It's already Week 10 of a 2013 NFL season that has been full of twists and surprises.
Nobody thought that the Kansas City Chiefs would enter their Week 10 bye at a perfect 9-0. That's more wins than the Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens (all of whom made the playoffs a year ago) have combined.
As we roll into a Week 10 highlighted by big games in the Superdome and at Soldier Field, here's a look at how experts from around the Internet expect the games to unfold.
Before we move on to Week 10's games, let's take a look at our panel of experts.
ESPN: ESPN's picks are a combination of the selections of 13 experts. Those experts include writers like Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter as well as former players such as Eric Allen and Mike Golic.
CBS Sports: The CBS Sports picks feature eight writers, including senior NFL columnist Pete Prisco and NFL insider Jason La Canfora.
USA Today: As with the other sites on our panel, USA Today uses a committee approach, with seven writers offering their picks for this week's games.
Bleacher Report: I would be remiss not to include the prognostications of my esteemed colleagues here at Bleacher Report. This year's starting lineup for Bleacher Report's picks team features each of the national lead writers as well as the lead writers covering the NFL's divisions.
There you have it: over 40 NFL experts (plus one computer) all making their takes for this week's games.
Week 9 was a bit of struggle for the experts, who followed up a hot October with a cold start to November.
Last Week: 7-5
Final Verdict: Well, Week 10 certainly got off to an interesting start.
Not only did the Indianapolis Colts not make easy work of the St. Louis Rams, but propelled by three long touchdowns from wide receiver Tavon Austin the Rams jackstomped the Colts 38-8.
You read that right. A Colts team that was considered a very real Super Bowl contender got waxed at home by a team quarterbacked by Kellen Clemens.
ESPN: Colts (12-0)
CBS Sports: Colts (8-0)
Fox Sports: Colts (5-0)
USA Today: Colts (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Colts (12-0)
Overall: Colts (45-0)
This week's picks are all over the place. The closest vote yet this year, followed by two straight unanimous picks.
The second of those picks is the Indianapolis Colts, who welcome the St. Louis Rams to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
The Colts got a scare from the Houston Texans last week, falling behind big early before rallying for a win that kept Indy safely atop the AFC South.
Bleacher Report AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst doesn't see the Kellen Clemens-led Rams being much of a problem for the Colts:
Andrew Luck may have just harnessed a rare form of quarterbacking magic as evidenced by his fourth-quarter comeback against the Houston Texans last week and the giant-killer reputation his Colts have earned after defeating the 49ers and Broncos. The Rams simply don't stand a chance, no matter how much pressure they put on the second-year passer.
Final Verdict: The outcome of this week's game between the Rams and Colts may have been a shocker, but Sunday's tilt in Atlanta went more-or-less according to script.
Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch topped 140 yards on the ground, quarterback Russell Wilson threw two touchdown passes and the Seahawks exacted a measure of revenge for last year's playoff loss with a 33-10 win over an injury-ravaged Falcons squad.
ESPN: Seahawks (11-2)
CBS Sports: Seahawks (8-0)
Fox Sports: Seahawks (5-0)
USA Today: Seahawks (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Seahawks (12-0)
Overall: Seahawks (42-3)
The Seattle Seahawks have the NFC's best record, but it hasn't been pretty of late.
In fact, the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers nearly stunned the Seahawks last week, racing to a 21-0 lead before eventually falling 27-24 in overtime.
It's the second straight game in which the Seahawks have struggled with a team with a losing record, but mini-slump or no, the vast majority of this week's experts believe the Seahawks will get past the reeling Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
In fact, Bleacher Report NFC North Lead Writer Zach Kruse predicts an emphatic win:
Confidence can be built when you don't play your best football but still win games. With the Falcons sinking, Seattle puts together its best overall performance since stomping San Francisco in Week 2.
Final Verdict: Three teams entered Week 10 tied atop the NFC North at 5-3.
However, the Detroit Lions left Soldier Field in sole position of first place after a 21-19 win that came down to a failed two-point conversion by the Bears with less than a minute left.
ESPN: Lions (7-6)
CBS Sports: Lions (6-2)
Fox Sports: Lions (4-1)
USA Today: Lions (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Lions (10-2)
Overall: Lions (33-12)
Sunday's NFC North tilt between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears is filled with subplots.
After beating the Green Bay Packers last Monday night, the Bears created a three-way logjam atop the NFC North.
