Still unbeaten and keeping the lid on the Dolphins' champagne bottles is this year's Tennessee Titans squad. This isn't last year's dominant model, like New England. This team doesn't win every game 49-7, but they run the ball, play strong defense, and limit their turnovers.
Meanwhile, the rest of the league is filled with parity. The Giants lead a top-heavy NFC East with a 7-1 record, but right behind them are the 5-4 Dallas Cowboys, who won 13 games last year and were favored by many this year to win the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, the AFC East, NFC South, and NFC North all have competitive divisional races. The Jets, Bills, and Patriots all have identical 5-3 records and are locked in a three-way tie for first with the Miami Dolphins just one game out at 4-4.
The Panthers and Buccaneers have swapped the division lead and are separated by a half game, while the surprising Falcons and high-scoring Saints aren't too far behind at 5-3 and 4-4, respectively.
The Bears lead the North at 5-3, just ahead of the 4-4 Vikings and Packers. Nothing has been determined and the second half of the season should be very competitive.
Denver at Cleveland
Line: Browns by 3
Signing Derek Anderson to a long-term deal after one good year seemed like a questionable move, especially with Brady Quinn already the team's No. 1 draft pick. Now Romeo Crennel is putting his money on the rookie with Cleveland's season hanging in the balance.
If he's as good as hyped in college, he'll have no trouble shredding a struggling Denver defense, the catalyst behind three straight Denver losses. The Broncos are still 4-4 and in first place, but you get the feeling those days are dwindling once the Chargers learn how to stop teams on defense.
Browns 27, Broncos 20
Jacksonville at Detroit
Line: Jaguars by 6
Jack Del Rio is now playing the hardass coach role after Mike Peterson put on a demonstration after recording a sack with his team trailing the Bengals 21-3. Peterson was benched, pulled from the game, and after further arguing with the coach, suspended from practice.
Now we find out if the Jags are truly focused or forming a team-wide mutiny. They've struggled running the ball because of injuries on the offensive line and have been hurt defensively by the losses of DT Marcus Stroud and coordinator Mike Smith. If Del Rio's bunch can't beat the lowly Lions, Jack will be looking for a new job.
Jaguars 20, Lions 17
Baltimore at Houston
Line: Ravens by 1
I hate having to rewrite the preview for this game, but one Hurricane and a couple months later, and this is what I have to do. Two months later, the result should be the same. Joe Flacco is maturing as a QB every week after a slow start and should play an efficient game as Baltimore gets a solid road win in their tune-up before facing the Giants.
Ravens 23, Texans 17
Seattle Seahawks at Miami Dolphins
Line: Dolphins by 9
Believe it folks: The Fins aren't going quietly this year. They shouldn't have a problem recording their third win in a row against the injury-depleted Seahawks.
Dolphins 20, Seahawks 14
Tennessee at Chicago
Line: Titans by 3
A lot of Bears fans may be disillusioned by the presence of Rex Grossman, but fear not; the defense will play an inspired game at home, stifling the Titans' running game, which wasn't dominant against the Colts or Packers. If Rex can just stay away from the turnovers, the Bears can make the '72 Dolphins proud.
Bears 24, Titans 21
New Orleans at Atlanta
Line: Falcons by 1
Believe the hype. The Falcons are for real this year. Matt Ryan and Michael Turner will prove it with big games against an overmatched Saints D, as the Dirty Birds win a shootout in the Georgia Dome.
Falcons 38, Saints 31
Green Bay at Minnesota
Line: Vikings by 2.5
Someone needs to explain this line. The Vikings' 4-4 record is pretty misleading, as it includes a couple ugly wins against the Saints and Lions. They can run the ball, but lack the passing game to beat a good secondary like the Packers.
Their secondary will have their hands full trying to stop Aaron Rodgers from going downfield, which he's been doing to everyone since he hurt his shoulder against Tampa.
Packers 27, Vikings 24
St. Louis at New York Jets
Line: Jets by 9
As impressive as their road win over the Bills was, it would have been even more one-sided if Favre hadn't thrown that fourth-quarter garbage time pick-six to keep Buffalo in the game.
That's Favre though, he keeps both teams in the game with his wildness, so if the Rams' secondary comes across a wildly thrown pass, they'd be well served to take full advantage of it.
Jets 20, Rams 16
Buffalo at New England
Line: Patriots by 4
Consider this a bounce-back of sorts for the suddenly-slumping Bills. Yes, it is considered big pressure to win in New England, but on paper, they match up very well. They have the passing attack to break down the Pats' secondary and they can stop the Pats' anemic rushing attack, forcing Cassel, who hardly ever throws a pass longer than 10 yards, to beat them.
Bills 23, Patriots 20
Carolina at Oakland
Line: Panthers by 9.5
It's back to work for the Cardiac Cats. Their defense should have no trouble pushing aside an anemic Raiders offense, and the offense should have no trouble pounding it between the tackles behind the two-headed monster of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart
All they need is a 5-3 second half to get to those 11 division-leading wins I predicted.
Panthers 21, Raiders 0
Indianapolis at Pittsburgh
Line: Steelers by 3
Vegas has open and closed the books on this game, but whether or not Roethlisberger plays shouldn't matter that much. Look at how well Byron Leftwich played last week. No matter what, the Steelers will have a big, mobile QB with an arm to manage the game.
Defensively, I think Pittsburgh can take away the running game, as Joseph Addai still looked banged up, failing to exploit a weak Pats rushing D, forcing Peyton to throw more than he'd like against their zone blitz with a gimpy knee.
Steelers 20, Colts 14
Kansas City at San Diego
Line: Chargers by 15.5
The Chiefs have shown some heart the past two weeks, nearly pulling out a pair against the Jets and Bucs. The Chargers have been up and down all year and could very well blow them out if they're focused, but it'll take more than one week to get this struggling defense in shape.
Chargers 27, Chiefs 17
New York Giants at Philadelphia
Line: Eagles by 3
The Eagles win this pivotal divisional showdown in the Keystone state as emotion rides high. The Giants' passing offense, while very good, will have its hands full with the Eagles' deep secondary. If Burress can't break out of his funk, Eli won't have enough time to make plays against the Eagles' blitz. Eagles 16, Giants 14
San Francisco at Arizona
Line: Cardinals by 9.5
Last year, when these teams played on Monday Night Football, I saw one of the worst announcing performances of all-time as Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic showed exactly why radio shock-jocks do not belong in the announcing booth with their five billion random opinions.
Even if I don't have to endure the Mikes, putting up with Kornheiser might be enough for me to flip the channel. Then again, Mike Singletary will provide some unintentional comedy when he pulls Shaun Hill and goes into the game himself to play QB.
Cardinals 27, 49ers 21
Week Nine vs. Spread: 5-9
Week Nine Straight up: 8-6
Season vs. Spread: 73-55-2
Season straight up: 81-49
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