Even though Week 9 didn't feature many marquee matchups, it quickly developed into one of the most exciting weeks of the season with nine of the 13 games being decided by one score. It sets a high standard heading into Week 10.
The best part about the middle of the season is that it's make-or-break time for a lot of teams. The mad dash to the playoffs is already underway, and another loss or two can doom a team's hopes. So there should be a lot of desperation between now and the end of the regular season.
With that in mind, let's examine a trio of terrific games on tap for Week 10 and make predictions for each. The breakdowns are followed by a full list of picks for the week ahead.
Detroit Lions (5-3) at Chicago Bears (5-3)
Jay Cutler is making progress in his recovery from a groin injury but still faces an uncertain status heading into a key NFC North battle with the Lions. Luckily for Chicago, backup Josh McCown has held his own since taking over with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
The tough part for Chicago is trying to test Cutler while still getting McCown enough practice snaps. This game has shootout potential written all over it with plenty of playmakers on both sides, and the Bears are going to need strong quarterback play to keep pace.
On the flip side, the Lions are coming off a much-needed bye week to allow Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and Co. a chance to get back toward full strength. Unless the Chicago defense has a vintage performance, which hasn't happened yet this season, Detroit has a great chance to score a road win.
Prediction: Lions 34, Bears 31
Carolina Panthers (5-3) at San Francisco 49ers (6-2)
This game should be the direct opposite of the Lions and Bears. Carolina and San Francisco both possess top-five scoring defenses and feature offenses that rely heavily on the running game to set the tone. It will likely equate to a defensive battle.
For the Panthers, the recent resurgence of Cam Newton bodes well for their chances of making a playoff run. However, it's the quarterback of the defense, linebacker Luke Kuechly, who holds the key to success this week. He must lead the charge to slow down Frank Gore and the 49ers' rushing attack.
On the flip side, San Francisco must get pressure on Newton to prevent him from getting comfortable in the pocket. Whether it's heat off the edge from Ahmad Brooks or up the middle from NaVorro Bowman, the 49ers should be able to force the Panthers quarterback into at least one game-changing mistake.
Prediction: 49ers 17, Panthers 13
Dallas Cowboys (5-4) at New Orleans Saints (6-2)
The Cowboys face an interesting challenge this week. One of their biggest issues in recent years has been the inability to build off success. Last week, they scored a late comeback win over the Minnesota Vikings. Whether they can build off it against New Orleans is a major question mark.
Getting into a shootout against the Saints probably isn't the best option, as Dallas found out against the Denver Broncos last month. That means the running game needs to get more involved after the team had just nine carries against the Vikings.
The Cowboys' inability to establish the run plays right into the Saints' hands. They rank 25th against the run but fifth against the pass. Drew Brees and his high-powered offense should be able to put up more eye-popping numbers while Cameron Jordan and the defense take care of the rest.
Prediction: Saints 38, Cowboys 30
Complete Week 10 Picks
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