How will Tom Brady and the Patriots fare in Week 10?
By Week 10 of the NFL season, the playoff contenders have mostly separated themselves from the playoff pretenders, but the postseason picture still remains muddled.
At this point in the season a two-game losing streak, or even a single loss, could be devastating to a team's postseason aspirations.
Surprise teams like the Colts and Seahawks look to continue their successful seasons, while preseason contenders like the Cowboys and Eagles are falling into obscurity.
Week 10 has multiple matchups that could go either way, but also a few games that look like sure locks.
Here are our picks for Week 10 of the NFL season.
Was Luck's Week 9 performance just luck?
Coming into the season, this Thursday night game may have looked like a matchup of two futile teams with nothing to fight for by Week 10.
However, if the season ended today, the Colts would be in the playoffs and are still within striking distance of Houston for the AFC South crown.
A win against the lowly Jaguars will be the Colts' fourth in a row and build on their momentum going into a matchup with the Patriots in Week 11.
Maurice Jones-Drew was the only source of viable offense for the Jags, but the 2011 NFL rushing champion has been ruled out against the Colts (via Fox News).
The Jaguars rank last in every major offensive category but rushing, and if MJD isn’t back soon, they could be last very soon. Rashad Jennings and Jalen Parmele have shown that they cannot carry the load.
Andrew Luck and the Colts will be too much for the Jaguars to handle. Luck probably won’t go for 433 yards again, but expect a big day from the rookie.
Colts 28, Jaguars 10
The Muscle Hamster has gone crazy the last two weeks.
While Andrew Luck has been the most impressive rookie so far this season, Buccaneers running back Doug Martin is giving the Colts’ quarterback competition for NFL Rookie of the Year.
In the Bucs last two games, the “Muscle Hamster” has rushed for a combined 386 yards and five touchdowns.
The Buccaneers and Chargers are both on the outside of the playoff picture looking in but are still in the hunt.
Philip Rivers had a good game against Kansas City last week—but it was against Kansas City. Rivers has struggled this year and even though the Tampa Bay secondary is young, I do not see Rivers having a another big day Sunday.
On top of that, the Chargers have to travel across country.
The matchup to watch is between the Chargers fourth ranked run defense and Martin. If Martin can continue his strong play and Josh Freeman doesn’t turn the ball over, the Bucs will come out with the win.
Buccaneers 24, Chargers 17
Will Reggie Bush be a factor in Week 10?
The Titans were on the losing end of the biggest blowout of Week 9. Tennessee turned the ball over three times in the first 13 minutes of play and the Bears made them pay.
The Dolphins were the victim of Andrew Luck’s historic day, but still only lost by three points against the Colts.
Matt Hasselbeck has played in relief of the injured Jake Locker, but he has not been the main problem in Tennessee. An underachieving defense is letting up a NFL-worst 34.2 points per game.
It looked like Chris Johnson's time as an elite back may have been over after a rough start to the season, but the former 2,000-yard rusher has rushed for 435 in the last three weeks, including a 141-yard performance against Chicago. However, 80 of those yards came on a late fourth-quarter touchdown run.
The Dolphins still have major playoff aspirations and will be the better team Sunday.
Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas should get back on track against the Titans 30th-ranked run defense, and the Dolphins third-ranked run defense should contain Johnson.
The Dolphins will run away with this game.
Dolphins 31, Titans 14
Tom Brady and the Patriots should dominate Sunday.
The poor Buffalo Bills.
The first time the Bills played the Patriots, New England was looking to break a two-game losing streak.
That game ended with the Patriots pounding the Bills 52-28.
Now the Bills face the Patriots at Gillette Stadium fresh off a bye week.
On paper, the matchup does not look good for the Bills. The Patriots offense ranks first in points per game and yards per game—the Bills defense ranks next to last in both those categories.
The game is a crucial one for both the Bills and Patriots. The Bills will surely be out of playoff contention and in the AFC East basement if they lose, and the Patriots would open the door for other teams with a loss.
Tom Brady and the Patriots are not known for giving up crucial games. The Patriots will come off their bye week ready to start a big run in the second half of their season.
Patriots 42, Bills 14
T-Sizzle is back!
The Ravens won Sunday against the Browns, but it was ugly.
Injuries around the highly touted defense have made the Ravens a worse team than they were to start the season. It is no easy task to overcome losing a future Hall of Fame linebacker and starting corner.
A Ravens’ defense that is ranked 26th is not something NFL fans are used to seeing.
Oakland has played well when Darren McFadden has carried the load, but the injury-plagued back's status is in doubt against the Ravens after he left the team’s Week 9 game with an injury.
