Bears to playoffs? Eagles undefeated?


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The Philadelphia Eagles are the NFL’s only unbeaten team with the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings behind them with one loss apiece. The worst teams in the league are the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions, both of whom have one win. Suffice to say that parity is king in the NFL as the second half of the season gets underway. What surprises are in store? Are there any trends that set up teams for more promising (or worse) days ahead?

In the Week 9 roundtable, USA TODAY Sports‘ NFL experts weigh in with their bold predictions for the rest of the season.

49ers will win NFC West; Rams get a playoff wild card spot

These two teams have too much talent to be hovering around .500. The 49ers (4-4) have the top defense in the NFL. San Francisco’s offense is slated to get back Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell after the bye. Most importantly, the 49ers are routinely the most physical team on the field. That’s a recipe for success down the stretch.

When it comes to the Rams, I think Sean McVay, Matthew Stafford and the offense will eventually figure out how to be less dependent on Cooper Kupp. I expect the Rams (3-4) offensive line to jell a little better and their ground attack to moderately improve. If the Rams can get better in those areas, they’ll earn a playoff berth and have a chance to defend their Super Bowl title. — Tyler Dragon

Eagles won’t lose until Christmas Eve

The Eagles (7-0) were two-touchdown favorites entering Thursday night’s game against the Houston Texans and will be favored in every matchup for the rest of the season, most likely. They next host the Commanders, visit the Colts and then have a Sunday Night Football matchup against the Packers. On Dec. 4, they host the Titans and then face the Giants for the first time this season. If they can win both, and take care of business against the Bears on the road on Dec. 18, that will set them up to travel to Dallas for a Christmas Eve game against the Cowboys. The Dallas defense and quarterback Dak Prescott will play the role of Grinch, and the 1972 Miami Dolphins will finally pop that champagne. The Eagles certainly will have made them sweat. — Chris Bumbaca

Bears make a surprising playoff run

Things may not look so promising with the Bears sporting a 3-5 record and sitting four games behind the first-place Vikings in the NFC North. The main reason for optimism in Chicago is the recent run of improved play from quarterback Justin Fields. The second-year pro has accounted for seven TDs in the past four weeks – five passing and two rushing. He’s become more efficient over that span, and now has another dangerous weapon at his disposal with the acquisition of wide receiver Chase Claypool from Pittsburgh. The Bears’ upcoming schedule also looks favorable with matchups against the Dolphins on Sunday, then the two worst defenses in the NFL in Weeks 10 and 11 – the Lions and Falcons. In addition, Chicago will play six of its nine remaining games at home. A little momentum and confidence could go a long way. — Steve Gardner

Bills will go undefeated for the rest of the season

And if they do, they’ll be kicking themselves for their only loss of the season happening in Week 3 against Miami. Look, the Bills are the best team in the NFL this season even with Philadelphia’s undefeated start. Josh Allen is playing at an MVP level, while the defense is clicking on all cylinders. They might have a challenge against the Vikings on Nov. 13, and still have to play the pesky Patriots twice this season. But Buffalo has a favorable schedule down the stretch and will be favored to win each game, too. They’ll own the top seed in the playoffs in the AFC. — Safid Deen

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