Week 10 NFL Picks: Predictions for Every Game
Want to impress your friends this week by picking every winning game for Week 10 in the NFL? Here's your weekly cheat sheet.
I'll break down the biggest games, and even the little ones, telling you who will win and why they'll pull out a victory.
Can't wait until Sunday to find out if the San Francisco 49ers will beat the New York Giants? Fear not—the answer is inside.
Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers (Thursday)
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When Oakland Has the Ball
Quarterback Carson Palmer has tossed seven interceptions in two games—not quite what the Oakland Raiders hoped for when they sent multiple draft picks to Cincinnati for the veteran quarterback. Palmer is still improving after sitting out the first seven weeks of the season, but the word is out that the Raiders will turn the ball over.
The Raider offense misses running back Darren McFadden, who may be back this week. Without McFadden, this is a different team, forced to rely too heavily on a quarterback who three weeks ago was sitting on his couch.
The San Diego Chargers defense is riddled with holes of its own, but the secondary is good enough to keep up with a young wide receiver corps in Oakland.
When San Diego Has the Ball
Philip Rivers has been the offense in San Diego over the past several seasons. It would seem that weight is crushing him this year.
The Chargers have talented receivers, a Hall of Fame tight end and an emerging backfield. They should start to rely more on their other weapons, but to do that the defense has to keep them ahead in the points column.
The Raiders defense has been a huge letdown this year. Their play against the run will encourage the Chargers to pound the ball with Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews.
Prediction: San Diego 31, Oakland 27
Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles
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When Arizona Has the Ball
The Arizona Cardinals have played better than their 2-6 record would indicate, especially over the last three weeks.
With John Skelton at quarterback, the team struggled offensively in Week 9, but it managed a win. To beat the Philadelphia Eagles, it'll need to limit the touches of either quarterback (Skelton or Kevin Kolb) and instead focus on getting the ball to Chris Wells.
The Cardinals will have their chances against this Eagles defense—everyone has this year—but the key to victory is running the ball and keeping the high-octane offense of the Eagles off the field.
When Philadelphia Has the Ball
The Eagles recipe on offense isn't tricky. Start with a heavy dose of LeSean McCoy, mix in some Michael Vick and touches of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and you have an explosive game plan.
Philadelphia's problems aren't on offense. It moves the ball with ease, especially now that left tackle Jason Peters is back. Philadelphia has been in many shootouts this season, and it can expect the same against a Cardinals offense that moved the ball on the Steelers and Ravens.
The Cardinals must spy Vick with a safety and commit to stopping the speedy receivers on the edge. Were it not for McCoy in the backfield, you could almost run a 3-3-5 set against the Eagles to match their speed.
Prediction: Philadelphia 28, Arizona 13
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts
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When Jacksonville Has the Ball
With a rookie quarterback who has taken a step back in each of the last three games, the Jacksonville Jaguars will roll out a predictable game plan based around the tough running of Maurice Jones-Drew. I know this, you know this, the Indianapolis Colts know this. It doesn't mean they can stop it.
Jones-Drew is having a monster season, especially when considering the lack of a passing game to keep defenses out of the box.
Facing constant eight-man fronts, Jones-Drew is having his finest NFL season. He'll be leaned on heavily in this game as the Jaguars hope to set the tempo early and take pressure off the rookie quarterback.
The Colts defense matches up well against a young Jacksonville offensive line. Defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis could enjoy big games against Blaine Gabbert and his very average offensive line.
When Indianapolis Has the Ball
As of Monday night, it seems like Curtis Painter will get the start at quarterback this weekend, even though he was pulled late in the team's Week 9 loss. Painter does give Indianapolis its best chance to win, and believe me, this is a winnable game.
Jacksonville has a very underrated front seven. The play of Paul Posluszny at linebacker has inspired this talented group into stepping up over the course of the season. The Jaguars are dangerous, and for a team with so few weapons on offense, the task should be an easy one.
Without Dallas Clark, Indianapolis will have no identity this week (which won't be a huge change). While I do think the Colts have their best chance to get a win this week, it will take a big effort from Painter and his receivers to mask their lack of talent at running back and tight end.
