The tenth week of the 2016 campaign is upon us and there are some big games to discuss. Typically the playoff picture comes way more into focus after this wave of games, so this could be the last chance for some tweener teams to make a push for relevance in December and January. Desperate teams combine for good games and I think we will see quite a few this week. Speaking of good games, I thought I would take the time to count down the top 10 best games of the season so far as we are pretty much at the exact halfway point of the season. As per usual, following the list will be my prognostication of this week’s games.
10) San Diego Chargers @ Oakland Raiders (Week 5)
This was a game filled with big plays and back and forth action. It also doesn’t hurt that it pitted two long time rivals and some last second drama. The botched hold will be what this contest is remembered for.
9) Atlanta Falcons @ Seattle Seahawks (Week 6)
Seattle looked like they were going to run away with this game until the Falcons mounted a huge third quarter comeback setting up for a wild fourth quarter that saw a questionable no-call for a Richard Sherman PI in the closing minutes.
8) Baltimore Ravens @ New York Giants (Week 6)
This game featured a couple of late scores and plenty of offense. Odell Beckham Jr. broke the internet again with a long touchdown in the final minutes. Baltimore got the ball back with a chance to win it late and made a surge but were eventually shut down due to the time running out.
7) Washington Redskins @ Detroit Lions (Week 7)
The Redskins took the lead with under two minutes, but that did not stop Matthew Stafford from marching his team down the field and re-taking the lead with only :16 left for a great win in a well-played game.
6) Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints (Week 6)
Who doesn’t love a good shootout. A field goal as time expired didn’t hurt either as the Saints win a game that saw 79 points scored (as well as a nice comeback from Carolina). Big plays littered the field.
5) Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings (Week 9)
This game saw a go-ahead touchdown from Minnesota with seconds left, a last second 58 yard field goal at the end of regulation sending it to overtime and a perfect drive put together by Matthew Stafford and friends for the best game U.S. Bank Stadium has seen so far.
4) San Diego Chargers @ Atlanta Falcons (Week 7)
A big comeback in regulation from San Diego sent this contest into OT where the Falcons made a gutsy call in their own territory on a fourth and one before getting stuffed. It was a very gritty decision that backfired on Dan Quinn unlike the next game’s bold move.
3) Oakland Raiders @ New Orleans Saints (Week 1)
Jack Del-Rio deciding to go for the win with a two point conversion with less than a minute left made this one an instant classic. There was plenty of offense too which helped, but the decision was Mike Shanahan-esq from a game in ’08. I love these kinds of contests.
2) Seattle Seahawks @ New Orleans Saints (Week 8)
This one came down to the last second in a well played battle between the Saints and Seahawks. Big throws were made in a great quarterback duel. Whenever a game comes down to a last play in the red zone it is going to be great and this one was.
1) Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons (Week 8)
This was an instant classic that was literally back and forth throughout and it came at a perfect time for the NFL after it had received so much criticism for having lousy games. This one was the best quarterback duel of the season and it ended with a one point spread following a last minute touchdown from Matt Ryan. The quality of play and timing lead to this one being selected as the top game of the year thus far.
Here’s to hoping that this week provides more classics like the ones listed above. Let’s dive into said contests!
Last Week: 7-6
Thursday, November 10th, 8:25 e.t.
