With the number of weeks through the NFL season now hitting double figures, one coach fell victim to week 9 in the calendar.
As we predicted, the Colts and Sam Ehlinger proved to be as threatening as a fleabite, with the 26-3 defeat to Belichick and the Patriots meaning the end of Frank Reich’s 4-and-a-half-year tenure as Head Coach in Indianapolis.
Reich became only the second coach casualty of the season after the Carolina Panthers relieved Matt Rhule of his duties last month, and it’s difficult to argue against the verdict.
Despite sitting 2nd in the AFC South with a record of 3-5-1, Ehlinger was the seventh starting quarterback named under Reich, and it became fairly obvious that there was soon to be an eighth.
Jim Irsay may be known for his impatience regarding the franchise, but it’s fair to say that Reich had plenty of time to turn the Colts into genuine Super Bowl contenders, which didn’t appear to be happening anytime soon.
Super Bowl champion and former Colt center Jeff Saturday will take over head-coaching duties in the meantime, as Indy travels west to face another under-fire coach in Josh McDaniels and the Raiders, who suffered another disappointing defeat last week.
Find out who we think will take the spoils in that game, as well as all the other week 10 matchups…
TNF: Falcons @ Panthers
Week 10 kicks off with an NFC South in-division battle, with the Falcons making the familiar trip to Charlotte to face the out-of-form Carolina Panthers.
These two faced off against one another only a couple of weeks ago, with the Falcons securing an OT field-goal win in a game that ended in a ludicrous fashion, to say the least.
Trailing by 6 with 23 seconds left, P.J Walker found D.J Moore on a deep seam to set up a game-winning PAT attempt for Carolina, only for Moore to be penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and set his kicker back 15 yards.
Eddy Piñeiro sent the kick wide left, but the Panthers were granted another shot when Mariota threw a timely interception in overtime.
Unfortunately for Carolina, however, Piñeiro missed left again, allowing Mariota and the Falcons’ offense to march up the field and give kicker Younghoe Koo a shot to win the game, which is something he duly obliged.
The Panthers are now coming off a mauling to Cincinnati last week, which saw former XFL quarterback P.J Walker benched for Baker Mayfield after being down 35-0 at the half.
Although they outscored the Bengals in a second half which saw Baker throw for 155 yards and 2 TDs, there was, and still is very little optimism for Panthers fans to cling onto.
Carolina now languishes bottom of the horrid NFC South division and seems like a franchise in turmoil having lost their star asset, Christian McCaffrey, to the 49ers.
Former Head Coach Matt Rhule also became the first among his peers to lose his job this season, with former Cardinals HC Steve Wilks currently over-seeing the team in an interim role.
The Panthers struggles to stop the run and it showed last week when Joe Mixon hung over 150 yards and 4 rushing (5 overall) touchdowns on their defense.
But overall, the clear truth is that Carolina is a franchise that needs a quarterback, and they need one now.
Meanwhile, Atlanta is on the contrasting end of the optimism scale.
Alongside Seattle, the Falcons have been one of the surprise stories in the league this year.Embed from Getty Images
Ex-Titans and Raiders QB Marcus Mariota is showing why the earlier selected him as the number 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, as the former Oregon Duck has led the Falcons to a respectable 4-5 record, which sees them tied with Brady’s Buccaneers atop the division.
They may not possess the greatest passing offense in the game, but only the Bears and Ravens have accumulated more yards on the ground than Atlanta this season, thanks to Mariota and the big-hitting running back that is Cordarrelle Patterson.
Atlanta’s record may also not be anything to shout about, but an 18-point defeat to the Bengals in week 7 remains their only loss by more than one possession.
The main worry for Atlanta, however, is that their defense remains the worst in the league in passing yards allowed, by some distance.
The injury to star cornerback Casey Hayward may have something to do with that, along with A.J. Terrell who is questionable to appear against Carolina on Thursday Night Football.
There is also cause for concern with O-line as well, with center Matt Hennessy and tackle Elijah Wilkinson being placed on the IR this past week.
The Panthers on the other hand will look to have corner Donte Jackson return, while receiver Rashard Higgins and tackle Tyler Moton remains questionable to play against Atlanta this week.
