The Panthers and the Steelers are two of the league’s hottest teams heading into Week 10. Carolina is hoping to keep pace with the Saints in the NFC South while Pittsburgh looks to widen its lead over Cincinnati in the AFC North. When the dust settles Thursday night, the Steelers will eke out the win thanks in part to a much-improved defense.
Elsewhere around the league, the Saints will outlast the Bengals, the Jaguars will get back on track with a win over the Colts and the hobbled Redskins will lose to the Buccaneers.
Alright, let’s get to all the games below.
LAST WEEK: 9-4
OVERALL RECORD: 83-49-2
Carolina at Pittsburgh
A month ago the Steelers were 1-2-1 and tied with the Browns for last in the division. Now they’re on a four-game winning streak and suddenly look like one of the best teams in the AFC. The Panthers have been even better. They’re currently riding a three-game winning streak but after Sunday’s win over the Buccaneers, they’re now the third-best team in the league, via Football Outsiders’ metrics, behind only the Chiefs and Rams. In fact, Carolina’s offense has been slightly more efficient than Pittsburgh’s, while both defenses have been around replacement-level. The Panthers need a win to keep pace with the Saints in the division while a Steelers victory could widen the gap between them and the Bengals in the AFC North.
Pick: Steelers 31, Panthers 28
Arizona at Kansas City
There are trap games and then there’s the Cardinals playing the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium. A week ago, we couldn’t envision a scenario where the Browns beat the Chiefs in Cleveland. If there’s a way to more vehemently express those feelings for Sunday we’d like to do so now. Yes, the Cardinals are coming off their bye — and before that, their second win of the season — but short of having Tyler Palko start for the Chiefs — and only attempt left-handed passes — there’s no way Arizona wins this game. If you’d asked us before the season, sure, we could’ve made a decent case; Sam Bradford’s a competent bridge quarterback, certainly better than Carson Palmer, Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton from the ’17 squad — the defense ranked fourth a season ago and there was no obvious reason for a backslide — and most importantly, David Johnson was fully healthy. Well, Bradford was benched and then cut, the defense hasn’t been nearly as good and first-year coach Steve Wilks has misused Johnson to the point that he’s almost useless
Pick: Chiefs 40, Cardinals 18
Buffalo at N.Y. Jets
If you liked the Jets-Dolphins matchup last week, you’ll love the Bills bringing their historically inept offense to the Meadowlands on Sunday. Sam Darnold is coming off what has to be the worst performance of his football-playing career, and Nathan Peterman is coming off a three-interception effort against the Bears. It’s unclear who will be under center for Buffalo; Josh Allen is “day to day” after missing several weeks with an elbow injury and Derek Anderson is still in concussion protocol. Though truthfully, it may not matter. This game will come down to which team commits the fewest turnovers. If nothing else, it could be another opportunity for Bart Scott to GO OFF.
Pick: Jets 10, Bills 6
Jacksonville at Indianapolis
Both the Jaguars and Colts are 3-5 but these teams are going in different directions. Indy has won two straight while Jacksonville is on a four-game losing streak. Not only that, Andrew Luck looks to be fully healthy after missing all of 2017 with a shoulder injury. He’s completing a career-best 65.8 percent of his throws, a passer rating of 96.2 (which is second to the 96.4 rating he had in 2016), 23 touchdowns against eight interceptions, and is on pace to be sacked just 20 times, which would be a career low over 16 games. Meanwhile, Blake Bortles has already been benched for Codey Kessler, then reassumed the job in Jacksonville’s Week 8 loss to Philadelphia (in London). Bortles isn’t the long-term answer but the question is whether he can get out of his own way and help the Jags back to the playoffs. Incidentally, the Colts’ schedule over the final two months sets up favorably for a run to the postseason though we feel like this is the week Jacksonville gets back to winning football.
Pick: Jaguars 21, Colts 17
New England at Tennessee
Huge win by the Titans in Dallas on Monday night but, well, there’s no way the Patriots will ever be mistaken for the Cowboys. The good news is that Marcus Mariota had one of his best game of the season. The bad news is that the last time the Titans beat the Patriots, Mariota was nine years old Tennessee is 0-7 against New England since 2002. The other good news is that Jeff Fisher was the coach for most of those loses. The other bad news is that in the last three defeats, Mike Munchak was the coach for one game and Mike Mularkey was the coach for the other two.
Pick: Patriots 35, Titans 27
New Orleans at Cincinnati
We talked above about trap games; could this be what the Saints are walking into when they head to Cincinnati? New Orleans is playing like one of the NFL’s best teams after Sunday’s victory over the previously undefeated Rams that brought its winning streak to seven games, including four road wins in Atlanta, New York (Giants), Baltimore and Minnesota. The Bengals (5-3) are coming off their bye so they’ll be well rested. That said, we don’t know if a week off is enough time to fix a defense that is allowing more than four touchdowns a game. In related news: New Orleans has the league’s fourth-ranked offense and features Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram and Michael Thomas. In more bad news for the Bengals: A.J. Green will be sidelined for a couple games with a toe injury.
