2019 NFL: Week 10
This is when things really get interesting.
With Week 10 upon us, it’s time to start taking the playoff picture seriously as every team has played at least eight games. If the regular season ended now, the only surprise playoff team would be the Bills. The teams that are in currently were ones that most would expect to be there.
But, let’s break down the teams that are in contention, but outside of the bubble at the moment.
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It’s amazing that they’re sitting here at .500, despite being 29th in passing yards and 26th in rushing. Yet, their schedule loosens up a bit after a tough test on Sunday against the Rams. They still face the fading Browns twice as well as games against the Bengals, Cardinals and Jets. A 9-7 record might be good enough to slide in the back door if they get some help.
This is a real team. I hope the people who lined up to mock Jon Gruden feel shame. The reward for beating the Chargers on Thursday night? Games against the Bengals and Jets over the next two weeks. Derek Carr looks solid in the pocket, Josh Jacobs is a beast in the backfield and their young defense is starting to take shape. They should be right in the mix at the end of the regular season.
The Ballad of Gardner Minshew has hit some sour notes since his early season heroics, but some good news is coming. Starting quarterback Nick Foles should be ready to return next week following Jacksonville’s bye, and while head coach Doug Marrone hasn’t made any promises, the choice should be clear. The Jags gave Foles a big-money deal because of his big-game experience. And with two games left against the Colts (currently in as a wild card team) and tough matchups against the Chargers and Raiders, they need him more than ever.
The team is 2-1 since Ryan Tannehill became the starting QB and he’s put up some decent numbers along the way. However, they’re 18th in the league in rushing and on the other side of the ball, they’re 20th in total defense. That’s not good enough. They’re 4-5 at the moment. They’ll end up at 8-8 like they always do.
They had no business winning that Thursday night game and it’s good that karma made sure that Philip Rivers wasn’t rewarded for a mostly putrid performance with a comeback win. That being said, they’re not done for. Their path the rest of the way includes two games against the Chiefs and another one against the Raiders in Week 16. This loss hurt, but they have the ability to shake it off.
They had some troubling issues over the first half of the season, but they’re still in the mix at 5-3 in a competitive conference. The questions about Todd Gurley’s health hasn’t gone away, but defensively, this team is getting healthy at the right time. They had a bye week to fully integrate Jalen Ramsey into their defensive plan and Clay Matthews looks set to return after missing a month with a broken jaw. The bad news is their schedule down the stretch looks rocky as they still have to face the Ravens, Cowboys, Seahawks and 49ers. They also have two games against the Cardinals, who aren’t an easy out.
Cam Newton is officially done for the season. So, it’s up to Kyle Allen. Scratch that, it’s up to Christian McCaffrey to refuse to bend under the pressure of carrying their offense. And like the Rams, the Panthers have a tough road to hoe, with matchups against the Packers, Seahawks, Colts and two against the Saints. If this team can hold it together and find a way into the postseason, it just might be all she wrote for Newton in Carolina. It shouldn’t be, but it might.
Their best chance at the playoffs is to win their division. It’s not going to be easy as they face the Patriots and Seahawks the next two Sundays, but both of those games are at home. After an easy one against the Dolphins, they close the regular season with four straight NFC East contests. It won’t be easy, but they should be able to control their own destiny since I don’t trust the Cowboys to not stumble at least twice down the stretch.
I was loathe to include them here. Like every year, they have talent. I have no faith that they’ll put it all together to make a serious run at the postseason.
NFL’S TOP 10
1) 49ers — They can run the ball. They can defend. They can even pass the ball from time to time, as Jimmy Garoppolo proved last Thursday. And yet, something is holding me back from truly embracing San Francisco as the best team in the NFL. I can’t seem to put my finger on it. As I search for that mysterious reason, I have no choice but to rank them No. 1 as they are the league’s lone unbeaten team.
2) Patriots — They’ll be fine. Seriously, they’ll be fine. Don’t overreact to what you saw in Baltimore. We’ve seen this movie before. They get their doors blown off from time to time, everyone panics and they end up in the Super Bowl anyway. Trust me, the Patriots are just fine. They could be better on offense though.
3) Saints — Must be nice. Drew Brees has missed time. Alvin Kamara has missed games. And they’re sitting at 7-1 largely because they have the league’s 5th-ranked defense. They have five very winnable division games left on their schedule. At a minimum, they should finish 12-4. Like I said, must be nice.
4) Ravens — This is going to sound weird, but I felt pride when the Ravens beat the Patriots. I’m not a Ravens fan or feel particularly strong about their Super Bowl chances, but to see this squad play big boy football and have New England be the ones making uncharacteristic mistakes made my chest swell. It didn’t hurt that I predicted they would win.
