LAC (4-5) @ OAK (4-4) | THU 8:20 PM ET | FOX/NFL Network/Prime
The Raiders are right in the thick of the playoff race at the season’s midway point, and it’s been amusing to see all the clueless critics suddenly disappear as Jon Gruden proves he isn’t a “dinosaur” by putting together one of the most balanced and efficient offenses in the league. Derek Carr is playing great, but Josh Jacobs has been the engine for Oakland, and that shouldn’t change tonight against a Chargers defense that—despite dominating up front last week against Green Bay—has frankly been soft when it comes to defending the run in recent years. Los Angeles should also keep things simple on a short week by featuring Melvin Gordon again, and their star runner has had plenty of success in this AFC West rivalry (107.7 total yards per game with five touchdowns across five starts). The Oakland run defense has improved this season, but it won’t be easy to stop the run and contain all the weapons that Philip Rivers has when he airs it out, so converting third downs to stay on the field will really be key for Carr and the offense. If they can keep it close, I like the Raiders to win at home for the final primetime in Oakland.
Winner: Oakland Raiders
BAL (6-2) @ CIN (0-8) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Cincinnati played the Ravens tough last month in Baltimore for what was an eventual 23-17 loss, and it’s worth noting that the only winless team in the NFL has actually given John Harbaugh’s squad fits over the past few years. That said, Lamar Jackson was unstoppable on the ground in the first matchup with 19 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown, and unless they have a huge letdown coming off last Sunday night’s win over New England, the Ravens should take care of business this weekend. I was excited to see A.J. Green (ankle) back in action for his season debut, but he’s already been ruled out after not feeling right following Wednesday’s walkthrough, so rookie quarterback Ryan Finley will be without an elite weapon in his first career start. He’s not been talked about much, but I liked Finley as a second- or third-round prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft, so my opinion of him is higher than most, and he won’t be afraid to challenge defenses vertically as he makes a case to be the team’s starter in 2020. Taking care of the ball on Sunday would be a good start for the fourth-rounder.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
BUF (6-2) @ CLE (2-6) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
The AFC wild card-leading Bills come into Week 10 as three-point underdogs against the Browns, and you can be sure that Sean McDermott and his guys are using it as a sign of motivation. I think it’s honestly a little bit disrespectful based on what both teams have shown this season, as Buffalo has out-played and out-coached Cleveland by a wide margin, and Freddie Kitchens has created a team with zero identity or discipline. Because he was an analytics darling last year, Baker Mayfield seems to be getting a bit of a pass for his disappointing play, but could you imagine if Josh Allen was 2-6, owned a 7:12 touchdown-interception ratio, and was one of the worst performing clutch players in the league despite being on an offense with a top-five running back and two Pro Bowl receivers? This week, Mayfield has publicly stated that they want to get Odell Beckham Jr. going early (rather than keeping it in-house and just doing it on Sunday), and that may lead to the Bills—led by top-three cornerback Tre’Davious White—doing whatever they can to prevent that from happening to create early frustration for their fragile opponents. Unless the Browns finally commit to Nick Chubb for 25+ touches (even with Kareem Hunt making his team debut), I see Allen doing significant damage with his legs to get Buffalo to 7-2.
Winner: Buffalo Bills
DET (3-4-1) @ CHI (3-5) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Both the Lions and Bears had a chance to make a move in the division with Green Bay and Minnesota also losing last week, but neither team could take advantage, setting up Week 10 as a de facto elimination game in the loaded NFC. Last season, Chicago was able to win both matchups by having plenty of success offensively, so perhaps the familiar opponent will allow Mitchell Trubisky to finally get back on track. As I’ve been saying since the opener (and basically every week since), Matt Nagy should try to simplify things as much as he can to just let his young quarterback go out and play, which might be easier to accomplish by calling more designed runs that gets Trubisky into the flow of things. Fortunately, David Montgomery has emerged to take the pressure off the passing attack, and the safeties creeping into the box may open up more play-action shots to Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel on the outside—which the Lions may have trouble with considering their recent struggles in the secondary. Overall, I have more confidence in Matthew Stafford and the Detroit offense right now, but I think the Bears will play stingy defense with their backs against the wall at home.
Winner: Chicago Bears
NYG (2-7) @ NYJ (1-7) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
It hasn’t been a good year for either New York team, but the Jets in particular have spiraled out of control over the past few weeks, and they may have more turnover in the offseason if things don’t improve for a team that had playoff aspirations in 2019. Like many struggling franchises, the issues start at the top, and it was a huge mistake to allow a soon-to-be-fired general manager build up the roster in his vision via both free agency and the draft before being shown the door. Furthermore, I would say former head coach Todd Bowles—who routinely got the most out of an undermanned defensive roster that lacked pass rushers—deserved to keep his job more than Mike Maccagnan did, but moving on from Adam Gase already would be a bad idea simply because Sam Darnold shouldn’t be forced to learn his third NFL offense before his 23rd birthday. In my opinion, the roster needs a complete overhaul, and the spotlight will be on GM Joe Douglas, especially after he declined to maximize the value for Jamal Adams and other assets at the trade deadline. The Giants have been a disappointment, too, but you could at least see things are clearly headed in the right direction with all the players brought in over the past couple of years, and once depth is added and Daniel Jones progresses, they’ll be a contender. I’m taking the more talented roster in the Battle of New York.
