Well, we’re here, week 10. Whether we would like to think about it or not, we’re past the midway point of the season. Divisional landscapes are starting to take shape, some teams have a comfortable division lead, and others are bracing themselves for a playoff push. The most exciting stretch of the regular season is about to unfold. In Week 9 of the 2015 NFL season we saw some pretty incredible games. The Bengals, Patriots and Panthers were all able to earn another win and remain undefeated. It wasn’t the same case for the Denver Broncos, who marched in to Indy, the former stomping ground of The Sheriff, Payton Manning, where they were handed their first loss of the season. As mentioned previously, the Carolina Panthers earned themselves another win last weekend to stay undefeated and they did so against the Green Bay Packers, who were handed their second straight loss. Both losses came on the road so it’s no surprise that they’re very much looking forward to returning home this weekend to take on the disappointing Detroit Lions.
We’re getting ready for another great weekend of NFL action so here’s what you need to know before this weekend’s games.
We are entering the tenth week of competition in the 2015 NFL season, and to the surprise of many, there are still three undefeated teams out there trying to win out the rest of the way. The Cincinnati Bengals go into this week with an 8-0 record having earned their last win against their in-state rival, the Cleveland Browns with a 31-10 victory on Thursday Night Football. The Bengals look like a very complete team, Coach Marvin Lewis has his offense and defense firing on all cylinders. The Bengals play host to the inconsistent Houston Texans this week as they go head to head in the Monday Night game. If the Texans want a shot at beating the Bengals on the road, they’ll need their defense to pitch a near perfect game and limit everything the Bengals do on offense.
The Carolina Panthers earned their eight win of the season last week over the reigning NFC North Champions, the Green Bay Packers. Head Coach, Juan Riviera has his men playing some quality football this season, they’re looking like a very complete team, and if they can stay healthy, I would watch out for the Panthers because they’ll be making a run to the Super Bowl. This weekend they will travel down to Nashville to battle the 3-6 Titans where they will look to improve to 9-0. Let’s not forget, last season the Panthers made it to the NFC Divisional Round with a 7-8-1 record.
No real surprise here, the New England Patriots come into this week with an 8-0 record after earning another win last weekend against the Washington Redskins. The Patriots haven’t lost a game since December 28th, 2015 when Buffalo Bills edged them out in a very close game. It’s no secret that the Patriots are playing with a serious edge, as if they have something to prove. Their offense is clicking and their defense is making big plays. This weekend the Pats travel down to the Meadowlands to play their archrivals, the New York Giants. This game could go either way because we all know that the Giants are one of the only teams that know how to beat the Patriots. It’ll be interesting to see who will remain undefeated after week 10.
Running Back Problems in Green Bay – Starks over Lacy
It’s been a rough two weeks for the Green Bay Packers as they are not only trying to recover from two straight loses, but they’re also trying to figure the cause of running back, Eddie Lacy’s lack of production. Last year, in his sophomore year, the former Alabama back had a solid season in which he finished with 1,139 rushing yards, 427 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. Last season, Lacy was a threat in both the running game and in the passing game; he proved that he could be one of the league’s most versatile backs. We now find ourselves over halfway through the 2015 campaign and scratching our heads at the lacklustre numbers that Lacy has put up so far. Through the first 8 games of the season, Lacy has amounted 308 rushing yards, on 83 attempts, 98 receiving yards and a total of three touchdowns all while seeing his average drop to 3.7 yards a carry, that’s the fourth-worst average in the league.
Between the two consecutive losses and a lack of production in the running game, the Packers are looking to stir things up this weekend as they will be starting sixth-year man, James Starks, in the backfield, over their usual starter, Eddie Lacy. James Starks has been the backup running back for the Packers; however, he has been more productive, as he comes into this game with 334 rushing yards, on 78 carries, and 167 receiving yards on 19 receptions. It’s clear that the Packers are frustrated with Lacy’s production and they are looking to send a message. The ball is in Lacy’s court, essentially. He could take it the right way or he can take it the wrong way, either way, the Packers need some production out of their backs or else it will be tough for them to contend with the other big boys in the NFC.
