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NFL Predictions Week 9: Teams That Will Solidify Status as Dark-Horse Contenders

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 20:   Ryan Mathews #24 of the San Diego Chargers runs for yardage during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on October 20, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIOctober 28, 2013

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?

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

 

Carolina Panthers

/Getty Images

Record: 4-3

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.

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. 

 

Dallas Cowboys

/Getty Images

Record: 4-4

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.

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

/Getty Images

Record: 4-3

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.

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.

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