Division battles are heating up all around the NFL heading into Week 10. A few teams have created separation, but with eight weeks still remaining, there's still a chance many teams could fall out or climb back into the race for the division crown.
Week 10's schedule will again play a big role in determining the teams that get an advantage. Here are predictions for each matchup. Below the table is a section for deeper analysis for the marquee games this week.
|Predictions for NFL Week 10 Schedule—All Times Eastern|
|Thursday, Nov. 7||Time||Location||Prediction|
|Washington at Minnesota||8:25 PM||Mall of America Field||Washington|
|Sunday, Nov. 10||Time||Location||Prediction|
|Seattle at Atlanta||1:00 PM||Georgia Dome||Seattle|
|Detroit at Chicago||1:00 PM||Soldier Field||Chicago|
|Philadelphia at Green Bay||1:00 PM||Lambeau Field||Philadelphia|
|Jacksonville at Tennessee||1:00 PM||LP Field||Tennessee|
|St. Louis at Indianapolis||1:00 PM||Lucas Oil Stadium||Indianapolis|
|Oakland at NY Giants||1:00 PM||MetLife Stadium||NY Giants|
|Buffalo at Pittsburgh||1:00 PM||Heinz Field||Pittsburgh|
|Cincinnati at Baltimore||1:00 PM||M&T Bank Stadium||Baltimore|
|Carolina at San Francisco||4:05 PM||Candlestick Park||San Francisco|
|Houston at Arizona||4:25 PM||U of Phoenix Stadium||Houston|
|Denver at San Diego||4:25 PM||Qualcomm Stadium||San Diego|
|Dallas at New Orleans||8:30 PM||Mercedes-Benz Superdome||New Orleans|
|Monday, Nov. 11||Time||Location||Prediction|
|Miami at Tampa Bay||8:30 PM||Miami|
|Brian Mazique's Predictions|
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
Both the Lions and Bears are coming off huge wins. The Lions knocked off the Dallas Cowboys 31-30 in Detroit in Week 8. Calvin Johnson had 329 receiving yards and Matthew Stafford used a fake spike and quarterback sneak to clinch the victory.
The Lions had a bye in Week 9.
The Bears went into Lambeau Field and won for the first time since 2007 last week. A sack from Shea McClellin knocked Aaron Rodgers out of the game in the first quarter. Josh McCown continued to shine in the injured Jay Cutler's stead, and the Bears won 27-20. Ironically, it was the same score the last time the team won in Green Bay.
The Bears, Lions and Packers are now all 5-3. Needless to say, this game carries great significance for Detroit and Chicago. The Lions won the first matchup 40-32 in Week 4 at Ford Field.
The Bears managed to score 32 points despite Cutler producing his worst performance of the year in that game. He threw for 317 yards and two touchdowns, but he was also picked off three times. He looked out of sorts for three quarters of the game.
These facts are of even greater relevance now. Per Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, Cutler is set to return from a torn groin muscle against the Lions. McCown has thrown for three scores, no picks and he has a QB rating of 100.2 in a little over six quarters of action since Cutler got hurt.
If Cutler returns and the Bears lose, prepare to hear folks begin to question whether or not McCown is the better solution under center for the Bears.
What many don't recognize is that the Bears' biggest flaw has nothing to do with offense. Before Cutler's injury, he was having a very good season. The Bears have scored the third-most points of any team in the league.
Defense has been the issue. The Bears are 28th in the NFL in sacks, and that's after exploding for five against the Pack on Monday night. The team is 23rd against the pass and 29th against the run. It's a wonder the team is even 5-3.
If the Bears can't continue their defensive momentum against the Lions, we'll be in for another shootout. Because the Bears will still be without linebackers Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams, you'd have to think a more healthy Lions team would again have the advantage.
However, the team's defensive line play may have turned the corner on Monday night.
As usual, the Bears only hope would be forcing turnovers. If Chicago can force two-plus turnovers and sustain the pass rush they got in Green Bay, the team will win and seize control of the division.
Expect Cutler to be more conservative after watching McCown run head coach Marc Trestman's offense like a well-oiled machine. He'll cut his turnovers down, or out completely.
Chicago will grab a big win at home, 30-20.
Carolina Panthers at San Francisco 49ers
Two of the league's hottest teams clash by The Bay. The Panthers have won four straight games and the Niners have won five in a row. Both teams are coming off lopsided wins in their last games.
The Panthers pounded the Atlanta Falcons 34-10 on Sunday. The defense picked off Matt Ryan three times and forced four turnovers in all. The running game managed 131 yards on the ground in victory.
San Francisco had a bye in Week 9; some may say they had a partial week off in Week 8 when the team battered the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars 42-10 in London. The Niners' run game made the contest look like a college game where one school is totally overmatched at the line of scrimmage.
The team ran for 221 yards and four touchdowns in a dominant performance.
Despite the teams' solid records (Panthers 5-3, Niners 6-2), both still trail the leader in their division. The Panthers are one game behind the New Orleans Saints and the Niners trail the Seattle Seahawks by 1.5 games.
To continue to apply pressure in the standings, both need a win.
These two teams are very similar. They feature dual-threat quarterbacks, are both charged by the running game and both are stout on defense. The Panthers are fourth in the NFL in takeaways, while the Niners are eighth. Likewise, the teams are ranked in the top 12 against the run and pass this season.
Needless to say the run games will be featured heavily in this contest, but the winner will be determined by the quarterback who makes big plays and protects the ball.
Who is more ready to show up big in this one, Cam Newton or Colin Kaepernick? Because he's playing at home, Kaepernick has the advantage. Newton struggled a bit against the Falcons, despite the win. He tossed two picks and though he had been sharp leading into the game, those recent issues are enough to say Kaepernick comes in playing a little bit better.
In a game that figures to be extremely close, the home-standing Niners are the smart pick. They will win 20-17.
Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints
The Cowboys and Saints are division leaders trying to hold off furious charges from second-place teams. The aforementioned Panthers are putting heat on the Saints. The Philadelphia Eagles are nipping at the Cowboys' heels in the NFC East.
Dallas rebounded from their Week 8 loss to Detroit with a thrilling 27-23 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Tony Romo continued his strong play. He threw for 337 yards and two touchdowns to help guide the team to the win. His seven-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Harris with 35 seconds remaining was the game-winner.
The Saints weren't quite as fortunate.
New Orleans ran into a buzz saw in the New York Jets. Behind a solid defensive effort and vengeful performance from former Saint, Chris Ivory, the Jets knocked off the Saints 26-20. Brees was picked off twice and Ivory gashed his old team for 139 yards and a score.
The loss shrunk the Saints' lead over the Panthers to just one game.
Aside from the Jets' poor performance against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8, the team had been pretty solid against the pass. It did allow Brees to throw for 382 yards in defeat, but there is no doubt the Jets defense made him uncomfortable throughout the game.
Brees doesn't figure to have that issue against the Cowboys, who have been woeful against the pass all season. Dallas is 31st in the league, allowing 305.2 yards per game through the air. Brees should go to town against Dallas.
The offense gets tons of deserved credit for the Saints' success, but the defense has been unsung. The unit ranks fifth in the league against the pass, and the edge on defense is the reason the Saints will defeat Dallas on Sunday.
The Saints will take this one 34-22.