Analysis

Spoiler Alert, Week 9: Niners stun Falcons; first loss for Panthers

We've got a six pack of Week 9 monster matchups for a gaggle of teams whose playoff aspirations have already been relegated to the wild-card slots:

Somewhere between Thanksgiving and New Year's, the significance of these games will be better realized. But now that we're in November, there's no time like the present to try and make some sense of things:

In the AFC ...

If the Jags win and Colts lose, Jacksonville would move to 3-5 and be in first place in the AFC South, along with the Texans (who have a bye this week). The Jets would fall to 4-4, which would drop them into a tie with the winner of the Miami-Buffalo game -- the loser of which will become a playoff long shot. Why? Because whoever loses the Raiders-Steelers bout will still be ahead of that 3-5 team.

Then again ...

The Jets retain the top wild-card slot with a victory over the Jags, while the sixth seed would be rented for at least a week by whoever wins in Pittsburgh on Sunday. The Steelers could be 5-4 and (pending the result of that JAX-NYJ game) slotted as either the fifth or sixth seed.

However ...

At 5-3, the Raiders would take over the fifth seed no matter what the Jets do, thanks to last week's head-to-head win in Oakland. By the by, if the Colts were to beat Denver, the Raiders would be two games back in the AFC West race. At that point, would it be wholly unreasonable to think they could catch the Broncos? (Probably ... but still something to think about.)

Assuming the Raiders and Jets win ...

Pittsburgh will be in real trouble. At 4-5, the Steelers would have to be three games better than Oakland over the remainder of the season to get past the team that hypothetically beat them in Week 9. With no head-to-head with the Jets, the Steelers would still need a minimum of two more wins than New York gets the rest of the way. By the by, the Chiefs have won two straight and are lurking at 3-5 with a head-to-head win over Pittsburgh.

In the NFC ...

The East is a joke. After their loss in that NOLA shootout last Sunday, the .500 Giants are now just a half-game up on 3-4 Philly and Washington. Now, New York needs to win in Tampa or Big Blue will be a half-game behind the Bucs in the wild-card standings.

Then again ...

The Giants can hold onto first place even with a loss this week, so long as Washington (in Foxborough) and Philly (in Dallas) both lose. If the latter result comes to pass, the Cowboys would be 3-5 with a good shot at the division crown pending the healthy return of Tony Romo sooner rather than later. No matter what, though, it appears second place in the 2015 East gets you nothing more than a set of steak knives.

Of course ...

If the Vikes beat St. Louis, they'll be 6-2. Meanwhile, the Packers will either be 7-1 or 6-2 by the end of their visit to Charlotte this weekend. Don't put it past Mike Zimmer's gang to win the North, which of course would drop the Pack into the wild-card chase. Bad news for them, but worse for the other would-be wild-card contenders.

That's because ...

Neither Minnesota (with a win vs. STL) nor Green Bay (even assuming a loss to Carolina) is likely to slide outside the NFC's top six, which would leave just one wild-card slot available. The Falcons appear to be in good shape.

Unless ...

Atlanta loses to Blaine Gabbert. Laugh it up, but the Falcons have been pretty lousy the last month and are banged up as they make the cross-country trip to San Francisco. If they were to drop this one, Dan Quinn's gang could be only a game up on the Saints, who own a head-to-head win. Even with a "W," the Falcons would be just a half-game ahead of the Vikes (assuming MIN wins).

However ...

A Rams win in Week 9 makes them 5-3 and no worse than the sixth seed (pending the Atlanta result) with Minnesota right on their heels at 5-3. And the Saints can jump into the back half of the chase by getting to 5-4 with a home win over lowly Tennessee.

And we'd be remiss if we didn't mention ...

The reigning two-time NFC champion Seahawks, who sit an uneasy 4-4 while on their bye in Week 9. By the time they get back, the 'Hawks could be two games back of the second wild card and behind as many as three other teams on the outside of the playoff picture.

So yeah, Week 9 means a lot. Let's get to the forecast.

WARNING: Do NOT continue reading if you don't want to know the final scores of the Week 9 games.

(1-0 this week, 12-2 last week, 74-45 on the season)


DOLPHINS 20
BILLS 30

R. Tannehill: 2 INTs
T. Taylor: 2 TDs pass, TD rush


PACKERS 24
PANTHERS 18

D. Adams: 50-yd TD rec
T. Ginn: 25-yd TD rec


RAMS 23
VIKES 21

T. Gurley: 110 yds, TD
A. Peterson: 95 yds, TD


'SKINS 17
PATS 27

P. Garcon: 80 yds, TD
R. Gronkowski: 100 yds, TD


TITANS 26
SAINTS 30

D. Green-Beckham: 140 yds, 2 TDs
B. Cooks: 120 yds, 2 TDs


JAGS 19
JETS 17

J. Cyprien: 20-yd INT TD
C. Ivory: 120 yds, TD


RAIDERS 20
STEELERS 27

A. Cooper: 130 yds, TD
A. Brown: 135 yds, 2 TDs


FALCONS 23
NINERS 26

J. Jones: 150 yds, TD
B. Gabbert: 2 TDs, 2 INTs


GIANTS 28
BUCS 24

O. Beckham: 2 TDs
M. Evans: 2 TDs


BRONCOS 20
COLTS 17

V. Davis: 15-yd TD rec
D. Allen: 75 yds, 2 TDs


EAGLES 22
COWBOYS 29

D. Murray: 90 yds, TD
DAL D: 6 sacks


BEARS 23
CHARGERS 27

A. Jeffery: 100 yds, TD
D. Woodhead: 120 yds/scrimmage, 2 TDs


Enjoy Week 9! I hope your team wins (unless they're playing my team).

Follow Dave Dameshek on Twitter @Dameshek.

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