NFL Week 9 Picks: Sneaky Playoff Contenders Set to Win This Sunday

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NFL Week 9 Picks: Sneaky Playoff Contenders Set to Win This Sunday
Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Halfway through the season, the teams surely headed to the postseason are fairly obvious thanks to the lack of parity in the NFL at the moment.

Most games are competitive, but the good teams continue to win, and obvious outcomes have littered the majority of the schedule.

While that's a minute issue, some of the fun of being a fan is not knowing at this point exactly all of the teams headed to the playoffs. Even better, who knows what the teams that sneak in will manage upon arrival? 

Here's a look at the full slate of games this weekend, plus a feature on three sleeper playoff candidates primed for major victories.

NFL Week 9 Picks
Kansas City Chiefs Buffalo Bills Chiefs
Minnesota Vikings Dallas Cowboys Cowboys
Tennessee Titans St. Louis Rams Titans
New Orleans Saints New York Jets Saints
San Diego Chargers Washington Redskins Chargers
Atlanta Falcons Carolina Panthers Panthers
Philadelphia Eagles Oakland Raiders Raiders
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Seattle Seahawks Seahawks
Baltimore Ravens Cleveland Browns Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers New England Patriots Steelers
Indianapolis Colts Houston Texans Colts
Chicago Bears Green Bay Packers Packers

Chris Roling's Predictions

Tennessee Titans Trounce St. Louis Rams

Poor St. Louis. The Rams finally have an answer at running back with rookie Zac Stacy, which was the critical element missing from an offense with great potential. Now the offense is missing a quarterback, and Kellen Clemens is forced to perform the duties from under center.

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams come off of a short week into Week 9 after a brutal loss at home to NFC West foe Seattle on Monday.

Tennessee is coming off of a loss of its own, but initial success was not expected with Jake Locker making his return from an injury.

Now it is.

Locker led the Titans to a 3-1 record before his injury and threw for more than 300 yards last week in a loss. He'll do enough to get the Titans the win, but it's the Rams offense that will help the most. Tennessee is quietly a serious contender for a wild-card spot if Locker can stay healthy.

Prediction: Titans 30, Rams 17

San Diego Chargers Silence Washington Redskins

Philip Rivers is quietly in the middle of a jaw-dropping season.

Under new head coach Mike McCoy (who was slyly stolen from AFC West rival Denver), Rivers is completing a ridiculous 73.9 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions.

It's panic time in Washington at 2-5, and even more so thanks to an encounter with Rivers, as the Redskins are a bottom-five team against the pass with more than 273 yards allowed per game.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

As if that is not bad enough, Chargers running back Ryan Mathews is on the best streak of his career with back-to-back 100-yard performances. Guess what? Washington is even worse against the run and is ranked No. 30 at 123.4 yards surrendered per game.

Yes, San Diego resides in the same division as Denver and Kansas City, but a drop off from either is not out of the question, and San Diego is on a roll and will continue to be after a matchup with the Redskins.

Prediction: Chargers 35, Redskins 21

Carolina Panthers Brutalize Atlanta Falcons

What NFL team is currently on a three-game winning streak via an MVP-worthy performance from its quarterback and is in a great position to land a wild-card spot, if not win its division outright?

That would be Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

Typically the team in question would be the Atlanta Falcons as far as the NFC South goes, but the Falcons are a putrid 2-5 and don't do much of anything well at the moment.

Meanwhile, Newton is playing the best ball of his career, and even Falcons head coach Mike Smith agrees, as Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer reports:

Newton has 773 total yards and eight touchdowns during the streak, and the Panthers have won each game by two touchdowns or more. Add in the No. 3-ranked overall defense that allows 13.7 points per game, and it's easy to see why the Panthers are playoff-bound.

Atlanta will provide little to no resistance Sunday, especially if Matt Ryan's four interceptions from Week 8 are anything to go by. Carolina rolls.

Prediction: Panthers 30, Falcons 23

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