Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis
The 2010 NFL season has been filled with surprises at almost every turn. This week will likely be no different, as there will be upsets, injuries and wild, unpredictable games.
In this slideshow, I take a look at each Week 9 matchup, some of the storylines surrounding the team, and make a prediction as to who will win the game.
I am hoping to put one of these slide shows up every weekend if possible. Unfortunately, I was not able to post slideshows for Weeks 1 through 8, meaning that my current record for picks is 0-0.
I will track this record throughout the season.
Enjoy the show.
Falcons Running Back Michael Turner
Although the Buccaneers are 5-2, it is hard to put them up with the best teams in the league just yet. They lost at home to both the Steelers and Saints by a combined score of 69-19.
Their five wins have been against teams that are a combined 12-24. A road game against the Falcons is a perfect chance for them to prove that they belong in the conversation when it comes to top teams in the NFC.
The Bucs have been winning as a team, with few recognizable names on their roster and just solid all-around play.
The Falcons are also at 5-2, and many expect them to be a contender in the NFC. After a tough overtime loss to Pittsburgh in the season opener, the Falcons have won five of their last six with a balanced offense and a defense that is fourth in the league in interceptions.
Michael Turner should have a big day against the 30th-ranked Buccaneers rush defense, while second-year quarterback Josh Freeman will continue to play well against the Falcons defense, which is giving up 7.8 yards per pass attempt.
Prediction: Both teams put up quite a few points, but the Falcons get the win.
Falcons 31, Buccaneers 27
Ravens Linebacker Ray Lewis
The Dolphins are 4-3 behind a solid defense, a good running game and a steadily improving Chad Henne. They have tough, close losses to the Steelers and Jets, as well as a game against New England where a total special teams meltdown caused them to be on the wrong end of a blowout.
Although the Wildcat offense has lost much of its effectiveness, the Dolphins are making a conventional offense work. Davone Bess is an excellent slot receiver and, of course, they also have Brandon Marshall, who can be a game-changer.
The Ravens were my preseason Super Bowl pick, and I still stand by that prediction. Their defense is 10th in the league in yards allowed, fifth in the league in points allowed and now they have Ed Reed back in the secondary. He has already made his presence felt with two interceptions in his first game back.
Looking at the previous meetings between the Ravens and Dolphins, the Wildcat is absolutely useless against the Ravens very disciplined front seven, so I'd be surprised if the Dolphins even use it.
With two good defenses and two good running games, look for a very physical battle between two possible playoff teams.
Prediction: Ravens 17, Dolphins 13
Bears Linebacker Brian Urlacher
The Bears have made it to 4-3, but they have to learn to protect the quarterback if they want to make it to the playoffs. Jay Cutler has already been sacked 27 times, an average of nearly four a game.
Cutler had played well prior to the Washington game, and it will be interesting to see how he bounces back from a dreadful performance where he threw four interceptions.
The Bears defense has quietly played well, ranking sixth in the league in yards allowed per game and ranked only behind the Steelers and Jets in scoring defense.
The Bills have had a very rough year and can't seem to pull out wins. Two weeks in a row they have lost to the Chiefs and Ravens by a combined six points.
They need to play better on both offense and defense if they want to get the upset. I have the Bears winning by double digits though.
Prediction: Bears 27, Bills 10
Saints Quarterback Drew Brees
Although the Saints have made it to 5-3, it has been a very ugly season for them so far. Both Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush have been dealing with injuries.
Thomas has been ruled out from Sunday's game, and Bush is listed as doubtful. This means that undrafted rookie Chris Ivory and veteran Ladell Betts have to carry the Saints' struggling running game.
Drew Brees is still one of the top five quarterbacks in the league, but he has to make sure that he protects the ball better. Eleven interceptions is simply too many for a quarterback of his caliber.
Although the Panthers are only 1-6, they gave the Saints all that they could handle in New Orleans. Don't write off the Panthers in this game.
The Panthers do have the potential to have a good running game, but with only 3.3 yards per rush, it has been under-performing. Also, both Matt Moore and rookie Jimmy Clausen have struggled with a combined six passing touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Prediction: This game will be a lot closer than some people may think, but I have to go with the defending champions.
Saints 23, Panthers 17
Patriots Head Coach Bill Belicheck
Ever since their loss to the Jets, the Patriots have been playing excellent football. The Patriots offense is first in the league in points scored, the Patriots have several excellent younger players who are starting to get some much-earned recognition, and they are pulling out wins.
Except for the Bills, every team the Patriots have played so far this year have been popular preseason Super Bowl picks.
The Browns have been an improved team, but they still have a long way to go. Peyton Hillis has been a pleasant surprise for the Browns, but the Browns are still unsettled at quarterback. We will see if the Browns defense can shut down an elite quarterback for the second straight game.
An interesting subplot is the Eric Mangini versus Bill Belichick coaching matchup. Belichick's former defensive coordinator will be motivated to get the best of the very successful Patriots coach.
Prediction: The Patriots just have too much talent for the Browns to stay in this game. Unless the Patriots start looking toward next week too soon, they should be able to win this game easily.
Patriots 38, Browns 13
Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan
The Jets have done all the trash talking that you can possibly imagine, and they have a 5-2 record to back it up. They are led by an outstanding defense that is second and the league in scoring.
LaDainian Tomlinson has defied the expectations and looks much younger than he has in recent years. Mark Sanchez provides enough balance on offense for the Jets to be effective. This really is a complete team.
