NFL WEEK TEN
I posted last week's column a day late, on Saturday, and for whatever reason, the extra day seemed to make a world of difference. Somehow, I pulled a 12-1 record in Week 9, including Cleveland's upset of New England. (My only slip-up was the Colts' 3-point loss to the Eagles.) It probably won't happen again this season, so remember, I'm not boasting, I'm reveling. I'll leave the boasting to Roy Williams.
Thursday's game was already picked (and played), so here are Woody's Winners for the other NFL contests in Week 10. Enjoy!
Houston (4-4) @ Jacksonville (4-4)
The Jaguars and the “upstart” Texans bring up the rear in the AFC South with identical 4-4 records. The Texans are the only team to lose to Dallas this season, but don’t hold that against them. In franchise history, Houston has an 8-8 record against Jax while performing much more poorly against the rest of the AFC South (against whom they’re a combined 6-28). Pass defense is a burden for both teams, so points galore should keep the game’s scorekeeper plenty busy. Although the crowd at EverBank Field will be rowdy, Woody has a sneaking suspicion that those Jaguar engines will need a Texas-sized post-game tune-up.
Woody’s Winner (in an upset): Houston
FACT: The Texans and Jaguars are 2 of only 3 current AFC teams that have never won the AFL/AFC championship. Can you name the third? (Answer at the bottom of this article.)
Please click "more" to see my picks for Week 10's other NFL matchups!
Minnesota (3-5) @ Chicago (5-3)
Vikings QB Brett Favre was in great form last week, but there’s a world of difference between a home game against Arizona and this Sunday’s brawl at Soldier Field in Chicago. Neither team wants to start the second half of their season with a loss, but for the Big Purple, an “L” would likely put the old kibosh on a return to the playoffs. The North Star comeback last week was nice, but the depth of the team’s turmoil may make a full recovery impossible. If the Bears D is hibernating, RB Adrian Peterson could break out in a big way; but it’s not yet sleepy-time in that toddlin’ town.
Woody’s Winner: Chicago
FACT: The home team has won 15 of the past 16 games between these NFC North rivals.
Carolina (1-7) @ Tampa Bay (5-3)
The Buccaneers knocked off the Panthers 20-7 in Week 2, the only one of their five wins that were decided by more than a FG. Last week, Carolina lost QB Matt Moore for the season, and this week, they’re down to a fourth-string RB. While the Panthers seem to be falling apart, Tampa seems to be gelling, with improved play on offense thanks to WR Mike Williams and RB LeGarrette Blount. The Car-Cats probably have one more victory ahead of them this season, but it will likely be five weeks down the road. Hoist the Jolly Roger!
Woody’s Winner: Tampa Bay
FACT: The Panthers have averaged only 11 points per game this season, more than 5 points fewer than any other NFL team.
Detroit (2-6) @ Buffalo (0-8)
This Sunday, a proverbial monkey will stiffly crawl off the back of one of these teams: Either the Bills will earn their first victory of the season, or the Lions will snap their string of 24 consecutive road losses. Not surprisingly, the game is blacked out in Buffalo, with more than 10,000 tickets unsold for the meeting at Ralph Wilson Stadium. With a few games under his belt, the return of second-string Detroit QB Shaun Hill should go smoothly. But will the Leos have any courage left after last week’s heartbreaking OT loss? Barely. Just barely.
Woody’s Winner (in a close one): Detroit
FACT: A scheduling quirk fostered by the realignment of AFC/NFC divisions prevented the Bills and Lions from playing each other for 11 straight seasons (1980-1990).
N.Y. Jets (6-2) @ Cleveland (3-5)
The Browns are riding high after back-to-back wins against the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints. They hope to complete the “New” trifecta by knocking off another favored team this week, the New York Jets. The J-E-T-S are coming off three straight lackluster efforts, being shut out by Green Bay and squeaking by against Denver and Detroit. They should have just enough fuel to land in Cleveland with a cargo hold full of cans of kick-butt. Shake. Apply liberally. Repeat.
Woody’s Winner: New York
FACT: Opponents have completed 6 of 7 fourth-down attempts against Cleveland this season.
Tennessee (5-3) @ Miami (4-4)
“Chad” is a bad word in Florida, owing to some political nonsense a few years ago; but in Miami, they’re trading one for another. Chad Henne will ride the pine while veteran Chad Pennington tries to recapture his years of success behind center. He’ll be doing so at Sun Life Stadium, where the hometown Dolphins have not yet won this season. They’re due, sure, but it might prove a tough order against the Titans, who should be fresh after their bye week. The Fish don’t have to win at home in the playoffs, but they’ll have to win at home to make the playoffs. Maybe next week when the Bears saunter in?
Woody’s Winner: Tennessee
FACT: Despite ranking 24th in the NFL in yards per game (310.6), the Titans lead the league in scoring with a 28 point average.
