Week 10 of the 2011 NFL season is upon us with the season’s first Thursday night prime time game of the year as the Oakland Raiders (5-4) beat the San Diego Chargers (4-5), 24-17 in an AFC West battle. Other prime time match-ups in week 10 include another battle for first place between the New England Patriots (5-3) and the hosting New York Jets (5-3) for the AFC East’s top honours. The Green Bay Packers (8-0) look to continue their perfection as they face the slumping Minnesota Vikings (2-6) at home in Lambeau Field. On Sunday the most intriguing match-up will be between two first place teams as the NFC West leading San Francisco 49ers (7-1) host the NFC East’s top dog New York Giants (6-2). The Chicago Bears (5-3) are coming off a huge victory in week 9 and they have another tough test Sunday afternoon against division rival Detroit Lions (6-2). The Lions, Vikings, Carolina Panthers (2-6), and Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) are all coming off bye weeks. As a few teams start to prove that they are the elite, the playoff picture starts to take shape and other teams are no doubt looking towards 2012. Here are the top 9 things to look for in Week 10.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers put the Cincinnati Bengals in their place The Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) have been a great surprise in 2011 with a young, up-and-coming roster that has played great on both sides of the ball. They face a daunting test in Week 10 as they defend their AFC North leading status against division rival Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3). Pittsburgh is coming off a bitter last minute loss to the other AFC North first place team, Baltimore Ravens (6-2), and should be looking to impose their will against the wet behind the ears Bengals. Although Andy Dalton is having a great rookie campaign thus far and plays well against the blitz, he might not have seen a team that blitzes as frequent as the Steelers. If Ben Roethlisberger gets the Steelers offence going early and scores some early points, Andy Dalton might not be able to keep his own offence together if buried too deep and needing to make a big comeback against the Steelers D. Stillers (as the natives call them) all the way.
8. The Baltimore Ravens take sole possession of first place The Ravens keep their ascension going as they go on the road to Quest Field in Seattle and beat the hosting Seahawks. The defending NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks (2-6) can’t seem to do anything right in 2011 after a busy offseason. Free agent acquisitions LG Robert Gallery, TE Zach Miller and QB Tavaris Jackson have been non-factors. Pete Carroll is now 10-14 since leaving the USC Trojans in shambles and owns a 42-43 NFL head coaching record after going 83-19 as a college coach. The Ravens are looking strong and seem to own the makings of a Super Bowl team – an excellent defence led by all-world MLB Ray Lewis, a game-changing RB in Ray Rice and the best QB Baltimore has ever had in Joe Flacco. Baltimore goes for over 30, Seattle doesn’t score a touchdown, but kicks four field goals.
7. The Chicago Bears catch the Detroit Lions It’s QB Jay Cutler’s time to shine. Cutler is one of the elite QB’s in the league (talent-wise) and he’s going to prove it in 2011. This is his third year in an always potent Mike Martz offence. Cutler also has a QB’s best friend in a great RB by the name of Matt Forte and it will be Forte that really exposes the Lions’ surprisingly weak run defence. Chicago wins another high-scoring game coming from behind. Chicago goes into Week 11 tied for second place in the tough NFC North and proves to be one of the top contenders for the NFC Wild Card.
6. The Green Bay Packers stay perfect in prime time How soon do we as fans and bloggers start to ponder the Packers going after the ultimate NFL record of a perfect season? Usually when a team gets in the double digits wins area is a relatively safe guess and Green Bay is on the cusp as they host division rival Vikings on Monday Night Football. It’s going to be another blowout and Aaron Rodgers is going to look like one of the greatest QBs to ever throw a football as the pigskin finds its way into the hands of Green Bay receivers over and over again. Rodgers helps engineer his Packers team to an early two touchdown lead in the first quarter, rendering Vikings RB Adrian Peterson a non-factor. How many Lambeau Leaps will there be? And how many minutes does Jon Gruden spend talking about how great he thinks Packers CB Charles Woodson is? The guess here at Blog Dudes is six, for both.