The poor showing against the Bengals not only resulted in the firing of two assistant coaches in Carolina but also saw them re-activate former starting QB Sam Darnold to the roster, although P.J Walker is still expected to get the nod over him and Baker.
Without a doubt, the defense’s ability to allow so many passing yards is something that must be rectified if the Falcons wish to have a run at the post-season, but it may not be needed to take the win this week, as the Panthers seem simply out of ideas.
Prediction: Falcons 28 Panthers 20Embed from Getty Images
Seahawks @ Buccaneers (in Munich)
England and Mexico are the only countries outside of the US that have had the opportunity to showcase their culture, history, and sporting pedigree to NFL fans around the world.
After this weekend, Germany will be added to the list of countries to host a regular season game, when the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers do battle at the Allianz Arena in Munich, home of the six-time European Champions, FC Bayern.
It’s understood that tickets sold-out almost immediately, with some claiming that there were a mere 2 million people ahead of them in the queue online, while some have witnessed re-sale prices north of £700.
Although unfortunate that some won’t get to witness the event live, a person that will certainly be in attendance is Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith.
The former second-round pick has seen a resurgence like no other and has quickly become a fan favorite, not only with Seahawks fans but with almost everyone that calls themselves a fan of football.
In true underdog fashion, Smith was the epitome of ‘unwanted’, while acting as a backup for the Jets, Giants, and Chargers over a 6-year stretch, but has finally found a home in the Pacific northwest.
Amongst starting quarterbacks, only Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts rank higher in passer rating than Smith, who despite many feeling he presented a fairly conservative throwing threat, sits sixth in passing yards behind some of the league’s most renowned gunslingers.
Many feel the secret behind Smith’s revival is his sudden professionalism and determination to prove doubters wrong, but whatever changes the 32-year-old has implemented, it’s certainly worked.
There is plenty of credit to go around, however, as rookie running-back, Kenneth Walker III continues to stake a claim for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The defense, although heavily inexperienced, continues to give offensive coordinators fits week in, and week out, thanks to the introduction of rookies Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant, who look to be absolute steals at corner from this year’s draft.
It’s also worth noting that this defense leads the league in both fumbles recovered and forced, which means the ball is never safe when in play when Seattle’s defense takes the field.
Despite still enjoying the fruits of Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, many assumed that Seattle would take the title of the worst team in the NFL this season, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, as they currently sit top of the competitive NFC West.
On the other side, the Buccaneers finally snapped a 3 game-losing streak when they defeated fellow strugglers, LA Rams, on Sunday.
Tom Brady led the Bucs to victory on his record-breaking 55th game-winning drive to improve their record to 4-5 and return to the top of the NFC South.Embed from Getty Images
There are still concerns regarding the over-reliance of TB12, as the 45-year-old attempted 58 total passes against a Rams defense with star corner Jalen Ramsey amongst their ranks.
Brady does, however, remain extremely efficient, as he’s now gone eight weeks without throwing a single interception and is completing 65% of his throws.
The defense on the other hand is seemingly back to its best, with nose tackle Vita Vea proving a handful for the Rams’ O-line all night long, chipping in with 2 sacks.
With the roster getting healthier, the defense playing harder, and Brady becoming more comfortable with his lesser-named receivers such as Cade Otton and Scotty Miller, the Bucs will now hopefully shape up as the authentic Super Bowl contenders we know they can be.
The only genuine concern now is the ground game, as they hold the sole position of being the worst running team in the NFL.
For whatever reason, the Bucs just can’t run the football, and as most know in this league that to win Super Bowls, a run game is decisive in helping teams achieve that goal.
On the injury front, Seattle remains relatively wound-free, although WR Marquise Goodwin is not expected to play.
The good news for Tom Brady is that TE Cameron Brate was in full participation during practice and could make a return on Sunday, although Julio Jones sat out Wednesday’s practice, while Russell Gage Jr. is still not active.
Mike Evans was also limited after suffering a knock in the win over LA but should still be available for the trip to Germany.
Yet again, the Bucs find themselves in another ‘pick em” for the win.
In a historic game of any kind, perhaps there is no better quarterback to hang your hat on than Brady.
