Week 10 of the 2012 NFL Season holds a possible Super Bowl preview, as the Houston Texans, the AFC’s best, travel to Chicago and meet the 7-1 Bears. Usually, a game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys draws more attention, but it’s the first time in over 20 years with both teams going into the game with losing records.
New York Giants (6-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-5), 1:00 PM
It’s pretty simple for the Giants: Get Eli Manning working again. In the last two weeks (1-1) he’s completed only 47.2% of his passes, thrown no touchdowns but 2 interceptions and has a passer rating of 50.6. The Bengals have a problem stopping the pass and protecting Dalton, who was sacked 5 times last week. The Giants are 3rd in the NFL with 25 sacks so far this season. Despite being favorites, the home team has won all eight matchups in the series.
Tennessee Titans (3-6) at Miami Dolphins (4-4), 1:00 PM
The Miami Dolphins need to kickstart their offense, and especially their running game, as Reggie Bush has managed to gain over 69 yards only once all season, with the Dolphins as a team averaging only 74.2 yards on the ground over the last five games. Ryan Tannehill isn’t turning the ball over recently, and a key battle will be stopping the run. Chris Johnson is averaging more than 5 yards per carry, while the Dolphins allow only 84 rushing yards per game. Jake Locker is also back, but the big problem all season for the Titans has been the defense, giving up 415 yards per game.
Detroit Lions (4-4) at Minnesota Vikings (5-4), 1:00 PM
The Lions are on a roll, suddenly finding a running game to complement and support Matthew Stafford. Having the best running back in the NFL in Adrian Peterson (leading the league in rushing yards) isn’t helping the Vikings, with Christian Ponder throwing 8 interceptions over the last 5 games, and the Vikings have been struggling stopping the run, allowing an average of 165.8 rushing yards in the last four games. The Lions haven’t won in Minnesota twice in a row in over 20 years.
Buffalo Bills (3-5) at New England Patriots (5-3), 1:00 PM
The Bills sure can run the ball, averaging 141 yards per game this season, but they’re terrible at stopping it, allowing 170. The key for them will be controlling the tempo and the clock, and running the ball more than the 16 times they used in the loss to the Texans in week 9. For the Patriots, it’ll be about keeping their offense balanced (291 passing, 150 rushing) while keeping their excellent defense against the run (88 yards) and not allowing any big plays against their secondary.
Atlanta Falcons (8-0) at New Orleans Saints (3-5), 1:00 PM
The perfect Falcons against their biggest rivals, the Saints, who despite their terrible defense have won three of their last four games. Matt Ryan handling the blitz will be a key factor to this game, that destroyed the vulnerable Philadelphia Eagles last week. A big key for the Falcons, who have the tools, will be disrupting Brees’ passing game: Drew Brees has thrown an interception once every 14.8 attempts more than 10 yards downfield in losses this season. In wins, he has thrown an interception once every 38 attempts on such passes.
San Diego Chargers (4-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4), 1:00 PM
The San Diego Chargers have one of the NFL’s best run defenses, allowing only 84 yards per game. They have a huge test in front of them, as Doug Martin, who rushed for 251 yards in week 9 and has a total of 754 with 7 touchdowns this season, is waiting. Josh Freeman and the Bucs are red hot, averaging 314.3 yards with 11 touchdowns and one interception in his last four games. As a team, the Bucs are averaging 36.0 points and 476.8 yards in those contests. They’ve never beaten the Chargers in Tampa.
Denver Broncos (5-3) at Carolina Panthers (2-6), 1:00 PM
The Panthers don’t have a deep game (Cam Newton has the most attempts (28) without a touchdown on throws more than 20 yards downfield this season) while their running game, without Newton, is below average. The biggest key for him will be not to turn the ball over, as they are 7-1 when he doesn’t. For the Broncos, it’ll be about keeping the balance, as Peyton Manning has been helped by a very good running game this season through Willis McGahee and Ronnie Hillman.
Oakland Raiders (3-5) at Baltimore Ravens (6-2), 1:00 PM
The Ravens are struggling, especially on offense. Joe Flacco set season lows with 153 passing yards and 24 attempts last week in the tough 25-15 win over the Cleveland Browns. They are 18-0 when with 22 or more rushing attempts since last season, meaning giving the ball to Ray Rice (622 yards, 4.7 per carry, 6 touchdowns) is the key. The Raiders are without their top 2 running backs, and when he’s forced to throw a lot, Palmer tends to create interceptions.
New York Jets (3-5) at Seattle Seahawks (5-4), 4:05 PM
The Jets are among the worst teams in the NFL on defense and offense, but they’ll have to be a bit more creative against a Seahawks team who are undefeated at home and have what is possibly the best secondary in the NFL. Stopping Marshawn Lynch is another big problem, as the Seahawks’ running back has 881 yards (4.8 per carry) and four touchdowns this season, averaging just under 140 yards as a team on the ground.
Dallas Cowboys (3-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-5), 4:25 PM
Two teams with similar problems, and a season that may have already moved on without them. The Eagles have lost four in a row, the Cowboys four of their last five despite being very close in all of them, except for the Bears defeat. Dallas is averaging 83.4 rushing yards to rank 29th in the league and could have a hard time running the ball again with DeMarco Murray (sprained foot) missing a fourth consecutive game. The Eagles have to find a way to protect Vick, as the two teams meet each other with both of them carrying a losing record for the first time since 1990.
St. Louis Rams (3-5) at San Francisco 49ers (6-2), 4:25 PM
The Rams need a running game (106 yards per game) if Sam Bradford is to have a chance against the 49ers. The problem is the 49ers allow only 87 yards on the ground and 271 in total. They also average 168.6 yards on the ground per game, and have won by at least 21 points in three of their last four wins.
Houston Texans (7-1) at Chicago Bears (7-1), 8:20 PM
Super Bowl preview? The Texans have the best record in the AFC, the Bears probably have the best defense in the NFL. Chicago have allowed only 15 points per game, with 25 sacks and lead the league with 28 forced turnovers, scoring 7 defensive touchdowns thus far. The Texans have been solid on defense as well, and the difference will be patience on offense, not something Jay Cutler is famous for. Matt Schaub is a lot less mistake prone, while the Texans also haven’t allowed a single rushing touchdown this season.
Kansas City Chiefs (1-7) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3), Monday night football, 8:30 PM
Can there be an easier game to call? If this was a Thursday night, things would be different. But the Chiefs are simply terrible, and the Steelers are coming off a huge win against the Giants. The Steelers have the best defense in the NFL (262.6 yards per game allowed) with a running game, thanks to Isaac Redman, finally found. The Chiefs? They have 29 turnovers this season, 10 more than anyone else in the league.