The 2013 NFL regular season is in full swing, and the postseason picture is beginning to take shape. Contenders are emerging, pretenders are being exposed and teams in the middle of the pack are beginning to move closer to or further away from the race for the playoffs.
Which teams will solidify their statuses as dark-horse contenders by earning a critical Week 9 victory?
|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
Week 9: vs. Atlanta Falcons
Prediction: 21-16, Panthers
The Carolina Panthers have one of the best and most balanced defensive units in the NFL. Carolina also has an offense that runs the ball as well as anyone in the league and a superstar quarterback who has learned how to manage games.
At 4-3, look for Carolina to get its biggest win yet against the Atlanta Falcons.
Which team will win?
Cam Newton hasn't been his explosive self, but he's led Carolina to three straight wins by avoiding costly mistakes. During that winning streak, Newton has six passing touchdowns and two rushing scores to zero interceptions.
Against a Falcons defense that ranks No. 22 in passing yards allowed and No. 25 in team interceptions, Newton should have no trouble continuing to experience success.
The key for Carolina will be on defense. It ranks No. 2 in rushing yards allowed per game, No. 10 in passing yards allowed per contest and No. 2 in scoring defense. Against a banged-up Falcons offense, the Panthers have every reason to be favored in this game.
At home, look for Carolina to make it four straight wins and five in its past six games.
Week 9: vs. Minnesota Vikings
Prediction: 33-20, Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys have shown flashes of being one of the NFL's truly elite teams. It seems as if every time Dallas works its way to a late-game advantage, however, one area or another seems to fall apart in the most inopportune moments.
During Week 9, look for Dallas to get a win to move above .500.
Which team will win?
Dallas is still the class of the NFC East, and there isn't another team in the division that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath. The New York Giants are 2-5, the Philadelphia Eagles are falling apart at the seams and the Washington Redskins are painfully inconsistent.
Unfortunately, Dallas won't be the best for long if it continues to collapse in the closing minutes.
Against the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys should be just fine. Minnesota's quarterback play is underwhelming to say the least, and Tony Romo should have no trouble carving up the No. 29 pass defense in the league.
Adrian Peterson will keep things interesting, but Dallas will win this game.
San Diego Chargers
Week 9: at Washington Redskins
Prediction: 28-24, Chargers
The San Diego Chargers have been one of the most pleasant surprises in the NFL. At 4-3, San Diego has exceeded expectations by earning wins over the likes of Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, Romo and the Cowboys, and Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles.
During Week 9, the Chargers will hit the road to take on their third NFC East opponent: the Washington Redskins.
Which team will win?
Philip Rivers has returned to the ranks of the elite, throwing for 2,132 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions on a completion percentage of 73.9. Antonio Gates is playing like he's still in his prime and, most importantly, Ryan Mathews has come to life.
Mathews has rushed for at least 100 yards in back-to-back games.
The Redskins are currently No. 28 in passing defense, No. 29 in rushing defense and No. 31 in scoring defense. Robert Griffin III and company are explosive, but Washington's defense just isn't strong enough to keep the Chargers off the board.
Look for San Diego to move to 5-3 with a huge Week 9 win.