The top-flight game on the Week 10 slate is certainly not the only tantalizing matchup, as many people have circled Patriots-Giants and, of course, Rex Ryan facing his former team on "Thursday Night Football." Not to mention, Peyton Manning has business to settle with both the suddenly hot Chiefs and the NFL history books. No question he's struggled, as have Matt Cassel and the Dallas Cowboys, who will try to snap a terrible losing skid. Someone else is apparently struggling ... to get anything done.
The return of the sweater vest! Convenient that the most heavily anticipated contest of Week 10 is also the first contest of Week 10. The key to a glorious MetLife homecoming for Rex Ryan will be the play of Tyrod Taylor, who will have to fit the ball into tighter windows against the Jets. Taylor went 11 for 12 against Miami's back seven last week, but New York is better defensively, even if the Jets' secondary is banged up. Yes, Antonio Cromartie -- who has become the "Where's Waldo?" player opposing coaching staffs seek out to attack -- is doubtful, while Buster Skrine is questionable and safeties Calvin Pryor and Dion Bailey are out. But there's still Darrelle Revis to contend with.
Let's gift the Lions an extra touchdown. You know the Packers are steaming from two straight losses, as well as all the re-runs of the apparent sideline tiff between Julius Peppers and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Detroit is in disarray. Most alarming is how poorly the defense has fared -- the Lions are allowing 30.6 points per game, the most in the league. If they're not careful, Eddie Lacy might eat them up ... extra yards, I mean. They're also 30th versus the run. At least they make up for it by allowing opposing quarterbacks to post a passer rating of 111.1. Aaron Rodgers will only throw for 300 -- because he won't need to throw in the fourth quarter.
Dallas finally gets to add one to the "W" column this week. You sense Matt Cassel getting more comfortable in the Cowboys' offense -- yes, he threw a huge pick-six in last week's loss to the Eagles, but the offense was able to move on the Philly defense. This game is the season for this organization; even in the cruddy NFC East, falling to 2-7 would be too tall a Stetson hat to climb. As for the Bucs, the pieces are there to be competitive in the NFC, but not if they keep making the kinds of stupid mistakes they made against the Giants last Sunday -- Tampa Bay practically pulled a Plaxico Burress. Still, Eli Manning had difficulty finding receivers all day. That's why Dallas back Darren McFadden and the running game will be crucial to the outcome.
Is this it? Is this where 8-0 Carolina finally stumbles? I picked against the Panthers last week for only the second time since late last season, and fans got all over me for guessing wrong. (By the way, I wonder how confident they were when Packers cornerback Damarious Randall picked off that ball in the fourth quarter.) Love this team, which I predicted last spring would threepeat in the NFC South -- a prediction I stuck with even after Kelvin Benjamin went down. But there is no question that Ron Rivera's group has been playing with fire of late. And Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota should be moving around even better in his second week back after missing time with an MCL sprain.
The Bears will likely once again be without running back Matt Forte, which means this is Jeremy Langford's baby for the second straight week. The kid looked fantasmic (142 yards from scrimmage) on Monday night -- but that was against the Chargers. Rams defenders Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers alone -- like, just the two guys by themselves -- are as good as the Bolts' entire line. But hey! St. Louis allowed a 100-yard rusher for the first time since Week 2 last week! Of course, it was Adrian Peterson, one of the NFL's best running backs, and he needed 29 carries to do it. Nick Foles should find plenty of the holes in Chicago's back end, holes that Philip Rivers could've exploited Monday night (if he'd been working with anyone besides Stevie Johnson who could get open).
How do you pick a game like this? The Saints looked as though they were rebounding, having won three straight -- before they blew a game at home to the 1-6 Titans. Sean Payton is being forced to ride it out with a young defense that has trouble getting off the field and a veteran corner who is struggling with the fact he's struggling. Luckily for Brandon Browner, he shouldn't have to interfere much with these Redskins receivers, who drop balls aplenty. DeSean Jackson, who missed six games after suffering a hamstring injury, caught all of three balls for 15 yards in his triumphant return. Get excited. Thus, we're going with the superior quarterback in one of Week 10's flip-a-coin games.
It's difficult to pick Philadelphia these days, as you're never quite sure which version of the team is going to show up. That said, if the Eagles' offense keeps up the momentum it showed late versus the Cowboys in Week 9, they should be fine against the Dolphins. Philly running backs coach Duce Staley did a masterful job of rotating the backs (which is apparently his call, not Chip Kelly's) on Sunday night. The ground game should present problems for a Miami defense that allowed not one but two Bills running backs to rush for over 100 yards last week.
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