NFL Week 9 takeaways: Panthers, Steelers pick up division wins

An undrafted quarterback lit up the Raiders on Thursday night, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers held off the Ravens in an AFC North showdown, the Panthers picked up a big NFC South win, and the Vikings cruised past the Lions behind the return of Dalvin Cook.

All that and more in Week 9’s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.

Teams with byes in Week 9: CIN, IND, NYG, PHI, ARI, JAX

Pittsburgh Steelers 23, Baltimore Ravens 16

The Steelers have to be pleased with the state of their defense after outmuscling the Ravens for a fourth consecutive win. Despite looking unorganized to start the season, Pittsburgh hasn’t allowed more than 21 points in a game since September and held Baltimore to field goals on three of its four red zone trips. “We’ve found our rhythm, everyone’s healthy, and we’re showing what kind of defense we can be,” corner Mike Hilton said. The Steelers will find out more about their defense Thursday against Cam Newton and the Panthers. — Jeremy Fowler

The Ravens enter the bye week with coach John Harbaugh squarely on the hot seat. Baltimore (4-5) has dropped three straight and fell three games back of the AFC North-leading Steelers in the loss column. Is Harbaugh worried about his 11-year run with the Ravens? “I’ve never been somebody that ever worried about keeping a job. It’s always been, for me, dealing with a job,” Harbaugh said. “Never been any regrets here with me. We’ll keep fighting.” — Jamison Hensley

Kansas City Chiefs 37, Cleveland Browns 21

The Chiefs can again count on big things from Kareem Hunt. After a slow start to the season, Hunt has emerged as a consistent threat. That should continue through the second half of the season. As coach Andy Reid has said, Hunt is playing as well as any back in the league, though he might not have the stats to prove it. He gets the Arizona run defense next week. — Adam Teicher

Attrition is starting to take a toll on the Browns. The team lost two corners to the Chiefs, and have injuries to their top three (Terrance Mitchell, Denzel Ward and E.J. Gaines), with Matt Ryan and the high-powered Falcons offense up next. Cleveland also has injuries to two starting linebackers, as a 2-6-1 season trudges slowly forward. — Pat McManamon

Minnesota Vikings 24, Detroit Lions 9

The Vikings defense has performed at a different level since getting dragged up and down the field by the Rams in Week 4. Mike Zimmer admitted Sunday that Minnesota had to change a lot of what they were doing schemewise, “because we’re good at what we did, people are copying it.” Those changes paid off in a big way during Minnesota’s last five games, including sacking Matthew Stafford 10 times, a new franchise record. These types of defensive performances will be important down the stretch when the Vikings face Mitchell Trubisky, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson after their bye week. — Courtney Cronin

It was a day Stafford will want to forget. His offensive linemen, too. Stafford was sacked 10 times — and hit a total of 17 times — in a loss that was alarming for many reasons. The Lions have been beaten soundly in back-to-back weeks, a major concern with four consecutive games against over-.500 teams waiting for them the rest of November into December. — Michael Rothstein

Carolina Panthers 42, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28

Second-year wide receiver Curtis Samuel summed up where the Panthers believe they’re headed when he talked about his 33-yard touchdown run on a double-reverse that was measured at 103.9 yards of running. “I’m telling you, I’ve got a bunch left. I’ve got a bunch more left,” he said. The 6-2 Panthers are just hitting their stride as they prepare for a Thursday night game at Pittsburgh. The offensive explosion along with the defense that has top-10 potential should put them in the conversation with the Saints and Rams as top contenders in the NFC. — David Newton

For three weeks now, the Bucs have not been able to put two consistent halves together. Ryan Fitzpatrick was under duress and overcame a rough start to make it a one-score game in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough. At 3-5, the Bucs are now in sole possession of last place in the NFC South, and unless this defense does something miraculous, that won’t change. Tampa Bay gets Washington in Week 10. — Jenna Laine

Atlanta Falcons 38, Washington Redskins 14

The 4-4 Falcons, now riding a three-game win streak, are playing confident again thanks to their high-powered offense, with Matt Ryan putting up MVP-type numbers. They accumulated 491 yards against a Redskins defense that had allowed 322.4 yards per game entering the contest. If the offense keeps clicking, the Falcons certainly should be in the playoff hunt. — Vaughn McClure

The Redskins’ three-game win streak ends. The good news for Washington’s defense is that it has played well most of the season — save for two 24-point losses. If the Redskins can make teams one-dimensional, they’ll be OK. They failed to do that vs. the Saints or the Falcons this season. They travel to Tampa Bay in Week 10. — John Keim

Chicago Bears 41, Buffalo Bills 9

The Bears’ defense came up with four takeaways and two touchdowns in a game they had to win. Although Khalil Mack’s return to Buffalo ended up a non-story, the Bears’ defense had its second consecutive solid performance without their star pass-rusher. With Mack presumably back in the fold soon, the Bears are a dangerous team with three straight division games on the horizon. — Jeff Dickerson

Nathan Peterman threw three more interceptions Sunday but did so on 49 passes, lowering his career interception rate (including playoffs) from 11.9 percent to 9.8 percent. He wasn’t at fault for at least one of his interceptions — a pass that newly signed receiver Terrelle Pryor bobbled — and it would be generally unfair to pin all of the Bills’ offensive struggles on the quarterbacks. Any discussion about Buffalo’s inept offense should include LeSean McCoy, who has rushed 24 times for 24 yards over the past three games, raising questions about whether the Bills made the right move in keeping him at the trade deadline. — Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins 13, New York Jets 6

The Dolphins didn’t fix their offensive problems, but did show signs that their defense could get healthy against struggling opponents. Defensive coordinator Matt Burke challenged the defense this week to play within the scheme and stop freelancing, and it did, but the disappearance of Reshad Jones now raises more questions. It’s too early to write off the Dolphins’ playoff hopes, even though their schedule gets tougher with a trip to Green Bay next week. — Cameron Wolfe

Next week’s game against the Bills should be a rip-roaring game. Will anybody score? The Jets have scored only 33 points in the past three games, including a six-point stinker on Sunday. Sam Darnold (four INTs) is regressing, as his rookie growing pains have reached acute status. — Rich Cimini

San Francisco 49ers 34, Oakland Raiders 3

Whether Nick Mullens’ excellent debut was more a product of his performance or the horrible Raiders defense doesn’t really matter at this point, though there’s probably a little of both, with credit to Kyle Shanahan for an excellent game plan. What does matter is the Niners have been losing games in repeated, frustrating fashion, and there’s a real case to be made that Mullens should start against the Giants on Nov. 12. — Nick Wagoner

Showing no signs of life, and with Derek Carr pulled from the game for his own safety, the Raiders were absolutely humiliated by their Bay Area rivals behind a rookie undrafted quarterback making his first career start. But they might have also won … the derby for the Nick Bosa in next year’s draft. If you cannot get up for this game, the final Battle of the Bay, then who, exactly, are you going to get up for in the seasons’ final eight games? Yes, 1-15 is out there, as is that No. 1 overall pick. And with Raiders nemesis Philip Rivers and the Chargers — along with a potentially healthy Joey Bosa rushing the quarterback — on the horizon, this figures to get even uglier. — Paul Gutierrez

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