NFL Week 9 Reaction: AFC stays tight as East, North favorites all win

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Eric Ebron (85) and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) celebrate a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

The AFC stayed interesting on Sunday as the top teams in the East and North won, keeping the division races tight as we head into the second half of the season. The East, effectively between Buffalo and Miami, went 2-0 against the NFC West, considered to be the best division in football, while the Ravens and Steelers both won in the North, adding additional pressure to their second meeting three weeks from now.

Bills’ offense shines, Dolphins come back in East

The Seahawks and Cardinals came into Sunday a combined 11-3 (one of those losses was when the two met), but both fell to AFC East opponents in Week 9. Seattle, considered to be a favorite in the NFC, knew they were in for a tough game as they traveled to face the division-leading Bills. But it was Buffalo who took full charge, led by quarterback Josh Allen, who finished 31-for-38 with 415 yards, three passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown. While still not the favorite, Allen certainly kept his name in the MVP conversation for at least another week as the Bills scored 44 points, their highest total in more than four years, to improve to a commanding 7-2.

The Dolphins began their game three hours later knowing that a loss would drop their chances of winning the division to just above zero. Playing away at a 5-2 Arizona team, they came back from down a touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter to take a 34-31 lead, and hung on when Arizona kicker Zane Gonzalez’s 49-yard field goal attempt missed short. The Dolphins remained undefeated in the Tagovailoa era and have now won four straight, sticking within a game and a half of the Bills.

Ravens dominate, Steelers survive in North

The North, too, stayed tight with Baltimore scoring 17 unanswered points in the second half to beat 5-2 Indianapolis 24-10. Their schedule doesn’t get any easier with the Patriots and Titans coming up followed by their crucial clash with the Steelers in Week 12, so this was an absolute must-win game against a tricky team, and their defense delivered the performance it needed to in order to keep Baltimore alive in the North. They figured that the Steelers would have no problem against the depleted Cowboys, and that staying two games back would be a best-case scenario.

But Dallas, it turned out, did give Pittsburgh a run for their money, even leading by ten points after three quarters. The Steelers then turned things around to go up 24-19 and had a chance to ice the game with a 4th and 1 from the Cowboys’ 15 with under a minute left. Rather than kick the field goal to go up by eight, Mike Tomlin went for it and the Cowboys made the stop, giving Garrett Gilbert a chance for the win in his first NFL start at the age of 29. Gilbert drove Dallas down the field, but the Steelers defense made a final-second stop for the second straight week to win the game.

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