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?
|Date||Road Team||Prediction||Home Team|
|Thursday, Oct. 31||Cincinnati Bengals||34-24||Miami Dolphins|
|Sunday, Nov. 3||Kansas City Chiefs||21-16||Buffalo Bills|
|Sunday, Nov. 3||Minnesota Vikings||20-33||Dallas Cowboys|
|Sunday, Nov. 3||Tennessee Titans||20-12||St. Louis Rams|
|Sunday, Nov. 3||New Orleans Saints||28-17||New York Jets|
|Sunday, Nov. 3||San Diego Chargers||28-24||Washington Redskins|
|Sunday, Nov. 3||Atlanta Falcons||16-21||Carolina Panthers|
|Sunday, Nov. 3||Philadelphia Eagles||27-30||Oakland Raiders|
|Sunday, Nov. 3||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||14-34||Seattle Seahawks|
|Sunday, Nov. 3||Baltimore Ravens||34-20||Cleveland Browns|
|Sunday, Nov. 3||Pittsburgh Steelers||31-35||New England Patriots|
|Sunday, Nov. 3||Indianapolis Colts||17-21||Houston Texans|
|Monday, Nov. 4||Chicago Bears||21-35||Green Bay Packers|
Week 6: 9-3, Season: 69-36
Baltimore Ravens (3-4) at Cleveland Browns (3-5)
Date: Sunday, Oct. 3
Time: 4:25 p.m.
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.
Which team will win?
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)
Date: Sunday, Nov. 3
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
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.
Which team will win?
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)
Date: Monday, Nov. 4
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
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.
Which team will win?
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.
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.