Even if it is a no-brainer when it comes to QB match-ups, nevertheless, the Seahawks just seem like a better run machine at this present time, so we’ll take Seattle in a close one.
Prediction: Seahawks 23 Buccaneers 21Embed from Getty Images
Cowboys @ Packers
It’s been a season of turmoil thus far for Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers, as a defeat to the Detroit Lions last week all but ends any real delirium surrounding their Super Bowl LVII chances.
Rodgers himself can’t seem to stay out of the headlines, whether it’s concerning comments made on trust issues with young teammates, coaching decisions, front-office problems, free agency, or even Psychedelic tea.
Many members of the media believe there is nowhere for the 4-time MVP to hide now, as the lucrative $150 million contract that Rodgers signed back in March seems to have been a massive hindrance in the long term.
Last week’s loss made it 5-in-a-row for the Packers, in a game in which Rodgers threw 3 interceptions, 2 of which occurring un-characteristically in the red zone.
People are still trying to figure out what is going wrong with Green Bay, but it’s really not that difficult to figure out at this stage; they are simply just a bad football team.
The loss of Devante Adams to the Raiders has been one of monumental suffering for this offense, with Aaron’s 2nd favorite (now favorite) receiver Allen Lazard struggling to stay healthy for much of the season.
Without his favorite weapons, the former first-round pick has had to rely on rookie receivers Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson to make plays down the field, though dealing with inexperienced players is something that Rodgers reportedly has no attentiveness for.
Head Coach Matt LaFleur hasn’t gotten off scot-free either, as the refusal to feed Aaron Jones the ball in many spots this season has disheartened the fans at Lambeau.
‘Cheeseheads’ are also becoming increasingly frustrated with the Packers’ general manager, Brian Gutekunst, due to his apparent failure to surround Rodgers with above-average receiving talent.
Although the offense is in chaos, the defense is at least trying to hold up their end of the bargain, as they currently rank fourth in passing yards allowed, with Jaire Alexander continuing to show why he is indeed a top 5 corner in this league.
But overall, it’s a mess, and it doesn’t get any easier.
A man who has been gifted with the opportunity to pile on the agony in Green Bay is nonother than their former HC Mike McCarthy, who brings his much-improved Dallas Cowboys to town.
It seemed after week 1 that the Cowboys would be in for a long season, as an underwhelming 19-3 defeat at home to the Bucs left many scratching their head at what direction owner Jerry Jones was taking the franchise.Embed from Getty Images
Since then, ‘the Boyz’ boast a near spotless 6-1 record, with the only defeat ensuing to their perfect NFC East divisional rivals, the Philadelpha Eagles.
During Dak Prescott’s injury, backup quarterback Cooper Rush was able to guide the Cowboys through many difficult challenges, which included impressive road wins to the Giants and Rams.
But Dak has stepped it up another level, as the offense has flourished the past 2 weeks against other NFC North opponents, where they’ve put up a combined 73-points.
Although the offense has done its part, the main story behind this team resides on the other side of the ball.
Many feel that Dallas possess the best defense in the league, as second-year man Micah Parsons seems a shoo-in to win Defensive Player of the Year.
The 12th overall pick in last year’s draft has become one of the elite defensive players in the league, boasting 8 sacks and 2 forced fumbles already in 2022.
Players such as Leighton Vander Esch, Anthony Barr, and DeMarcus Lawrence are also key parts of this unit, while corners Trevon Diggs and Anthony Brown contribute to the fact that the Cowboys’ defense is top 3 in the league in passing yards allowed.
Ezekiel Elliot, though still bruised, is expected to wear a knee brace to take the field on Sunday afternoon, whilst Sam Williams, Noah Brown, and Malik Hooker are set to play if needs be.
Meanwhile, the Packers remain banged up, with star tackle David Bakhtiari being added to the long list of Green Bay injuries.
And if you think it couldn’t get any worse, Aaron Jones, Allen Lazard, and Romeo Doubs were all limited due to sustained injuries suffered in last week’s loss in Detroit.
Despite having both home-field advantage and one of the greatest QBs of all time, this would genuinely be one of the shocks of the year if the Packers could come away with a win.
