Eagles-Colts matchup leads way for exciting Week 9 schedule

As someone who has lived on the East Coast all of my life, I sometimes wonder about life out west. Do the fine people out there ever complain that most games start at 10 a.m. their time, and that often the best games of the day might be over before lunch?

With the demise of the AFC and NFC West, those 4 p.m. starts often don't hold the same allure. But this week, the league giveth back to the west. Thanks to the rise of teams like Seattle, Kansas City, Oakland (sometimes), and Tampa Bay (which happens to be kicking off an in-division game with Atlanta at 4 p.m. ET), we get a week where the late games are superior to the earlier fare -- at least on paper.

The storyline:

The Eagles return from the bye to get Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson (possibly) and Jason Peters back from injury. The Colts just try to get through another week without losing a key offensive cog. * #### Why you should watch:

Lest anyone has forgotten how well Vick played the opening month of the season prior to his rib injury, now we get to see for ourselves against a defense that is not particularly fearsome. Peyton Manning, meantime, continues to prove the theory he can take any three schmoes from the corner bar and make them 100-yard receivers. * #### Did you know?

The Colts are undefeated against NFC opponents in the regular season under Jim Caldwell (6-0). ... Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney has two or more sacks in 20 regular-season games. ... Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is tied for first among NFL running backs with 38 receptions. ... Philadelphia's Trent Cole is third in the league with 48 sacks since 2006. *

The storyline:

Two teams making a bid to pull away from the mediocre pack in their respective divisions clash. * #### Why you should watch:

It is the only game this week featuring two teams atop their divisions. The Giants are making a habit of knocking opposing quarterbacks out of the game and the Seahawks allowed Oakland to pummel Matt Hasselbeck last week. * #### Did you know?

Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw ranks second in the NFC with 708 rushing yards. ... New York's Hakeem Nicks is tied for the NFC lead with eight receiving touchdowns. ... Seahawks safety Earl Thomas leads NFL rookies with four interceptions. ... Seattle's Leon Washington leads the the league with a 33.7 yard kickoff return average. *

The storyline:

The Ravens are one of the league's dominant home teams under John Harbaugh and are fresh off a bye. The Dolphins have been the league's best road team this season. * #### Why you should watch:

A win would take Baltimore to 3-1 in its tour of the AFC East, providing key tiebreakers. The Ravens were among the teams to consider a Brandon Marshall trade, but Miami landed him. The Dolphins play their third straight game against the AFC North. * #### Did you know?

The Dolphins are undefeated on the road in 2010 (4-0). ... Miami's Dan Carpenter has made five field goals in consecutive games. ... The Ravens have won six consecutive home games. ... Baltimore's Willis McGahee has scored a touchdown in three straight games. *

The storyline:

A team that used to seemingly win its division by default faces a team that always comes close to the postseason, then wanes. If the Texans are finally for real they must continue San Diego's road woes here, or risk a tailspin. * #### Why you should watch:

These teams could combine for 1,000 yards of offense, easy. So if that's your kind of thing, then this is your kind of game. * #### Did you know?

The Chargers have won five straight November games. ... San Diego's Antonio Gates leads the NFL with nine touchdowns. ... The Texans have won three consecutive home games against AFC opponents. ... Houston's Andre Johnson leads the NFL with 3,738 receiving yards since 2008. *

The storyline:

The Chiefs are trying to run away with the division, but have two games remaining with the Raiders, and Oakland is the only team within distance right now. * #### Why you should watch:

Tom Cable's quarterback roulette threatens to catch up with him in the second half of the season. Would he really bench Jason Campbell now? These two teams boast two of the top running back duos in the NFL, and should be plenty physical at the line of scrimmage. * #### Did you know?

The Chiefs have won seven consecutive games at Oakland. ... Kansas City has the league's top-ranked rushing attack. ... The Raiders have won three consecutive games against AFC West opponents. ... Oakland's Darren McFadden averages 5.1 yards per carry in his career against the Chiefs. *

The storyline:

Who would have thought these two teams would be trying to keep the world champion Saints from their perch atop the NFC South, if not out of the playoffs entirely? * #### Why you should watch:

Matt Ryan has been unstoppable at home, and Josh Freeman has won five consecutive road starts. The Bucs haven't been at their best against quality opponents and will need games like this if they are to compile a playoff resume. * #### Did you know?