Winner: New York Giants
KC (6-3) @ TEN (4-5) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Patrick Mahomes (knee) practicing fully is an indication that he will return after a two-game absence, so Tennessee needs to be ready to put points on the board for what will likely have to be a shootout. In the playoffs two years ago, Marcus Mariota led the Titans to victory with a heroic effort (including the unforgettable receiving touchdown to himself that sparked the comeback), but that being in Andy Reid’s memory could mean the Chiefs will attempt to bury them if given the opportunity on Sunday. Of course, Mariota is no longer under center for Tennessee, and despite this video from practice, I doubt he catches any touchdowns from Ryan Tannehill (or himself) on Sunday. What the Titans need to do is feed Derrick Henry, but a) they showed that still isn’t priority No. 1 when he had just two carries in the first half last week, and b) Kansas City’s run defense has really improved over the past three weeks, including a great team effort to contain Dalvin Cook in their win over the Vikings. Also, the Chiefs have actually been better than expected in pass coverage, and Tennessee’s own secondary is injured/struggling. I would be surprised if Kansas City didn’t improve to 7-3; look for Sammy Watkins to have a big day.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
ARI (3-5-1) @ TB (2-6) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
If you like points, Cardinals-Buccaneers is the game to watch this weekend. Kyler Murray nearly led a comeback victory over the undefeated 49ers last Thursday night, and his confidence should continue to grow as he looks to pick up where he left off against San Francisco. The No. 1 overall pick hasn’t thrown an interception since September, and that streak extending to six games would really help Arizona’s chances of improving to 4-5-1, as simply having the ball more—considering Jameis Winston’s proclivity for turnovers will likely lead to extra possessions—is important in a shootout. I’m interested to see how Kliff Kingsbury utilizes David Johnson and Kenyan Drake with both guys active, but it isn’t a bad problem to figure out, and DJ may be used as a mismatch nightmare out wide and in the slot against a Tampa Bay defense that struggles to cover all over the place. Right now, the biggest concern about the Cardinals is the play of Patrick Peterson, as he almost looked lost in Week 9, so we’ll see how he fares in a matchup against Mike Evans, who Arizona has already revealed will be shadowed. Monster games from Evans haven’t led to wins for the Bucs, and they could be wise to reign Winston is some by playing through Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard to create a more efficient passing attack. I have more faith in the rookie quarterback.
Winner: Arizona Cardinals
ATL (1-7) @ NO (7-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
When the schedule released earlier this year, I was extremely excited to see a couple of November matchups between Atlanta and New Orleans (particularly the primetime clash on Thanksgiving), but the Falcons have sadly collapsed, and Sunday could be the definitive final blow to any chance of an unprecedented turnaround in 2019. The bye week might have allowed Dan Quinn’s defense to get things together, but the Saints just had theirs, too, and it allowed them to get healthier with Alvin Kamara (ankle), Jared Cook (ankle), and Tre’Quan Smith (ankle) all set to return on an offense that is rolling behind Latavius Murray. The final score might not be close between a one-win team and a one-loss team, but I still expect it to be heated based on previous meetings, and a “storyline” to watch is how Julio Jones and Michael Thomas play after the GOAT Jerry Rice weighed in about the best receiver in the game (I agree that it’s Jones). For this matchup, Julio will have a more difficult draw against Marshon Lattimore, but he can dominate anyone, and he probably needs to go off for Atlanta to have a shot.
Winner: New Orleans Saints
MIA (1-7) @ IND (5-3) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | CBS
The Dolphins have been fighting hard to get a win under Brian Flores, and it was great to see them come out on top last week against the Jets—even if it threw a wrench into the plans for the “0-16” crowd that’s living in Bizarro World by thinking a win is actually a loss. I have no problem with a team trading away assets to rebuild similar to what Sam Hinkie did for the 76ers in the NBA, but for people to think that it’s a good thing for a team to go winless is insane, and Miami will be better for it in the long run (plus, you can always trade up, but you can’t get back an 0-16 campaign). Young players like Mike Gesicki and Christian Wilkins stepping up is great to see, and the Dolphins may have found a diamond in the rough yesterday by claiming fourth-round rookie Gary Jennings from Seattle. With Preston Williams (knee) going down for the year, Jennings—who I compared to Chris Godwin—will have a great chance to earn a role on a wide open depth chart over the final eight games. This week, Indy’s offensive line should be able to open holes for Marlon Mack to get and keep a lead, but Miami will continue to fight.