The fact that the Cowboys are coming off a bye and have had two full weeks to prepare for the challenge can only hinder Green Bay’s chances.
If you haven’t got enough in the tank to get past Detroit’s awful defense, how can you expect to unlock this red-hot Dallas one that is coming off a bye?
Prediction: Cowboys 26 Packers 14Embed from Getty Images
SNF: Chargers @ 49ers
San Francisco is another team that enjoyed a bye week during week 9 and should come into SNF feeling a lot healthier after being tormented with injuries during the first half of the season.
It’s been a topsy-turvy year thus far for the 49ers, as they sit 2nd in the NFC West with a 4-4 record having lost Trey Lance to a season-ending ankle injury in week 2.
Many in the media felt it was a blessing in disguise, as the decision to keep Jimmy Garoppolo as a backup is now paying it’s worth.
Lance may indeed be the future of the franchise, but without question, Garoppolo is currently the more refined quarterback and is built to win now.
Despite their .500 record, the Niners’ roster is stacked, with star players in every position.
Household names such as Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk make up their dangerous receiving core, whilst the addition of star running-back Christian McCaffrey has given Shanahan endless possibilities with the offensive play calling.
Despite the incredible wealth of talent on the offensive side of the ball, when all are healthy, it’s probably second best to the defense.
San Francisco ranks 1st at stopping the run, which means DeMeco Ryans’ unit is going to force you to throw the football down the field in the direction of Charvarius Ward and Talanoa Hufanga, who has 3 interceptions on the year.
Even at that, the Niners rank 6th in the league in passing yards allowed, which puts them at number 3 in overall defense.
All of this without mentioning linebacker Fred Warner and the unstoppable edge rusher Nick Bosa, who with 8.5, is tied 2nd in the league on sacks only to Matt Judon of the Patriots with 11.5.
Realistically, the only thing keeping San Francisco back is their ability to stay healthy.
Defensive tackle Arik Armstead has been a massive loss on the D-line after suffering a foot injury back in week 1, while star tackle Trent Williams can’t stay off the injury report for diamonds on the other end.
If lady luck strikes in the second half of the year, this might just be a Super Bowl team.
The Los Angeles Chargers are very much in the same boat, as yet again, the Bolts are one of the most beat-up teams in the league.
Star receiver Keenan Allen’s hamstring continues to play up, much to the annoyance of all fantasy owners across the globe, and of course Justin Herbert.Embed from Getty Images
In the meantime, to make matters worse, his second favorite target Mike Williams remains out with an ankle injury, which severely limits the 2020 Rookie of the Year’s passing options.
It isn’t all doom and gloom for the Chargers, however, as a 5-3 record under the circumstances leaves them only one game behind Kansas City in the AFC West.
Herbert himself has been able to recover from a ribs injury he sustained against KC back in week 3, which was potentially the game of the year so far.
The 6 ft 6 former Oregon Duck has shown resilience and maturity on many occasions this year, including last week when they defeated a competitive Falcons team in a potential banana skin game in Atlanta.
But perhaps what we love most about Herbert is his willingness, like Mahomes, to share the ball around the entire offense.
Despite the injuries to his two-star receivers, Joshua Palmer stepped up with 8 receptions for over 100 yards last week, showing that he doesn’t have to rely on his two key missing pieces.
Running back Austin Ekeler also seems to be back to his versatile best, as he contributed a touchdown each in both the running and passing game last week.
The defense is also a worrying sight for OCs around the league, with DB Derwin James Jr. on the opposite side, as well as the addition of Pro Bowl pass rusher Khalil Mack already proving to be a hit.
Chargers fans must be licking their lips at the prospect of Mack and the forever-injured Joey Bosa playing together, but the latter cannot, for whatever reason seem to stay healthy.
It is unclear when Bosa will return, but coach Brandon Staley all but confirmed that it won’t be this week to face his brother Nick on the opposite team.
So, unfortunately, there will be no ‘Bosa Bowl’.
Staley also confirmed that Keenan Allen is a ‘day-to-day’ decision, while fellow receiver DeAndre Carter was a full participant in practice despite picking up an injury last week.
