Week 10 sorts the men out from the boys in the NFL. While some teams start to crumble, others keeping finding ways to win. This is your ten takeaways from Sunday’s action:
1. The Green Bay Packers have gone from being the NFC powerhouse to scrapping just for a wild card playoff spot in just a few weeks. Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions, who tried everything in their power to lose the game themselves, marked the lowest point of the Pack’s season to date. Aaron Rodgers gets no help from an offensive line that struggles in pass protection, but when they do step up, he looks tentative and indecisive in the pocket. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson has never been more missed as the likes of Randall Cobb and James Jones struggle to gain separation and make plays. There is no running game to speak of either, so handing the ball off isn’t the answer. Next week’s game against NFC North rivals Minnesota could be the final nail in the Packers’ coffin should they lose. For the Lions, it was their second win of the season, and their first win at Lambeau Field since 1991. It wasn’t a pretty game, with two missed Matt Prater field goals and a Calvin Johnson drop of an onside kick recovery keeping the Packers in the game more than they should have been allowed. But they’ll take a win however it comes.
2. In a battle of two teams that have struggled for wins all season, the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore with a 53-yard field goal from Jason Myers as time expired. Both offenses struggled often times, with the Ravens’ drive chart in the third quarter reading: interception, interception, fumble, three-and-out, muffed punt. Then came the ending of the game, which saw the Jaguars get a play off with milliseconds remaining. While most of the Ravens were not paying attention, Elvis Dumervil somehow managed to break through the Jaguars offensive line and sack Blake Bortles, only to grab his facemask as he did so. As the game couldn’t end on a defensive penalty, the Jaguars were just moved into field goal range, and that was that.
3. The last time the New England Patriots went on an undefeated streak, the New York Giants stepped up and broke their hearts in the only game that mattered, the Super Bowl. Well, this time, the Patriots took their revenge as Stephen Gostkowski drilled a field goal with a second remaining to give the Pats a 27-26 win. In a game that had it all, the Giants will feel aggrieved that an Odell Beckham touchdown grab was ruled incomplete (another one for the what-the-hell-is-the-catch-rule box), while the Patriots had the Giants’ Landon Collins to thank as he dropped a sure interception on the Patriots final drive. Meanwhile, wide receiver Julian Edelman will be out for a period of time with a broken foot that requires surgery. Still, the Patriots trundle on to 9-0, while the Giants are still top of the NFC East at 5-5.
4. In the best game of the night, the Arizona Cardinals overcame the Seattle Seahawks in a topsy-turvy match. Following leads of 19-0 and 22-7 at half time, the Seahawks clawed back the deficit thanks to two forced fumbles of Carson Palmer, both leading to Seahawks’ touchdowns. With a 29-25 lead in the fourth quarter at home, you’d be forgiven for thinking that somehow, Seattle had found a way to overcome their divisional adversaries. However, Palmer then led the Cardinals on a 83-yard touchdown drive, then on their next possession, running back Andre Ellington had a 48-yard touchdown scamper with under 2:00 minutes remaining to make the score an unassailable 39-29. The Cardinals now have a three game lead over both the Seahawks and the Rams in the NFC West.
5. Chicago put a stomping on St. Louis as the Bears over came the Rams 37-13. Despite having the best young running back in the game in Todd Gurley, the Rams proved once again that their offense will not allow them to come from behind to win. Gurley led the team in total yards, while quarterback Nick Foles threw for 200 yards and an interception as the game got away from the Rams. Chicago’s Jay Cutler-Zach Miller connection is going strong, as Miller had 5 receptions for 107 yards and 2 touchdowns. Meanwhile, with running back Matt Forte set to hit free agency in the offseason, 2015 draft pick Jeremy Langford had a day, with 182 total yards from scrimmage and 2 touchdowns.
6. The Cowboys have lost 7 straight games since losing Tony Romo to injury. With their 10-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, their hopes of a playoff birth despite playing in the shoddy NFC East are pretty much done for. The offense was pretty much non-existent for Dallas, who put up a total of 216 yards on the day. For the Buccaneers, Jameis Winston had a down game, throwing two interceptions; but for the second straight week he was let down by drops from his receivers, and he also managed to wrap the game up with a touchdown run, though he was fortunate that his previous ill-advised leap and fumble on the goal line was not upheld, due to a pass interference call on the Cowboys.
7. The Carolina Panthers kept everybody honest in the NFC by extending their record to 9-0. They shut down the Tennessee Titans in the second half to win 22-10, while Cam Newton completed 21 of 26 passes for a touchdown and 217 yards. Newton will probably be overlooked for league MVP, but he has lifted this Panthers team above and beyond any heights many though possible for this team. They have all-but secured the NFC South, and probably a home field run in the postseason.
8. It will be a miracle if Rob Ryan keeps his job in New Orleans as defensive coordinator after yet again the Saints were shredded on defense. This time, it was by catchy slogan and t-shirt making aficionado Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins. Cousins had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 as he was 20/25 for 324 yards and four touchdowns, the most of his career. Those numbers gave the Redskins a 47-14 victory, and a game out of first place in the NFC East. Meanwhile, Perry Riley had the prettiest interception I have ever seen, as he leapt up along the side line and made a one handed grab to intercept the Saints’ Drew Brees. Bearing in mind that he is a linebacker, it deserves a look.
9. We all expected Peyton Manning to break Brett Favre’s all-time NFL passing yards record against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. What we didn’t expect is that it would come in a game where he would throw for just 35 yards, complete just 5 passes, throw four interceptions, and record a passer rating of 0. Eventually, he was replaced by long-time backup Brock Osweiler, as Manning and the Broncos had a day they’d rather forget. Head coach Gary Kubiak took the blame for Manning’s performance, saying he should never have started the veteran quarterback after he spent the week out of practice due to foot and, later, rib injuries. Still, he also stated that Manning would keep the starting job if fit and healthy next week. The Chiefs carried on their momentum from their Wembley triumph against the Lions, with their 29-13 win propelling them to contention for a wildcard playoff spot, while division rivals Denver have now dropped two straight games.
10. Adrian Peterson isn’t ready for anyone to supplant him as the top running back in the NFL just yet. He torched the Oakland Raiders for 203 yards, including a 80-yard touchdown run that sealed the game for the Vikings 30-14. The Vikings are now 7-2 on the season, and lead the NFC North ahead of a must-see showdown against the Packers next week. Meanwhile, the Raiders, for all their promise and improvement, have dropped two straight games and have fallen a game behind in the race for an AFC wildcard place.