Now, with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers out indefinitely with a broken collarbone, this game has huge ramifications in the division.
The plot thickened on Thursday. As Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago reports, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is expected to return to action this week after missing the Green Bay game with a groin injury.
The Lions won the first meeting this year between the two teams, and it's Detroit who the majority (including Bleacher Report AFC East Lead Writer Erik Frenz) have picked to win again:
The Lions were supposed to be so much more balanced this year, but Matthew Stafford has different plans and is on pace for 5,234 passing yards this season. Against a Bears defense that's struggled both through the air and on the ground, this could be a barnburner.
Final Verdict: OK, so the Green Bay Packers may be in trouble.
Things were bad enough with starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers out indefinitely with a broken collarbone.
Now, with Seneca Wallace forced from Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles with a groin injury, the Packers were forced to turn to Scott Tolzien under center.
Tolzien threw for 280 yards, but two interceptions helped contribute to a 27-13 loss that dropped the Packers out of first place.
ESPN: Packers (10-3)
CBS Sports: Eagles (6-2)
Fox Sports: Eagles (4-1)
USA Today: Eagles (4-3)
Bleacher Report: Tied (6-6)
Overall: Eagles (23-22)
The Green Bay Packers have to be the most depressed first-place team in the NFL.
As Tom Silverstein of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is out indefinitely after breaking his collarbone in last week's loss to the Chicago Bears.
Rodgers is tentatively expected to be out at least a month, which has cast clouds of doubt all over the Packers' season.
That doubt, in turn, has led to the closest vote so far this season for this week's home game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
With a vote this close, it's no surprise the writers at Bleacher Report are split right down the middle.
Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Ty Schalter took the Packers, writing, "Even without Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are too talented to lose at home to this Eagles team. It's really, really close, but it's a Packers win."
NFL National Lead Writer Miller disagreed. "No Aaron Rodgers?" Miller said. "No way the Packers can keep up with the Eagles offense."
Final Verdict: With the Colts getting blown out at home, Sunday's home meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars provided the Titans with a golden opportunity to move into contention in the AFC South.
So, of course the Titans went out and lost to the winless Jags.
This is why they can't have nice things.
ESPN: Titans (13-0)
CBS Sports: Titans (8-0)
Fox Sports: Titans (5-0)
USA Today: Titans (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Titans (12-0)
Overall: Titans (45-0)
For the first time this season, the Jacksonville Jaguars did not lose last week.
Of course, the Jaguars also did not play last week.
This week, they do, on the road against a Tennessee Titans team that's smack in the middle of the AFC playoff hunt.
Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman summed things up for the consensus:
"Jaguars headed toward 0-16."
Final Verdict: Well folks, get ready to be deluged with tales of how the 3-6 Giants can still make the playoffs.
Any question as to how the Giants will "ease in" running Back Andre Brown were answered quickly. Brown finished the game with 30 carries for 115 yards and a score, and the Giants won their third in a row with a 24-20 win over the Oakland Raiders.
ESPN: Giants (13-0)
CBS Sports: Giants (7-1)
Fox Sports: Giants (5-0)
USA Today: Giants (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Giants (9-3)
Overall: Giants (41-4)
The New York Giants are coming out of their bye filled with optimism. Despite a 2-6 start to the season, general manager Jerry Reese recently told Kieran Darcy of ESPN that the Giants are "still in it" in the NFC East.
The Oakland Raiders had similar optimism just a week ago. Maybe not delusions of a playoff trip but at least the feeling that things were headed in the right direction.
Then Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles laid seven touchdown passes on the Raiders in Week 9, and that optimism evaporated.
A few hearty souls haven't given up on the Raiders, among them Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Ty Schalter.
"I know Giants fans are all buzzing on a two-game win streak," Schalter wrote, "and the Raiders are coming off a harsh loss, but these two teams are evenly matched. I like Terrelle Pryor to outscore Eli."
Final Verdict: The Week 10 matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers looked about like you'd expect a game between two teams with a combined record of 6-13 to look.
EJ Manuel was shaky in his return for the Bills, passing for only 155 yards and tossing an interception. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger wasn't a whole lot better, but the Steelers made plays when they needed to en route to a 23-10 win.
ESPN: Steelers (12-1)
CBS Sports: Steelers (5-3)
Fox Sports: Steelers (4-1)
USA Today: Steelers (5-2)
Bleacher Report: Bills (9-3)
Overall: Steelers (29-16)
The Pittsburgh Steelers have bottomed out.
