Jeffrey Flanagan gazes into his crystal ball and predicts the Week 9 winners in the NFL.
By JEFFREY FLANAGANFS Kansas City
LAST WEEK STRAIGHT UP: 8-6
LAST WEEK VS. SPREAD: 8-6
CHIEFS (+7.5) AT CHARGERS
Really a must-win for the
Chargers if they're going to keep pace with the Broncos, who seem on the verge of running away with the AFC West. The Chargers laid a disgusting egg at Cleveland, not able to score a touchdown. The Chiefs' defense hasn't been horrific, but it still has been a disappointment, forcing very few turnovers and very few game-changing plays. This might be the tonic that gets the Chargers' offense rolling again.
On the other side of the ball, it's a mismatch. The Chiefs' offense has only one identity – it's a turnover machine.
Matt Cassel is back on the job, by default, so pencil in at least three turnovers on a combination of fumbled snaps, fumbles on sacks, or picks. The Chargers likely will follow the Raiders' blueprint and stuff eight men in the box, forcing Cassel to throw.
No reason to see the Chiefs staying with the Chargers in this one.
Chargers 30, Chiefs 13
RAVENS (-3.5) AT BROWNS
Good time to have a bye week for the struggling and beat-up
Ravens. But this Browns team has been competitive all season and no reason to think they won't be again at home. This is a good matchup for the Browns, who like low-scoring defensive tussles. Ravens need this one too bad to let it slip away but it will be close.
Ravens 13, Browns 10
BRONCOS (-3.5) AT BENGALS
The Broncos are really playing follow the leader – as in Peyton Manning. What a difference he has made in the overall confidence of the Broncos, who are believing they are suddenly a Super Bowl contender. They dispose of the Bengals easily.
Broncos 27, Bengals 16
DOLPHINS (-2.5) AT COLTS
Big win for the Colts last week on the road and I'd love to pick them again at home. But the
Dolphins keep beating my brains out every time I pick against them. Not any more.
Dolphins 20, Colts 17
CARDINALS (+10.5) AT PACKERS
What an awful display the Cardinals put on at home on Monday night against San Fran. The
Packers have won three straight and one would think this is easy pickings for Green Bay. But the areas that the Cardinals can be exposed happen to be areas the Packers don't excel at – running the ball offensively and rushing the passer. The Packers are extremely short-handed on both sides of the ball and that will keep this close.
Packers 24, Cardinals 16
BILLS (+10.5) AT TEXANS
Texans are rested and ready to unload on the visiting Bills, who will get run out of the stadium.
Texans 34, Bills 10
PANTHERS (+3.5) AT REDSKINS
Panthers should have stole a win at Chicago and are really playing better than their 1-6 record. 'Skins got rolled over at Pittsburgh, proving they can't just win with one man – RG3. This will be a fun matchup between RG3 and
Cam Newton, who is going to want to show up the rookie and remind everyone that he was last year's RG3 in the NFL. Netwon plays well but his teammates let him down in the end.
Redskins 27, Panthers 24
BEARS (-3.5) AT TITANS
Just when you thought the Titans had found a little mojo...thud. They get beat at home by a rookie quarterback. The
Bears escaped with a win last week and should flex their muscles a little here.
Bears 24, Titans 17
LIONS (-3.5) AT JAGS
The Jags played with some heart at Green Bay last week but essentially got beat by a blocked punt. The
Lions finally got a much-needed win with a big rally against the Seahawks at home. One would think the Lions, who have post-season expectations, would get on a roll. But don't trust them. This could be a wild one with little defense.
Lions 41, Jags 38
VIKINGS (+4.5) AT SEAHAWKS
What a huge loss for both teams last week. But the thinking here is that the Vikings' nice little season is going to fade starting now. Tough place to play, although the Vikings can quiet the crowd with their superior ground game. Problem is, they may get down early and have to starting winging it. That will set the stage for a blowout.
Seahawks 27, Vikings 7
BUCS (+1.5) AT RAIDERS
Hard to believe, but the Raiders are just a game out of first in the AFC West. The main reason is they just don't play as dumb as they used to. They have a chance to get to .500 against a Tampa team that can be sneaky good. With both teams at 3-4, a pivotal game. A toss-up.
Raiders 26, Bucs 24
STEELERS (+3.5) AT GIANTS
Nice matchup here. The Steelers have righted their ship while the Giants seem to get their game up whenever they need to. The matchup itself is really pretty even with two Super Bowl quarterbacks duking it out. The difference will come down to the Giants' pass rush, which might hurry Big Ben into a big pick that decides it.
Giants 20, Steelers 16
COWBOYS (+4.5) AT FALCONS
A must-win for the Cowboys, who after overcoming a string of turnovers and a big deficit, took the lead on the Giants last week only to lose in the end by one inch –
Tony Romo's game-winning touchdown toss in the final seconds was overturned by replay when it was shown that the receiver had one toe on the white line. The
Falcons are good but the Cowboys give them a scare.
Falcons 31, Cowboys 27
EAGLES (+3.5) AT SAINTS
Michael Vick keeps his job for another week and has a great shot at redemption here against the awful
Saints' defense. This one comes down to motivation. The Saints pretty much know they're toast at 2-5. And while they're always dangerous, the Saints will not show heart if they get behind in the second half. The
Eagles have to win to keep their season alive and get back to .500. They play this like a playoff game and come out on top.