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NFL Week 10 Primer

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes over the middle against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of their NFL football game in New Orleans, Louisiana September 26, 2010. REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Saints @ Falcons, 1:00PM ET
What a game this should be. The Saints are averaging over 30 points per contest this season but they’re just 2-3 on the road and their defense has struggled all season. On the flip side, the Falcons stumbled out of the gates but they’ve now won three in a row, including back-to-back games on the road. While the Atlanta offense is starting to hit its stride, it’s been the play of the defense that has fans most excited. Second-year player Sean Weatherspoon is a stud in the making and the rest of the defense feeds off his energy. That said, if the Falcons can’t generate a rush using only their front four, Drew Brees will pick them apart. This will be a great test for both teams.

Raiders @ Chargers, 8:20PM ET Thursday
Thursday night football starts tonight with a matchup between two teams desperately trying to break free from each other in a mediocre AFC West. On paper, the Chargers are the best team in the division but as usual, they’re underachieving and find themselves in a three-way tie with the Raiders and Chiefs. Heck, even the 3-5 Broncos are only one game out of first place. This is a game San Diego has to win. Carson Palmer has thrown six interceptions in his first two games since arriving to Oakland and Darren McFadden once again won’t play because of a foot injury. It’s time for Philip Rivers to shake out of his season-long funk and lead the Bolts to a big divisional victory.

Patriots @ Jets, 8:20PM ET, Sunday
Does it get any better on Sunday night this week? The Patriots are coming off of back-to-back losses for the first time since legs were the major form of transportation while the Jets have won three in a row and are looking for revenge after losing earlier this season in New England. I would have to think that New England won’t lose three in a row but Rex Ryan’s defense is playing championship caliber football right now. Fans will be treated to a plethora of great matchups this weekend but this one might take the cake.

Steelers @ Bengals, 1:00PM ET
It’s time to find out what Cincinnati and Andy Dalton are all about. The last time a good defense came to town, Dalton and the Bengals managed just 8 points in a 13-8 loss to the 49ers in Week 3. Now they’ll have a ticked off Pittsburgh team marching into Cincinnati on Sunday, looking to take out their anger on the upstart Bengals. How relentless do you think James Harrison will be this weekend? It’ll be interesting to see if Dalton and Co. can defend their home turf and send Pittsburgh into a two-game tailspin.

Giants @ 49ers, 4:15PM ET
What a great matchup this should be. In all five of their last five victories, the Giants rallied in the fourth quarter to win, which includes their 24-20 upset of the Patriots last Sunday. And after beating New England, Tom Coughlin’s team can’t afford to sit back and not play well against a San Francisco team that is itching to prove it can beat the best teams in the NFC. Even though both teams can score, I think this game has the makings of a defensive struggle. The Niners have played well defensively all season and with Frank Gore hobbled, the Giants’ pass rush could give Alex Smith fits.

Lions @ Bears, 4:15PM ET
Revenge will be on the mind of the Bears when they host a Lions team this Sunday that crushed them on Monday Night Football earlier this season. Chicago is also at a small disadvantage though. While the Lions should be fresh coming off their bye week, the Bears had a short week of rest following their win in Philadelphia on Monday night. It’ll be interesting to see if this game proves to be a small letdown for Chicago, even though it’s a huge divisional game.

Bills @ Cowboys, 1:00PM ET
This is one of many games on the Week 10 schedule that should give us a glimpse into how good certain teams really are. People have been waiting for the Bills to come crashing back to earth and their brutal effort last week against the Jets may have been the beginning of Buffalo’s freefall. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills offense could do nothing against a stingy New York defense, and they won’t have it any easier this Sunday with DeMarcus Ware breathing down their necks. If the Bills can notch a big road win, then they’ll prove that they’re at least planning to be competitive until the end. But if they lose, their road record will drop to 1-3 and the seed of doubt will continue to grow.