Cleveland Browns (0-9) @ Baltimore Ravens (4-4)
So we kick Week 10 off with a bang in Baltimore when the Ravens host the winless Browns. It would seem as if we are getting our weekly Cleveland loss right off the rip here, or are we? The Browns have not been awful offensively and they showed some flashes last week against Dallas with the return of wide receiver Corey Coleman. Partner him with the already impressive Terrelle Pryor and Gary Barnidge, a halfway decent running game behind Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson helping out a promising rookie Cody Kessler and there really is something brewing for the Brownies. The problem, as it has been over the last couple of years, is the defense. They cannot stop the run and tackling is shoddy at best. There are too many gaffs in coverage and they are letting wide-outs run free in the secondary. It happened a couple of times last week against the Cowboys and it will happen again this week if nobody can keep pace with the speedy Mike Wallace. If the Raves proved one thing a week ago in an impressive win at home over the Steelers (besides the fact that they own Pittsburgh as of late) is that if you cannot tackle them, they are going to burn you. The former Steeler had his career best 95 yard touchdown reception coming off of some awful tackling and the Browns are going to have to rally to the ball if they hope to slow plays such as this. Christian Kirksey can’t do it all himself. He did gain some help with Jamie Collins coming over from New England, but the secondary is dreadful. Joe Flacco is not taking the amount of shots we have become accustomed to, but you can bet that he will be going long a few times in this one. It sets up nicely for a win for Baltimore, but I feel like being a bit froggy out of the gates here. Cleveland has to pick up a victory at some point, right? Why not on the road against the Ravens? If the offense performs, which I think it may, and the defense can hold its water I can see them pulling an upset. This is asking for a lot, but hey, I get bored taking the favorites in each game.
Cleveland 24, Baltimore 20
Sunday, November 13th, 1:00 e.t.
Los Angeles Rams (3-5) @ New York Jets (3-6)
This could end up being the Bryce Petty versus Jared Goff bowl. Okay, the ladder might not make it in there, but all early indications point towards Petty getting the nod with an injured Ryan Fitzpatrick to deal with. This game is pretty much do or die for two floundering teams and these things tend to get wild. Could we see a good game between two below-average squads? I think so. One of the better matchups to keep your eye on this entire week is the Los Angeles front four versus a very good New York Jets offensive line, top five in my opinion. Aaron Donald, who was a beast yet again last week will be hooking horns with center Nick Mangold giving football junkies like myself all we could want to see in the trenches. Todd Gurley was smothered yet again last week against Carolina and will likely not see much daylight against the leagues fourth ranked run defense. If the Rams are to win they will have to go after the suspect secondary of New York. Luckily Case Keenum isn’t afraid to take shots down the field. Whether or not he can be accurate with them is a different story as I anticipate there being opportunities given the opponent. That said, even if it is Petty out there I can see the Jets taking this one at home. I would not be surprised to see Fitzpatrick playing since he is probable and will be available for this one. Getting a running game going will be important to help whoever is under center going forward, but for this game against the Rams I think Gang Green will be fine as long as they contain Los Angeles’ offense, which is should be easier done than said.
New York 20, Los Angeles 17
Houston Texans (5-3) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6)
This is a sneaky hard game to call for me because I think I got sucked into sipping some of the Kool-Aid that the Jags were stirring in Kansas City a week ago. Yes, they blew their fair share of chances, having a comical missed interception deep down the field early on, fumbling the ball away at the goal line midway through the fourth quarter, and dropping deep passes from the (currently) broken Blake Bortles.
Mistakes notwithstanding, the Jags were actually able to move the ball. Chris Ivory had a great game on the ground, before fumbling at the goal line that is, and brought a physical presence to this Jacksonville offense that they desperately needed. Bortles was making better passes through a majority of the game and the Jaguars had a chance to win one in Kansas City against a quality team late. So, I was inclined to pick them to steal a win at home against the Texans who have not found victory on the road yet this season but Houston is coming off of a BYE and really should play well. Brock Osweiler has no excuses to not perform this week. He should have some opportunities to improve upon his dismal 5.8 yards per pass attempt (which puts him dead last among passers who have thrown the ball at least 100 times). Teams are picking on Prince Amukamara this year opting to target him over Jalen Ramsey. Will Fuller could turn on the afterburners and blast right by him. If I were a fantasy football specialist I’d tell you to start him this week, but anyways… Teams are running the ball on the Jags this year and Lamar Miller is the keystone to this Houston offense. Look for him to touch the ball almost 30 times here as the Texans feed the man well. Don’t expect this game to be a fun watch, though.
