Struggling this late in the season can doom many teams in the NFL, but there are some squads who will snap out of their respective struggles with a Week 9 win.
The Dallas Cowboys failed to grab a stranglehold in their division last week after losing to the Detroit Lions and now hold just a two-game lead over the last place New York Giants. The Cowboys can create some space with a win over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 9.
In St. Louis, the Tennessee Titans will look to end a three-game skid after a bye week and will meet another struggling team, the Rams, in what will be a huge game for both squads and their playoff hopes.
The 2-5 Washington Redskins are hanging on for dear life in the NFC East and are just one game back in the loss column. In order to keep pace, Washington must grab a victory at home over a very tough opponent in the San Diego Chargers.
Let's break each of these games down in order to see how things will go in each of these games.
NFL Week 9 Picks
|Away Team||Home Team||Winner||Score|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Miami Dolphins||Bengals||27-17|
|Atlanta Falcons||Carolina Panthers||Panthers||24-17|
|Minnesota Vikings||Dallas Cowboys||Cowboys||35-13|
|New Orleans Saints||New York Jets||Saints||28-10|
|Tennessee Titans||St. Louis Rams||Titans||17-16|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Buffalo Bills||Chiefs||23-13|
|San Diego Chargers||Washington Redskins||Redskins||41-38|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Oakland Raiders||Raiders||20-14|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks||28-6|
|Baltimore Ravens||Cleveland Browns||Browns||21-19|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||New England Patriots||Patriots||27-14|
|Indianapolis Colts||Houston Texans||Colts||24-20|
|Chicago Bears||Green Bay Packers||Packers||31-20|
Dallas Cowboys (vs. Minnesota Vikings)
To say the Cowboys need this game against a lowly opponent like the Minnesota Vikings is an understatement. Dallas lost in Week 8 in heartbreaking fashion to the Detroit Lions in the final seconds of the game. That followed a poor Week 7 performance in which the Cowboys could only muster up 17 points in an ugly winning effort versus a Philadelphia Eagles squad that ranks No. 23 in points allowed per game.
The Vikings have been dreadful this season. Not only do they own a 1-6 mark, but the Vikings are also allowing the third-most points per game in the NFL and have a pass defense that ranks No. 29 and a run defense that ranks No. 21.
Both of those numbers are music to Dallas' ears. The Cowboys will be able to enjoy a rushing attack, which is something that has been rare this season. Dallas ranks No. 27 on the ground and has seen starting running back DeMarco Murray miss his last two games.
Murray looks ready to return in Week 9 after Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he could have played in Week 8. That would mean the Cowboys have a legit rushing attack that will have plenty of space to operate as the Vikings horrid pass defense protects heavily against Tony Romo and Dallas' No. 8-ranked air attack.
A big problem for Minnesota's defense is actually the offense. As a result of bad play and a lack of sustained drives when the ball is in their hands, the Vikings have been unable to keep their defense off the field. With a No. 27-ranked passing game, the Cowboys can cheat on the run to stop running back Adrian Peterson, and that will almost certainly stifle a Vikings offense that doesn't have enough talent to hang with what the Cowboys can bring.
Final Score: Cowboys 35, Vikings 13
Tennessee Titans (at St. Louis Rams)
The Titans come into this game having lost their last three, but it is an opportune matchup with a St. Louis Rams team that lost its starting quarterback, Sam Bradford, to a season-ending ACL injury.
Bradford's replacement, Kellen Clemens, didn't fare so well against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football. The backup completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw for just 158 yards and two picks without a touchdown through the air. Things won't get any easier for Clemens with the Titans being ranked No. 7 against the pass this season.
Working more in their favor is the fact that the Titans have nothing to fear through the air with Clemens behind center and can focus on stopping running back Zac Stacy, who compiled 134 yards on the ground against a stingy Seattle defense (No. 15 versus the run) that is superior to Tennessee's (No. 24 versus the run).
Tennessee hasn't been great on offense this season as it ranks No. 25 and No. 18 in passing and rushing respectively. The key will be getting running back Chris Johnson his touches against a Rams defense that ranks No. 23 defending the ground attack in 2013-14.
If they can accomplish that, the Titans should be able to open things up enough for quarterback Jake Locker to gain some solid yardage and help score just enough points to edge out St. Louis in a low-scoring, close affair.
Final Score: Titans 17, Rams 16
Washington Redskins (vs. San Diego Chargers)
Believe it or not, the Redskins looked pretty good on defense last week after three quarters against an elite offensive squad in the Denver Broncos. However, thanks to 31 fourth-quarter points allowed, Washington finished looking pathetic once again.
If Washington can repeat a similar effort for four quarters against the San Diego, it may have a shot to win this game.
While the Chargers have a potent offense led by the sixth-best passing attack in football, they also have a defense that has been lacking. Washington's No. 10 air attack should have no problem abusing the Chargers No. 26 pass defense, and quarterback Robert Griffin III has the ability to burn San Diego with his legs should it send extra defenders into the secondary to make up for it.
Running back Alfred Morris and Washington's No. 6 ground game will have a field day in such a scenario and it will spell plenty of yards and points for the Redskins offense.
Granted, the Redskins have been dreadful defensively this season as evidenced by their allowing the second-most points per game, but their strengths offensively match up well with the Chargers weaknesses defensively, and that will make for a shootout of epic proportions that the 'Skins can win.
Final Score: Redskins 41, Chargers 38