Last week, the Steelers allowed 610 yards and 55 points in a loss to the New England Patriots. Both numbers were the most given up in the history of the franchise.
However, despite that depressing statistic and the fact that Mike Rodak of ESPN reports that the Buffalo Bills should have quarterback EJ Manuel back under center this week, the majority of the experts like the Steelers to win this Rust Belt battle.
The experts at Bleacher Report are the exception.
Seventy-five percent of the pundits here chose the Bills, including AFC West Lead Writer Christopher Hansen:
The Bills might not have a lot of wins to show for it, but they are a well-coached team with Doug Marrone. With the return of EJ Manuel, the Bills should be better. They nearly knocked off the Kansas City Chiefs with Jeff Tuel at QB last week, so they should be able to beat the shaky Steelers.
Final Verdict: For a game that was supposed to be important, it sure seemed like neither team wanted to win.
First, the Baltimore Ravens raced to a 17-0 lead, only to let the Cincinnati Bengals tie the game on the worst execution of a Hail Mary tip drill in NFL history.
Then, with the Bengals in possession of all the momentum, Cincinnati went for it on fourth-and-2 in overtime, only to botch the play badly.
That left the Ravens with a short field to a game winning field goal and a 20-17 victory.
ESPN: Bengals (9-4)
CBS Sports: Bengals (5-3)
Fox Sports: Ravens (3-2)
USA Today: Ravens (4-3)
Bleacher Report: Bengals (10-2)
Overall: Bengals (29-16)
At 6-3 the Cincinnati Bengals sit atop the AFC North, but all is not necessarily well in the Queen City.
Injuries are mounting, especially on defense. After losing defensive tackle Geno Atkins, the Bengals were gashed up the middle with regularity in last week's loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Things are even worse in Baltimore. After a loss to the Cleveland Browns, the odds of a return to the Super Bowl for the Ravens aren't looking good.
The Ravens absolutely can't afford to fall any farther behind the Bengals, but that's exactly what our panel expects to happen in Week 10.
Bleacher Report AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst explains:
The Bengals run the ball well, pass it well, stop the run well and defend the pass well. The Ravens only do two of these things—pass the ball, stop the run—and are not as good at them. If there was any question that the Bengals are the new class of the AFC North, it will be answered this week when they defeat the defending Super Bowl champions.
Final Verdict: It appears we have another contender in the NFC.
That newcomer is the Carolina Panthers, who not only extended their winning streak to five but dominated the San Francisco offense on their way to a 10-9 win over the 49ers.
The 49ers were able to generate only 151 total yards of offense against the Panthers.
Michael Crabtree can't return soon enough.
ESPN: 49ers (13-0)
CBS Sports: 49ers (6-2)
Fox Sports: 49ers (5-0)
USA Today: 49ers (6-1)
Bleacher Report: 49ers (7-5)
Overall: 49ers (37-8)
The Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers are the hottest teams in the NFC. The pair have nine straight wins between them.
Something will have to give on Sunday afternoon, when quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina offense match up with linebacker NaVorro Bowman and the 49ers defense.
Most of the panel, including Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Michael Schottey, expects the home team to notch the win:
Strength on strength, here. I don't expect either offense to look really good in this one, and the QB that can avoid the most mistakes and make a big play or two should win. At home, I'll go with Kaepernick and the Niners.
However, the Panthers have their supporters, including NFC East Writer Brad Gagnon:
This is one of those "any given Sunday" picks. San Francisco should win at home, because the Niners are red hot and because nobody is ready to give the Panthers any love based on the bad opponents they've been beating up on. But you can't control who you play, and I think Cam Newton and that entire Carolina team is ready to make a statement.
Final Verdict: The Arizona Cardinals are the winners of the "ugliest potential playoff team in the NFL" award.
It wasn't a pretty win by any stretch, but the Cardinals moved to 5-4 with a 27-24 win over the Houston Texans.
The Redbirds have won four of six, while the plummeting Texans dropped their seventh straight game.
ESPN: Cardinals (11-2)
CBS Sports: Cardinals (6-2)
Fox Sports: Texans (3-2)
USA Today: Cardinals (4-3)
Bleacher Report: Cardinals (9-3)
Overall: Cardinals (32-13)
Don't look now, but the Arizona Cardinals are in the mix for a playoff spot in the NFC.
