Someone smart a long time ago once said, "Rest and be thankful."
The Bears and Colts both got their rest with their byes in Week 8. The Colts were plenty thankful after beating the Broncos going into that off week, while the Bears took one on the chin from the Redskins.
They share a common situation in Week 9 – they're both on the road in prime time playing against teams that were expected to win their divisions. But the Colts are ahead in the AFC South and travel to play a disappointing Texans team, while the Bears head to Green Bay right about where they were expected to be – in the hunt, but on the outside looking in at the Packers.
The Colts can basically take the Texans out of the playoffs with a win – and that would give Houston six straight losses, which is nearly unfathomable for a team with a ton of talent on paper. But with only 61 points in their five straight losses, the Texans are playing worse than anyone in the NFL, and the Colts should dominate.
The Bears are in a ton of trouble, and if there's a sense of deja vu over their playoff hopes for you, you're not alone.
With no Jay Cutler this week at the very least, and no Lance Briggs for the next month or more, the Bears already have a rough road. Now stick them in Green Bay, where the Packers have won 11 straight – and have not just played well offensively with Aaron Rodgers, but have been great on defense, too. And then factor in Rodgers' dominance in prime time, and this one may be over before it gets started.
I was at first sad that I'd miss this game to see a Macklemore concert instead. But after looking a little deeper, maybe I'd even rather be at a thrift shop than watch what could be a big ol' mess.
Atlanta (2-5) +7.5 (43.5) at Carolina (4-3)
MattE's pick: Panthers 27, Falcons 20
Minnesota (1-6) +10 (47.5) at Dallas (4-4)
MattE's pick: Cowboys 31, Vikings 17
New Orleans (6-1) -6 (45.5) at N.Y. Jets (4-4)
MattE's pick: Saints 34, Jets 20
Tennessee (3-4) -3 (39.5) at St. Louis (3-5)
MattE's pick: Rams 26, Titans 23
Kansas City (8-0) -3 (40.5) at Buffalo (3-5)
MattE's pick: Chiefs 24, BIlls 20
San Diego (4-3) pick'em (50.5) at Washington (2-5)
MattE's pick: Redskins 27, Chargers 23
Philadelphia (3-5) +2.5 (45) at Oakland (3-4)
MattE's pick: Eagles 28, Raiders 24
Tampa Bay (0-7) +16 (40.5) at Seattle (7-1)
MattE's pick: Seahawks 37, Bucs 13
Baltimore (3-4) -2.5 (41) at Cleveland (3-5)
MattE's pick: Ravens 26, Browns 13
Pittsburgh (2-5) +6.5 (44) at New England (6-2)
MattE's pick: Patriots 27, Steelers 20
COLTS (5-2) -2.5 (44.5) at Houston (2-5)
MattE's pick: Colts 31, Texans 17
BEARS (4-3) +11 (50.5) at Green Bay (5-2)
MattE's pick: Packers 37, Bears 17
Last week: 9-4 straight up, 6-7 against the spread. Season: 77-42 (.647) straight up, 61-54-4 (.530) against the spread.
Matt Erickson is an award-winning journalist whose NFL picks have appeared in The Times for 12 seasons. He covers mixed martial arts for The Times and is assistant MMA editor for USA Today and MMAjunkie.com.