The Lions are heading in the right direction but still have some work to do. Matthew Stafford should be able to play this week, which is a huge bonus for the Lions.
Protecting him against the blitzes that the Jets will bring is extremely important. The Lions are also 30th in the league in rushing offense, which doesn't help the cause.
Although the Lions are 2-5, they have had several games where they almost beat playoff-caliber teams. The Jets can't fall asleep on this game or they could be on the wrong end of an upset. I still have them winning the game, because they have too much talent not to.
Prediction: Jets 17, Lions 10
Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers
Although the importance of special teams and protecting the football is often understated, the Chargers are the perfect example of how important both of those aspects of the game are.
Despite being first in the league in total offense, first in the league in pass offense, first in the league in total defense, first in the league in pass defense and second in the league in rush defense, the Chargers are somehow 3-5 and in third place in the AFC West.
The Texans have been wildly inconsistent so far this season. After steamrolling the Colts and pulling out an impressive overtime win in their first two games, they get blown out at home by the Cowboys.
They looked fine against the Raiders but turned around and got steamrolled by the Giants, and then pulled out a impressive win over the Chiefs. Then they turn around and lose by double digits to the Colts.
When the Texans are on, they are among the best teams in the league. They now just need to learn how to bring their best effort to every game.
Prediction: The Chargers are too talented and are bound to start winning games. The Chargers get a big win on the road before their bye week.
Chargers 31, Texans 28
Vikings Quarterback Brett Favre (right) and Running Back Adrian Peterson (left)
The Cardinals have issues all over their football team. Derek Anderson and Max Hall are not getting the job done at quarterback.
Although they are averaging 4.6 yards per rush as a team, the Cardinals are calling the fewest rushing plays in the NFL. The Cardinals are also 27th in total defense and 31st in scoring defense.
I'm sure you've heard about the Vikings soap opera at some point this season. Brett Favre has played awful so far this season and has piled up injury after injury.
The Vikings are middle-of-the-road in the defensive rankings, but constant turnovers have put them in some predicaments so far this season.
This game is a tale of two teams both heading in the wrong direction, but somebody has to get the win. I'll go with the Vikings.
Prediction: Vikings 15, Cardinals 7
Giants Defensive Lineman Justin Tuck
After a slow start, the Giants are getting back to the type of football that won them a Super Bowl a couple of seasons ago: running the football and rushing the passer. The Giants have won four games in a row and look like one of the top teams in the NFC.
The Seahawks have surprisingly had a good year under former USC head coach Pete Carroll. However, they got embarrassed last week by the Raiders. We will see if they can bounce back against the red-hot Giants.
Prediction: The Seahawks have improved, but the Giants are still the better team.
Giants 27, Seahawks 13
Chiefs Running Back Jamaal Charles
Three months ago, who would have thought that this game will determine who is in first place in the AFC West? With the Chargers' struggles, this game is a perfect opportunity for both teams. The winner of this game is undefeated within the division.
Both teams are very effective running the football. However, the Chiefs are seventh in the league in rushing defense while the Raiders are 27th. That matchup favors the Chiefs.
The Raiders have been amazing in their last two games, outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 92-17!
This game isn't likely to be a blowout like the last two Raiders games were, and I like the Chiefs in a close, but high-scoring game.
Prediction: Chiefs 35, Raiders 31
Eagles Quarterback Michael Vick
This season has been wild and unpredictable for both teams. The Colts have had injury after injury on offense, but a healthy Reggie Wayne and Peyton Manning keep getting the job done for the Colts' offense. The Colts' defense is always underrated but they do a great job at rushing the passer.
The Colts have to be careful about their pass rush against Michael Vick though, because if Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis get too aggressive, they leave wide open running lanes for Vick to break off big runs.
The Eagles have had one of the more unusual seasons in recent memory, with several quarterback changes. Surprisingly, even with all the chaos, the Eagles are only one game out of first place in the NFC East.
Look for both quarterbacks to have big games and for a classic shootout. Call me crazy, but I'll take Michael Vick over Peyton Manning right now.
Prediction: Andy Reid's teams have never lost after a bye. The Eagles win in a crazy shootout.
Eagles 45, Colts 41
Packers Receiver Greg Jennings
The Cowboys season seems to get worse by the week. After weeks of miscues, the preseason Super Bowl favorites now sit at 1-6 and have an injured quarterback.
The Cowboys just look outmatched against the Jaguars last week, and the road doesn't get any easier from here.
The Packers were another popular preseason Super Bowl pick, but they have injuries all over their roster. However, they are still 5-3, in first place in their division and a dangerous football team.
If you need any proof of that, just look at how their defense played against the Jets last week.
Prediction: The Cowboys have too many issues on their team. I'll go with the Packers.
Packers 34, Cowboys 10
Steelers Safety Troy Polamalu
Many people in the preseason were picking the Steelers to miss the playoffs after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended.
However, the Steelers won through strong defense and the play of Rashard Mendenhall while BR was out. Now, the Steelers are tied for first place in the AFC North with the Ravens.
Although the Bengals have struggled this year, they are still loaded with talent. The Steelers have to make sure that they do not take this game lightly. If they do, they will end up on the wrong end of an upset.
Remember that the Bengals did sweep the Steelers last year. If the Bengals want to get back in the playoff hunt, they have to win this game.
Prediction: A desperate Bengals team pulls off the stunning upset at home in prime time. (Troy Polamalu doesn't believe me, hence the nonverbal gesture in the photo).
Bengals 21, Steelers 20