Texans @ Bucs, 1:00PM ET
The Texans have a great chance to keep rolling and continue to create space between them and the Titans in the AFC South if they can beat a reeling Bucs team this weekend. Shame on the Tampa Bay front office for thinking that it could rest on its laurels after winning 10 games last season. They figured they could win with the same exact team as they had a year ago and not spend any money this offseason (even though they had more cap space than any team in the league). The Bucs lack explosive plays offensively and if the receivers don’t stop underachieving, this team will continue to lose. That said, Houston has been known to take a dive in the second half seasons so if Tampa comes to play this weekend, there’s no reason the Bucs can’t get back on track with a win.

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Week 10 NFL Primer

Donovan McNabbSunday’s Best: Giants (7-1) at Eagles (5-3)
If you don’t like a good ‘ol fashion NFC East battle than you don’t like America. The Giants need a win to stay two games up on the Redskins in the division while the Eagles need a victory just to keep pace. Neither team has huge injury concerns so we’re about to see the best each squad has to offer. The G-Men swept the series between these two teams last year and sacked Donovan McNabb 12 times, which tied an NFL record. But the Eagles have won three straight and have averaged 31 points per game in those victories. Keeping McNabb healthy and upright has been the key, which will again be a main concern for the Eagles against a stout Giants’ pass rush. Perhaps no team in the league plays better on the road than Tom Coughlin’s bunch, but Philadelphia is always a tough environment to play in and the Giants will look to neutralize Jim Johnson’s blitz-happy defense by running the back effectively with Brandon Jacobs. Neither team turns the ball over very much, so this game will likely come down to which squad forces their opponent out of their game plan first.

Upset Watch: Seahawks at Dolphins, 1:00 PM ET
An easier upset to call might be Detroit over Jacksonville with how bad the Jaguars have looked the past two weeks. But I’m willing to bet the Jags can handle Daunte Culpepper much better than they did Ryan Fitzpatrick last Sunday. There’s everything to love about the Dolphins and nothing about the Seahawks, but that’s exactly why I like Mike Holmgren’s bunch this week. Typically teams that travel from the West to East don’t fare well, but the Hawks were just in Florida to play the Bucs so they’re used to the travel preparations. Miami has been the talk of the NFL the past two weeks, which means they’re in uncharted territory. They’re due for a letdown and while the Seahawks are missing six starters and have zero offense, the underdog has covered the last six games involving the Dolphins. Okay, so Miami might win. But the Hawks cover the 9-point spread after falling behind early.

Rex GrossmanIntriguing matchup: Titans at Bears, 1:00 PM ET
Even though pundits have been impressed with the Titans’ start, you get the feeling that everyone is waiting for them to stumble eventually. They aren’t blowing teams out by any means and narrowly escaped defeat last week at home against Green Bay. Chicago starts a pissed off Rex Grossman this weekend and while that normally spells trouble, he did rally the Bears last week against Detroit. Word is that it’s supposed to snow in Chicago this Sunday, which only plays into the Bears’ hands. They’re so banged up on defense that the Titans still have the advantage, but don’t be surprised if this is the week Tennessee is finally tripped.

Other notable games:
Saints (4-4) at Falcons (5-3), 1:00 PM ET
This game is going to reach the mid-50’s or 60’s by its conclusion. Even without Reggie Bush, the Saints’ offense is a juggernaut, but they’ve struggled defensively and will be without DE Charles Grant for the rest of the year due to injury. Rookie Matt Ryan has been nothing short of phenomenal this year and has the Falcons thinking playoffs. Teams have forced him to beat them through the air, which he has. This is one of the more underrated rivalries in the league and a sure bet for a shootout this weekend.

Bills (5-3) at Patriots (5-3), 1:00 PM ET
Bill Belichick should be ashamed of the way he game planned for the Colts last week and will no doubt be looking to smoke division rival Buffalo to get back on track. The Bills, meanwhile, have lost two games in a row because Trent Edwards can’t keep the turnovers low. The Jets are right in the mix too, but a win in this game is huge for the division.

Colts (4-4) at Steelers (6-2), 4:15 PM ET
Indy got back on track last week with a win over the Patriots, now they have to show that they can be consistent. The Steelers thumped the Skins on the road last Monday, but are coming off a short week and could be without Ben Roethlisberger. Can Byron Leftwich lead Pittsburgh to another victory? Or has the return of Bob Sanders lifted the Colts?

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