NFL Week 10: New England Patriots at New York Jets Tops Among Divisional Games
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Half of all games in Week 10 will be between division rivals.
The stakes will be high. In five of the games first place, or at least a tie for first place, will be up for grabs.
The playoff chances of some teams will improve, while others might start to fade.
Here is a preview of the divisional matchups on tap this week.
Jacksonville at Indianapolis
Will this be the week the Colts finally win a game?
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Why would this game be important?
The "if, then" factor.
If the Colts win, and if they beat Jacksonville in the rematch on January 1st, and if the Jaguars don't win anymore games, and if the other bottom feeders—the Rams, Dolphins, Cardinals, Panthers, Vikings and Seahawks—win another game or two, then these two could hold the top two choices in next year's draft.
To make it simple, with a loss, the Jaguars could throw their name into the "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes.
Besides all that, it will just be another game between the worse scoring offense—Jacksonville with 98 points, and the worse scoring defense—Indianapolis has given up 283 points.
Something's got to give.
Minnesota at Green Bay
Can anyone stop the Packers offense?
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This Monday night game won't change the standings. Even if Minnesota pulls a huge upset, the Packers will still be in first place, the Vikings will still be in last.
However, there are a couple of reasons to watch.
Green Bay is still undefeated. Counting the postseason their streak is now at 14 games. Is this a "trap game" for the Packers?
Minnesota's rookie quarterback, Christian Ponder, is another. He got his first career start against Green Bay just three weeks ago.
Even though he completed only 40 percent of his passes, with the support he got from the running game—175 yards from Adrian Peterson—the Vikings came close to an upset. The final score was 33-27.
At a critical juncture in the game, Coach Leslie Frazier elected to punt instead of going for it on fourth down. The Packers were able to run out the clock.
The Vikings might think differently this week.
Detroit at Chicago
Jay Cutler and the Bears are still in the playoff race.
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Are these teams going in different directions?
Meanwhile the Bears have won three straight. They are coming off a road win over the surging Eagles.
This game is critically important for both teams—the loser could be in danger of missing the playoffs.
Denver at Kansas City
Matt Cassel and the Chiefs were awful against winless Miami.
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Whether you like Tim Tebow or not, you can't argue the fact that he wins games. He is 2-1 as a starter, with both wins coming on the road.
In last week's win over Oakland, credit should also go to the defense and special teams.
The defense intercepted Carson Palmer three times, and held Oakland scoreless in the fourth quarter. Eddie Royal returned a punt 85 yards for a fourth quarter touchdown.
Who can figure out the Chiefs?
After four consecutive victories, including back-to-back wins over Oakland and San Diego, they lose at home to winless Miami. Not just any loss, but a humbling 31-3 loss.
Despite that, the Chiefs can still be tied for first place if they can win this game.
Oakland at San Diego
Mistakes are hurting the Chargers.
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Say what you will about Jason Campbell, the Raiders haven't been the same since he was injured.
In the two games he has missed with a broken collarbone, his replacements—Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer—threw more interceptions (nine) than Campbell (four) in six games.
To make matters worse, they lost both games at home to division rivals.
The Chargers come in on a self-inflicted three-game skid. They could have won all three, even against Green Bay.
They blew an 11-point halftime lead at the Jets. Next it was an inexcusable fumble in Kansas City by Philip Rivers that led to an overtime loss. Last week the Packers returned two first quarter interceptions for touchdowns.
Both teams need to fix their mistakes. The loser might be at home in January.
New Orleans at Atlanta
Michael Turner could be the key against the Saints.
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First place in the NFC South is on the line.
However, they have struggled on the road going 2-3. Their only road wins were against lowly Jacksonville and Carolina—and they had to score a touchdown in the final minute to win that game.
Atlanta has won their last three games after some were beginning to give up on them. Included in their winning streak was an impressive win at Detroit.
Atlanta is one of the tougher places in the NFL for a road team to win. Matt Ryan has only lost three home games in his career.
The keys to the game: Can the Falcons stop the Saints' No. 2 passing offense, and can the Saints stop Michael Turner?
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Andy Dalton has the Bengals tied for first in the AFC North.
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No one predicted that Cincinnati and Pittsburgh would play a game meaningful to both teams in mid-November.
They shouldn't take the Bengals lightly.
Besides San Francisco and Buffalo, the Bengals are the NFL's biggest surprise. They are doing it with a rookie quarterback and a defense currently ranked fourth in the league.
Are they that good, or has it been light scheduling?
Only two of their wins have come against teams at or above .500—Buffalo and Tennessee.
This is the week that most think the glass slipper will get broken. The Bengals are entering a critical stretch in the season, and how they play will tell us if they are for real, or not.
New England at New York Jets
Can Mark Sanchez direct the Jets to a division title?
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It has been called a "Divisional Championship" game.
The winner will have no worse than a tie with Buffalo for the AFC East lead. Lately, they are going in different directions.
The Jets, on the other hand, have found new life since losing at New England on October 9th.
Now the Jets are 5-3; tied for first with Buffalo and New England. They are also coming off an impressive win in Buffalo. A win by New York will give them control of the division.
As competitive as the AFC is this year, a couple of good teams will miss the playoffs. The loser of this game might be one of them.