Prediction: Jacksonville 23, Indianapolis 10
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
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When Denver Has the Ball
The Tim Tebow experiment moves to Week 4 this week. The Broncos are 2-1 under Tebow at quarterback; even if they have played against mediocre defenses in those two wins, the Broncos are winning, and that's all you can ask for.
Denver was able to beat the Oakland Raiders by unveiling a read option that allows Tebow to get outside the pocket in space and make plays with his arm or legs. This worked against a Raider defense that lacks discipline and talent; against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Broncos will face a different animal.
The Chiefs run a 3-4 defense, which is much different to run an option against. Tebow will struggle to read the outside linebacker in this set, as the player is immediately crashing the line and not dropping into coverage. This half-second difference is huge when reading the defense.
Kansas City should unleash Tamba Hali and Justin Houston from the edges (their best athletes) while letting Derrick Johnson roam and react from the middle. We know that Denver cannot throw the ball. Load the box and force Tebow to make decisions.
When Kansas City Has the Ball
The Denver defense isn't great, and that's being nice. When building a game plan against this defense, you circle one player: Von Miller.
Miller's athleticism as outside linebacker is worth being aware of, but the rest of this team is either inexperienced or over the hill. Champ Bailey can be beaten deep, and the Chiefs have the talent at wide receiver to spread out the Broncos defense and pick apart weaknesses in the zone defense.
Expect Kansas City to try to get the run game going, but it'll soon find greater success in letting Matt Cassel throw the ball.
Prediction: Kansas City 24, Denver 20
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
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When Pittsburgh Has the Ball
The Pittsburgh Steelers are loaded with four talented wide receivers, a great tight end and a quarterback who makes big plays every week. What they have lacked this season is big production at running back, and to date it hasn't slowed them down much.
It could this week.
The Cincinnati Bengals defense isn't loaded with big-name players, but they do an excellent job getting after the quarterback and making the offense uncomfortable. Ben Roethlisberger has been known to hold the ball too long in the past. If he struggles to get rid of the ball early, the Bengals will get after him and make the Steelers pay.
Pittsburgh may abandon the run again this week, but it should at least open the game trying to get Rashard Mendenhall going.
When Cincinnati Has the Ball
Before last week's game against the Baltimore Ravens, I would have said that cornerback Ike Taylor could handle A.J. Green in one-on-one situations, but now I'm not so sure. Taylor was beaten up by the Baltimore receivers, none of whom have the all-around athleticism and playmaking skills of Green.
The Bengals need another mistake-free game from rookie quarterback Andy Dalton if they are to win this week. A heavy dose of Cedric Benson should be expected after watching Ray Rice find running room last week.
Pittsburgh would love to have LaMarr Woodley back this week, but as of Monday night, that looks unlikely. It'll rely on James Harrison, who has been elite when playing, but can he do it alone? This isn't the same Steelers defense we've grown to fear.
Prediction: Cincinnati 24, Pittsburgh 21
Buffalo Bills at Dallas Cowboys
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When Buffalo Has the Ball
The Buffalo Bills have survived so far this season without elite play from the No. 2 wide receiver position. If there was ever a week when they needed a big-play player opposite Steve Johnson, this is it.
The Cowboys defense will be difficult for the Buffalo offensive line. DeMarcus Ware and his 12 sacks will be a nightmare for the overmatched offensive tackles of the Bills. If Sean Lee is able to come back from his wrist injury for this game, even the strong Buffalo run game could be locked down.
The Bills need Fred Jackson rolling early. He struggled against the Jets, but this Dallas defense is just as talented and schematically very similar.
When Dallas Has the Ball
DeMarco Murray is suddenly The Man in Dallas, running with a power and burst the Cowboy offense has been lacking with Tashard Choice and Felix Jones sharing carries early this season. Murray will be the focus of the offense with Miles Austin out three to five weeks.
Buffalo does a good job forcing turnovers, but its defense is playing poorly overall this season. Murray will have holes off tackle against this unit and should see daylight against a linebacking corps that's not living up to preseason expectations.