Cincinnati (2-6) @ Indianapolis (5-3)
The Bengals have sacked opposing QBs only 7 times this season, fewer than any other AFC team, so it’s doubtful that they’ll be able to put much pressure on Peyton Manning. Of course, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out what’s likely to happen when you let the veteran Colts signal-caller go about his business. Although Queen City WR Terrell Owens seems to have found a new home, he’s not one who enjoys wasting his talent by suffering on a losing team. This personality trait should make itself obvious any time now. Like Sunday.
Woody’s Winner: Indianapolis
FACT: After winning 2 of their first 3 games, the Bengals have dropped 5 in a row.
Kansas City (5-3) @ Denver (2-6)
This matchup pits the NFL’s best rushing attack (the Chiefs) against its worst (the Broncos). Denver’s defense can’t stop the run, either; they’ve allowed over 150 rushing yards per game and a league-most 14 rushing TDs to boot. It’s a given that KC will try to control the clock, but will they be able to control the mile-high aerial attack? Woody thinks so. After the Broncos busted out of the gate last season with six consecutive victories, they’ve only won 4 of 18 games since. After Week 10, that’ll be 4 of 19.
Woody’s Winner: Kansas City
FACT: Kansas City has only lost 2 fumbles this season, fewest in the league.
Dallas (1-7) @ N.Y. Giants (6-2)
New coach, same result.
Woody’s Winner: New York
FACT: Dallas has allowed 29 points per game this season, second-worst in the NFL behind Buffalo (29.1).
Seattle (4-4) @ Arizona (3-5)
In Week 7, the Seahawks improved their record to 4-2 with a 12-point victory at home against Arizona. Since then, things have gotten ugly, with a capital “ugh.” Seattle has been outscored 74-10 over its last two games. Still, they’re tied for the best record in the NFC West, and the last thing they want is for the Cardinals to find their way back into the hunt. Will newly-healed QB Matt Hasselbeck find a way to wake up the ‘Hawks anemic offense? That remains to be seen. But even if he fails, the Ocean Birds should outlast the Cactus Birds – and their own back-in-action QB, Derek Anderson – in Week 10.
Woody’s Winner: Seattle
FACT: Seattle’s defense is the NFC’s second-worst against the pass, allowing 270.5 yards per game. (Arizona's defense is third-worst, giving up 255.5 passing YPG.)
St. Louis (4-4) @ San Francisco (2-6)
It’s the Gateway vs. the Golden Gate as San Francisco welcomes St. Louis to Candlestick Park. Both teams are coming off their bye week after winning 2 of their last 3 games, so expect a little more spring in the step of opposing RBs Steven Jackson and Frank Gore. In the ongoing Niner Smith QB derby, backup Troy Smith will again start ahead of the injured Alex Smith. Unfortunately, he’ll be going up against one of the most improved defenses in the NFL. What’s more, Rams QB Sam Bradford has quickly adjusted to life under center without stalwart WR Mark Clayton. Like Mark Sanchez last year, the rookie wants to lead his team to the playoffs in his first year. This will get him a step closer.
Woody’s Winner: St. Louis
FACT: Rams RB Steven Jackson is third in the NFL with 172 carries, but has scored only 2 rushing TDs.
New England (6-2) @ Pittsburgh (6-2)
Two 6-2 teams faced off Thursday night, and two others meet up on Sunday in a key AFC contest. The Patriots have earned their record by scoring points, while the Steelers have earned theirs by preventing their opponents from doing likewise. The difference-maker here is that the Iron City Boys have offensive playmakers that have demonstrated an ability to wreak havoc on weaker defenses. New England is susceptible to air attacks, so this game will come down to a bunch of Ws: a WR named Ward, another WR named Wallace, and a mark in the “W” column for the Black-and-Gold.
Woody’s Winner: Pittsburgh
FACT: The Steelers’ run defense has allowed only 58.2 yards per game in 2010, by far the fewest in the NFL.
Philadelphia (5-3) @ Washington (4-4)
Monday Night Football offers a classic NFC East battle between America’s current capital and a former one. Despite playing musical quarterbacks, Philly has found success thanks to a rushing corps that has combined to post a league-best 5.1 yards per attempt. In typical governmental fashion, Washington has stumbled its way to an even record, losing to Detroit in Week 8 after Coach Mike Shanahan benched Donovan McNabb. He seems to be the only one who thought it was a good idea, while everyone else scratched their heads. More head-scratching this week will make the Redskins’ skin even redder.
Woody’s Winner: Philadelphia
FACT: The Eagles have been penalized 652 yards this season, tops in the NFC.
BYE: Green Bay, New Orleans, Oakland, San Diego
NOTE: With 3 consecutive victories, the Raiders have the AFC’s longest current winning streak.
ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION: Besides the Jaguars and the Texans, the only other current AFC team never to win the conference championship is the Cleveland Browns.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, but please be cordial to others; this is all in good fun. Thanks!