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Week 9 NFL schedule: Top storylines and rooting guide

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We break down the big story lines in Week 9, and what to make of Sunday's schedule. The 49ers are back in action following their bye week, but there are still plenty of other games to consider. Who are we rooting for this week?

Norm Hall

Welcome back to another week of the NFL rooting guide. Last year, as the playoffs were approaching, we took a look at the many games on the schedule, and discussed rooting interests for pertinent games. The playoffs are a long ways off, but heading into Week 9, things are really starting to heat up. The San Francisco 49ers are back from their bye, but there is plenty of important football around them.

The Saints and Panthers already played. The Saints now hold what is technically less than a full game lead in the NFC South because of Carolina tie. Whatever the case, the Saints are 4-4, and the Panthers are 3-5-1. This was the Saints first road win of the season, so we'll see if the build some momentum from it.

Here is a rundown of games at least a little bit pertinent to the 49ers. Some have direct implications, while others are a bit more tangentially connected. Either way, I've included who I will be rooting for in the game. Feel free to offer your own suggestions. The games are ranked in order of importance as I see them.

1. Arizona Cardinals @ Dallas Cowboys

The Cardinals find themselves holding the best record in the NFC, and two games ahead of the 49ers and Seahawks. They are continuing to prove themselves, and they now have a Week 9 matchup that could tell us even more. The Cowboys are 6-2, and one of the bigger surprises in the league. Of course, the Cowboys are coming off a bad loss to Washington in which Tony Romo suffered a back injury. Early indications are that he will play, but you have to wonder how effective he will be. I picked Arizona to cover the 3.5-point spread (they're underdogs), but we'll see what Week 9 brings.

Fooch's Update: NFL Network is reporting Tony Romo will not play today.

Rooting interest: Cowboys (shower before and after this game!)

2. Oakland Raiders @ Seattle Seahawks

So we're supposed to root for the Cowboys AND the Raiders? What kind of life are we leading? The Raiders really have no chance in this game. I suppose miracles can happen, but I just don't see it. The 49ers and Seahawks are both heavy favorites, so we'll see if this week ends up just being a temporary push. Of course, the 49ers would still get an edge because it would be a divisional win and complete a sweep of one such team. I'll take that.

Rooting interest: Raiders

3. Philadelphia Eagles @ Houston Texans

The Eagles are a half game back of the Cowboys in the NFC East, with a game in hand once Dallas hits their bye. Right now, they are in the thick of the playoff chase with a handful of teams, including the 49ers. The Eagles hold the first wild card spot, a half game up on the Packers, and a full game up on the 49ers. I'm not overly concerned about how the NFC East shakes out. I'd rather just make sure a potential NFC wild card team takes one on the chin.

Rooting interest: Texans

4. Indianapolis Colts @ New York Giants

This is barely on the radar. The Giants are 3-4 and coming off a bye. They are a game back of the 49ers, a game and a half back of the currently sixth-seeded Packers, and two games back of the currently fifth-seeded Eagles. In reality, I'd be fine with the 49ers just sticking a fork in them in a couple weeks, but maybe the Colts can put a hurt on them first. I think the Giants will give the Colts a run for their money on Monday, but I'll be rooting for the Colts.

Rooting interest: Colts

Playoff standings

1. Arizona Cardinals (6-1)
2. Dallas Cowboys (6-2)
3. Detroit Lions (6-2)
4. New Orleans Saints (4-4)

5. Philadelphia Eagles (5-2)
6. Green Bay Packers (5-3)