When the going gets tough – normally the tough get going, but in Week 10 some of the tough just got injured or just served a humiliating beat down.
This is the time of year that football becomes brutal. If you can’t handle it you just get knocked to one side as the best power their way through, bulldozing their way through to lead the way into December and beyond.
Time to stand up and be counted as a contender, or time to surrender to those that can survive this testy time.
Let’s have a look then at who made their mark this past week.
REDSKINS 27 VIKINGS 34
They have threatened to do this for a while now and when the opportunity arose they took it. Minnesota played tough and hung in there against a Washington team that was trying to stay in the NFC East race. In gaining their first win this year on American soil doesn’t mean that the Vikings are ready to make a run to the postseason, but it does dent the Redskins chances, although the way the weekend panned out they are still in the thick of things, and when you consider they now have the same 3-6 record they had at this time last year they could be about to embark on another division winning run.
EAGLES 27 PACKERS 13
When it goes wrong, it goes very wrong. First, Aaron Rodgers gets banged up and is out indefinitely, and then Green Bay loses backup QB Seneca Wallace. So when third string trigger man Scott Tolzien takes over the reins, you know it’s not going to end well. This deflects somewhat as to how the Philadelphia Eagles are playing right now. They have found their QB identity at the right time and look the best prospect in the NFC East right now. They wouldn’t have expected to win as easily as they did but they moved the ball well and scored at the right times to kill the game off. There is always a surprise team that comes from deep to reach the playoffs, this Eagles team could be the one this year.
JAGUARS 29 TITANS 27
Jacksonville finally broke their win column duck. It was in large part a well deserved win against a Tennessee team that made too many errors, which the Jaguars duly cashed in on. For a while now the play of the Jaguars has gotten better in certain areas and they just needed a bit of luck and the ball to bounce their way. Last Sunday those things happened, and even towards the end you felt the Titans could still come back and win, but the Jags were not going to let this chance slip by.
BILLS 10 STEELERS 23
Buffalo were once considered a threat in the AFC East, I even made them one of dark horses. That was then though and since they have unravelled. Holding a 3-7 record they are now worse off than the Steelers who up to until a month ago were really stinking up the AFC. Pittsburgh is made of tough stuff and they are now starting to believe that they can salvage something from the season. Their resurgence may have started a bit too late to be considered as a playoff team, but stranger things have happened.
RAIDERS 20 GIANTS 24
The same can be said for the New York Giants. After starting the season 0-6 they have now won three straight and are only 1.5 games back in the NFC East, with two games coming up that will show if they are ready to make history and win their division after the winless start. We should have known better than to write them off. Oakland is, like the Bills above, starting to fall apart. They will still surprise some teams in the remainder of the season, but we can probably suggest that this will be another losing season.
RAMS 38 COLTS 8
If you saw this one coming then I’m willing to follow all your predictions until the end of the season. No one apart from the staff of the St. Louis Rams, and dare I suggest that even some of those doubted it would happen, would of forecast this result. The old cliché of Any Given Sunday came to life in Indianapolis, as the Colts turned the ball over uncharacteristically and Tavon Austin finally had his breakout game. This is a dent in the Colts season, but nothing more than that. They are big enough to rebound from this but what it will show is that they are just like anyone else in the league – beatable. The win keeps the Rams just about in the playoff hunt, but the tightrope is very thin.
SEAHAWKS 33 FALCONS 10
After a couple of doubting performances Seattle had to come into this game ready to show they are still the team to beat in the NFC. The win was decisive; there will of course be those that say that it was Atlanta, a team that is low on confidence and fairly bereft of ideas at the moment. Each game cannot be taken for granted however, just ask the Colts, and must be played to maximum. Seattle will look to win home field advantage in the playoffs as this could pretty much seal their place in the Super Bowl such is their superiority in front of the 12th man.
BENGALS 17 RAVENS 20
This was a slow burner, but when it caught fire it was arguably the best game of the weekend. Baltimore held a 17-0 advantage before Cincinnati started to understand the severity of a loss in this big divisional match. All looked lost as the clock ticked down to zero and Andy Dalton’s Hail Mary pass was tipped in the end zone. The tip however was more like a volleyball set, and AJ Green supplied the smash by grabbing the ball while standing away from the group of players actually going for the pass. So into overtime and it were the current champions who, with their season on the line prevailed. This result means the AFC North is wide open again.
LIONS 21 BEARS 19
Chicago will look back at this one at the end of the season as the one that finally broke their season. They are of course still very much in the mix, but Detroit are now very much in the ascendency and don’t look like relinquishing their grip on the division lead anytime soon. This was a typical bruising encounter played in the stereotypical NFC North way. The Lions are now 6-4 and if the season ended now would be the number 3 seed in the conference, something again most experts would not have predicted. They are good value for it and now it will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure down the stretch.
PANTHERS 10 49ERS 9
Carolina has a mean tough defence. This was stated before the season started but only now it seems people are starting to finally realise its potential to be one of the best. This game proved exactly that, holding San Francisco to field goals in their own backyard is no mean feat, and then the offence kicked into gear and scored the ten unanswered points to seal the deal that says the Panthers are on the brink of something special. Both teams are now lying in second place in their divisions and ready to pounce on any mistake by the leaders. You get the feeling the Panthers are more ready to strike.
TEXANS 24 CARDINALS 27
Arizona have blown too hot and cold this season to be considered as real playoff hopefuls but this game illustrates the potential they have. Again a case can be made for the fact that the opposition are low on confidence but Houston is still a handful. The Cardinals will have to win out from here and that still might not be enough. The Texans will look to regroup in what will be a long offseason.
BRONCOS 28 CHARGERS 20
The Denver Broncos come through this tough test with another win, but are the wheels starting to come off this juggernaut? Well no, of course not, but this was the first time they have been held under 30 points this season. San Diego kept the score close but never really threatened to upset the still Super Bowl favourites. Denver will now look forward to the big game of this coming weekend, the showdown with the unbeaten Chiefs, whereas the Chargers will look at another game that potentially they could have had so much more from.
COWBOYS 17 SAINTS 49
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was used as a scapegoat by the Cowboys last season and was ceremoniously fired from his job. New Orleans coach Sean Peyton saw enough in the man to hire him and fire up his defence. In this much hyped game there was no disputing the winner. The score line suggests a one sided match and that is exactly what it was. The Cowboys defence yielded another 600+ yard game and is completely shot to pieces now. New Orleans will use this win as a springboard to hopefully gain home field advantage.
DOLPHINS 19 BUCCANEERS 22
As the other winless team going into the weekend, Tampa Bay also got a big W against their name. Like the Jaguars it was deserved. Miami would have looked at this game and thought W themselves but remember the cliché from before? This defeat probably knocks the Dolphins out of the playoff race; again a promising start has been laid to rest. Tampa Bay takes the unofficial Florida Bowl and it’s the only type of Bowl game they will see for a while.