Week Ten features the last London game of 2014 (Jags-Cowboys), Big Ben seeking to throw six touchdowns for the third consecutive week against a depleted Jets secondary, and just two matchups pitting teams with winning records (Chiefs-Bills, Fins-Lions) against one another. The Washington Redskins, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, and San Diego Chargers watch rather than play football this week.
Here are the keys to the Week Ten matchups….
Tennessee Titans (2-6) at Baltimore Ravens (5-4)
The Baltimore Ravens have major issues at cornerback with starter Jimmy Smith going on IR with a foot injury, and very poor depth at the position. They are thin there, playing safeties at corner is a possibility.
The Titans field a trio of very talented receivers who could take advantage of this in Justin Hunter, Kendall Wright, and Nate Washington.
Unfortunately for Tennessee, they start a rookie quarterback, Zach Mettenenberger, who doesn’t know what he’s doing yet, and a struggling offensive line, which faces a terrific Ravens defensive front.
So while the Ravens CB issues will hurt them down the stretch, they should able to get by in this game.
Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) at Buffalo Bills (5-3)
This isn’t a great matchup for the Buffalo Bills.
First of all, their biggest weakness is on the offensive line, and the Chiefs boast an outstanding pass rush, led by OLB Justin Houston with 12 sacks.
Secondly, they face the NFL’s #1-rated pass defense, and their top offensive weapon, WR Sammy Watkins, didn’t practice all week due to a groin. The Bills list him as questionable for the game.
This game seems to favor the visiting Chiefs, who have won five of their last six games.
Miami Dolphins (5-3) at Detroit Lions (6-2)
The Lions get back their superstar receiver, Calvin Johnson, who missed the last two games with a turf toe. During his absence, Golden Tate did a great job as the team’s #1 receiver, so now they have quite a tandem. It should be a great matchup between the Dolphins #2-ranked pass defense vs. Johnson and Tate.
A big problem for the Dolphins offense will be dealing with Detroit’s outstanding defensive line without starting left guard Daryn Colledge. Expect the Lions to line up dominating defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh over backup guard Dallas Thomas and try to take advantage of the youngster.
Also, the Lions #1-ranked defense fields the best secondary they’ve had in years, and it will present quite a challenge to Miami’s passing game.
Expect the Miami’s three-game winning streak to end at Ford Field.
Dallas Cowboys (6-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8)
NFL medicine is very different than standard hospital medicine.
What back doctor would suggest to a layman, who had two back surgeries in 2013, and then broke two bones in his back a couple of weeks ago: “Why don’t you fly nine hours from Dallas to London and play a football game?”
But the Cowboys are 6-3, and need this win, and their backup quarterback, Brandon Weeden, struggles. So Romo will play.
“I think it’s realistic for him to play five more years,” Dallas owner Jerry Jones observed about Romo.
Let’s see if he can get through four quarters.
If Romo can be close to his normal self, the Cowboys should win this game against one of the NFL’s worst teams.
San Francisco 49ers (4-4) at New Orleans Saints (4-4)
What will give in the battle between San Francisco’s #2-ranked defense against New Orleans’s #2-ranked offense?
Two offensive line injuries for the Saints—center Jonathan Goodwin (knee, ankle) and right tackle Zach Strief (chest, back)—should help the 49ers talented defensive front in this game. Speaking of offensive lines, the 49ers blockers better get their acts together. Colin Kaepernick has been sacked 27 times, and half the season remains.
This game is a toss-up.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) at New York Jets (1-8)
On paper, this looks like a blowout, with Pittsburgh’s high-flying pass offense facing a Jets team without the players expected to be their top four corners entering the season.
Also, the Steelers fans travel well. East Rutherford sits just a six-hour drive from Pittsburgh. Expect a lot of “Terrible Towels” in the crowd and not much of a home-field advantage for the Jets.
Stranger things have happened, but the Jets winning this game would be a shock.