Houston 20, Jacksonville 12
Chicago Bears (2-6) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5)
Remember when this was the Lovie Smith bowl? Okay, sure we forget about those days but Smith did leave a big carbon footprint on the Bucs, especially defensively. They have been playing a lot of (surprise, surprise) Tampa-2 coverage this season which has typically given Jay Cutler headaches over the past few seasons. However, the last time these Bears were on the field, they were whipping the Vikings on Halloween and Cutler was not faring badly at all against zone coverage. The question here is if he can carry his team on the road against a Buccaneer team, who like Chicago, is also coming off of a BYE and can score some points. Jameis Winston and friends sometimes have no problems lighting up scoreboards. Mike Evans is out here dropping jaws making crazy one-handed catches on the sidelines and this team is actually a fun watch.
The winner of this game will be the team that can get their ground game going first. Jordan Howard has been balling lately and has given the Bears something to get behind on an otherwise eclectic offense. Doug Martin should be hitting the field in this contest and that will be a very welcome sight for the Bucs who are leaning on guys like Peyton Barber and Antone Smith to git’r’done. I’m thinking that Tampa Bay can win this contest if it turns into a shootout since I have more faith in their offense that I do the Bears. Against a secondary that is bad I see Winston having a nice afternoon. Don’t let their last performance against Sam Bradford’s Vikings fool you. Those guys will make just about any back seven look elite. I’ll take the Buccaneers to win at home which is something that really does not happen every day.
Tampa Bay 27, Chicago 17
Kansas City Chiefs (6-2) @ Carolina Panthers (3-5)
Just when you thought that the Panthers were going to blow out the Rams and get all the way back to where they were last year, they get involved in a dogfight and barely achieve victory in a 13-10 win on the road. The offense was not consistent and the running game did not look overly dominant like we have become used to seeing. The defense did play much better, but we do have to consider the opponent with this one. The Rams try to play and win 17-13 games every week and their offense shows it. But, we aren’t talking about the Rams here, we are discussing the teams involved. Yes, the Chiefs are 6-2 after a home win against Jacksonville, but they did not look very impressive either. Nick Foles went out and proved that he should not be the starter over Alex Smith. He was really out of sync with all of his receivers (besides Albert Wilson). His throws were inaccurate at times and he is nowhere near as mobile as Smith is. Alex should be a go for this game, but even if he isn’t I’m taking the Panthers at home. I’ve never really believed that Carolina was a horrible team this season and I think they are primed to break out at any time and begin romping teams like they did last year. Of course the defense is not playing at the same level as they did in their championship run last season, but they do still have playmakers who can capitalize on teams like the Chiefs who don’t exactly stretch the field. The best chance Kansas City has at a win on the road is if their defense steps up in a big way. Dee Ford has been playing with his hair on fire lately and will now have Justin Houston playing opposite of him. It will be fun to see what this pair can do together rushing the passer. Cam Newton has been under duress this season and it could continue here. Even still, I think that the Panthers will run the ball well enough and overwhelm the K.C. defense. Also worth mentioning: Jeremy Maclin is probably going to miss this game with a groin injury. Death by 1000 paper clips is the only thing the Chiefs have as a tactic in this game and I don’t think that gets it done.
Power Pick of the Week: Carolina 33, Kansas City 15
Green Bay Packers (4-4) @ Tennessee Titans (4-5)
Here is a matchup between two third place teams. You probably aren’t surprised that the Titans are in third, but Green Bay might come as a shock. We all expected them to take care of business against the Colts last week at home, but instead the entire team was outplayed and Aaron Rodgers was flatter than week old Coke. The Titans engaged in a shootout at the same time and lost to San Diego despite scoring 35 points. Of course, two of the touchdowns that the Titans let up were defensive scores, but that doesn’t change that fact that Tennessee was horrible across the boards and could not stop Melvin Gordon when they absolutely had to on a third and seven in the fourth quarter. The Titans are a fun team to watch and the offense can be electric when Marcus Mariota is on. He has been playing much better lately, but is still susceptible to making bad throws. Green Bay has played the option very well ever since getting absolutely destroyed by it at the hands of Colin Kaepernick in the 2012 playoffs. In fact, the Packers have the #1 run defense in the league, and I like their odds to slow down DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. We will find out if Mariota can beat the Pack all by himself. I doubt it will happen. I am also picking Green Bay to get back to where they were two weeks ago when Aaron Rodgers played his best game of the year on the road against Atlanta. This pick is a reflection of how I believe that last week against Indy was a bump in the road. Also, the Titans don’t exactly crack down on their opponents that are not the Jaguars at home.
