In the NFL, every game counts the same, but there are certain benchmark matchups on the schedule that shape the playoff picture more than others. Week 10's slate of games features a few such contests, as the league ramps up toward the postseason.
More than halfway through the season, there is just one undefeated team left. The Kansas City Chiefs have opened the season with nine straight wins, and Andy Reid's squad will rest up for the second half on a bye this weekend.
The Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots and New York Jets also have the week off.
Here's a look at the entire schedule for Week 10, along with predicted winners for each game. Keep reading after the chart for a deeper examination of this weekend's critical matchups that will shape the playoff picture.
|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
A battle for NFC North supremacy will take place this Sunday at Soldier Field, as the Chicago Bears host the Detroit Lions. Both teams are tied with Green Bay for the divisional lead at 5-3, with the Lions technically leading the race at this point after beating the Bears earlier this year in Detroit.
Green Bay is reeling right now due to injuries—most notably the loss of quarterback Aaron Rodgers for an undetermined amount of time with a collarbone fracture in his non-throwing shoulder. Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports recently noted a source saying Rodgers would be out 4-6 weeks:
Said on @FOXSportsLive, source pins it at roughly 4-6 weeks for Aaron Rodgers. Fourth week tricky b/c T'giving game is 3.5 wks from injury.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) November 6, 2013
As Green Bay scrambles for a way to replace one of the league's top players, Detroit and Chicago have a prime opportunity to seize the division away from the favored Packers.
This upcoming game is an absolutely critical first step for one of these teams toward that goal.
Detroit took this past weekend off on a bye after coming from behind in Week 8 to defeat the Dallas Cowboys at home on a last-second touchdown run by Matthew Stafford. Calvin Johnson nearly broke a single-game NFL record, catching 14 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown in that contest.
Who you got?
Chicago may or may not have Jay Cutler back for this game after he missed two games with a groin injury. Josh McCown has played well in his absence, but he can't keep up with the torrid offensive attack the Lions feature.
Matt Forte has been running hard of late, however, and the Bears will win this game if he gets a healthy workload of carries.
Prediction: Bears win 35-31.
Cincinnati at Baltimore
Just when the Cincinnati Bengals start looking like the Super Bowl contender many expect them to be, the team predictably falls apart. The loss on Thursday night to the Miami Dolphins was a huge setback to the Bengals after the team had won three games in a row.
However, Baltimore is in much worse shape than Cincinnati. The Ravens have lost three games in a row and four of their last five contests. The last two losses came against Oakland and Cleveland, and Baltimore only managed to scrounge 34 points combined in those two games.
Joe Flacco has played decently since throwing five interceptions against the Buffalo Bills earlier this year. In his last four games, he's thrown five touchdowns and just two interceptions. However, Baltimore doesn't run the ball well, averaging just 71.6 yards per game (No. 29 in the NFL).
Cincinnati's No. 5-ranked defense will easily handle Baltimore's anemic offense, and Andy Dalton will bounce back from his four-turnover performance on Thursday Night Football. He had thrown 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions in his previous three games, and he'll have another fine performance this weekend.
Prediction: Bengals win 27-17.
Denver at San Diego
At 4-4, the San Diego Chargers are in danger of falling too far behind the other top teams in the AFC to make the playoffs. Making matters worse, the Chiefs and Denver Broncos are well ahead in the AFC West, posting records of 9-0 and 8-1, respectively.
Denver must win this game to stay just one game back of Kansas City, which has stunned the league this year. The two teams meet up in Week 11 for the first of two matchups this season, but the Broncos must not look past the Chargers this Sunday.
On paper, there's no way the Chargers should win this game.
Will San Diego make it into the playoffs this season?
Denver averages 42.9 points per game and has scored at least 33 points in every single contest this year. San Diego, on the other hand, has a high score this year of 33 points, which it achieved once, in Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Peyton Manning leads the league's most explosive offense, and he beat Philip Rivers and the Chargers both times they met last year.
It'll take nothing less than a perfect effort by San Diego to win this game. However, as we saw in Week 6 when the Chargers methodically took down the Indianapolis Colts, perfect isn't out of the realm of possibility with this team.
Prediction: Broncos win 45-31.
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