Six more teams on bye, a number of thrilling finishes, and once again, London received an NFL game that was a blowout. In case you missed anything, here are the highlights from Week 10.
Who Earned His Paycheck?
Clevelanders, rejoice! The Browns have sole possession of first place in the AFC North for the first time in 19 years. They grabbed it with an absolute butt-whipping of the Bengals on Thursday night, picking up three interceptions and holding Andy Dalton to just 86 yards passing. Each of the Browns three running backs scored a touchdown in the win.
If you play in some weird fantasy league that only counts second half performances, Dez Bryant and Jordy Nelson would have earned you exactly zero combined points. Fortunately, just about every league counts the whole game, and the pair each finished with six grabs, over 150 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone. For those scoring at home, Bryant ended with 158 yards, with both scores coming on hard-earned fights to the endzone. Nelson racked up 152, with both scores coming on blown coverages by the Bears. And neither one broke a sweat.
Justin Forsett totaled 112 yards and two scores on the ground, including one on a very well-executed sweep on fourth-and-one. The veteran journeyman leads all running backs with a whopping 5.4 yards per carry. Baltimore's defense played well, too–they nabbed an interception and forced a Shonn Greene fumble about three inches from the goal line. It was the Ravens' 10th redzone stop, tops in the NFL.
J-E-T-S, Jets Jets Jets. Gang Green can finally hold their heads high, as the Jets took it to the Steelers 20-13. They forced four turnovers, which is more than they had all year coming into the game. Michael Vick only completed 10 passes for 132 yards, but thanks to those many, many Steelers mistakes and a strong defense–Jaiquawn Jarrett had two interceptions, and the defense as a whole only allowed 36 yards on the ground–the Jets are riding high.
Facing a fourth-and-10 from his own 22-yard line with only 1:34 left in the game, Colin Kaepernick did what he does best: he used his feet. The Niners quarterback evaded pressure, scampered to the right side of the field, then heaved a bomb across his body to Michael Crabtree, who had gotten open thanks to some truly terrible coverage by Kenny Vaccaro. The throw went for 51 yards, and Phil Dawson kicked a game-tying field goal. In overtime, Ahmad Brooks forced a fumble when he sacked Drew Brees from behind, and Dawson then kicked the game-winning field goal. It was a must-win game for San Francisco, and they played like it.
Both Carson Palmer and Ryan Tannehill made tackles after throwing interceptions. Never stop chasing your dreams, kids. Or at least your defenders.
More Cardinals and Dolphins love: Brent Grimes and Patrick Peterson each had shockingly impressive interceptions. Grimes picked off a fade route into the endzone with an eye-popping one-handed grab. And in Arizona, Peterson recorded his first career pick-six (and his second interception of the day) off an already tipped pass, which he then batted in the air as he was running by, allowing enough time to get under the ball and return it for a touchdown.
The Cardinals were down 14-10 when Carson Palmer injured his knee. Enter Drew Stanton. And continue the bombs that Palmer's been throwing all year: Stanton hooked up with John Brown for a 48-yard touchdown, and the Cardinals added the pick six from Peterson and a fumble recovery returned for a score by Antonio Cromartie. All in the span of less than four minutes of game time. Arizona owns the league's best record at 8-1.
Bring out the Skittles: Marshawn Lynch ran for a career-high four touchdowns, and the Seahawks looked kind of like…well, a Super Bowl champion in a rout of the Giants.
Aaron Rodgers saw Ben Roethlisberger's back-to-back six touchdown games. He was not impressed. Rodgers threw six touchdown passes IN THE FIRST HALF, finishing 18-for-27 for 315 yards. A third of his passes resulted in scores, and the Pack rolled, 55-14.
Maybe all Mark Sanchez needed was a change of scenery. The embattled former Jets quarterback made his first start in Philadelphia, and all he did was throw for 332 yards and two scores. He was aided by another ridiculous performance by the Eagles defense and special teams, who now have a combined nine touchdowns on the season. Darren Sproles had a 65-yard punt return touchdown, Bradley Fletcher returned an interception 34 yards for a score, and the Eagles as a unit forced five turnovers and sacked Cam Newton nine times in a 45-21 victory. This Eagles/Packers game next week is shaping up to be an incredible matchup.
Whose Performance Deserves A "Needs Improvement"?
After the Bengals embarrassing Thursday night loss to the Browns, Cincy running back Jeremy Hill said the other Ohio team was even worse than he thought. Well, if that's the case, then the Bengals are in trouble. They could only muster 165 yards, the second time this season they've failed to reach 200. Andy "Please Don't Schedule Another Primetime Game" Dalton went 10 for 33 for 86 yards and three interceptions, and his numbers might actually somehow be even better than how he performed. Hill himself lost a fumble, and only racked up 61 total yards after rushing for 154 alone the previous week.
Tampa Bay called a timeout to try and ice Falcons' kicker Matt Bryant. He missed the field goal just after the timeout was called. Naturally, he made the "re-do" attempt. This is why the Bucs are 1-8.
