NFL Week 9 is in full swing heading into Sunday's slate of games. And like the Miami Dolphins did on Thursday night, several other outside threats will be looking to make a statement this weekend.
The Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts will all be facing off against division opponents on Sunday and can propel themselves in the playoff race with a win.
Here are my last-minute predictions for the remaining matchups in Week 9, including a closer look at three playoff hopefuls sure to prevail.
|NFL Week 9 Picks|
|Sunday, Nov. 3 at 1 p.m.||Kansas City Chiefs 20, Buffalo Bills 13|
|Sunday, Nov. 3 at 1 p.m.||Tennessee Titans 20, St. Louis Rams 16|
|Sunday, Nov. 3 at 1 p.m.||Dallas Cowboys 34, Minnesota Vikings 24|
|Sunday, Nov. 3 at 1 p.m.||Carolina Panthers 24, Atlanta Falcons 21|
|Sunday, Nov. 3 at 1 p.m.||New Orleans Saints 27, New York Jets 23|
|Sunday, Nov. 3 at 1 p.m.||Washington Redskins 38, San Diego Chargers 35|
|Sunday, Nov. 3 at 4:05 p.m.||Oakland Raiders 26, Philadelphia Eagles 17|
|Sunday, Nov. 3 at 4:05 p.m.||Seattle Seahawks 30, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10|
|Sunday, Nov. 3 at 4:25 p.m.||Baltimore Ravens 20, Cleveland Browns 17|
|Sunday, Nov. 3 at 4:25 p.m.||New England Patriots 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 21|
|Sunday, Nov. 3 at 8:30 p.m.||Indianapolis Colts 21, Houston Texans 18|
|Monday, Nov. 4 at 8:30 p.m.||Green Bay Packers 31, Chicago Bears 20|
Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers can take a significant step on Sunday afternoon. With a win over the division rival Atlanta Falcons, Carolina will be two games above .500 and well within the hunt for an NFC playoff bid at the season's midway point.
Given the opposing states of the Panthers and the Falcons, look for Ron Rivera's club to emerge with the victory. After all, Carolina has won three in a row in dominant fashion, while Atlanta is 0-3 on the road in 2013 and coming off a blowout loss at Arizona in Week 8. Not to mention, key injuries on offense have turned the Dirty Birds into a shell of themselves.
On top of it all, the Panthers are playing championship-caliber defense coming into November. Carolina ranks second in scoring defense through eight weeks and third in total defense, allowing just 13.7 points and 301.4 total yards per game.
The defending Super Bowl champions return from a bye in Week 9 looking to make it 12 in a row over the Cleveland Browns. And although Baltimore has dropped two in a row to fall below .500 for the first time in a long time, the Ravens beating the Browns has been a sure-thing since John Harbaugh arrived in Charm City.
Plus, Cleveland is in the midst of a three-game losing streak that has the team desperate for its Week 10 bye.
Location doesn't matter either. The Ravens have beaten the Browns five straight times in Cleveland, winning by at least 10 points on each occasion.
So while there's no doubt that this team is a far cry from the one that won it all last season, Baltimore has Cleveland's number until the Browns can prove otherwise.
Indianapolis is another team coming off a bye, and before that came an upset win over the Denver Broncos. Like the Panthers and Ravens, the Colts will aim to pick up a key division win in Week 9.
The Houston Texans may be 2-5 and decimated by injuries, but they're still the defending AFC South champions. But despite that fact, the Colts and their bend-but-don't-break defense are sure to survive on the road.
Houston has not only lost five in a row, but the Texans will start the inexperienced Case Keenum at quarterback on Sunday night, per Mike Wells of ESPN.
In addition to the question marks on offense, there are several defensive concerns for Gary Kubiak's squad. The Texans have struggled to stop the run in 2013, and that's one particular aspect that the Colts offense has excelled in this season. If Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson and the Colts offense can dominate time of possession and continue to avoid turnovers, the Texans will be in trouble.
Keep in mind that no team in the NFL has fewer turnovers than Indianapolis in 2013. The Colts have turned it over six times in seven games, while Houston's defense has managed to force just five over that time.
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