Green Bay 41, Tennessee 20
Denver Broncos (6-3) @ New Orleans Saints (4-4)
So the Saints have scratched and clawed their way back to .500 despite having an atrocious defense. They have done so by absolutely torching teams with their offense and doing all they can to keep that horrible D off the field. Drew Brees is having one of his finer years with a renaissance of weapons like Willie Snead, Mike Thomas, and Brandin Cooks. This team can score some points. Denver, on the other hand, can struggle on that side of the ball. They just got done getting stomped by the Raiders in Oakland a week ago. Their defensive line was absolutely trashed by a more physical Raider offensive line. The Broncos also could not get much offense going themselves against a defense that is not very good. I don’t have confidence in Trevor Seimian keeping pace with Drew Brees in a track meet. Denver’s defense makes life tough on opposing quarterbacks and it has been a very long time since they have allowed a passer to post a rating north of 100 against them, but that streak should come to an end this week. Unless their defensive line can completely carry the team in this contest (which they are fully capable of doing) then Drew Brees will pick them apart with his new favorite toys. The New Orleans offensive line is mauling opponents right now and this team is playing some great offensive football because of it. There is no way the Broncos hang with them in the Superdome. This could end up being a blowout.
New Orleans 31, Denver 10
Atlanta Falcons (6-3) @ Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)
The schedule makers haven’t been doing those Iggles any favors this year. They faced three straight teams coming off of a BYE, and now they get the Falcons who aren’t in that boat but have had some extra rest following a Thursday night bashing of the Buccaneers. The Atlanta offense is elite and Matt Ryan is playing at an MVP level at this point in time. Philly has been incredible in its three home games this season as they are letting teams score an average of under eight points per game. It is highly doubtful that they are going to hold the Falcons to that clip, but I’m not expecting Atlanta to throw up 30+ points again this week. We’ll say 24. The biggest deciding factor in this game is the Eagles defensive front against the Falcons offensive line. If they can get pressure on Matt Ryan and force him into errant throws then they should take this game. If they fail to harass the Philly native then he will do what Eli Manning and the Giants did to them last week; pick them apart and expose the flimsy secondary. Carson Wentz needs to avoid the early turnovers that have plagued him lately. The Eagles are a front-running team this season. They are 3-0 when scoring first and 1-4 when allowing their opponents to draw first blood. So getting out to a quick start is extremely important for them. Ultimately I think they can get some pressure on Ryan and force some mistakes. The Eagles have a very rough schedule ahead of them, so they will need to win all the contests they can while at the Linc where that defense is special.
Philadelphia 29, Atlanta 24
Minnesota Vikings (5-3) @ Washington Redskins (4-3-1)
This is probably the toughest game to call this week. The Vikings have been in an obvious skid since exiting their BYE. The ineptitude of their offense has started to wear off on their defense. It is hard for teams to win in this NFL with defense alone. Minnesota needs to begin scoring points. Sam Bradford turned in two of his better efforts last year against these Redskins and he actually might have better receivers this season than last. The Vikings troubles offensively start with their running game. They have been by far the worst team in the league running the ball and I think getting that ground attack going will be a priority against a Washington team that has had issues stopping it at times this year, although they have been better lately. If the Vikings can play some keep-away and sustain drives then that defense can take it over from that point forward. I see Kirk Cousins making a couple of mistakes in this game that haunt him and his team here. Yes, they are in the midst of a three game losing streak but two of those losses were in their division. As we all know, anything can happen inside your own division. Their other loss came on the road against a great defense. Washington does not have one of those. Stefon Diggs will be matched up with Josh Norman all game which should be a fun one to watch, so it will be up to the other supporting cast to make plays. Kyle Rudolph could have a big game as the Redskins have trouble stopping tight ends. Jordan Reed presents a potential matchup problem for Washington, but I think we will see Harrison Smith on him a bit. Good stuff. Anyways, it is a close one to call, but in the end I think that the Vikes will play much better and take one on the road in a tough spot. The bottomline is that I don’t trust Cousins to deliver in a big spot and this pick hinges on that fact.