Big Ben threw two brutal picks, Antonio Brown lost a pair of fumbles, and if not for a garbage time 80-yard throw where every defender gave up, the Steelers wouldn't have even scored a touchdown. Against a Jets team that hadn't won since Week 1. In less than two months, Pittsburgh has lost to Tampa Bay and the New York Jets, got smoked by the Browns, squeaked by the Texans, barely beat a 1-9 Jacksonville team, and destroyed Indianapolis and Baltimore. If that doesn't sum up how ridiculous this season has been, I don't know what does.
The final play in regulation of the Saints and Niners game might be the first time in history offensive pass interference was called on a last-second heave into the endzone. Sure, Jimmy Graham pushed off a little bit, but Perrish Cox absolutely sold it with an Oscar-worthy fall to the ground. On a day when there were about a half-dozen offensive pass interference penalties, defenders did their best imitations of those other footballers with some terrific flopping. But hey, if it draws a flag, might as well go for the hard sell until the NFL starts penalizing it.
The Chicago Bears demonstrated a ton of ways to turn the ball over: Jay Cutler fumbled as he was hit from the blindside; Jarrett Boykin blocked a punt by kicking the ball before Bears punter Pat O'Donnell could (though technically it was ruled a fumble, resulting in a turnover on downs); and Cutler threw a pick six on a screen pass that went off teammate Kyle Long's helmet. Just a dreadful day for the Bears at Lambeau. And their defense is no better. The Patriots and Packers put up a combined 106 points in the past two weeks, and have given up 938 yards in the two games. Pretty sure the best Madden players don't even reach those numbers.
Most Interesting Stats From Week 10
In a time where it seems like nearly every kickoff results in a touchback, Chicago's Chris Williams brought 10 kicks out of the endzone, for a total of 288 yards. His final one went for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Ryan Tannehill threw an interception, and on the very next play, Matthew Stafford tossed an interception of his own. That's the second time this season two opposing quarterbacks have thrown back-to-back picks.
Earlier this year, James Jones somehow fumbled twice on the same play. This week, he caught eight passes for 20 yards. That's a record for the fewest receiving yards while catching eight balls.
The Seahawks rushed for a franchise record 350 yards in their rout of the Giants.
Peyton Manning threw for five touchdowns for the ninth time in his career, and Aaron Rodgers tossed his 16th career touchdown of 70 yards or more. Both are NFL records.
Speaking of Manning, Russell Wilson became the first quarterback in NFL history to beat both Peyton and Eli Manning in back-to-back seasons, proving that, yes, there is a stat for everything.
Notes From Vegas
Favorites went 9-4 against the spread (74-69-4 on the year) and 9-4 straight up (97-49 on the year). That's only the second time this year the ATS and SU records were the same. Buffalo opened as 2-point underdogs before finishing as 1.5-point favorites. Home dogs went just 1-3 on the day, falling to 19-24 on the season.
Top Dogs: 58% of bettors took the Chiefs ATS, who ultimately closed at +1.5. Meanwhile, 56% of bettors grabbed the ML pick of the Niners against the Saints. San Francisco hovered around +200 most of the week before settling at +175.
Biggest Upsets: The Steelers opened at -1 and closed at -4.5. That still seemed low against a Jets team who had lost eight straight. But, as they've made a habit of doing, the Steelers looked absolutely miserable against an inferior opponent. 78% of bettors picked Pittsburgh against the spread, and 59% took them on the moneyline.
Week 11 Picks
Last Week: 2-2, Overall: 16-24
Even as they closed at -3.5, the Falcons did a great job of picking up a win on the road, their first away from the Georgia Dome this season. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay remains winless at home. Arizona lost Carson Palmer when they were down by four, and ended up winning by 17. In the loss column, Pittsburgh looked absolutely abysmal (guess they were tired of scoring so much), while the Saints should have won and covered in regulation on a hail mary touchdown grab by Jimmy Graham, but thanks to some quality acting on the part of the Niners, offensive pass interference was called, and San Francisco ended up winning in overtime. Onto Week 11.
This week (home team in CAPS):
CLEVELAND -3 over Texans
Let's see–a team currently in first place in their division in front of a home crowd who's hungry for the franchise's first playoff appearance in 12 seasons, or a rookie QB whose stud RB is dinged up? I think I'll go with the former, and snag the Browns at home.
Pittsburgh -5 over TENNESSEE
Everything in my mind says this is another trap game, but the only reason I'm pulling the trigger with Pittsburgh is because this is a primetime event, and Big Ben thrives in those. They've struggled against bad teams all year, and the Titans certainly qualify as a bad team. But I think Mike Tomlin can turn things around at least for one week, and the Steelers can get a win. Just don't be surprised if they start off down 28-0.
Denver -9.5 over ST. LOUIS
Since the Broncos came off their bye in Week 4, they haven't played a game closer than 14 points. Sure, one of those was a loss to the Patriots, but the majority of the wins have come against opponents better than the Rams. And since St. Louis isn't in the same division as Denver, they probably won't show up.
ARIZONA -1.5 over Detroit
You know things are bad when you're relying on Drew Stanton to get you a win. Although more accurately, I'm relying on the Cardinals' stout defense to take advantage of Matt Stafford's propensity for gambling with his arm. The Lions continue to sneak out close wins, while Arizona's only loss was to Denver a game in which Logan Thomas was playing in the fourth quarter, with a chance to give his team the lead. Which one will give this week?