5) Seahawks — Bill Simmons said it looks like the Seahawks are trying to pad Russell Wilson’s numbers this year. He has 22 touchdown passes and 1 interception and while the team is eighth in rushing yards, it seems offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer puts the ball in Wilson’s hands near the goal line more often than not. So maybe Simmons has a point. Truth be told, it doesn’t bother me. He’s still my pick for MVP.
6) Packers — They should be ranked lower. Seriously, what the hell was that last week? The Packers go on the road against the Chargers, in a stadium filled with Cheeseheads, and proceed to lay a complete egg. That was disgusting.
7) Chiefs — They’ve stayed afloat without Patrick Mahomes. Matt Moore did enough to get a clutch win over the Vikings. My question is, with the team sitting at 6-3 and in control of the AFC West, do you give Mahomes more time to recuperate? Why rush him back?
8) Vikings — I can’t figure them out. Actually, I can. They beat crappy teams and suck against good ones. The end.
9) Bills — Solid record, but a paper tiger.
10) Texans — I flip-flopped between this team and the Cowboys in this spot. I put Houston here because its division is a tad more competitive.
WHAT’S THE CHATTER?
Here he is again: Antonio Brown had another Twitter tantrum, ranting and raving about how the NFL has done him wrong and makes money off his blood, or whatever. Then he added later that he was just frustrated. I don’t blame him for feeling that way. It must be tough to deal with being out of the game and also knowing it’s all your fault.
Not like this: I wasn’t the only one who grimaced when Adam Vinatieri’s potential game-winning field goal went wide left. That’s an understatement. He almost put the ball on the 5-yard line seats, that’s how wide left he was. He’s missed five field goals and five extra points this season. Here’s hoping the future Hall of Famer pulls it together going forward. If he slides down the stretch, nobody wants to see the team forced into a difficult decision.
You suck: I just needed to say that to the Browns. That is all.
The man has a goal: Jets safety Jamal Adams got his feathers ruffled when his name popped up in rumors at the trade deadline. But he has a reason why he got so upset.
“I want to bring a Super Bowl to this organization,” he said.
If I may quote Jerry Seinfeld, good luck with alllll that. I don’t care that I just aged myself.
Gotta get rest: Aaron Rodgers hinted that his team might have enjoyed the L.A. nightlife a bit too much before playing the Chargers. That and a team-wide virus would be the only acceptable explanation for coming out soft like that. Although it was pretty funny to see all those Packers fans go home disappointed.
Smart move: Patriots rookie defensive back Joejuan Williams signed a four-year, $6.6 million contract this year and he’s determined to get the most out of that money. In fact, he told the Boston Globe he’s living as though he’s making just 10 percent of that.
“I’d rather live like a prince for the rest of my life than live like a king for my NFL career,” he said.
What a mature, responsible and wonderful young man. He gets it. Almost makes me want to root for the Patriots. Almost.
APPOINTMENT VIEWING FOR WEEK 10
Lions at Bears: Mitchell Trubisky wants to turn off the televisions at the Bears’ facility to avoid seeing negative coverage of the team. If he puts forth another marginal performance on Sunday, he won’t have to worry about televisions anymore, since he’ll be out of a job.
Bills at Browns: Something tells me the Browns get it together and win this one. Wait, I’m getting a tap on my shoulder. It seems another thing is telling me Cleveland will fail again. I’m going to listen to the second voice.
Chiefs at Titans: Man, the early slate of games sucks. This one will be worth a watch if Patrick Mahomes plays. If not, skip it.
Panthers at Packers: Ahhh, nothing like Lambeau Field in November. And with some serious playoff implications to boot. Love it.
Rams at Steelers: Another huge game. Let’s see how well Sean McVay has his team prepared coming off a bye week. It won’t be easy in front of all those Terrible Towels, even with the Steelers being banged up.
Vikings at Cowboys: Hooo, this game has some sizzle, don’t it? History says Kirk Cousins will fail again. But the odds say he has to win sometime, right? This is such a game the Cowboys lose, too. Can’t wait to see what happens.
Seahawks at 49ers: The game of the week. An NFC West test with so much on the line … for me as a Rams fan. I really need Seattle to win this one. Sorry, it’s true. I can’t be objective all the time.
Currently a Mobile Editor at Yahoo, Saraf spent 5.5 years (Oct. 2010 - Feb. 2016) working for FOX Sports as an NFL Editor and Writer. Prior to that, Saraf worked for CBS Interactive for 4.5 years (May 2006 - Oct. 2010) as a Staff Editor.