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Wide open races shaping up in AFC North and NFC North and East

The National Football League season is at the halfway mark for many teams and division playoff races are starting to shape up. Some are starting to disintegrate, however.

With a Week Nine packed with meaningful games coming up, the NFL is looking at wide-open races in the AFC North, NFC North, NFC East and two-way battles between Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC West and the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers in the NFC South.

Playoff contenders Los Angeles Rams (8-0), Carolina Panthers (5-2), Washington Redskins (5-2) and Chicago Bears (4-3) all won their games on Sunday and the Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) perhaps kept themselves alive with a victory over the slumping Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5) in London. New England (5-2) and the Rams appear to in the driver’s seat in their divisions and surprisingly, the Houston Texans (5-3) are the only team in the AFC South with a winning record.

Rams at New Orleans, Pittsburgh at Baltimore and Green Bay at New England top of the list of games coming up this week.

A capsule look at Sunday’s games:

Game of the day

Saints 30, Vikings 20

The scoop: On a night when Drew Brees passed for only 120 yards and one touchdown, the New Orleans came up with huge plays that turned the game around between two NFC playoff contenders. Marshon Lattimore returned an Adam Thielen fumble 54 yards to set up the Alvin Kamara’s 1-yard run that put the Saints in front, 17-13, before halftime. A 45-yard interception return by P.J. Williams of the Saints broke it open in the third, making it 27-13.

Why the Saints won: They got enough offense from Brees and their running game to complement the big plays of the defense for a road victory that kept them one full game in front of Carolina in the NFC South standings.

Real serious contenders

Rams 29, Packers 27

The scoop: Los Angeles had to come back from deficits of 10-0 and 27-26 to stay undefeated before 75,822 in the L.A. Coliseum. Greg Zuerlein kicked a 34-yard field goal for the winner with 2:05 left after the Rams drove 24 yards in seven plays. They started from the Green Bay 40 after a 25-yard punt by JK Scott. A 23-yard run to the Green Bay 13 by Todd Gurley was the big play in the drive. After the FG, they recovered a fumbled kickoff by Ty Montgomery and ran out the clock.

Why the Rams won: They moved the ball consistently, with at least one first down in all but one of their 13 possessions. Green Bay, on the other hand, went three-and-out three times including its last possession before the winning field goal.

Chiefs 30, Broncos 23

The scoop: Kansas City won for the 19th time in its last 21 games against AFC West opposition. Patrick Mahomes passed for four Chiefs touchdowns, bringing his season total to 26. One was a 1-yard shuttle pass which RB Kareem Hunt turned into a sensational 23-yard play, hurdling a Denver defender. KC’s league-worst defense gave up 411 yards but sacked Case Keenum five times for 40 yards and had one interception.

Why the Chiefs won: They scored all their points on their first six series and almost allowed Denver back into the game by producing one turnover, just two first downs and 29 total yards after that.

Steelers 33, Browns 18

The scoop: Cleveland scored on its first possession for the first time this season and built a 6-0 lead before two Ben Roethlisberger TD passes to Antonio Brown put Pittsburgh on top, 14-6, at halftime. The Browns closed to 16-12 on the first of two Baker Mayfield TD passes before the Steelers scored the next 17.

Why the Steelers won: They gained 421 yards and limited Cleveland to only 74 on the ground.

Panthers 36, Ravens 21

The scoop: Carolina scored 27 unanswered points after falling behind 7-0 and handled the Ravens with surprising ease. Cam Newton passed for two touchdowns, Christian McCaffrey ran 11 yards for a score and Graham Gano kicked field goals from 54 and 44 during the Carolina scoring run. Newton had 271 total yards, 52 rushing and 219 passing.

Why the Panthers won: Baltimore turned the ball over three times, two Joe Flacco interceptions and an Alex Collins fumble.

Redskins 20, Giants 13

The scoop: Adrian Peterson scored on a pass reception for the first time since 2013 and ran 64 yards for a fourth-quarter TD that broke the Giants’ backs. New York’s only touchdown came with 17 seconds left.

Why the Redskins won: They sacked Manning seven times and intercepted him twice. Matt Ioannidis had 2.5 sacks for the Redskins.

On the bubble

Seahawks 28, Lions 14

The scoop: Seattle, coming off its bye week, won its fourth in a row as Russell Wilson passed for three touchdowns in the second quarter. That was after the Lions had taken a 7-0 lead on a 39-yard pass from Matt Stafford to Marvin Jones Jr. Seattle had three long TD drives and one for 34 after Ameer Abdullah fumbled a kickoff return.

Why the Seahawks won: Matt Stafford of the Lions turned the ball over three times, once on an interception on first-and-goal from the Seattle 4 after an 87-yard drive.

Bengals 37, Buccaneers 34

The scoop: Only the Buccaneers could roll up 29 first downs and 576 yards and lose. They rallied from a 34-16 deficit to tie the game before losing on a 44-yard Randy Bullock field goal on the last play of regulation. Andy Dalton moved the Bengals into position to win it by completing passes for 23 and 11 yards to A.J. Green

Why the Bengals won: Jameis Winston threw four interceptions and was sacked five times. Ryan Fitzpatrick took over, passed for two scores and was not sacked at all in a little more than a quarter of action.

Bears 24, Jets 10

The scoop: Even with Khalil Mack (ankle) still out, the Bears were able to throttle the Jets’ ground game. New York running backs gained only 35 yards in 19 attempts. Sam Darnold passed for the only Jets touchdown, hitting rookie tight end Christopher Herndon IV for a TD for the third game in a row.

Why the Bears won: Mitchell Trubisky had a productive day 210 passing yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers and 51 yards rushing.

Eagles 24, Jaguars 18

The scoop: Carson Wentz passed 32 yards to rookie tight end Dallas Goedert to give the Eagles their first lead, 10-6 with 29 seconds left in the first half in London. They led the rest of the way with Wentz passing for two more Philadelphia touchdowns.

Why the Eagles won: Jacksonville settled for Josh Lambo field goals on four of the five times it entered Philadelphia territory.

Colts 42, Raiders 28

The scoop: Adam Vinatieri became the NFL’s all-time scoring leader with two field goals and four extra points in the Colts victory. He went into the game needing five points to pass Hall of Famers Morton Andersen’s 2,544 total. He kicked an extra point with 8:21 left in the first quarter and tied Andersen with a 26-yard field goal on the last play of the first. His second field goal, with 26 seconds left in the half, made him the new NFL scoring king with 2,547 points. He added three points in the second half for 2,550.

Why the Colts won: After leading, 10-0, early they scored the last three touchdowns of the game in the fourth quarter. The scores came on two runs by Marlon Mack and an Andrew Luck pass to Jack Doyle.

Dog of the day

Cardinals 18, 49ers 15

The scoop: QB Josh Rosen passed 9 yards to rookie Christian Kirk for the winning touchdown
with 34 seconds left, his second TD pass of the game.

Why the Cards won: Trailing 12-3 early in the fourth quarter, they held the Niners to a field goal. Then the two Rosen touchdown passes won it.

News wire services contributed to this report.

 

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