Minnesota 21, Washington 17
Sunday, November 13th, 4:05 e.t.
Miami Dolphins (4-4) @ San Diego Chargers (4-5)
Here we have the makings of what should be a good game. The Chargers, who play dramatic games every week, are coming off of a nice win in a shootout over Tennessee while the Dolphins ride a three game winning streak into this game largely due to Jay Ajayi’s legs. He has had the best three game stretch of any running back in the league since Adrian Peterson in 2012 when he won the MVP. That is crazy. However, if you take away what Ajayi has done on the ground and look at the rest of Miami’s offense, then it is not very impressive. Ryan Tannehill still has huge question marks surrounding him and whether or not he is competent enough to run an offense. San Diego should capitalize on this. The Chargers’ defense is opportunistic and very underrated and have been this way for many years under John Pagano. They should stack the box and force Tannehill to beat them. If he can, there is still no guarantee that they will defeat the Bolts. Philip Rivers is playing very well and he finally has the help of a solid running game. Melvin Gordon is ripping through defenses with tough runs and punishing tacklers on a consistent basis. He is a very strong comeback player of the year nominee and has been the Chargers best offensive weapon outside of Rivers by far. Overall I like what San Diego has altogether and I think they are the better team here. They were losing a lot of heartbreakers early on, but it would appear that they have figured out how to win those contests. They will need to beat up on teams like the Dolphins if they want any hope of getting in the playoffs. Right now it looks like three playoff teams will come from the AFC West so they need to do everything they can to win games they are favored in. Playing at home I see them doing this and winning it via a total team effort. In this game Melvin Gordon > Jay Ajayi and Philip Rivers > Ryan Tannehill always.
San Diego 26, Miami 23
Sunday, November 13th, 4:25 e.t.
San Francisco 49ers (1-7) @ Arizona Cardinals (3-4)
Okay, I want to start this section out by stating that I think the 49ers are the worst team in football. Their defense hasn’t even begun to stop anybody ever since Navorro Bowman was lost for the year in their Week 4 game against Dallas, and the offense hasn’t done it much favors by looking hapless at times. They did play very well last week against the Saints, but this was a home game against one of the only defenses in the league that might be even worse than theirs. Otherwise, there isn’t much that scares you out of them. With that being said, is there any way they pull off an upset on the road against a Cardinals team that has had its own struggles but is still head and shoulders better? I can’t see it. Arizona is fresh off of a BYE and needs to put a winning streak together to make themselves relevant in the NFC again. I honestly am not sure if this is a great team due to their offensive line problems and aging arm of Carson Palmer, but I do know that they are better than the Niners. David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald dominated San Fran the last time these two faced off and I don’t think anything else will change here. The Cardinals should win big and enforce their will with a heavy running game early.
Arizona 36, San Francisco 7
Dallas Cowboys (7-1) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4)
Here is a great looking matchup between the streaking Cowboys and the explosive Steelers. Sure, Pittsburgh looked awful on offense a week ago on the road against the Ravens, but as we all know this is a different team at home. Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell don’t always play in the same game, but that will be happening this week. Points should be scored in bunches in the Steel City. The Cowboys continued their dominance on the road last week against the Browns in a 35-10 route. Their defense did their average job and the offensive line dominated Cleveland. Dak Prescott got to sit in the rocking chair and find wide open receivers, namely Jason Witten. He was huge in that game a week ago both blocking and receiving. Dez Bryant, however, was almost silent. He made just one catch for 17 yards and was guarded by Joe Haden almost exclusively. Ezekiel Elliot continued to rumble, but he did not have a ton of 10+ yard runs (not that he played a bad game at all). Dallas is fully capable of hanging with the Steelers on offense if they they can make plays in the passing game. This defense boasted by Pittsburgh is fast which could prove to be problematic for Dak Prescott. The Cowboys love crossing routes and those tend to work against zone defenses such as the ones that the Steelers commonly apply however, because of the speed of their linebackers and safeties I think they will give Prescott problems. His passing lanes won’t be as wide open as he is used to and that could be the X-factor here. Pittsburgh has played much better defense at home than on the road lately and that should serve well for them in this one. I like Ben Roethlisberger to have one of his signature 365 yard, 3 touchdown games here and the Steelers bounce back with a big win at home over a quality team. This could be a shootout.
