The Week 10 NFL schedule features a trio of intriguing matchups that have the biggest implications on the entire slate.
As teams scrap for the right to get into the playoff conversation, there should be plenty of drama to offer this coming Sunday.
Here is a look at these marquee games that will make or break some teams' 2012 seasons.
San Diego Chargers (4-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4)
The extra rest after Thursday night's disposing of the lowly Chiefs should serve the Chargers well, as the team is once again in the midst of fighting for Norv Turner's job.
That whole extra rest thing worked out well for the Bucs in Week 9 as well. An upstart Oakland Raiders team nearly rallied to victory with a furious comeback, but a Carson Palmer interception sealed the home team's fate.
With the Chargers a snugly one game back of the Broncos in the AFC West, they cannot afford to slip up. Notching a road victory such as this one could be a turning point for the consistently underachieving franchise.
Tampa is a very young team, and building on the momentum from an impressive outing on the West Coast will be pivotal in how the rest of the year plays out.
That won't be a problem for Doug Martin, who proved his Thursday night coming out party from the previous game was far from a fluke. He finished the day with 25 carries, 251 yards and four touchdowns. As volatile as the position of running back is in the league, it's pretty clear Martin was well worth a first-round pick.
QB Josh Freeman is also bouncing back from a nightmare 4-12 campaign in 2011, throwing 16 touchdowns to just five interceptions on the season. That has resulted in the Bucs already equaling their win total from last year under new head coach Greg Schiano.
What's more, Schiano's team could have won far more thus far: Tampa Bay has lost all four of its games by seven points or less.
Both teams are 4-4, but the home team will win this one in Raymond James Stadium.
Final score: Buccaneers 31, Chargers 27
Detroit Lions (4-4) at Minnesota Vikings (5-4)
These two NFC North teams are going opposite ways.
Minnesota was one of the shocking early-season storylines, but has since fallen by the wayside. After a rough start to 2012, the Lions have endured a ridiculously brutal early season schedule to fight back to .500.
The Vikings came into Ford Field in Week 4 and took down their division rival 20-13, and Detroit will look to play road spoiler this time around.
QB Matthew Stafford has finally come into his own in the past two games to back up his 5,000-plus yard season of a year ago. With one of the top passing games in the league only to be helped by the addition of Mike Thomas, the Lions look to be in great shape.
Mikel Leshoure continued to look more and more the part of No. 1 running back with three touchdowns on Sunday. A stellar running game will do wonders for Stafford and Co. moving forward.
What is lost in Detroit's early season struggles, though, is the improvement of the defense, which recently returned stud safety Louis Delmas to the fold. Its talented defensive line is finally performing near its lofty expectations as well.
The NFC itself is so deep, but both wildcards may come out of this division.
Considering the greatness the Chicago Bears (more on them soon) and the Green Bay Packers are displaying, the Lions and Vikings may be fighting for the No. 6 seed.
I like the Lions to avenge their earlier loss to Minnesota with a more balanced offense. This could be the beginning of something special for Detroit.
Final score: Lions 27, Vikings 13
Houston Texans (7-1) at Chicago Bears (7-1)
The best offense in the league might be the Bears' defense and special teams.
Between Devin Hester in the return game and all the defensive TDs Chicago gets on a weekly basis, QB Jay Cutler's tendency to be erratic with the football suddenly doesn't matter. His reunion with favorite receiver Brandon Marshall certainly hasn't hurt either, and neither has having Matt Forte in the backfield.
Meanwhile, the Texans weren't exactly convincing in beating Buffalo 21-9 at home.
The Bills are a team that Houston should have blown out if the team really is as good as advertised. Perhaps the absence of Brian Cushing in the heart of the defense is hurting more than anticipated.
MVP candidate J.J. Watt continued to wreak havoc on the opposing QB for the Texans, though. Cutler is traditionally among the least protected quarterbacks in the league, which isn't going to bode well for him.
This matchup of one-loss teams on Sunday night may be the game of the year to this point, and it should come down to whether the Texans can limit mistakes and prevent the scarily opportunistic Bears D from directly capitalizing.
It seems Houston has been sleepwalking through the past three games, and to come out so flat facing an inferior Week 9 opponent was surprising.
Although the Atlanta Falcons are undefeated, Chicago may be the best team in the league right now. In front of a home crowd in Solider Field, expect the Bears to find a way to pull this one out courtesy of a couple crucial takeaways.
Final score: Bears 24, Texans 20
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