Pick: Saints 30, Bengals 21
Washington at Tampa Bay
The Redskins are in first place in the NFC East but after a string of injuries along the offensive line in Sunday’s loss to the Falcons, their position atop the division is tenuous at best. Things are so dire that the Bucs are three-point home favorites, which would otherwise seem like an impossible proposition for a team that ranks 27th in the league and features the 32nd-ranked defense. But it won’t get any easier Alex Smith, who struggled in Jay Gruden’s offense before his offensive line went down, even against a Tampa Bay defense that has struggled all season. Washington needs a win to fend off the surging Eagles but they may not have enough bodies to pull it off.
Pick: Buccaneers 21, Redskins 20
Atlanta at Cleveland
Gregg Williams’ debut didn’t look all that different from Hue Jackson’s 3-36-1 run through Cleveland that ended the week before. But Williams will need more than a week to turn around a franchise that hasn’t had a winning season since 2007. The problem for Williams that he almost certainly won’t get that chance; he’s the interim coach, who was an effective defensive coordinator before changing job titles. Unfortunately for him, the Browns need an offensive mind to help Baker Mayfield and this young offense develop. On Sunday, a red-hot Falcons team comes to town, winners of three straight after a 1-4 start. And while the Browns, who have two wins for the first time since the 2015 season, haven’t given up, the Falcons (4-4) desperately need a win to keep the Saints (7-1) and Panthers (6-2) in sight in the AFC South.
Pick: Falcons 27, Browns 21
Detroit at Chicago
The Lions fired special teams coordinator Joe Marciano this week, following the team’s loss to Minnesota where the Vikings had one kick return for 15 yards and a punt return for 24 yards … all while Detroit’s offensive line gave up 10 sacks. But sure, blame the guy in charger of the coverage and return teams. First-year coach Matt Patricia, considered a great defensive mind during his time with the Patriots, is in charge of a Lions defense that ranks 31st in the league. The Bears are alone in first place in the NFC North, thanks in large part to the NFL’s top-ranked defense. Second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky hasn’t been great — in fact, he’s been downright frustrating to watch at times because of his inconsistency — but he’s been replacement-level this season, 18th overall in terms of value per place, one spot ahead of … Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Pick: Bears 28, Lions 20
L.A. Chargers at Oakland
It wasn’t long ago that the Raiders owned this matchup; in 2015, Jack Del Rio went 4-0 against the Chargers from 2015-2016, but Oakland has since lost three straight, including a 26-10 defeat earlier this year in Los Angeles. That was five weeks ago and it’s fair to say that while the Chargers have gotten better the Raiders have gotten much, much worse. L.A. is riding a five-game winning streak and has a case for the AFC’s best team while Oakland has dropped four straight and is among the league’s worst teams at 1-7. After last Thursday’s performance against the Nick Mullens-led 49ers — not to mention dumping pass rusher Bruce Irvin — we don’t see the Raiders magically fixing everything that ails them and salvaging the season.
Pick: Chargers 40, Raiders 21
Miami at Green Bay
Here’s the deal: No matter what you think of the Dolphins, they’re 5-4 and in second place in the division. It hasn’t been pretty but, as the old saying goes, style points don’t matter. But here’s the thing: Miami, even with Brock Osweiler set to start his fifth game, is ranked 14th, according to Football Outsiders, just one spot behind the 3-4-1 Packers. And while the Dolphins have been replacement-level units on both sides of the ball they’ve excelled on special teams. Green Bay, meanwhile, has a top-10 offense and a defense and special teams that ranks in the mid-20s. The Packers desperately need a win tough back-to-back losses on the road to the Rams and Patriots. The Dolphins are playing for second place in the division but have a favorable stretch after their Week 11 bye, when we could see Ryan Tannehill return to the field.
Pick: Packers 24, Dolphins 13
Seattle at L.A. Rams
The Seahawks have been one of the biggest surprises over the first half of the season. We’ll admit it: After they failed to address the offensive line in the draft and instead targeted a running back in the first round, and then dismantled Legion of Boom, we fully expected this to be the worst team in the division. Seattle is 4-4. yes, they’re 3.5 games behind Los Angeles, but they’ve played some inspired football along the way. The offensive has actually been good (!) and the defense is a top-5 unit. The Rams, meanwhile, are coming off their first loss of the season and questions remain about a defense that has struggled to keep opponents out of the end zone. The good news is that Sean McVay’s offense can go toe-to-toe with any team in the league though Pete Carroll’s defense should provide a good test.
Pick: Rams 28, Seahawks 20
Dallas at Philadelphia
The Cowboys are done. Sure, they’ll win a few more games this season but after what transpired in the Jerry Dome on Monday night against the Titans, it’s hard to take this team seriously. The Eagles (4-4), meanwhile, are coming for the NFC East-leading Redskins. Currently a game behind, Philly, is coming off its bye. Over the final eight games, they’ll play five division games in addition to matchups against the Saints, Rams and Texans.
Pick: Eagles 27, Cowboys 17
N.Y. Giants at San Francisco
Imagine how different the Giants’ season would be if Nick Mullens was their quarterback. We’re not joking. Eli Manning has been abysmal, and while he’s not entirely to blame — the O-line has struggled and the defense has been worst — the Giants could have their very own Nick Mullens on the roster in the form of rookie fourth-rounder Kyle Lauletta. But Manning will again be under center on Monday night, perhaps because this is the Giants’ best (and last?) chance to win another football game. Neither team is going anywhere this season but you wouldn’t know it to watch the 49ers play under Kyle Shanahan. On the other side of the field, the Giants look very much like a 1-7 team.
Pick: 49ers 14, Giants 10
Source: Read Full Article