The heart of the Week 9 NFL schedule is about to get going, and I thought it would help to take a look at some of the pertinent storylines for the Sunday schedule. Additionally, I'll include who I am rooting for in these games.
Seahawks continue Greg Schiano's march to oblivion
The Seattle Seahawks play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Seahawks are coming off an ugly win over the St. Louis Rams on Monday Night Football. While the Seahawks have shown vulnerabilities, I feel like they could win comfortably over Tampa Bay, even if this was a road game. Instead, the Bucs have to come to Seattle as the Greg Schiano hot seat road tour continues. The Seahawks are 16 point favorites in this game, and I think they clear the spread with ease, and improve to 8-1.
Rooting interest: I'm rooting for the Bucs to pull it off, but I also don't mind seeing Greg Schiano take it on the chin in the continued efforts to get him out of the NFL.
Saints look to continue their winning ways
The New Orleans Saints have bounced back from an ugly 2012 season, showing just how valuable a coach can be. The 49ers did that when they hired Jim Harbaugh, but the Saints are putting on quite a display. They are 6-1, and everything seems to be clicking. The most important thing for the Saints might be their improved defense. It isn't spectacular, but they have been particularly effective stopping the pass. If the Saints can keep it up, they are a dangerous team in January.
Rooting interest: Of course, they are most dangerous if they're at home in the playoffs. For that reason, I'd be rooting for the Jets to pull off the upset. However, the 49ers travel to New Orleans in a couple weeks. I wouldn't mind the Saints getting a little fat and happy as that game approaches, and maybe a little overconfident. Nah...I would enjoy Rex Ryan getting the W over the Saints, and his brother Rob!
Can the Rams bounce back?
The St. Louis Rams lost a heart-breaker Monday night, coming within a few yards of an upset of the Seattle Seahawks. The loss dropped them to 3-5, and they now sit four games out of first place and two games back of the wild card. I'd say that matters, but with Kellen Clemens at quarterback, I don't think it really does. The Rams defense can be dangerous, and running back Zac Stacy is looking like a keeper, but Clemens is fairly abysmal. Teams can win with strong running and a strong defense, IF they have a decent quarterback. Clemens is not remotely good.
This game is not as tough as the Seahawks game, but the Titans are a tough opponent in their own right. They lost to Houston back in Week 2 when the Texans still seemed decent. They also lost to the Chiefs, the Seahawks and the 49ers. They haven't exactly been losing to cream-puffs. And the return of Jake Locker could get them right back in the thick of things. The Titans are two games back of the first-place Colts, and a game back of the second wild card leading Chargers.
Rooting interest: I'm pulling for the Rams in this one. They're not in good shape with the loss of Bradford, but I can pull for a strong NFC West performance in this one.
Can the Cowboys get back over .500?
The Dallas Cowboys are currently leading the NFC East with a 4-4 record. They face a tough second half schedule, but .500 could be enough to win this fairly hideous division. I am hoping to see the NFC East send out a 7-9 team in large part because I want to see if they get as much crap about hosting a playoff game as the NFC West did when the Seahawks were in that position. The Seahawks 7-9 record had people considering whether the league should change the playoff structure. If someone in the NFC East does that, will we get nearly as forceful an argument?
Rooting interest: Of course we're rooting against the Cowboys.
Can the Chiefs continue their run?
The Kansas City Chiefs are 8-0, and on the road facing the 3-5 Buffalo Bills. If the Chiefs pull this off, they will head into their bye with a 9-0 record. Their Week 11 matchup with the Denver Broncos has been flexed to Sunday Night Football. If the Broncos can win at San Diego next week (no easy task), they would head into that SNF contest at 8-1, and a game back of the Chiefs.
At this point, the Chiefs just need to split with Denver. But can the Chiefs keep this up and potentially put together a 15-1 or 14-2 season? After Buffalo and Denver, the Chiefs remaining schedule is as follows:
Week 12: vs. San Diego
Week 13: vs. Denver
Week 13: @ Washington
Week 13: @ Oakland
Week 13: vs. Indianapolis
Week 13: @ San Diego
Those road games won't be easy. The Colts are solid, but I like the Chiefs at Arrowhead the rest of the season. Can they go 2-1 or 3-0 in those three road games? They are continuing to win, but each week, I sort of wait for that other shoe to drop.
Rooting interest: The 49ers would benefit if the Chiefs lost their final eight games, but we know that won't happen. I'm happy just rooting for them to keep playing well. They can drop a playoff game to slide into a solid draft spot.
How hot will Carolina be heading into next week's game?
The Carolina Panthers host the Atlanta Falcons, looking to add to their current three-game winning streak. This game comes a week before Carolina heads west to face the 49ers. I like the 49ers chances with a little extra rest, but with a win, the Panthers could be flying pretty high coming into San Francisco. The Panthers are currently 4-3. They sit two games back of the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South, and a half game back of the Detroit Lions for the second wild card spot. These Panthers are playing great defense, and Cam Newton seems to be finding his groove as a quarterback.
Rooting interest: I have to admit, I'm rooting for the Panthers. I wouldn't mind seeing them stick a fork in the Falcons season. I mentioned wanting an overconfident Saints team for Week 11, so why not the same for the Panthers in Week 9?
Who are you rooting for today? If you're not sure what's showing in your area, check out 506sports.com.