As mentioned, Arik Armstead remains out for San Francisco, but there is hope for corner Jason Verrett and the ever-reliable Kyle Juszczyk at full-back, who has seemingly recovered from a broken finger in his right hand.
This one is difficult to call, but I feel Justin Herbert can pull off the upset here.
Yes, the Niners are coming off a bye and are getting healthier, but I believe Justin Herbet and co. can deliver in yet another Sunday Night Football spot.
Chargers in a close one.
Prediction: Chargers 28 49ers 27Embed from Getty Images
MNF: Commanders @ Eagles
Week 10 closes with a fairly lopsided NFC East divisional clash between the 8-0 Eagles and the Washington Commanders.
Philadelphia ran out easy winners when these pair met back in week 3, with Jalen Hurts throwing for 300+ yards and 3 TDs.
If you look at Philadelphia’s schedule, there is genuine confidence that Nick Sirianni’s group can go 17-0 and become the first team since the 2007 New England Patriots to go an entire regular season undefeated.
Hurts put on another clinic last Thursday night against the Housten Texans and boasted his claims for the MVP award yet again, as the Eagles ran out 29-17 victors in routine fashion.
A.J Brown was able to continue his wonderful start to the season, along with 2018 2nd-round pick Dallas Goedert, who is proving to be one of the most effective tight ends in the league, after he put up 100 yards and a TD last Thursday night.
Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave chipped in with 3 sacks, along with C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who thanks to his lone INT, now leads the league in interceptions with 5 to his name.
It’s becoming impossible to deny that the Eagles are by far the best team in the league right now.
They currently have the best overall defense, as they’re averaging just under one INT per game (best in the league), as well as their unstoppable pass rush containing the likes of Fletcher Cox and new addition Robert Quinn.
In general, we didn’t really learn much from last week, but we now know that Jalen Hurts is the real deal, and it’s hard to see where their first loss is going to come from.
The Commanders are coming off a slight-loss to the 7-1 Minnesota Vikings, so their spirits shouldn’t be too disheartened at this stage in the season.Embed from Getty Images
With Carson Wentz on injured reserve, the reigns of the franchise seem to be entirely handed over to Taylor Heinicke, with many even suggesting that they’re a better team when the 29-year-old is under center.
As Ron Rivera’s squad was pushing for victory in the final quarter, Heinicke threw a devastating interception into the hands of Harrison Smith, which would ultimately result in Greg Joseph kicking the game-winning field goal.
The Commanders may sit bottom of the NFC East division, but at least with an honorable record of 4-5.
What was once the worst division in football, is now proving to be the most competitive, as the NFC East teams boast a combined record of 24-9, which is the best in the NFL.
Ultimately, the Commanders are not a bad football team.
Players such as Montez Sweat and Johnathan Allen provide a sufficient pass rush, and it will only get better when former first-round pick Chase Young is finally healthy.
They also have some great playmakers on the offensive side of the ball such as; Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, and running back Antonio Gibson.
The main issue is no doubt at quarterback, as many have already lost faith in Carson Wentz’ abilities.
Although Taylor Heinicke is a fan favorite, it’s looking highly unlikely that the former Old Dominion quarterback is the true answer for the future of the franchise.
Both teams are seemingly healthy for Monday Night, although that could change leading up to the game due to the extra day’s rest.
Even though we see Washington putting up a much better fight than the first meeting, Philadelphia should still be able to see this one out comfortably.
Prediction: Commanders 13 Eagles 24Embed from Getty Images
Other Games (in a few words):
Vikings 25 Bills 28 – Bills and Allen return to winning ways
Lions 34 Bears 41 – Fields finally rewarded for offensive bravery
Jaguars 10 Chiefs 32 – No problems for Mahomes and Chiefs
Browns 13 Dolphins 28 – Dolphins to keep Browns at bay
Texans 10 Giants 21 – Jones and Giants bounce back
Saints 21 Steelers 24 – First win for Pickett
Broncos 17 Titans 20 – Titans win between two stubborn defenses
Colts 9 Raiders 18 – Raiders win an ugly one
Cardinals 14 Rams 24 – Rams to pile pressure on Kingsbury