Six of Freeman's eight career victories have been fourth-quarter comebacks. ... Tampa Bay's Mike Williams leads all rookie receivers with 32 catches. ... Falcons running back Michael Turner has the second-most touchdowns in the NFL since 2008 (30). ... Atlanta's Chauncey Davis has nine career sacks against the Bucs. *

The storyline:

This was supposed to be a preview of the NFC Championship Game, then both teams underachieved in the first half of the season. It's too late for the Cowboys, but a few wins like this could keep them relevant. * #### Why you should watch:

The last time the Cowboys were on national television, they thoroughly embarrassed themselves at home against the Giants. Anything that listless again, and Jerry Jones might spring from his luxury box before halftime. * #### Did you know?

Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware leads the NFL with 64.5 sacks since 2006. ... Dallas' Dez Bryant is tied for the rookie lead with five touchdowns. ... Packers signal-caller Aaron Rodgers leads all NFL quarterbacks with three rushing touchdowns. ... Green Bay's Charles Woodson is tied with Champ Bailey for the most interceptions by an active player (47). *

The storyline:

Detroit is trying to mimic the Jets' renaissance behind a first-round quarterback and a younger, defensive-minded head coach. The Lions aren't there yet, but have a chance to send a message here against a team that might be looking a tad bit beyond them. * #### Why you should watch:

Darrelle Revis against Megatron. That should be fun. Of course, Rex Ryan could go with a heavy dose of the longer Antonio Cromartie against him as well, particularly in the red zone. Oh, and this Ndamukong Suh kid is the real deal. * #### Did you know?

The Jets have won six consecutive home games. ... New York's Dustin Keller is third among NFL tight ends with five touchdowns. ... Lions running back Jahvid Best leads all NFL rookies with 613 yards from scrimmage. ... Detroit's Matthew Stafford has 11 passing touchdowns in his past five games. *

The storyline:

You would have to think the Saints have already filled their quota of "whoops" games (Cleveland and Arizona), and will put a stranglehold on this one with NFC victories at a premium now. * #### Why you should watch:

Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas are getting closer to a return for the Saints, and at least one of them could be back for this game. The Saints offense has not been the same, and this could be a rare opportunity for the defense to gamble some with a lead. * #### Did you know?

Jonathan Vilma leads the Saints with 50 tackles. ... New Orleans' Marques Colston has at least five catches in four consecutive games. ... Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams averages 119.8 rushing yards per game against the Saints. ... Carolina's Matt Moore has won five of seven career starts at home. *

The storyline:

A year ago, the Bengals went undefeated against the AFC North. Now, they might not win another game in the division this season. * #### Why you should watch:

Ben Roethlisberger could feast on what has been a suspect defense. The Marvin Lewis watch could be shifting into high gear with another uneven performance by the Bengals. * #### Did you know?

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is 5-0 on Monday Night Football. ... Pittsburgh's Hines Ward has 14 touchdown catches against the Bengals -- his most vs. any opponent. ... The Bengals are 9-1 when Cedric Benson has 100-plus rushing yards in a game. ... Cincinnati's Terrell Owens has a touchdown reception in four consecutive games. *

The storyline:

Early in his coaching career, Bill Belichick was run out of town in Cleveland. He strikes me as the kind of guy who remembers such things. * #### Why you should watch:

The friction between Belichick and former assistant Eric Mangini is often palpable following these games, with forced, awkward handshakes, or none at all. * #### Did you know?

The Patriots have beaten the Browns four consecutive times. ... New England's BenJarvus Green-Ellis has a rushing touchdown in five consecutive games. ... Browns running back Peyton Hillis has a touchdown in six of seven games this season. ... Two of Cleveland's three home games this year have been decided by three or fewer points. *

The storyline:

This looked like a glamour game when the schedule came out -- two teams that made nice playoff marches getting together as the weather turns colder. Then Kurt Warner retired. Then Brett Favre fell apart. * #### Why you should watch:

Could this be the game when Favre steps aside for Tarvaris Jackson? * #### Did you know?

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has the most receiving touchdowns in the NFL since 2008 (38, including the playoffs). ... Arizona's Joey Porter has a sack in each of the last two weeks. ... Favre has won 10 of 11 home starts since joining Minnesota last season. ... Minnesota's Chad Greenway has 10-plus sacks in four consecutive games. *

The storyline:

The Bills aren't going to go 0-16, are they? I mean, they're going to get somebody, right? And the Bears, playing in what can be a sterile environment in Toronto, look plenty vulnerable to me. * #### Why you should watch:

The Bears are in a tailspin coming out of the bye, with the turnovers back. The Bills have put a scare into a few teams this season already. Could be another offensive shootout for Buffalo, which is making strides on offense, at least. * #### Did you know?

Bears kicker Robbie Gould has made 55 straight field goals inside of 40 yards. ... Chicago's Devin Hester leads the NFL in punt return average (16.7 yards). ... The Bills are 4-1 all-time against the Bears in home games. ... Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick has a career-high 12 touchdown passes this year. *

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