5. Denver Broncos run wild on the Kansas City Chiefs Who says the read option can’t be effective in the NFL? The Denver Broncos (3-5) will take what they can get as they try to stay in the AFC West race facing the hosting Chiefs. Denver QB Tim Tebow will milk that read option for one more week before NFL defenses start to find a solution for it. Although the Chiefs’ Romeo Crennel is a great strategic defensive coordinator, his Kansas City team just doesn’t have the personnel to stop the Denver rushing attack. Look for rookie OLB Von Miller of the Broncos to have a breakout multi-sack game as Denver catches the Cheifs and Raiders in the AFC West standings. Currently, there is a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West, but by this time next week there will be another three-way tie… for last place.
4. The Atlanta Falcons take flight in the A-T-L When I think of this game, I can’t get the image of Atlanta Falcons (5-3) RB Michael Turner going for seven-yard gains and breaking clean through the weak arm tackles of the New Orleans Saints (6-3) defence. Although New Orleans found its rushing attack in Week 9, this game will come down to which team can run the ball consistently and Atlanta will dominate the line of scrimmage, letting the aforementioned Turner go for big gains. Don’t forget about the passing attack of both teams, as Saints QB Drew Brees and Falcons QB Matt Ryan will definitely keep the chains moving. 2011 first round picks Julio Jones (Atlanta) and Mark Ingram (New Orleans) both make their presence felt in this early morning Sunday showdown.
3. Houston Texans prove they are a contender It’s about time the Houston Texans (6-3) get their due respect here on Blog Dudes as they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4) on their turf in West Florida. What’s not to like about the Texans? QB Matt Schaub has an accurate and powerful arm, they have a stable of running backs that fit perfectly in head coach Gary Kubiak’s zone blocking system and a great all-around defence. Arian Foster will get over 200 all-purpose yards (140 rushing and 70 receiving yards, respectively) and the Texans secondary will intercept Tampa Bays QB Josh Freeman twice. The Buccaneers “bend, but don’t break” defence will get broken by a Texans offence running on all cylinders as Houston pulls away in the second half on a huge Arian Foster screen pass. The Bucs will start a mid season slide that they will not recover from.
2. Mayhem in the MetLife Can the Jets make a mid-season splash and defeat the Patriots (5-3) on Sunday Night Football? Not this time around. The Jets are just too inconsistent and I can’t honestly predict what Jets team will show up. There is the Jets defence that over-shoots the running game with its ill-timed blitzes and there is the Jets defence that is physical up front, not letting opposing running backs get past the line of scrimmage. The problem this identity crisis is happening from game-to-game and not from play-to-play, which just adds up to being inconsistent and is not a trait of a dominate defence. Look for Tom Brady to hand the ball off and hit quick slants to avoid Jets CB Darelle Revis’ island. The Patriots will end week 10 in first place in the AFC East.
1. The best in the west tames the beast in the east The 49ers will host the Giants in what is clearly the Blog Dudes’ game of the week. One of these teams, if not both, will play in this year’s NFC Championship game. The Giants are the best team the 49ers have faced all season, but San Francisco will be up for the challenge on their way to an 8-1 record. New York’s offence will not be able to handle the best defensive front seven in the league and wait for it… wait for it… the best player in the NFL in MLB Patrick Willis. Niners RB Frank Gore looks for his sixth straight game with over 100 yards rushing and on the other side of the ball the San Francisco defence looks for its 28th straight game not allowing an opposing RB to go over 100 yards. The 49ers will run the ball well, stop the run and not turn the ball over that is a recipe for a 24-14 victory. That’s it for this week! Thank you and enjoy your weekend!
Extras: Rounding out the rest of the games Tennessee Titans 20 – Carolina Panthers 16 Cleveland Browns 17 – St. Louis Rams 6 Buffalo Bills 33 – Dallas Cowboys 24 Indianapolis Colts 23 – Jacksonville Jaguars 13 Miami Dolphins 19 – Washington Redskins 14 Philadelphia Eagles 27 – Arizona Cardinals 10
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