NFL Picks Week 9: Forecasting Most Pivotal Inter-Divisional Matchups

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 2, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 30: DeVier Posey #11 of the Houston Texans moves against Joe Lefeged #35 of the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Colts defeated the Texans 28-16.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Now's the time the division battles in the NFL become interesting.

Early in the first half of the season, you don't want to read too much into the results, because there's still a lot of time for things to change. Closer toward the end of the season, most of the divisions could already be wrapped up, leaving the wild-card places up for grabs.

Now, though, teams are in between those stages. They've had enough games to get the narrative of the season started, but there's also the entire second half of the season to catch up to the division leaders.

These three games could either distance the division leaders from the competition or make the races more interesting.

NFL Picks Week 9
Time (ET)Home TeamAway TeamPick
Sun., Nov. 3
1 p.m.Carolina PanthersAtlanta FalconsCAR
1 p.m.Dallas CowboysMinnesota VikingsDAL
1 p.m.New York JetsNew Orleans SaintsNO
1 p.m.St. Louis RamsTennessee TitansTEN
1 p.m.Buffalo BillsKansas City ChiefsBUF
1 p.m.Washington RedskinsSan Diego ChargersWAS
4:05 p.m.Oakland RaidersPhiladelphia EaglesPHI
4:05 p.m.Seattle SeahawksTampa Bay BuccaneersSEA
4:25 p.m.Cleveland BrownsBaltimore RavensBAL
4:25 p.m.New England PatriotsPittsburgh SteelersPIT
8:30 p.m.Houston TexansIndianapolis ColtsIND
Mon., Nov. 4
8:40 p.m.Green Bay PackersChicago BearsGB


Houston Texas vs. Indianapolis Colts

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 20: Sergio Brown #38 and Josh Gordy #27 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrate during the game against the Denver Broncos at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 20, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Houston Texans offense will be much better off with Case Keenum under center, as crazy as that sounds. Matt Schaub is the human interception, and you're not getting much more with T.J. Yates.

It still won't be enough to get past the Indianapolis Colts.

Chuck Pagano has had an extra week to prepare for this game. Whatever secret there was with Keenum against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Colts head coach has probably figured it out by now after hours upon hours of dissection.

Indianapolis is looking like one of the best teams in the league. Beating the Denver Broncos solidified that.

Even on the road against Houston, the Colts will be able to pick up the victory. Andrew Luck will avoid giving the ball hack to the Texans, while the defense will force what could be a hobbled Arian Foster to win this game.

Indianapolis 30, Houston 20


Carolina Panthers vs. Atlanta Falcons

After that Week 8 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the Falcons wrote themselves off for good as playoff contenders this year. Maybe you thought Atlanta turned a corner after getting win No. 2. Nope.

Now it has a road game against the Carolina Panthers, who genuinely look like they've turned a corner. The Panthers have won three in a row after a 22-6 loss to the Cardinals.

Carolina's defense is one of the best in the league. It will be able to sit back and wait for the pass, as the Falcons running game is nonexistent. Matt Ryan will have to throw for 400 yards if Atlanta has any hopes of getting the victory.

Cam Newton has also been playing very well in the last three weeks, failing to throw a single interception. As long as he doesn't have another Arizona game, the Panthers will be able to cruise to victory and perhaps put some pressure on New Orleans in the NFC South.

Carolina 24, Atlanta 14


Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 27: Jordy Nelson #87 and Myles White #19 of the Green Bay Packers celebrate a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings by Nelson during the first quarter of the game on October 27, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Hu
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Once a hallmark of the Bears, defense has been one of the biggest problems for Chicago this season. According to Football Outsiders, it's 17th in the league in DVOA. The Bears are also giving up an average of 29.4 points, 29th-best in the league.

The Green Bay Packers offense has been hitting on all cylinders since Week 5.

Aaron Rodgers continues chugging along despite losing his three best receivers, and Eddie Lacy has provided the rushing dimension the team has lacked for years.

Especially playing at home, it's difficult seeing Green Bay losing this game. The Packers defense is suspect as well, but the Bears lack the offensive firepower to keep pace with Rodgers and Co. Matt Forte won't be able to shoulder the entire load.

In such a tough rivalry game, the difference between the two won't be significant, but Green Bay will be able to get out in front early and take control.

Green Bay 27, Chicago 21