of CBS 2 reports that quarterback Jay Cutler did attend practice but didn't participate, which suggests that he will miss Monday Night Football.

Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte are more than capable of holding their own, but Chicago will need a miracle against Green Bay.

What this game comes down to is Josh McCown being able to match Rodgers' level of production. Chicago cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings will help to slow Rodgers down, but in the end, Green Bay has too much firepower to lose this game.

There's always the potential for the unthinkable when Chicago and Green Bay meet, but Rodgers versus McCown is an easy battle to predict.