NFL Week 10 Picks: Predicting Critical Games That Will Shape Playoff Picture

Jesse Reed@@JesseReed78Correspondent INovember 6, 2013

SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 15:  Antonio Gates #85 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates his touchdown with Malcom Floyd #80 for a 10-0 lead over the Denver Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium on October 15, 2012 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

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. 

Week 10 NFL Picks
Washington RedskinsMinnesota VikingsRedskins
Oakland RaidersNew York GiantsRaiders
Seattle SeahawksAtlanta FalconsSeahawks
Detroit LionsChicago BearsLions
Philadelphia EaglesGreen Bay PackersPackers
Jacksonville JaguarsTennessee TitansTitans
St. Louis RamsIndianapolis ColtsColts
Buffalo BillsPittsburgh SteelersSteelers
Cincinnati BengalsBaltimore RavensBengals
Carolina PanthersSan Francisco 49ers49ers
Houston TexansArizona CardinalsTexans
Denver BroncosSan Diego ChargersBroncos
Dallas CowboysNew Orleans SaintsSaints
Miami DolphinsTampa Bay BuccaneersDolphins

Detroit at Chicago

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 30:  Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears tries to get around the tackle of Louis Delmas #26 of the Detroit Lions during a fourth quarter run at Ford Field on December 30, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. Chicago won the game 26-24.(Photo
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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. 

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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:

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.

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. 

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 03:  Running back Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs the ball by defensive back T.J. Ward #43 of the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 3, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

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.

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.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78

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