The Ravens do not take as many chances as they should, but they also have one of the best dual threats in the NFL with Ray Rice. The Muscle Hamster exposed the Raiders' less-than-stellar run defense, and Rice should be able to find similar success.
I also don’t see Carson Palmer lighting up the box score in the absence of McFadden. Palmer has thrown an interception in every game but two this year, including three against Tampa Bay last week.
Ravens 24, Raiders 13
Peyton Manning and the Broncos have looked like the class of the AFC.
The Broncos are a force to be reckoned with in the AFC and should end up with one of the top seeds when they enter the playoffs.
Peyton Manning did throw two interceptions against Cincinnati, but he has still been the comeback story of the NFL season. Manning has only thrown for under 300 yards and three interceptions just three times this season.
Manning may have his best supporting cast ever in Denver as well. Running back Willis McGahee is on pace to break 1,000 yards for a second consecutive year and the defense has given the opposition offenses fits.
Westly Woodyard is having a breakout year, leading the Broncos with 75 tackles, and Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil have combined for 15 sacks.
Carolina has been unimpressive all year. After a breakout rookie campaign, Cam Newton has been ineffective and the once-deadly running back duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart has failed to get on track.
The Panthers’ win against the Redskins in Week 9 was their best performance of the year, but Manning and the Broncos defense should take out the Panthers with relative ease.
Broncos 35, Panthers 17
The Giants should bounce back after the team's Week 9 loss.
The Giants are 13-20 under coach Tom Coughlin in November, including a crushing loss to the Steelers on Sunday.
Eli Manning played his worst game of the season in the loss. He threw for only 125 yards, completed only 41.7 percent of his passes and threw one interception.
Sunday’s game is crucial for the Giants. They look relatively safe at 6-3 due to a down year in the NFC East, but the second half of their schedule features games against Green Bay, Baltimore, undefeated Atlanta and divisional opponents Washington and Philadelphia—teams they have had trouble with already this year.
Cincinnati needs a win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. If not, the season will almost surely be lost.
The Giants defense is letting up 264.3 passing yards per game. The matchup to watch will obviously be between AJ Green and the Giants secondary. If Andy Dalton can expose the Giants’ defense with his elite receiver downfield, it may be a long day for the Giants.
However, I expect the Giants and Eli to get back on track. It won’t be easy, though.
Giants 24, Bengals 17
What knee surgery?
Detroit is coming off a convincing 31-14 win—but it was against the Jaguars.
Mikel Leshoure seems to have finally hit his stride as an NFL back, scoring three touchdowns against the lowly Jags.
The Lions don’t need Leshoure to do this every game, since they have the No. 2 ranked passing offense in the league and the best wide receiver in the game, but having a capable back is something the Lions will need to fully turn this season around.
While the Lions look to be turning things around, the Vikings look like they are going in the opposite direction.
The Vikings have dropped three of their last four games and after a 4-1 start are now only one loss away from being at .500. On top of that, the multi-talented Percy Harvin may be unavailable (via Yahoo! Sports).
The Vikings are firmly on the shoulders of Adrian Peterson, especially if Harvin is out. Fresh off of knee surgery, Peterson looks better than ever. He leads the league in rushing and has made a habit of trucking anyone in his way.
Calvin Johnson has been unable to find the end zone on a consistent basis this year, but has still been an effective weapon gaining yards. I see him and Matt Stafford hooking up early and often against the Vikings.
If Harvin is out, the Vikings will be very limited on offense. If they get down early, the effectiveness of Peterson, the team’s only offensive weapon, will be greatly devalued.
Lions 21, Vikings 13
Are the Saints ready to turn things around?
Despite the Falcons being the NFL’s only undefeated team, they still do not get a whole lot of respect.
"We don't care," Gonzalez said according to USA Today Sports. "Our goals are bigger than just getting national media attention. They'll recognize us if we go where we want to go. I've day-dreamed about raising that Lombardi Trophy. I can see it in my mind."
Atlanta has the best pass catching trio in football in Julio Jones, Roddy White and veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez, and the always-impressive Matt Ryan is throwing to them.
However, the Saints look to be adapting to life after Bountygate and looked good Monday night against the Eagles touted secondary.
While they may not be the team that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in 2010, they can still run with the NFL’s best offense, and the defense looks to be improving.
Are they playoff contenders? Probably not—but the Saints face a familiar foe in Atlanta.
The Falcons have got some scares this year and come out victorious. The Saints will give the Falcons their first loss of the season Sunday.
Saints 42, Falcons 31
The Seahawks defense is among the NFL's elite units.