Without a true pass-rusher off the edge, Buffalo will not be able to pressure Tony Romo into his usually inconsistent play, but do watch for nose tackle Marcell Dareus to have a big game against Phil Costa at center.
Prediction: Dallas 31, Buffalo 23
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
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When New Orleans Has the Ball
I've been waiting a long time to see the matchup of Darren Sproles and Sean Weatherspoon. It's finally here.
The New Orleans Saints love to get the ball to their tiny running back both from handoffs and short throws. If Atlanta chooses to match him up with Weatherspoon, this could be a track meet.
The Saints offense has been inconsistent all season, and after a good game last week, it will be interesting to see how it performs against the talented Atlanta secondary.
The Falcons have the players to keep up with the productive New Orleans offense. Seeing Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson on Robert Meachem and Marques Colston should make for a fun game.
When Atlanta Has the Ball
When you look at this game from afar, you wonder how the Falcons will be able to score enough points to beat the Saints, but once you look closer it's easy to see plenty of opportunities for Atlanta's offense.
The Saints are ranked No. 14 against the pass and No. 18 against the run, good but definitely not great. Michael Turner will have holes against the Saints' defensive line, and he has the speed to run away from a group of linebackers that need an infusion of speed.
The keys to the game will be Roddy White and Julio Jones. If they can find space against the New Orleans cornerbacks, Matt Ryan is good enough to deliver a win in a shootout.
Prediction: Atlanta 42, New Orleans 38
St. Louis Rams at Cleveland Browns
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When St. Louis Has the Ball
The St. Louis Rams offense hasn't been much to pay attention to this season, but there is talent here. With a healthy Sam Bradford getting more comfortable with wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, there's potential to make plays.
The Cleveland defense is playing well, but it hasn't been able to get a consistent pass rush. Even against a St. Louis offensive line that has struggled at times, I can't see the Browns getting after Bradford enough to make a difference in this one.
There's also this guy named Steven Jackson. He'll enjoy a big day running against the NFL's third-worst run defense.
When Cleveland Has the Ball
No Peyton Hillis. No elite wide receivers. Nothing much at tight end. The Browns offense will struggle again this week.
Colt McCoy couldn't buy help right now, and at some point you start to worry about the regression in his game. Even if McCoy was playing like an early Joe Montana, with no talent around him, it wouldn't matter.
I don't expect many points in this game, and while the Cleveland defense may slow down the St. Louis offense, I don't see the Browns moving the ball on the Rams defense.
Prediction: St. Louis 13, Cleveland 6
Washington Redskins at Miami Dolphins
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When Washington Has the Ball
I am running out of nice things to say about the Washington Redskins offense. The front office decided to not pursue a quarterback this summer, and it is now paying for its bad decision.
The key to a win is limiting what John Beck has to do. Roy Helu Jr. played well against the San Francisco 49ers and should be given more touches in the run game this week as opposed to working so often as a receiver. If the Redskins can manage a lead or keep this game close, Helu could be a difference-maker.
I expect the Miami Dolphins to unleash hell this week in the form of their blitz package. Mike Nolan has to be salivating at the thought of facing one of the worst pass-blocking lines in the NFL.
When Miami Has the Ball
Reggie Bush had the best game of his pro career last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, a defense oddly similar to the Washington Redskins' 3-4 scheme.
The Dolphins have to scheme to protect Matt Moore from the outside pass rush. Both Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo are having Pro Bowl seasons as outside linebacker. A failure to account for them will result in negative plays in the backfield.
The Dolphins should feel confident putting their cornerbacks on an island this week and loading the box to stop the Washington run game.
Prediction: Miami 24, Washington 19
Houston Texans at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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When Houston Has the Ball
The Houston Texans offense has been able to move the ball this season despite injuries (at times) to Arian Foster and Andre Johnson. Chances are they'll have Johnson back this week in time for a potential trap game against the sometimes good, sometimes bad Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Houston will have its options this weekend when facing the NFL's fourth-lowest-ranked defense. Whether it's Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Andre Johnson, Jacoby Jones or even someone else, the Buccaneers do not match up well against the high-profile Houston offense.