Landry Jones Steps up in Steel City
Last weekend the Steelers earned their fifth victory of the season in a last minute win over the Oakland Raiders. During their game, Big Ben Roethlisberger was carted off the field with a foot injury. QB Landry Jones stepped up and got his team the win. Big Ben won’t be playing this weekend as he has suffered his second injury of the season. QB Landry Jones, the third year signal caller out of Oklahoma, will be starting his second game of the season this weekend against the Cleveland Browns. Jones saw his first NFL start come against the Kansas City Chiefs in week seven, where he threw for 209 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, in a losing effort. However, it’s important to not let that game alone stand out for Jones. Twice he has come into the game due to starting QB injuries and twice he has earned his team a win. In week six against the Cardinals, Jones come up big and won his team the game. Jones then did the same last weekend against the Raiders. The kid is cool under pressure.
It could be a little tough for the Steelers to get going without Bell and Big Ben, so if they want to be successful, they need to feed the Browns a heavy dose of De’Angelo Williams and get that ground game going. If they can successfully run the ball, it will open the door for Jones to set up play action passes down field to his big play boys, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Jones must remain patient and not force passes that can get himself into trouble. It’ll be interesting to see how Jones fairs in his second NFL start.
Wes Welker Returns to Action
One of the bigger stories of the week has been the announcement of Wes Welker’s return to NFL action. On Monday, November 9th, Wes Welker signed a one-year, $1.8 million contract with the St. Louis Rams, his fifth NFL team. Welker has had his trouble with concussions in the past, dealing with three of them in the past two years, which has prompted analysts to speak out, saying that Welker is making a mistake returning to the NFL because it will be running the risk of putting himself in further medical danger. Welker finds himself on a Rams team that is somewhat struggling in the passing game as only one receiver, Kenny Britt, has over 300 yards receiving. The Rams passing offense average a league worst 177 yards a game, so the addition of Wes Welker should have a positive impact.
The Rams know that they are signing a player with a lot of mileage and has been dealing with injury issues for the past couple seasons. Welker brings 11 years of experience to the Rams and in those 11 seasons, he has racked up 871 receptions, 9,539 yards and 50 touchdowns. Welker is an elusive slot receiver with great route running ability and speed and if he can stay healthy for the rest of the season, Wes Welker can have a positive impact on the Rams. This weekend he will look to take advantage of a Chicago Bears defense that is on the up.
Interesting Game of the Week
Most people wouldn’t find the matchup between an 8-0 Patriots team and 5-4 Giants team very compelling, however, I do. The Patriots are clearly the most complete team in the NFL. They can run the ball and pass the ball very effectively and efficiently and their defense is underrated. At this point, the Patriots look like they’re going all the way. The Giants, on the other hand, are having yet another inconsistent season. They started the season off 0-2, and then they won their next three and have then gone on to alternate wins and losses for the rest of the season. The bright spot is that they are still leading the NFC east with a 5-4 record. Eli Manning and the Giants have shown that they can be very effective moving the ball through the air, but, at times, they have struggled to run the ball. Their defense is also underrated, in my opinion, as they have some play makers that have the potential to change games, though statistically, they are a very pedestrian defense.
The reason why I’m most interested in this game is because this matchup has become a great Super Bowl rivalry over time. It all began at Super Bowl XLII when the Giants beat the then undefeated Patriots 17-14 after Eli Manning put together an amazing game winning drive with help from Plaxico Buress and David Tyree. Again, the Giants took down the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI by a score of 21-17; this was four years after their first trouncing of the Patriots. Bill Belichick will probably go down as the best coach in NFL history; however, the only guy to really have his number is Coach Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants. If anybody can beat the Patriots this season, it’s the Giants. Why? Because they just know how to do it and they’ve done in big games before. It’s clear that the Patriots will be heavy favourites but it will be interesting to see how they cope with the Giants, mentally. Let’s see if Eli, Coach Coughlin and company can go out there and hand the Pats their first loss of the season on Sunday afternoon.