Who would have thought coming into the 2012 season that it would be the Seahawks in the hunt for a playoffs and riding an elite defense, not the Jets?
The Jets have been surrounded by circus-like media coverage all season, but are basically one loss away from being among the teams competing for draft position.
Mark Sanchez has continued his less-than-mediocre play and the Tim Tebow experiment is proving to be a failure. Rex Ryan said (via ESPN) before the bye week that Tebow would see an expanded role, but Ryan is about as reliable as a Furby when it comes to what he says to the media.
The main advantage comes with the Seahawks playing at home in front of the 12th man.
Sanchez will have one of the NFL’s rowdiest crowds screaming in his ear all day and Shonn Greene and the rest of the spotty running back corps are unlikely to provide any support.
The Seahawks defense will overwhelm the Jets paltry offense and Marshawn Lynch, the NFL’s second-leading rusher, will pound the Jets depleted defense.
Seahawks 24, Jets 10
Vick was running for his life on MNF.
Could things be any worse for these two teams?
The Cowboys continue to find a way to lose close games and the Eagles have played so badly they are on the verge or blowing everything up and starting anew.
Replacing Vick with Nick Foles would be a terrible idea, but could be something that Andy Reid and the Eagles resort to at this point in the season.
It was hard to watch Vick run around like a chicken with its head cut off behind his terrible offensive line on Monday night football. Even his one interception was not his fault.
Tony Romo has been an interception machine—his 13 interceptions is an NFL-high--and has gotten little help from his running game.
The teams face each other two times in a four-week span, but neither are playoff contenders at this point unless the Giants’ season completely falls off a cliff.
The most telling mismatch is still to be determined. If Foles starts for the Eagles, the Cowboys will win convincingly. The offensive line could barely contain the Saints defense. Imagine what DeMarcus Ware will do with the immobile rookie under center.
Either way, I still see the Cowboys pulling out a win. They have lost close games to good teams, while the Eagles have not been competitive.
Cowboys 21, Eagles 13
Alex Smith has played great as of late.
Surprisingly, the 49ers and Rams are both undefeated in divisional games at 2-0.
The 49ers' two losses have left us scratching our heads, but they have reeled off two convincing divisional wins since losing badly at home to the New York Giants in Week 6.
Alex Smith is not Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, but you cannot ignore that the highly criticized QB only missed only one of his 19 attempts the last time he was on the field—nearly an NFL record for accuracy.
Coupled with the NFL's best running attack (168.6 YPG), the 49ers' offense has done exactly what it needs to, considering the unit they have on the defensive side of the ball.
After beating the Seahawks and Cardinals in back-to-back weeks, the Rams have lost three in a row—the most recent of those losses being a 45-7 dismantling at the hands of the New England Patriots.
The play of Sam Bradford and aging running back Steven Jackson has been mediocre at best. The Rams offense ranks 28th in both points and yards per game.
Don't expect the Rams offense to have a breakout game against the 49ers. The Patrick Willis-led defense is the best in the NFL.
49ers 35, Rams 9
Urlacher had a pick six in Week 9.
Super Bowl preview, anyone?
The Texans matchup with the Bears is by far the most interesting game of the weekend.
Both team's defenses are elite.
J.J. Watt and Charles Tillman have both garnered major attention for Defensive Player of the Year and have a tremendous supporting cast around them.
Both offenses have the capability to put up points against the stellar defenses, but the Texans have been a more consistent unit.
Cutler can either win the game for the Bears with his big arm or be the cause for their demise. Watt is sure to be in his face all day and if Cutler is constantly on the run, it could be be bad news for the Bears.
The Texans will narrowly edge the Bears in a low-scoring game and it could come down to a late field goal.
Texans 17, Bears 14
The Chiefs are big underdogs on MNF.
Kansas City is not very good. Sorry, Chiefs fans, but it's true.
Charles has not carried the ball more than 12 times during the Chiefs' last three games and it has resulted for a combined total of 83 yards in three weeks.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is looking like a real contender.
Sunday, the Steelers stuffed the Giants, winning 24-20, and held Eli Manning to his lowest yardage total of the season. This is all without Troy Polamalu too!
Issac Redman is not the second coming of Jerome Bettis, but he carried the load filling in for the Steelers' small stable of injured backs.
The Chiefs have decent talent in their secondary and two capable pass rushers in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, but Ben Roethlisberger will stand tall in the pocket and use his multitude of weapons to guide the Steelers to a convincing win.
It may be one of the least exciting Monday Night Football games in recent memory.
Steelers 42, Chiefs 10