Key Match-Ups Of Week 9

A comeback that fell just a field goal short... as the mortal St. Louis Rams suffered their first defeat of the season, losing to the Tennessee Titans 24-21. Hope... as the BrownsÂ' 56-yard miracle touchdown gave Cleveland and the fans their first win as a new franchise. Revenge... as Seattle's new coach Mike Holmgren showed who is boss -- handing his former team the Green Bay Packers a beating at Lambeau field Monday night 27-7.

A topsy-turvy season came into clearer focus Week 8. While teams work to keep the momentum flowing into pivotal Week 9 – all will be overshadowed by the loss of NFL great Walter Payton. Sports takes a look at the key match-ups of this important Week 9.

Rams vs. Lions

The Lions (5-2) have already matched their win total for all last season. Remarkably, they have done it without Barry Sanders and Herman Moore.

Coach Bobby Ross has his team working like a well-oiled machine. But this week that machine will be put to serious work – trying to remain on top of the NFC Central. Up to last week the Rams (6-1) have been winning. But who have they really played? With wins over injured San Francisco, Atlanta, Cleveland etc… this team will surely find out what they are made of in Week 9.

An offensive match-up will be decided on the defense – where Detroit has the home field and the edge.

Colts' Peyton Manning will try to figure out the Chiefs.

Chiefs vs. Colts

Let the shootout begin. Two high-powered offenses get together on the ColtsÂ' (5-2) turf. Kansas City (5-2) scored 34 points last week against one of the NFLÂ's top defenses, the San Diego Chargers (4-3) – while giving up zero points on defense.

Indianapolis outscored the Cowboys 34-24. And this week they will have to do much of the same. The only difference is, Kansas City quarterback Elvis Grback and receiver Derrick Alexander can still move... unlike the beaten-up Cowboys. Look for this game to be decided on one possession. Because I donÂ't feel the Chiefs can contain Peyton Manning and his high-flying offense.

Bears vs. Packers

Walter PaytonÂ's memory will overshadow this important match-up. The BearsÂ' (3-5) defense let up an astonishing 48 points last week in the loss to the Redskins (5-2). And the Packers (4-3), after struggling against the Seahawks (5-2) on Monday night, will try to locate their wondering offense... and what better team to find it against.

Chicago needs this win more than ever, but Lambeau field is too tough a place to play in -- and it is hard to believe that the Packers will lose two-in-a-row there. Can emotion keep Chicago in the game or will Brett Favre light up the broken down defense?

What will Bills QB Doug Flutie have up his sleeve this week?

Bills vs. Redskins

Once again BuffaloÂ's (5-3) Doug Flutie found a way to win last week. But in his last 3 games, this NFL icon has thrown 8 interceptions. Washington (5-2) is coming off an offense performance that bewildered Chicago 48-22.

DonÂ't look for that to happen against the strong-willed defense of Buffalo. Brad Johnson will get a lot of heat from the BillsÂ' defense and how he reacts could be the difference in this key match-up. The RedskinsÂ' offense seems unstoppable -- while the BillsÂ' offense seems to be missing.

Flutie might be out of miracles this week... even against the leagueÂ's worst defense.

Steelers vs. 49ers

Â"ImportantÂ" is an understatement when discussing this match-up. Both teams are coming off a bye week that hopefully allowed them to address some major questions. For Pittsburgh (4-3): Where are Kordell Stewart, Jerome Bettis and some kind of offense? For San Francisco (3-4): Where is the defense -- not the one that has let up an average of nearly 40 points in their four defeats?

A loss for the Niners could eliminate them from the playoff hunt... even in the pathetic NFC West. The Jaguars and Titans seem to be running away with the AFC Central -- anything but a win for Pittsburgh might have the Steelers looking towards next season.

Look for San Francisco to find some defense and cause the shaky Stewart to turn the ball over... a lot!

Dolphins' Damon Huard will have little time against the Titans' defense.

Titans vs. Dolphins

Sunday nightÂ's match-up should provide some entertaining Â"DefensiveÂ" football. No Dan Marino... no problem for the Dolphins (6-1) – who have won three-in-a-row with Damon Huard at the helm.

The Titans (6-1) have Steve McNair back at quarterback – and with the Â"AirÂ" in the game, Eddie George will look to raise his career-low 3.5 average yards per carry.

One might consider this a preview for a potential playoff match-up. TennesseeÂ's quickness on defense might be too much for the Marino-less Fish. Look for McNair to run the ball and keep the DolphinsÂ' defense on their heels. And for Miami to stay in this one, the Â"DÂ" will have to stay on their toes. did not forget about Monday nightÂ's game – Cowboys vs. Vikings. Lg on with us on Monday for the gameÂ's preview and the Live Action at 9:00 PM EST.

Written by Larry Roth