Pittsburgh 38, Dallas 34
Sunday, November 13th, 8:30 e.t.
Seattle Seahawks (5-2-1) @ New England Patriots (7-1)
This is the marquee matchup of week and it is happening at Gillette Stadium and is a rematch of Super Bowl 49. The Patriots are well rested having just emerged from a BYE while the Seahawks will have to travel all the way across the country on a short week since they just finished up a thrilling home win over the Bills on Monday night. This spot certainly does not bode well for them, especially when you look at their last two games defensively. They are not stopping teams like we are used to seeing and I think it starts with the offense’s inability to sustain drives. The running game for Seattle has been non-existent which is something that we are not used to seeing. The Seahawks finished their game against Buffalo with a total of 33 rushing yards. Christine Michael finished the game with one yard on five carries. One yard! Seattle only ran the ball twelve times, and two of those were Russell Wilson scrambles. The Patriots should not have much trouble slowing this already stagnant running game. Their real test is going to be taking away Jimmy Graham who was explosive with a pair of one handed touchdown grabs last week. The only time Graham was opposed by the New England defense, he was completely shut out. While I don’t think he will be completely blanked this time around, I do see him struggling to get open for a majority of this game. Doug Baldwin will likely be blanketed in this one as well. That will mean it comes down to guys like Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett. I think both will have big games but in the end it won’t be enough. The ‘Hawks offense is severely handicapped right now without a running game and it is asking too much for Russell Wilson to carry his team against the best bunch in football. I haven’t even talked about what the Patriots can do on offense themselves (which is a lot), but that is because I don’t think their offense will win them the game. Their defense should. I like the Pats to really take it to the Seahawks and expose them on a national stage.
New England 38, Seattle 18
Monday, November 14th, 8:30 e.t.
Cincinnati Bengals (3-4-1) @ New York Giants (5-3)
Quietly, the Giants have pieced together a three game winning streak. This has not been the most impressive streak, but New York is winning these games nonetheless. Their offense woke up just a bit last week, but still was not all that great. 14 of their 28 points came directly off of Carson Wentz turnovers and short fields. Justin Pugh did leave the game with an injury, but the Giants were luckily able to mask that by sending help to that side of the line and neutralizing the Philly pass-rush. Victor Cruz also left the game after making one big catch. Neither of these players will be in versus the Bengals. I think this will severely hinder the New York offense unlike it did last week as Cincy will know going in they won’t have these guys and they can gameplan around it. The matchup to watch will be A.J. Green versus Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins is much smaller and not as physical as Josh Norman was when he lined up across from Green. This has to be a clear edge for the Bengals but if the Giants are smart they will double him a lot or at least bracket him. What will the running game do against the above-average New York rush defense? That is the real key to this game. I’m guessing not a whole lot. At this point it is almost a given that the Giants will struggle to run the rock, so their plays on offense will come from the passing game. The Bengals have had a nightmare of a time stopping quick passes and tackling. Both do not bode well for them in a game where I’m sure Ben McAdoo will have Odell Beckham Jr. released in the middle of the field quite a bit.
There are no Cincy corners who can run with him and I think he has a huge game. In the end, playing at home against a bad tackling defense, I like the Giants to win their fourth straight on Monday night.
New York 27, Cincinnati 17
Week 10 Bonus Predictions
Sure Bet of the Week (6-2): Arizona over San Francisco
Upset of the Week: Cleveland over Baltimore
Offensive Player of the Week: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
Defensive Player of the Week: Tyrann Mathieu, S, Cardinals
Rookie of the Week: Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
Best Quarterback: Roethlisberger
Best Running Back: Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers