In Week 10 of the NFL, there were some huge special-teams plays, the play of the year and suddenly everyone is 6-3?! What is going on here?
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-0) Last week: 1 So, Ben Roethlisberger has no practice all week due to COVID-19 protocols, then comes out and leads a thrashing of the Bengals? Yep, you got it. His 333 passing yards and four touchdowns saw the Steelers reach their greatest start to a season ever. The defence also asserted themselves against rookie quarterback Joe Burrow and company, forcing them to go 0-11 on third down during the first three quarters. Job done.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (8-1) Last week: 2 Getting the week off has seen the Chiefs put three offensive lineman – Eric Fisher, Mitchell Schwartz and Martinas Rankin – on the reserve/COVID list. While they haven’t necessarily tested positive, the situation will still be worth monitoring in the lead-up to a huge Sunday night clash against the hot Raiders. Revenge could also be on the Chiefs’ minds.
3. Green Bay Packers (7-2) Last week: 7 The Packers just scratched out a win at home against the lowly Jaguars, but Aaron Rodgers and friends still hold firm – especially now with the Drew Brees injury. It was a great weekend for David Bakhtiari too, signing a four-year extension that makes him the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history. He will be paid US$103.5 or A$144 million to be exact.
4. Buffalo Bills (7-3) Last week: 3 What becomes of the broken hearted? Well, they wander off into a bye week, probably still asking themselves “did that just happen?” Being on the other side of the likely play of the year is never an easy spot, especially when the team had done all it could to win against Arizona. Coming up with a clutch go-ahead touchdown with 30 seconds left, then getting great pressure on Kyler Murray and triple covering DeAndre Hopkins still ended up not being enough. Bummer.
5. New Orleans Saints (7-2) Last week: 8 After trailing early against the plucky 49ers, New Orleans came good and rolled to a nice win. But this game ended up being a disaster with Drew Brees picking up rib fractures and a punctured lung, which could see him out for at least a few weeks. New Orleans could now roll with Jameis Winston in what will be an interesting one against the Falcons.
6. Baltimore Ravens (6-3) Last week: 5 That weather in Foxboro looked fairly grim. And the result was similar for reigning MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. Fresh from a week when the quarterback essentially called their offensive play calling predictable, they struggled to get much going in the fierce wind and rain. But there is no time to dwell, especially with a similarly hurting Titans coming to visit next week.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) Last week: 9 It took a little while to get going against Carolina, but once they did they were unstoppable. Bouncing back from last week’s disaster against New Orleans must be especially pleasing to Bruce Arians. Tom Brady got clicking again with his receivers and Ronald Jones ran a beauty, with a 98-yard touchdown run. Maybe we’ll call last week a glitch? We’ll know better when the Rams come to town.
8. Indianapolis Colts (6-3) Last week: 10 It was a heck of a win on Thursday night against the Titans in Nashville. Philip Rivers piloted an effective performance, while the defence held firm against Derrick Henry and pretty much squashed the passing game. Special teams came up huge too, blocking a punt for a touchdown and pressuring the Tennessee unit into errors. I can’t wait to see what happens as they welcome the Packers to town.
9. Arizona Cardinals (6-3) Last week: 11 It seems like these guys just keeping on playing in the game of the year. Having already won a thriller against Seattle a few weeks back, Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins pulled off a miracle against Buffalo. The Cards are now one of three NFC West teams with a 6-3 record. One of them is the Seahawks, who they take on this Friday. Buckle up.
10. Los Angeles Rams (6-3) Last week: 12 Any side that can keep Russell Wilson in check is worthy of my respect. It is tough to tell how far these Rams can go this season, but they are certainly in the hunt with smart play calling by Sean McVay and a defence that is a real problem. But don’t snooze now, as they travel to Tampa Bay to take on Brady and friends.
11. Seattle Seahawks (6-3) Last week: 4 It was a bit of a tumble for the suddenly vulnerable Hawks. Three losses in four games have seen them fall from undefeated at 5-0 to being back in the pack. While Russell Wilson’s ten turnovers over that stretch will need addressing, Seattle now head home to take on Arizona in what isn’t necessarily a do-or-die game. Considering they have the Eagles, Giants, Jets and Washington to play after Week 11, they are still reasonably well placed. Something tells me they’ll really want a home win though.
12. Tennessee Titans (6-3) Last week: 6 They took a gut punch at home against division rivals Indianapolis, losing 34-17. AJ Brown had a huge drop in the first half, while in the second, the Titans’ special teams decided to implode at the most inopportune time. That could prove costly as they have only two home games remaining on their schedule, which includes visits to Indy, Green Bay and this week against a grumpy Baltimore.
13. Las Vegas Raiders (6-3) Last week: 13 Last week I called them “sneaky” but they are starting to seem legitimately good. Another convincing win against arch rivals Denver has seen them join the 6-3 logjam. Josh Jacobs is running hard (as expected), but the defence is performing above expectations right now. Next, they host the Chiefs, which will be a real acid test in prime time.
14. Cleveland Browns (6-3) Last week: 14 Do you think the Browns enjoyed having running back Nick Chubb back from injury? Cleveland’s attacking centre piece strolled back in to action with 126 yards at an average of 6.6 yards per carry. He also ran in 1.9 touchdowns, only pulling up at the one-yard line (maybe he could teach Todd Gurley how to do it) to ice the game. I bet his fantasy owners would’ve been slightly peeved though.
15. Miami Dolphins (6-3) Last week: 15 Debates, debates, debates! Back in April there was a debate about who to choose first: Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa went as the fifth pick to Miami, one spot ahead of Herbert to the Chargers, so as these two teams clashed, we knew there’d be a little extra on it. Tagovailoa got the points in this one, possibly settling another debate from about a month back, as to whether the Fins should stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Since then the Dolphins and Tagovailoa have won three straight, taking them to five wins on the bounce.
16. Chicago Bears (5-5) Last week: 13 Do you think tight end Jimmy Graham ever wishes he’d just stayed in New Orleans? He used to be right up there with Rob Gronkowski when they were both in their prime. Nowadays Graham makes the odd circus touchdown catch for a severely stuttering Bears offence. Aside from his accumulated millions, it’s a little bit sad. The Bears lost this week too.
17. Detroit Lions (4-5) Last week: 20 The Lions just about blew their game against Washington after leading 24-3 and having things firmly under control. Rookie running back D’Andre Swift accounted for 149 yards of total offence and caught a reception for touchdown before the Lions’ defence nearly let it slip. It mattered little though, as Matthew Stafford has been there before, driving up field for kicker Matt Prater to send home a 59-yard match-winning field goal.
18. New England Patriots (4-5) Last week: 22 Well, they aren’t done yet. Having fallen in to the habit of losing, numerous sources were ready to stick a fork in the Patriots’ season. But hold your horses, because Cam Newton bounced back well in terrible conditions against the Ravens. A win against highly rated opposition is even more commendable considering the Pats’ injury/unavailability report heading into the week. Put it this way – it’s long enough to almost be a starting line-up itself! It is curious though that the weather at Foxboro miraculously cleared minutes after full time. Has Bill Belichick got some powers that we didn’t know about?
19. Minnesota Vikings (4-5) Last week: 19 The tenth time is the charm. Heading into their Monday night clash against Chicago, starting quarterback Kirk Cousins was 0-9 in Monday night games. That’s a heck of a lot of disappointment, but he managed to throw two touchdown passes to his clutch guy Adam Thielen, as the Vikes snuck out of the Windy City with the win. Dalvin Cook was contained and goaded by the Bears’ defence, so things didn’t quite go to plan, but Mike Zimmer will be pretty happy to escape.
20. San Francisco 49ers (4-6) Last week: 17 I thought the 49ers might pull off a big upset against the Saints. Jumping out to an early lead, they really caused Brees and company some issues until a couple of special teams bungles (that seems to be a theme this week!) let New Orleans seize control. It is also ironic that considering the immense injury issues this team has had this season, they inflicted a huge blow in hurting Brees. I can’t imagine much sympathy from 49ers fans though.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5-1) Last week: 18 For the second time in a few weeks, the Eagles trailed the Giants by double digits. However, there was to be no comeback this time. Running back Boston Scott tore off a beautiful sideline tip-toeing run for a touchdown to start the second half, but really, they didn’t deserve this game. The NFC East is looking even more murky by the day.
