Showdowns between division rivals often produce the most entertaining games, and these contests did not disappoint in Week 10.
There were six matchups that featured teams from the same division, but oddly enough, only five of these produced a winner. The St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers tied 24-24 after neither team was able to score during the overtime period.
While both these teams left Candlestick Park disappointed, the other four games had one team smiling as they headed to the locker room, and the other trying to hide their displeasure.
Here are the teams that beat division rivals in important matchups.
New Orleans Saints 31, Atlanta Falcons 27
For some NFL fans, this was the most surprising result of the weekend, as the Falcons lost for the first time this season. For others, the red-hot Saints beating an Atlanta team that had looked extremely vulnerable at times was not all that shocking.
Regardless of the spectators’ reaction, this victory was extremely important to New Orleans’s season. The team has now won four of its last five games after starting the season 0-4, and the playoffs are no longer out of the question for the Saints.
At 4-5, New Orleans is very much in the hunt for a wild card spot if they keep playing at this level. With a tough stretch of games on the horizon, the confidence gained from beating one of the NFL’s best teams will be invaluable going forward.
New England Patriots 37, Buffalo Bills 31
While the Patriots’ victory over the Bills may not have been all that impressive, it did buy New England breathing room atop the AFC East.
The Pats are the only team in the division that won this week, and now have a two-game lead over the Miami Dolphins, who are in second place.
There is a serious talent gap between the Patriots and everyone else in this division. Even if New England doesn’t always play up to its potential, victories over its AFC East rivals make it even more unlikely that any of the team’s rivals will challenge them for the division crown.
Dallas Cowboys 38, Philadelphia Eagles 23
Like the Saints, the Cowboys are now still alive in the NFC wild card race at 4-5.
With every team in the NFC East currently going through a rough patch, wins within the division are extremely valuable. With a victory over Cleveland Browns next Sunday, Dallas can pull within one game of the New York Giants, who are currently in first place and are heading into their bye week.
The following week, the Cowboys have a game against the Washington Redskins that they should win, while the Giants face a difficult matchup with the Green Bay Packers. When the Thanksgiving weekend is over, Dallas may be tied for first place in the NFC East.
Minnesota Vikings 34, Detroit Lions 24
Minnesota desperately needed a victory in this game, and they were able to pull it out without star wide receiver Percy Harvin.
Had the Vikings fallen to 5-5 with a loss to the Lions, their playoff hopes would have looked extremely bleak. After a bye week, they have two matchups with the Packers, two with the Chicago Bears and one with the Houston Texans.
Given the way those three teams are playing, Minnesota may lose five of its last six games, and may even go winless as their remaining opponent is the surprisingly impressive St. Louis Rams. The victory over the Lions bought the Vikings a little bit of breathing room, but it will still be an uphill climb into a postseason spot.
Indianapolis Colts 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 10
The Colts’ convincing victory over the Jaguars on Thursday night may be old news by now, but it did put Indianapolis in excellent position to be this year’s most surprising playoff team.
Currently, the Colts on the Pittsburgh Steelers are the AFC only teams with winning records that are not leading their division.
It is unlikely that Indianapolis will catch the Texans in the AFC South, but their main competition for the a wild card spot right now is the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Colts have been markedly more impressive than these teams this year.