With the NFL season reaching the halfway point at Week 9, it's time to start thinking about the playoff picture. Four teams remain undefeated at this juncture, and our NFL experts at SB Nation strongly favor three of them to win this week.
Thursday Night Football features an AFC North clash between the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. The Bengals knocked off the Pittsburgh Steelers to all but wrap up the division title race. At 7-0, Cincinnati is four games ahead of the second-place Steelers, while the 2-6 Browns are scuffling through another lost season. In addition, quarterback Josh McCown is expected to miss the game with a shoulder injury, forcing Johnny Manziel into the start on a short week. Our experts don't expect much drama here — it's a clean sweep for Cincy across the board.
The biggest game of the week takes place in Charlotte when the 7-0 Carolina Panthers take on the 6-1 Green Bay Packers. Green Bay fell from the ranks of the undefeated last Sunday night when they got suffocated by the Denver Broncos. Aaron Rodgers couldn't get anything going on offense, throwing for just 77 passing yards against Denver's ferocious defense. He won't have an easier time against Carolina, but the Panthers have to be concerned about closing out games after blowing a 23-6 lead to the Indianapolis Colts, eventually winning in overtime. There is no consensus on this one, with the experts split even at 4-4.
By contrast, there is much more confidence in the 7-0 New England Patriots' chances when they host 3-4 Washington at Gillette Stadium. Tom Brady and company are steamrolling all challengers and show no signs of slowing down, in addition to getting 10 days rest coming off a Thursday night game. Nobody on our panel was bold enough to pick Washington in this one.
The final undefeated team kicks off at 4:25 p.m. ET, with the 7-0 Denver Broncos taking on the 3-5 Indianapolis Colts on the road. With the Colts in disarray, and after they fired offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton on Tuesday, Peyton Manning's homecoming to Indianapolis could get ugly in a hurry. Once again, our experts were unanimous in picking the Broncos.
Here are the complete predictions for Week 9. Note that these picks are straight-up, not against the spread.
|Week 9||Ryan Van Bibber||Stephen White||Joel Thorman||David Fucillo||Danny Kelly||Matt Ufford||PFT Commenter||OddsShark|
|CLE vs CIN||CIN||CIN||CIN||CIN||CIN||CIN||CIN||CIN|
|GB vs CAR||GB||CAR||GB||CAR||GB||CAR||GB||CAR|
|WAS vs NE||NE||NE||NE||NE||NE||NE||NE||NE|
|TEN vs NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO||NO|
|MIA vs BUF||BUF||BUF||MIA||BUF||BUF||MIA||MIA||BUF|
|STL vs MIN||MIN||MIN||MIN||MIN||STL||STL||MIN||MIN|
|JAX vs NYJ||NYJ||NYJ||NYJ||NYJ||NYJ||NYJ||NYJ||NYJ|
|OAK vs PIT||PIT||PIT||PIT||PIT||PIT||PIT||OAK||OAK|
|NYG vs TB||NYG||TB||NYG||TB||TB||NYG||NYG||TB|
|ATL vs SF||ATL||ATL||ATL||ATL||ATL||ATL||ATL||ATL|
|DEN vs IND||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN|
|PHI vs DAL||PHI||PHI||DAL||DAL||PHI||PHI||PHI||DAL|
|CHI vs SD||CHI||SD||CHI||SD||SD||CHI||CHI||SD|
And here are the season records to date.
|Ryan Vin Bibber||Stephen White||Joel Thorman||David Fucillo||Danny Kelly||Matt Ufford||PFT Commenter||OddsShark|
Our panel consists of: David Fucillo, SB Nation's fantasy guru; Danny Kelly, SB Nation NFL contributor; PFT Commenter, SB Nation's hot takes expert; Joel Thorman, SB Nation NFL blogs manager; Matt Ufford, editorial producer; Ryan Van Bibber, SB Nation's NFL editor; and Stephen White, retired NFL defensive end and SB Nation NFL contributor.
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SB Nation presents: NFL Week 9 power rankings