When Tampa Bay Has the Ball
The Texans are more than just offense. With the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense after 10 weeks, Houston has the rare ability to build a lead and shut down the opposition. No team in the NFL is playing better all-around football right now.
Tampa Bay needs big games from its 2010 playmakers Josh Freeman, LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams. The trio has been disappointing this season, and the Tampa offense has limped through the season waiting for consistency from their young stars.
The Bucs' strength is their passing game, but they do not have the players to match up with a fast, aggressive Houston defense.
Prediction: Houston 42, Tampa Bay 24
Tennessee Titans at Carolina Panthers
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When Tennessee Has the Ball
The Tennessee game plan will center on getting the ball to Chris Johnson and Javon Ringer between the tackles against a Carolina Panthers defensive line that's giving up chunks of yards in the trenches.
Johnson flashed the burst and speed of his previous seasons last week; this could be the big week we've all been waiting for from Johnson this season. If he fails to get it done, Ringer is more than capable of coming in to carry the load.
Carolina may struggle at defensive tackle and linebacker, but Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy are getting it done at defensive end. Should the Panthers get the lead in this one, watch for the matchup between the Panthers defensive ends and the Titans offensive tackles. It'll be a good one.
When Carolina Has the Ball
We all know that the Panthers will plan to let Cam Newton do his thing this weekend. That means throwing deep to Steve Smith in coverage against Cortland Finnegan, a matchup that features two players I'd absolutely hate to piss off.
Newton should have targets underneath, whether to the tight ends or to Jonathan Stewart. The Titans linebackers can be weak in coverage, and unless Michael Griffin is playing in man coverage, Greg Olsen should have a nice game.
Bottling up Newton is a task few teams have been able to handle this year, but you don't have to stop Newton as much as you have to wait for mistakes and hope your offense can keep up.
Prediction: Tennessee 35, Carolina 31
Baltimore Ravens at Seattle Seahawks
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When Baltimore Has the Ball
The Baltimore Ravens are riding a high after defeating the rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. The last time they beat Pittsburgh, they dropped a Week 2 loss to the Tennessee Titans. You can bet John Harbaugh will be reminding his team of that game this week.
Baltimore has struggled at times to find production on offense. Despite a 6-2 record, this offense hasn't been notable all season. Joe Flacco has played well below expectations, and the team hasn't done a good job getting Ray Rice into a rhythm each week. If ever there was an opportunity to fix its issues, this is it.
The Seattle Seahawks have a small handful of players on defense worth mentioning; the rest are replaceable. The Ravens should easily line up and run over the Seahawks.
Oh, and those players worth mentioning: Red Bryant, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. I rip on Seattle a lot, but these guys are playing lights out.
When Seattle Has the Ball
This won't be an enjoyable day for Seattle fans.
The Baltimore Ravens defense is one of the best in the game. If they can hold the Pittsburgh Steelers to 20 points, the Seahawks will be fortunate to see 10.
Seattle would be advised to spread the offense out and let Tarvaris Jackson move around in the pocket and get the ball to his talented wide receivers and tight ends.
However, this is the NFL's fifth-worst offense statistically for a reason. The Ravens should walk all over the Seattle offense.
Prediction: Baltimore 38, Seattle 9
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
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When Detroit Has the Ball
The Detroit offense hasn't been the same without Jahvid Best, and as of Monday night it's uncertain if he'll be back this weekend. Without him, the Lions have to spread the ball and work the Chicago secondary with their three- and four-wide sets.
The trouble is the Lions have an offensive line that will give up big plays. With Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Henry Melton all showing serious skills at closing on the quarterback, the Lions could be in for a long day.
I do expect at least one deep ball touchdown to Calvin Johnson, as the Bears defense has no one who can stop Megatron. But then again, who does?
When Chicago Has the Ball
I'm not soliciting for a job, as I'm quite happy where I am, but I could tell Mike Martz how to beat the Detroit Lions this weekend. Instead, I'll tell you guys.
The Lions have lost two games this year against teams with talented running backs, the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons. The Bears have a talented running back.
San Francisco laid the blueprint for scoring on an intimidating Lions defense by running screen packages and using the Lions' aggressive defensive line against them.