22. New York Giants (3-7) Last week: 30 Apparently, the Giants had a decent lead in their last five straight games with not a lot to show for it. But after defeating Washington and now the Eagles, they suddenly have two wins in a row and head to the bye week well in the hunt for their division. Wayne Gallman is filling in well at running back and Daniel Jones managed not to trip over his own feet on the way to a rushing touchdown. Nice!
23. Atlanta Falcons (3-6) Last week: 25 It would not have surprised me if the Falcons somehow found a way to lose to the bye. However, they just hung on and watched a couple of division foes slip backwards, as the Panthers lost and the Saints lost Drew Brees to injury. Suddenly, the game against New Orleans next week becomes a little bit spicy.
24. Denver Broncos (3-6) Last week: 21 I am starting to get a tad frustrated with these Broncos. Mainly because I have running back Phillip Lindsay and tight end Noah Fant in my fantasy team, while the Denver offence proceeds to do absolutely nothing. If I was on the ESPN Monday night team, I’d be using my “C’mon man!” on them.
25. Cincinnati Bengals (2-6-1) Last week: 24 To reward you for reading this far, I’m going to make an embarrassing confession – I made a multi bet that included Giovani Bernard getting 50-plus receiving yards and the Bengals winning. Bernard ended up with 17 yards and the Bengals – as you may well be aware – got destroyed. I guess I got caught up in Cincinnati’s win over the Titans, coupled with the Steelers seeming to stutter a little. Sometimes you go with your gut and your gut is dead wrong. Anyway, thanks for reading – I feel a lot lighter now that’s off my chest.
26. Carolina Panthers (3-7) Last week: 23 The Panthers’ season has had more twists than an M Night Shyamalan movie. First they stink, then all of a sudden there’s hope with three wins, but then there is a close loss to the Chiefs and another loss, plus key injuries to Christian McCaffrey and Teddy Bridgewater. I have no idea where they are going, but on the upside, they now face the Lions (is that a good thing?) at home.
27. Los Angeles Chargers (2-7) Last week: 26 They were handily outplayed by Miami to sink to another loss, but let’s not get too down on things here. They’ve got a few winnable games coming up, starting with the perfect New York Jets next week. If Justin Herbert can keep learning his craft and improving, I can see them getting a little momentum in the back half of the year.
28. Washington (2-7) Last week: 27 I am finding Washington to be a very intriguing team. Alex Smith made his first NFL start since making an incredible comeback and now has two games in a row of over 300 passing yards. Those two games have also been close losses, but having some stability at the quarterback position could really help their chances. Next, they host the Bengals and are still alive (as is everyone) in the NFC East.
29. Houston Texans (2-7) Last week: 28 There was some chat this week about installing interim head coach Romeo Crennel as the full-time head coach for 2021. Not based on recent results, they won’t. It’s actually quite baffling as to why these Texans have been so bad, other than the DeAndre Hopkins trade. The running game stinks on both sides of the ball and as much of a superstar as Deshaun Watson is, he can’t keep them in the hunt by himself. He’s not Aaron Rodgers.
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30. Dallas Cowboys (2-7) Last week: 29 The Cowboys must have at least enjoyed their break watching the Eagles stumble and keep everyone in the division race. Yes, even they are still in the hunt. Now with quarterback Andy Dalton set to be available after suffering a sickening concussion, the question becomes whether he starts again or last week’s almost-hero Garrett Gilbert gets another crack.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) Last week: 31 The Jaggies actually played pretty well against the Pack at Lambeau this weekend. Quarterback Jake Luton is proving he might be the next Gardner Minshew – as in, a quarterback who can flash some ability without actually ever really taking you anywhere. That might seem harsh on the rookie who is playing pretty well and wasn’t that far away from stealing the game in Green Bay, but you’re 1-8, so there you go.
32. New York Jets (0-9) Last week: 32 It was a bit of a breather for the Jets, as they look to push for the Trevor Lawrence title. In fact, other results have helped the Jets in their quest for the number one draft pick. For now though, they are coming off the bye, Sam Darnold is still not good to go against the Chargers, so old boy Joe Flacco will again step in as the starter. Good luck, chaps.