Some teams have title aspirations. Some teams aim for a spot in the playoffs. For others, the promising play of their rookies is all they’re looking for.
And on Sunday, there was something for everyone, with most going home with signs of hope.
So here’s everything you need to know from Sunday’s games in Week 9 of the NFL season.
A historic rookie performance and a running back kicker?
Before Sunday, unless you were a fan of either team, you might not have picked the clash between the Houston Texans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers as one of the games of the week.
Both were 3-4 heading into the showdown and, while both had reasons for optimism, it is a rebuilding year for the pair.
However, the clash at NRG Stadium was full of highlights, from a historic rookie performance to an unlikely hero.
The main storyline was yet another standout, first-year performance from Houston QB CJ Stroud, who etched himself into the NFL record books thanks to his output in the Texans’ 39-37 win.
The No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft showed all the traits you want from a franchise quarterback – poise, mobility and accuracy – as he helped lead Houston to an impressive victory, one which included a game-winning, fourth-quarter drive resulting in a Tank Dell touchdown.
Stroud finished with 30-of-42 passing for 470 yards and five touchdowns, breaking the single-game passing record for a rookie.
The 22-year-old easily broke the record previously held by former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck who threw for 433 yards back in Week 9 in 2012 against the Miami Dolphins.
He also became the only rookie in NFL history with 400-plus passing yards, four passing touchdowns and zero interceptions in a game.
“It’s a blessing,” Stroud said of his records. “The humble me, I mean, I’m going to try to celebrate it tonight. After that, I’m on to Cincinnati. But it’s a blessing. I put in a lot of work throughout the week, and the guys know that. They see it.”
Stroud’s excellence saw the Texans record an impressive victory, one which saw three receivers with 100-plus receiving yards and at least one touchdown, the first time in franchise history three players had more than 100 receiving yards in a single game, per the NFL.
Dell, Noah Brown and Dalton Schultz all benefited from Stroud’s excellence, in particular Dell, who continues to have a breakthrough first year in the NFL.
The other major talking point from Sunday’s game in the Lone Star State came when a player stepped up just as his team needed him most.
After Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn was ruled out in the first half because of a quad injury, it left a glaring hole in the team’s ability to kick field goals or extra points.
And while the team often elected to attempt two-point conversions after touchdowns following Fairbairn’s exit, they had an unlikely hero midway through the second half.
Texans running back Dare Ogunbowale stepped up midway through the fourth quarter, with the score tied, and kicked a 29-yard field goal to give his team the lead.
The moment sparked mass celebrations on the Houston sideline, including a wry smile from first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans.
Ogunbowale handled the team’s kickoffs for the rest of the game, with his first ever attempt going 61 yards to the Tampa Bay four-yard line.
As a result of his fourth quarter field goal, Ogunbowale became the first non-kicker or punter to attempt a field goal since Wes Welker in 2004 and the first running back to attempt and make a field goal in a game since Tony Galbreath of the New Orleans Saints in 1979.
All in all, plenty to talk about from Houston’s impressive victory.
NFC East rivals serve up a show
Clashes between NFC East teams haven’t always delivered in recent years, despite their traditional primetime slots.
However, with two genuine superpowers in the division, this season is a different story.
Both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys have aspirations of winning the Lombardi Trophy this year, with the Eagles coming within minutes of doing so last year.
The pair have already showed why they’re predicted to go far this year, with some excellent displays in the opening weeks of the season.
But in the two teams’ first outing against each other this year, it was the Eagles who came out victorious, beating the Cowboys, 28-23.
It was Philadelphia’s quarterback Jalen Hurts – battling an injury he suffered in the second quarter – who proved the difference maker with some excellent throws to the Eagles’ star-studded receiving core.
Both AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith caught touchdown passes, while Hurts and Kenneth Gainwell ran for one apiece.
The Cowboys will return to Texas with their heads held high though, more than holding their own against last season’s Super Bowl runners-up.
They had many positives from Sunday’s game – between quarterback Dak Prescott’s display (374 yards and three touchdowns) and the defense’s impact – but as has been the case for years now, it was close but no cigar for ‘America’s Team.’
“It’s a game of inches and we came up an inch or two short on a couple of plays,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “It’s the ebb and flow of a football game.”
The Eagles improve to 8-1 while the Cowboys fall to 5-3 before a Week 14 rematch between the two.
Contenders show title credentials
Elsewhere, with the season approaching its halfway point, the title contenders are beginning to make themselves known.
Week 9 was exhibit A with some of the league’s powerhouses once again reiterating their Super Bowl aspirations.
It began with the Kansas City Chiefs who, facing the high-flying Miami Dolphins in Frankfurt, Germany, bounced back from a disappointing Week 8 loss to win 21-14.
The Chiefs raced into a 21-point lead at halftime but allowed Miami to make a second-half comeback attempt, only for the Florida team to fall short in the fourth quarter.
Kansas City improved to 7-2 and remains atop the AFC standings, while the Dolphins slip to 6-3 on the year.
Later, the Baltimore Ravens continued their excellent start to the season, thrashing the Seattle Seahawks, 37-3.
Baltimore already dominated the Detroit Lions at home in Week 7, and they knocked off another playoff hopeful on Sunday, easing past Seattle in impressive fashion.
It was the Ravens’ running attack which did the most damage, rushing for 298 yards compared to Seattle’s 28.
Undrafted rookie Keaton Mitchell ran for 138 yards and a touchdown, despite having not had a carry before the game against the Seahawks, as Baltimore routinely dissected its opposition.
Gus Edwards ran for two more touchdowns and the Ravens were able to bench starting quarterback Lamar Jackson towards the end of the game, such was the margin of victory.
The Ravens improve to 7-2 while the Seahawks slip to 5-3.
And finally, on Sunday Night Football, the Cincinnati Bengals continued their impressive bounceback this season as they beat the Buffalo Bills 24-18.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow – who had been hobbled with a calf injury earlier in the season but appears fully healthy now – threw for a season-high 348 yards and two touchdowns to nab Cincinnati’s fourth consecutive win.
Although he suffered a bloody index finger on his throwing hand in the game, it didn’t dissuade Burrow from carving up the Bills, once again showing why he’s one of the most destructive quarterbacks in the NFL.
After a disappointing start to the season, Cincinnati is back amongst the title favorites, with Burrow back in full flow.
“This is only game eight. We still got nine games left. We’re 5-3 right now, we’re in a great spot,” Burrow said afterwards. “Just got to continue to get better.”
Full Week 9 Sunday scores
Away vs. home
Miami Dolphins 14-21 Kansas City Chiefs
Minnesota Vikings 31-28 Atlanta Falcons
Seattle Seahawks 3-37 Baltimore Ravens
Arizona Cardinals 0-27 Cleveland Browns
Los Angeles Rams 3-20 Green Bay Packers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 37-39 Houston Texans
Washington Commanders 20-17 New England Patriots
Chicago Bears 17-24 New Orleans Saints
Indianapolis Colts 27-13 Carolina Panthers
New York Giants 6-30 Las Vegas Raiders
Dallas Cowboys 23-28 Philadelphia Eagles
Buffalo Bills 18-24 Cincinnati Bengals