Not every slate can be a winner, but Week 9 of the NFL season still offers some intriguing games that can impact the playoff picture.
Again, the schedule does not boast many games that tout likely Super Bowl implications. Only one matchup features two squads with records above .500, and that bout lost much of its luster with a significant injury.
Maybe someone will surprise us. Greg Schiano, beloved by his players and regarded as the NFL's top head coach, could guide the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a victory in Seattle over the Seahawks.
Just kidding, but these games could provide some suspense as the NFL inches closer to the postseason.
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Schedule courtesy of NFL.com
San Diego Chargers at Washington Redskins
Defense is overrated.
Washington ranks 29th with 397.1 yards allowed per game while San Diego resides at 23rd with 378.6 yards surrendered per contest. Neither squad is too keen on stopping the ball, so we could have a lot of points on our hands.
The Chargers, however, have given up single-digit points in each of their past two games. The one against the Jacksonville Jaguars hardly counts, but limiting the Indianapolis Colts to nine points is encouraging.
Who will win?
Not that anyone benefits from losing, but these teams can each really use a win. The Chargers look to remain one step ahead of a crowded AFC wild-card picture, but a loss forfeits that edge among a sea of four-win squads.
Since the NFC East stinks, Washington still has a chance despite its 2-5 start. The team overcame a 3-6 start to win the division last year, so hope remains if Robert Griffin III can regain his health.
The contest should entertain, but the Chargers are a legitimate playoff threat with a rejuvenated Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews and Antonio Gates leading the offense
Prediction: Chargers 37. Redskins 27
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
This game is not at lopsided as it looks.
A succession of pick-sixes cost the Houston Texans some wins and Matt Schaub his starting job, leaving Houston left for dead at 2-5. To make matters worse, the Colts improved to 5-2 with a win over the Denver Broncos and can effectively eliminate any hopes of the Texans maintaining the AFC South crown on Sunday night.
For all of their troubles, the Texans display the NFL's best defense with 267.7 yards allowed per game. They can hang with anyone when the offense isn't handing the other team seven easy points.
A healthy Houston backfield might have been enough to pull the trigger on an upset pick, but both Arian Foster and Ben Tate are battling injuries. ESPN.com's Tania Ganguli reports that, while Tate should play, Foster's status remains up in the air.
Gary Kubiak says everybody practiced. Ben Tate will play. Arian Foster is a "gametime decision." #Texans— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) November 1, 2013
The front seven is where teams must beat the Colts, who made Peyton Manning and his passing offense look mortal for the first time all year. If Foster and Tate aren't pounding the ball, Case Keenum will unravel during his second NFL start.
Don't expect a blowout, and don't be surprised if Houston narrows the gap in the AFC South. But don't bet on it with Foster still in injury purgatory.
Prediction: Colts 20, Texans 16
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Two or three weeks ago, this game would have been a doozy.
Marc Trestman's Bears showed they meant business by starting the season 3-0, but their offensive strides were quickly offset by defensive limitations. The Bears have yielded 132 points over the past four games, with their only win of that stretch coming against the New York Giants.
Now Jay Cutler is sidelined with a torn groin muscle, forcing Josh McCown to take control of the steering wheel. Cutler got hurt at an inopportune time, as the Packers can now distance themselves from their NFC North rivals with a victory.
Don't expect Green Bay to express any remorse over Cutler's absence. The Packers have been ravished by the injury bug, losing Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jermichael Finley and Clay Matthews. Yet they continue to win because of that Aaron Rodgers guy.
Allowing 391 total yards per game, Chicago's problems span well beyond Cutler. The deteriorating defense will continue to fall apart against Rodgers and a revitalized running game led by Eddie Lacy on Monday night.
Prediction: Packers 31, Bears 17