Written by Pat Pryor, @pryorgraphics
We’ve officially hit the double digits as we enter Week 10 of the NFL season. With this, records matter more, and wins and losses can end or continue seasons. In the final stretch, we’ve entered the period where one play can botch an entire season.
I was out sick last week so we don’t have any specific recaps to go over, but we do have some big games that affected standings.
New Orleans Saints 38, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3
Instead of taking the opportunity to gain a 2 game division lead, the Buccaneers failed in every facet of the game and got blown out by Drew Brees and the Saints. New Orleans may also not have to face a winning team until Week 15 against the Chiefs. The Bucs put themselves in an uphill battle and will feel it in these coming weeks.
Buffalo Bills 44, Seattle Seahawks 34
Josh Allen laid waste to the Seahawks defense, and Russell Wilson had to play catchup again. Despite his efforts, Seattle fell short, blowing the NFC West wide open. The Cardinals and Rams enjoyed the Seahawks’ loss, with a chance to make a play at the division. As for the Bills, they keep up their division lead and historical start to the season, as they usher in the new era of the AFC East.
Coming into Week 10, we have several key matchups this weekend to keep track of:
Special joint preview, the NFC West featuring the Buffalo Bills
Seattle Seahawks (6-2) at Los Angeles Rams (5-3), Sunday 4:25 PM
Buffalo Bills (7-2) at Arizona Cardinals (5-3), Sunday 4:05 PM
Our first-ever joint preview. In a division race as hot as the NFC West, there’s really no way to separate these key matchups. Let’s start with the Bills and see how this game will affect the AFC East.
The Bills made a splash in the contender talk after tearing through Seattle’s defense, and the Cardinals failed to keep up with Tua Tagavoila in his second start last week. If the Bills manage to win in Arizona, they’ll head into their bye week with one of the best starts in team history at 8-2 and should have easy games against the struggling Chargers and beat up 49ers. This means BIlls Mafia could be looking at a 10-2 record heading into their Steelers matchup. The rival Dolphins don’t have too tough of an upcoming schedule, so a division run isn’t out of the question for them, but a 10-2 record would be hard for them to top later on. Miami also faces a likely loss in Week 14 to the red-hot Chiefs, which would put the Bills in very good condition to clinch in Week 15.
We then head to the NFC West, where there is a division race like none other right now. After a 5-0 start and cruising to a division lead, the Seahawks have lost 2 of their last 3 games and now just a game ahead of both the Cardinals, who have a head to head win over them, and the Rams, who they’re facing this week. They’re going through a gauntlet right now, as in 5 weeks they face the Cardinals twice, and the BIlls and the Rams consecutively. If they lose to the Rams, they’re automatically in second as LA moves into first. And if the Cardinals can manage to take down Buffalo as well, the Seahawks will be in third, and the Cardinals will be on top of the NFC West throne. The Seahawks are playing to keep their division lead, and they must give everything they have to stay on top. For the Cardinals, a loss is a killer, as they are guaranteed third, and are actually out of the playoff picture right now if LA wins. There’s a lot to keep track of in the West but the bottom line is this; the Cardinals are third with a loss, but wins by both them and LA would keep them floating above Seattle headed into the final weeks.
Minnesota Vikings (3-5) at Chicago Bears (5-4), Monday 8:15 PM
The Packers are far and above the best team in the NFC North, but it’s not out of the picture for a wildcard spot to belong to one of these teams. The Bears need some help, but they can put themselves back in playoff talk this week if things go right. It’s no secret they’re in a rough patch, losing three straight; but all eyes will be on them on Monday Night Football, to see if they’ll be able to right the ship and look towards January. With the right nudges, they could actually be the top wildcard heading into Week 11. If the aforementioned and favored Bill and Seahawks beat the Cardinals and Rams respectively, the Bears can grab the 6th seed. If all goes right, they’ll be looking for an even larger wildcard lead on Monday. The one more thing they need? A single upset, for the Panthers, to beat their division rival the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tom Brady is coming off one of the biggest losses of his career, and the Panthers are running out of opportunities to salvage the season. If one team has a legitimate chance for everything to “fall into place” this weekend, it’s the Chicago Bears. The Vikings on the other hand, have their fate solely in their hands. A win in Chicago would bring the Bears crashing down to a .500 record and would force them to stay put at the 8 seed. If the favored teams we mentioned come out on top, Minnesota could look to make a play for a wildcard spot as early as Week 12 if things continue to go in their favor.
Those three games wrap it up for Week 10’s games with playoff implications. There are a few minor shakeups to the standings that can be made:
If the Raiders win, they hold off the Browns from the third wildcard spot in the AFC, and actually pass the Titans, which could result in an interesting showdown between Cleveland and Tennessee in Week 13.
A Buccaneers loss to the Panthers would put them in a dangerous position to losing their wildcard spot against the Rams next week.
The Eagles still have yet to take a good lead on the NFC East, and with a loss to the Giants could lose it as early as next week if Washington wins twice in a row.