Week 10 of the NFL season has some of the best and most intriguing games of the year. With that, there comes a little bit of uncertainty that all good matchups bring with them.
The Chicago Bears and Houston Texans are both 7-1 teams that have imposed their wills on opponents with stout defenses and grinding running games. What happens when an immovable force meets an unstoppable object?
Then there’s the NFC South clash everyone’s been waiting for. The New Orleans Saints have won three of their last four games. Will they be the ones to hand the Atlanta Falcons their first loss of the season?
Perhaps the toughest game to call of the weekend is a matchup in Central Florida. Like the presidential election this week in the southern state, the San Diego Chargers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium is just too close to call.
When it comes to making NFL picks, you make your dollars in picking the close ones. Everyone knows the gimmes. Let’s break down who’s going to win these games in Week 10.
Houston Texans (7-1) at Chicago Bears (7-1)
Houston against Chicago will pit two very similar teams at Soldier Field on Sunday night on prime time. The Texans are undefeated on the road, and the Bears have not lost at Solider Field. Of note, both teams' only losses have come at the hands of the Green Bay Packers.
Something’s gotta give in Week 10.
Both teams have made their impact by controlling the line of scrimmage on defense. They’re tied for third in sacks with 25 each, and both are dominating opposing teams' rushing games.
The Bears are surrendering just 88 yards per game (sixth in NFL) on the ground, while the Texans are even better, giving up just 81.9 per game (second in NFL). Houston leads the NFL with the fewest rushing touchdowns allowed this season with zero, while the Bears are tied for second place, allowing just two all season.
On the flip side, both are nearly identical in their own running games. The Texans are averaging 138 yards per game, while the Bears are just behind them with 128 of their own each week.
In the end, the ability of Houston’s defense to get after the quarterback and Chicago's offensive line’s inability to protect Jay Cutler (28 sacks) will end up determining this one. It’s going to be close, but the Texans are going to squeak this one out.
Prediction: Texans 20, Bears 14
Atlanta Falcons (8-0) at New Orleans Saints (3-5)
The Falcons might be the shakiest undefeated team in recent NFL history. Still, they’re finding ways to get wins, even if it takes a last-minute miracle like in their Week 4 comeback against the Carolina Panthers.
Despite the high-powered passing games headlined by Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, this game could be decided by a battle in the trenches. The Saints put the worst rush defense in the league on the field, and the Falcons aren’t much better in that respect.
While the Falcons hold the advantage in the running game with backs like Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers, the Saints defense just isn’t very good in general. That means the Falcons are going to be able to pick their spots and take shots with their complement of outstanding receiving options.
New Orleans’ secondary has played better but is still allowing nearly 300 yards per game through the air. The Saints have allowed 16 passing touchdowns, double the eight TDs the Falcons have surrendered this season.
Speaking of passing touchdowns, quarterback Drew Brees is one of the best in the business in that department. He’s tossed 22, just three behind league-leader Aaron Rodgers.
The matchup will be high scoring because of the venue and the ability for Drew Brees and his offense to put up points on anyone. In the end, the Falcons will pull out a narrow win due to their ability to impose their will on the Saints D and run the clock out.
Prediction: Falcons 34, Saints 27
San Diego Chargers (4-4) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4)
It’s been an up-and-down season for both of these .500 teams. While they’re both at similar points in the standings, they couldn’t be further apart as far as the direction of their futures.
Head coach Greg Schiano has instilled some hard-nosed principles in a Bucs team that was blown out for 10 consecutive losses to end their 2011 season. The Chargers are on the verge of losing head coach Norv Turner and haven’t been consistent this season.
But they’re still the Chargers, and Philip Rivers is still Philip Rivers.
If the Bucs want to win, they’re going to have to pressure Rivers, who has struggled increasingly this season with stepping up in the pocket and throwing strikes.
Rivers is also missing some of his weapons due to injuries. However, wide receivers Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem will join Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander against the league’s worst pass defense this week.
The key to the game will be the Chargers' ability to slow down rookie running back Doug Martin. If the Bucs can penetrate the stout rush defense of the Chargers, they’ll be able to control the tempo and keep their poor secondary on the sidelines.
Prediction: Bucs 31, Chargers 27
Mike Hoag Jr. is a Breaking News Team writer and NFL featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter:
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