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NFL picks 2016, Week 9: Experts expect Raiders to roll and Vikings to bounce back

Expect the Cowboys to tighten their grip on the NFC's top spot. After that, things get a bit dicey.

Only something as monumental as the return of one Jay Christopher Cutler can prove our panel of experts 100 percent wrong.

In the lead-up to Week 8, SB Nation's picks went 10-for-10 in support of the then-5-1 Vikings to roll through Soldier Field to an easy win over the 1-6 Bears. Then Cutler came back from his sprained thumb, united his teammates with an inspirational speechdoinked Alshon Jeffery in the head, and threw for 252 yards en route to a win as a 6-point underdog. The upset helped trash everyone's picks in a week when the median record was a middling 7-5-1.

The Bears didn't just mess up our panel's picks; they also added a touch of chaos to the top of the NFC mountain. Dallas stands alone at the top after handling Philadelphia for its sixth straight victory — a win seven of our 10 experts predicted.

Behind them, only two teams in the conference's top 11 notched wins to keep pace. The Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers all lost, making the race for the conference's wild card spots a total wreck. With nearly half the season in the bag, 13 of the NFC's 16 teams are either in line for a playoff berth or only a game away from one.

Our expert picks this week predict a return to stability. Philadelphia, Green Bay, and Minnesota are all favorites to get back into the win column and restore order to this lion's cage of a conference. They won't gain much ground, however; all 10 of our experts are choosing Dallas to cruise past Cleveland. That seems like a safe bet after the Browns blew a 20-7 halftime lead over a struggling Jets team in Week 8.

Teams across the AFC will have a chance to gain at least half a game on the Patriots, who are taking the week off after dismantling the Bills so hard Rex Ryan conceded the division. The AFC West will see a huge showdown when Oakland hosts Denver in a game where each team looks like the bizarro version of the other. Most of our writers think the the high-flying Raiders offense will be enough to cover its deficiencies on the other side of the ball. Only Joel Thorman sees a dominant Broncos defense holding strong to make people forget their quarterback is just three raccoons stacked inside a football uniform.

Elsewhere, the Baltimore Ravens are expected to upset the AFC North apple cart by holding serve at home over the Steelers. Pittsburgh will have to rely on Landry Jones to carry it to a win over a longtime rival if Ben Roethlisberger isn't ready to return this week. A loss would make the division wide open for the taking — for everyone but Cleveland.

We allow our panel of experts to change their picks for up to two games because of factors like a player's injury status. Changes to our picks have to be made by Friday, so check back then for any updates. (* notes a changed pick).

And as always, the OddsShark computer can be found here.

Here's the full slate of selections for the upcoming week (updated following Atlanta's Thursday night win):

Game RVB Stephen White Thomas George Jeanna Thomas Adam Stites Tyler Tynes Louis Bien Joel Thorman Fooch OddsShark computer
ATL vs TB TB ATL ATL ATL TB ATL ATL ATL ATL ATL
PIT vs BAL PIT* BAL PIT PIT BAL BAL PIT BAL BAL BAL
DAL vs CLE DAL DAL DAL DAL DAL DAL DAL DAL DAL DAL
JAX vs KC KC KC KC KC KC KC KC KC KC KC
NYJ vs MIA MIA MIA MIA MIA MIA MIA MIA MIA MIA MIA
NYG vs PHI PHI PHI NYG PHI PHI PHI PHI PHI NYG NYG
DET vs MIN DET MIN MIN MIN MIN MIN DET MIN MIN MIN
CAR vs LA CAR CAR CAR CAR LA CAR LA CAR LA LA
NO vs SF NO NO SF NO NO NO NO NO NO NO
TEN vs SD SD SD SD SD SD SD SD SD SD SD
IND vs GB GB IND GB GB GB GB GB GB GB GB
DEN vs OAK OAK OAK OAK OAK OAK OAK OAK DEN OAK OAK
BUF vs SEA SEA BUF SEA SEA SEA SEA SEA SEA SEA SEA
Last week 7-5-1 6-6-1 9-3-1 6-6-1 6-6-1 7-5-1 4-8-1 6-6-1 7-5-1 8-4-1
Overall record 65-53-2 68-50-2 71-47-2 68-50-2 66-52-2 62-56-2 64-54-2 73-45-2 60-58-2 71-47-2