We called this a "WHAM" play when I coached: You let the defensive tackle get upfield and then drill him with a pulling guard to wall off a delayed running game. This is all you have to do, and the run will set up the screen package against the Detroit defense.
Mike Martz may overthink this one, but twice this season this same package has worked against Detroit.
Prediction: Lions 27, Bears 24
New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers
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When New York Has the Ball
While there is time for this to change, I'm being told there's very little chance Ahmad Bradshaw plays this weekend. The running back was doubtful last week with a foot injury and is the lifeblood of the Giants offense.
Eli Manning is playing elite football, and against a San Francisco defense that's allowing 255 yards per game, he will get his yards. But will he get points?
The 49ers have deployed a bend-but-don't-break defense this season, allowing the fewest points per game despite those 255 yards passing given up per game.
For those keeping track, the 49ers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 30 straight games.
When San Francisco Has the Ball
The coaching staff in San Francisco should be excited this week, as their sixth-ranked rushing attack will face the Giants' eighth-worst run defense.
The Giants are great at rushing the passer and stopping wide receivers, but San Francisco has a plan to run Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter into the trenches all day. Look for another efficient day from Alex Smith, completing 15 of 25 for 200 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
The Giants will get their hits on Smith, but with aggressive defensive ends, the 49ers will get to work the draw plays that make Gore so dangerous.
Prediction: San Francisco 28, New York 21
Game of the Week: New England Patriots at New York Jets (Sunday Night)
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When New England Has the Ball
The New England Patriots continue to butt their heads against the wall and refuse to try to establish the run game, even when the matchup would dictate a heavy run attack. That's the story again this week as they face a New York Jets defense that is allowing 123 yards per game.
If ever Bill Belichick had a game where he should hand the ball off to his stable of running backs, this is it. Trust BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley this week and the Patriots win. Guaranteed. The last time these two met, that strategy worked. It will again.
Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie will force Tom Brady to make mistakes if the run game isn't set up. While the Jets do not have the bodies to pass-rush Brady, they can limit Wes Welker in this game.
When New York Has the Ball
The New York offense is getting better at the same time the New England defense is playing worse, making their Week 10 matchup a perfect storm for both squads.
Mark Sanchez has to play mistake-free football this week, which is something quarterbacks have done against New England this season. The Patriots secondary situation is very unsettled, giving Sanchez a good opportunity to pick apart a thrown-together unit.
New England has to focus on rushing the passer this week. The right side of the New York offensive line is very beatable, and the Patriots should find ways to get Andre Carter working opposite D'Brickashaw Ferguson this week.
Prediction: New England 30, New York Jets 27
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (Monday Night)
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When Minnesota Has the Ball
Each week that Christian Ponder has been in, whether the preseason or regular season, he's improved. Ponder will have his chances against a surprisingly giving Green Bay Packers defense this weekend.
Ponder may improve this week, but without help at wide receiver, he can only do so much. The Packers will take away Percy Harvin with Tramon Williams, daring Ponder to make a mistake with their zone defense.
The Vikings need to get Adrian Peterson going this week to take pressure off Ponder. There are holes to run against the Packers defense, especially the cutback lanes on the left side. If any back is going to produce against Green Bay, it's Peterson. He's in a class by himself among NFL runners.
The Packers excel at baiting quarterbacks into mistakes by playing off the receiver and then closing on the ball. No team does this better, and while it can backfire, it works the majority of the time by causing turnovers and big plays for the defense. Just ask the San Diego Chargers.
When Green Bay Has the Ball
Each week I try to paint a picture of potential for each team. I'll be honest and tell you the Minnesota Vikings have no chance of stopping the Green Bay Packers offense. Sorry.
The Packers go five deep at wide receiver and feature one of the most gifted tight ends in the game. Minnesota's secondary is woefully thin, poorly equipped to handle even two good wide receivers. Antoine Winfield will do his job on one side, but there's no one left to cover the other four targets on the field.
Minnesota is years away from competing on the level that Green Bay is at right now, but then again, so is most of the NFL.
Prediction: Green Bay 31, Minnesota 7