After bye weeks, a few of the NFL's heavyweights are back in action in Week 10, and there are a few excellent matchups on the schedule.
It feels like the 2013 season began just yesterday, but this season is already more than halfway over, with playoff contenders emerging as Super Bowl favorites in both conferences.
However, nothing in this league is stationary. One injury can derail a team's chances of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February, just as one big loss often means the difference between making it into the playoffs and watching the tournament from home.
Here's a look at the full schedule of games for Week 10, followed by a closer examination of a few games that have serious playoff implications.
|Washington Redskins||Minnesota Vikings||Redskins|
|Oakland Raiders||New York Giants||Raiders|
|Seattle Seahawks||Atlanta Falcons||Seahawks|
|Detroit Lions||Chicago Bears||Lions|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Green Bay Packers||Packers|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Tennessee Titans||Titans|
|St. Louis Rams||Indianapolis Colts||Colts|
|Buffalo Bills||Pittsburgh Steelers||Steelers|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Baltimore Ravens||Bengals|
|Carolina Panthers||San Francisco 49ers||49ers|
|Houston Texans||Arizona Cardinals||Texans|
|Denver Broncos||San Diego Chargers||Broncos|
|Dallas Cowboys||New Orleans Saints||Saints|
|Miami Dolphins||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Dolphins|
Detroit at Chicago
The Detroit Lions pulled off a spectacular last-minute comeback against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 8 to improve to 5-3 heading into their bye to match Green Bay in the win column.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears have been dealt a tough hand of late, losing Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs to short-term injuries. They have lost three of their last four games.
Detroit won 40-32 earlier this year at home against these Bears.
Chicago turned the ball over four times and Reggie Bush went off for 173 total yards and a touchdown. Given the Bears depleted linebacking corps, it's hard to imagine Bush not having another huge game.
Combined with the Bears pitiful pass rush, this is a matchup that favors Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Detroit's passing game—especially if Jay Cutler is still out with his groin injury.
Final Score: Lions win 38-28.
Cincinnati at Baltimore
After rattling off four straight wins (and six wins in the last seven), Cincinnati must be sick about losing to the Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football in Week 9.
Andy Dalton was atrocious in that game. He turned the ball over four times (three interceptions and one lost fumble), killing his team's chances of winning a winnable game. However, before this game, he'd been on an incredible three-game stretch, having thrown 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Meanwhile, Baltimore fell to 3-5 on the season with a loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Joe Flacco desperately needs a running game, but the Ravens can't get Ray Rice or Bernard Pierce going at all this year, which has turned Baltimore's offense stagnant.
Even without Geno Atkins, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL, Cincinnati's defense is more than capable of shutting down Baltimore's pitiful offense (No. 21 in the NFL, averaging 21.4 points per game).
Provided Dalton returns to the form we saw during the Bengals' recent four-game winning streak, Cincy should be able to knock off its divisional rival on the road.
Final Score: Bengals win 27-21.
Carolina at San Francisco
Since opening up the season with three losses in the first four weeks, Carolina has transformed into a playoff contender.
Despite two interceptions by Cam Newton on Sunday, the Panthers easily dispatched the Atlanta Falcons and head into the second half of the season with an impressive 5-3 record.
However, until the Panthers knock off an NFC heavyweight like the San Francisco 49ers on the road, they'll be considered a lower-echelon team in the NFC playoff race.
On paper, the 49ers appear ready to make another run at the Super Bowl.
Before the Week 9 bye, San Francisco had won five games in a row, scoring at least 31 points in all five games. The best part is that this team is still getting healthy, with Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and others still yet to suit up this season.
Carolina's defense will surely make things tough for the 49ers on offense, but you'd be hard-pressed to find many experts who expect the home team to lose.
Final Score: 49ers win 35-20.
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