Atlanta Falcons (2-6) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7)
The Falcons have lost five straight with their last win being over Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers are a very bad team, with the #31-ranked offense and defense.
An injury to the Buccaneers top corner, Alterraun Verner, who will miss the game with a hamstring, should help the Falcons win this game. Tampa Bay doesn’t have enough good cover corners to deal with Atlanta wideouts Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Harry Douglas.
Denver Broncos (6-2) and Oakland Raiders (0-8)
The potentially San Antonio-bound Raiders will be outgunned in this game like the troops at the Alamo.
It’s very hard for a rookie quarterback (Derek Carr) to keep pace with Peyton Manning on the scoreboard, especially getting no help from the #32-ranked rushing offense.
The Raiders have lost 14 straight games, and expect it to be 15, against a highly-motived Broncos team looking to bounce back from an embarrassing loss at New England.
St. Louis Rams (3-5) at Arizona Cardinals (7-1)
Speaking of teams that might move, it’s possible this road game will constitute a much shorter flight in this future if Stan Kroenke relocates his Rams to Los Angeles, which is entirely possible.
The Cardinals remain undefeated this year when Carson Palmer plays under center, and that fact isn’t lost on the team’s GM, who just rewarded the quarterback with a lucrative three-year contract extension.
It’s going to be hard for the Rams to run on the Arizona’s #3-ranked rush defense, and it’s hard seeing their backup quarterback Austin Davis winning a shootout with Palmer.
New York Giants (3-5) at Seattle Seahawks (5-3)
While some don’t give the Giants any chance in this game, they might want to reconsider that position.
True, the Giants are ravaged at cornerback with Prince Amukamara (biceps), Walter Thurmond (pectoral), and Trumaine McBride (thumb) on injured reserve. But the passing doesn’t rank as the strength of the Seahawks, as 29 NFL clubs compile more yardage through the air.
Seattle fields one of the most banged-up teams in the league. They play without linebackers Bobby Wagner (toe) and Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith (groin), along with talented safety Kam Chancellor (groin), left guard James Carpenter (ankle), and tight end Zach Miller (ankle).
Also, they aren’t as strong at cornerback as last year.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning, turnover prone last season, has thrown no picks in four games, and rookie WR Odell Beckham has really emerged in recent weeks.
This game could go either way.
Chicago Bears (3-5) at Green Bay Packers (5-3)
This is likely Chicago’s last stand, and if they can’t get things fixed coming off their bye-week, they likely aren’t going to get them fixed.
The Bears have lost four of their last five games.
One factor that could help them a great deal is if the Packers guards don’t play. Both T.J. Lange (ankle) and Josh Sitton (toe) are questionable.
If the Bears possess any chance to win, they must hitch their wagon to RB Matt Forte, and run him into the ground. You see, the Packers have the NFL’s worst run defense, and obviously by running the ball a ton, you keep Green Bay’s superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers off the field.
Don’t expect the Bears to go down without a fight.
Carolina Panthers (3-5-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-2)
The Eagles quarterback start Mark Sanchez for perhaps the rest of the season. Starter Nick Foles broke his collarbone last week.
While with the Jets, Sanchez had a tendency to lock on his primary target. This habit led to a lot of interceptions.
But Eagles coach Chip Kelly dials up great first reads, so perhaps this enables Sanchez to succeed in Philadelphia.
The Eagles give up a lot of big plays in the passing game, so rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin (five touchdowns) and talented tight end Greg Olson should be able to get a lot done against the Philadelphia’s defense. Also, aside from Foles, the Eagles lost two other starters for the season last week with guard Todd Herremans (biceps) and inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans (achilles) being put on IR.
Ryans enjoyed a great year and led the defense.
“You don’t replace the leadership,” reflected defensive coordinator Billy Davis. “You just don’t.”
This likely serves as the Panthers’s last stand, so don’t be shocked if they pull an upset.