It hasn't been especially pretty, but the Redbirds exit their bye week a .500 team, largely due to a stout defense led by linebackers Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby.
Meanwhile, the Texans continue to lose prominent players. The latest is running back Arian Foster, who will miss at least this week's game with a back injury according to Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports.
The majority of the experts look for Houston's nightmare 2013 season to continue, including Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Matt Miller.
"Case Keenum has been a bright spot for the Texans," Miller wrote, "but it will be the strength of the Arizona defense against the pass that shuts down the Houston game plan."
Final Verdict: At first glance, one might look at Sunday's final of 28-20 and assume that the San Diego Chargers gave the Denver Broncos a run for their money.
However, it was more of the same. 330 passing yards and four touchdowns for Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, three touchdown catches for wideout Demaryius Thomas, and a 21-6 halftime lead for the Broncos.
Bring on the Chiefs!
ESPN: Broncos (12-1)
CBS Sports: Broncos (8-0)
Fox Sports: Broncos (5-0)
USA Today: Broncos (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Broncos (11-1)
Overall: Broncos (43-2)
The first half of the 2013 season went pretty well for the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos scored more points over their first eight games than any team in NFL history, which has helped overcome a porous defense and propel the Broncos to the top of the AFC.
It's nearly a unanimous vote for Denver in Week 10, when it travels to San Diego for an AFC West showdown with an up-and-down Chargers team.
The lone dissenters? ESPN's Keyshawn Johnson and Bleacher Report AFC West Lead Writer Erik Frenz:
Very few people are as familiar with the Broncos defense as Mike McCoy. He knows where the weaknesses are—and there are plenty—and how to exploit them. Will it be enough? I think so.
Final Verdict: For the Dallas Cowboys to have a shot in the Superdome, the Cowboys were going to have to play a great game on defense.
That did not happen Sunday night.
In fact, after middle linebacker Sean Lee left the game the Cowboys basically stopped playing defense altogether, allowing a franchise record 625 yards in a 49-17 loss.
ESPN: Saints (13-0)
CBS Sports: Saints (8-0)
Fox Sports: Saints (5-0)
USA Today: Saints (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Saints (11-1)
Overall: Saints (44-1)
Sunday night's showdown between division leaders in the Big Easy has the makings of a thriller.
Shootout city, folks.
Despite their setback last week, Bleacher Report NFC South Lead Writer Knox Bardeen is among the overwhelming majority who expect the New Orleans Saints to prevail:
Rob Ryan moved to 0-5 against his brother last week with the Saints' loss to the New York Jets. He's not going to want to take a second loss in a row, especially to his former team. Look for the New Orleans defense to bounce back and really put a hurtin' on Tony Romo.
In fact, only one writer thinks the Cowboys will get the win.
Once again it's AFC East Lead Writer Erik Frenz playing the role of contrarian:
Tony Romo is going toe-to-toe with some of the NFL's best quarterbacks but has come up just short. This time, he and the Cowboys come away with the win thanks to his advanced knowledge of Rob Ryan's defense.
Final Verdict: Ding dong the streak is dead!
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are winless no more after holding off the Miami Dolphins 22-19 on Monday night.
Things got shaky for a bit. After staking themselves to a 15-point lead, the Buccaneers allowed 19 unanswered points before Bobby Rainey ran it in from one yard out to stop the bleeding.
First win of the year in Tampa, and a nice topper to a solid week from the panel.
ESPN: Buccaneers (10-3)
CBS Sports: Buccaneers (6-2)
Fox Sports: Dolphins (5-0)
USA Today: Buccaneers (4-3)
Bleacher Report: Dolphins (7-5)
Overall: Buccaneers (25-20)
It hasn't been a good year for professional football in the state of Florida. The three teams there have a combined record of 4-20.
Things have been just as bad off the field: Josh Freeman's ugly departure and MRSA in Tampa. The ever-growing Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito bullying scandal in Miami.
It's a close vote, but the consensus feels that the Incognito affair (and the short-handed Miami offensive line left in its wake) is enough to make the Dolphins the first team to lose to the Buccaneers this season.
However, Bleacher Report AFC West Lead Writer Christopher Hansen isn't seeing it:
Distraction can be good for a football team because the players are forced to stand united. As long as there isn't a major schism in that locker room, the Dolphins should be able to beat the Buccaneers at home. The storylines in the game are certainly plentiful.