Winner: Indianapolis Colts
LAR (5-3) @ PIT (4-4) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX
At the start of the season, you probably would have pegged this interconference game as a high-scoring affair, but now, it doesn’t seem like that will be the case. Pittsburgh has jumped right back into the playoff race with opportunistic defense fueled by a trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick that many ignorantly mocked at the time, and he’s forced five turnovers in six games, including last week’s 96-yard pick-six that turned a potential 17-3 deficit to a 10-10 game. As I said when he was acquired, Fitzpatrick is one of the many young, emerging stars on defense for the Steelers, and they can stay in the race with them leading the way while Mason Rudolph avoids big mistakes on offense. As for the Rams, Jared Goff and the passing attack found a bit of a rhythm before the bye, but the offensive line is still vulnerable, and T.J. Watt has the ability to wreck the game off the edge. Goff’s rare calmness against pressure is a positive when he works through progressions to get a pass off at the last possible moment, but it can also work against him if protection doesn’t hold up, so Sean McVay will probably try to get the ball out of his hands quickly. I think James Conner (shoulder) missing another game is a more impactful loss than Brandin Cooks (concussion) being out for Los Angeles based on how these teams matchup, so I’ll pick McVay off the bye.
Winner: Los Angeles Rams
CAR (5-3) @ GB (7-2) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX
The Packers had a performance to forget last week against the Chargers, but it feels like an offensive explosion could be coming this week at an unseasonably frigid Lambeau Field, and a win combined with a Vikings loss on Sunday night would give the Packers a two-game lead in the NFC North by Monday morning. Carolina’s run defense has been the weakness for them this season (Cincinnati is the only other team to allow more than 5.0 yards per carry), but Davante Adams is the player they really need to stop, as he’s due for a multi-score game with zero touchdowns so far this year after double-digit scores in each of the past three seasons. If James Bradberry (groin) is unable to go after leaving Week 9’s win early, it could be a long afternoon for the Panthers. On the other side of the field, Christian McCaffrey has played like a machine, and Carolina needs to keep running the offense through him to pull off a road upset. Kyle Allen should play well as the clear starter the rest of the way (Cam Newton was placed on IR this week), but beating Aaron Rodgers on his home turf won’t be easy.
Winner: Green Bay Packers
MIN (6-3) @ DAL (5-3) | SUN 8:20 PM ET | NBC
For his career, Kirk Cousins is 1-6 against the Cowboys, 6-13 in primetime, and 0-2 against the Cowboys in primetime, but most of that (including all games versus Dallas) came when he was quarterbacking the Redskins, so perhaps a new team will help him get the better of his former division rival. The Vikings have stalled a bit offensively since a scorching (re)start in October, and not having Adam Thielen (hamstring) has a lot to do with it, so the complementary options need to step up as weapons behind Dalvin Cook and Stefon Diggs on Sunday night. In particular, I’d like to see Laquon Treadwell get an opportunity to be a full-time player after he caught three-of-five targets for a career-high 58 yards last week, and if given significant snaps, he has the size to get the better of left cornerback Chidobe Awuzie or slot cornerback Jourdan Lewis. However, throwing 50/50 balls isn’t really Minnesota’s style (which could be a reason Treadwell hasn’t reached his potential in the league), and they will mostly try to beat the Cowboys by pounding the ball with Dalvin Cook. I don’t see Dallas getting beat at their own game with the more trustworthy quarterback and homefield advantage on their side.
Winner: Dallas Cowboys
SEA (7-2) @ SF (8-0) | MON 8:15 PM ET | ESPN
The Seahawks are the complete opposite compared to the aforementioned Kirk Cousins and his primetime struggles, as in the Pete Carroll era, they are 27-5-1 (!) at night, including a huge win over the Rams last month. Basically, Seattle seems to always find a way to win under the lights, but I can’t recall them ever encountering an undefeated team like the 8-0 Niners this late in the year, so Monday night is set up to be perhaps the game of the year if it lives up to expectations. Before last week, Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t putting up big-time numbers in a run-first offense, but he should be extremely confident after tossing four touchdowns against Arizona, and the Seahawks have been struggled to cover on the backend at times. Plus, standout left tackle Joe Staley (leg) is returning to protect Jimmy G’s blindside and open holes for Tevin Coleman/Matt Breida, while Seattle hasn’t been able to generate a consistent pass rush. All that said, Russell Wilson’s magic seems to always appear in key spots, and he has a new “act” to display with Josh Gordon joining the offense. San Francisco’s vulnerability to opposing rushing attacks combined with clutch plays by Wilson will be the difference.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks