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While Brady and Manning duke it out, keep an eye on Young

  • By Pat Kirwan NFL.com
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10 hot topics for Week 10

The marquee game this week is New England at Indianapolis, where we could see 700 yards of passing. But that's just one of the Week 10 storylines to watch.

Here are 10 things I'll be watching this weekend:

Greg Trott / Associated Press
Whether or not the Titans make a miraculous run, they at least are getting a good look at Vince Young the rest of the season.

1. Young goes for three

Tennessee quarterback Vince Young had a very difficult 2008 and started 2009 in on the bench. The six-game losing streak to start the season gave Young his second chance to be a starter, and he's led the Titans to back-to-back wins. Now he faces Buffalo's 32nd-ranked run defense.

In my mind, the best thing Young did last week was take six shots down the field with passes over 25 yards. It loosened up the defense and set up more opportunities for Chris Johnson and the run game. The Titans offensive line is underrated and Young will get time to throw. He has only been sacked once in 43 pass plays. Can he add to his 20-11 career record as the starter?

2. Can Freeman double-down?

Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman made his first start last week and threw three touchdowns to three different receivers as the Bucs got their first win of the season. Freeman was relaxed, demonstrated great poise and had the ability to see down the field.

He reminded me a bit of a young Warren Moon, which may overstate his one-game success. But watch him this week and see for yourself.

This week he faces a Miami defense that has two rookies on the corners and two safeties that play more like strong safeties. Miami gives up 8.3 yards per pass, which indicates Freeman could have another big day.

3. Love these matchups

» Sebastian Vollmer vs. Dwight Freeney: The Patriots rookie left tackle on the road against one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Tom Brady will probably throw close to 40 passes in this game and that's a tall order for Vollmer.

» Randy Moss vs. Jacob Lacey: Lacey, the Colts' rookie CB, will need help. But when he gets it, look for Wes Welker to beat the Colts.

» Jeff Backus vs. Jared Allen: Allen leads the NFL in sacks with 10.5. Last year he had three sacks against the Lions. Lions QB Matthew Stafford threw 42 passes last week. If he throws a lot again this week, then expect a big day from Allen.

» Chad Clifton vs. DeMarcus Ware: Aaron Rodgers has already been sacked 37 times and 12 of those came in the last two games. Can Clifton put out the fire?

» Chad Ochocinco vs. Ike Taylor: The Steelers will stop the Bengals' running attack which means Cincy's passing attack has to take center stage. Ochocinco has been very productive in the first-down passing attack with 21 receptions for a 17-yard average.

4. Run game makes difference

The Arizona Cardinals finally got the run game going last week against the Bears but it helped that Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris was thrown out of the game in the first minute.

The Cards, who host Seattle this week, have not been good at home (1-3) and need to put together another big day on the ground. I talked with running back Tim Hightower this week and he realizes they have to prove it again and that it will be a challenge against the Seahawks. I think the Cards break the 100-yard mark for the second straight week.

Bill Haber / Associated Press
After two straight games with no interceptions, is Jake Delhomme ready to put up some big numbers against Atlanta?

5. Delhomme ready to open up?

Teams feel they can run on a Falcons defense that allows 4.5 yards per rush, but DeAngelo Williams has been nursing his knees all week.

In the last three games against the Falcons, including this year's first meeting, Jake Delhomme has averaged 299 yards passing with four touchdowns and one interception. Can he deliver a big passing day after two games without an interception?

6. Wheels coming off?

It doesn't take much for fans to hit the panic button once a team goes into a mid-season slide. The Packers play the Cowboys and the Broncos get a break with the Redskins. If either of those teams loses, the fans will be convinced the wheels are coming off.

7. How much offense will they generate?

The numbers say Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will both throw for more than 300 yards when they face each other Sunday night. Both teams average more than 27 points a game. They should both come out firing; don't be surprised if they both put up 30-plus points in Indy. I can't wait to see it unfolds Sunday night.

8. If only he were on a good team!

Steven Jackson returns to the field this week after the Rams' bye. Jackson has totaled 283 yards rushing in his last two games, including a win over the Lions. I would bet just about all of Jackson's runs were against eight-in-the-box defenses. Jackson averages nearly 24 touches and more than 120 yards a game.

Considering Carolina posted 182 yards rushing against the Saints last week, Jackson should have another big game. As one GM said to me this week, "Jackson would be up for the MVP on a good team."

9. There's no place like this home

The Bengals are for real and they've already beaten the Steelers once this year, but now they go to Pittsburgh where Mike Tomlin and Co. are undefeated in his last seven home games vs. division opponents.

The Steelers haven't lost since Rashard Mendenhall became the starting running after the team's Week 6 loss to the Bengals. Troy Polamalu, who did not play in the last game vs. the Bengals, is healthy now. The Steelers have already beaten the Vikings and Chargers at home and scored 65 points in doing so. The Bengals have their work cut out for them this Sunday even though they are 3-0 on the road, and have averaged 24 points in those games.

10. How long can Rodgers take this?

Aaron Rodgers is on pace to be sacked 74 times close to another 100 hits. Things are getting worse, not better, in Green Bay and his personal safety and career could be in jeopardy if things don't change.

He's looking at another rough game with DeMarcus Ware and the Cowboys (21 total sacks) coming to town. Last week, the Bucs came into the Packers game with just 11 sacks and left with six more.Mike McCarthy feels Rodgers has to get rid of the ball faster, and I agree.

 
Pats-Colts preview
While the Sunday night showdown between the Patriots and Colts could be a high-scoring affair, Dwight Freeney and the Indianapolis defense look to counter that notion. Renewing the rivalry


More game previews:

Eagles vs. Chargers
Can Philadelphia bounce after its Sunday night loss to the Cowboys?

Bengals vs. Steelers
In battle for the AFC North lead, the Bengals try for a sweep of Pittsburgh.

Cowboys vs. Packers
The red-hot Cowboys look to keep rolling up in Lambeau.

Bills vs. Titans
Vince Youngs goes for his third straight win as the Tennessee starting QB.


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NFL.com blogs
A look ahead to Week 10
Week 10 features what might well be the game of the season: Patriots at Colts. The two greatest quarterbacks of their generation will battle Sunday night with the entire league watching.

That sounds like a fun place for Jason La Canfora to start his trip around Week 10.
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Matchups to watch
Gil Brandt breaks down some interesting matchups to watch in Week 10:

Bengals OT Andrew Whitworth vs. Steelers LB James Harrison: Harrison never stops competing and plays hard on every down. He is very good dropping into space, and will chase down the line on running plays to make tackles. However, Whitworth plays his position as well as anyone in the NFL. He is a massive man with long arms and very good athletic ability.

Saints QB Drew Brees vs. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo: Brees is not real tall, but he makes up for that with his quick release and clear understanding of defenses. He spreads the ball around, which is one reason why his teammates love him. He’s been a winner everywhere he’s played.

Eagles WR DeSean Jackson vs. Chargers CB Antonio Cromartie: Cromartie is returning to his Pro Bowl form, especially now that Shawne Merriman is back healthy. Merriman’s pressure on the passer helps both San Diego corners.
More matchups to watch
Start 'Em & Sit 'Em
Start of the week: Ray Rice -- Rice has become one of the top running backs in fantasy football this season, ranking fourth at the position in fantasy points on NFL.com behind the talented trio of Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson.

QB to start: Brett Favre -- Favre has been one of the best fantasy values of the season. Despite his extended age, he is on pace to finish with an impressive 32 touchdown passes.

QB to sit: Matt Ryan -- Ryan is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, and he's almost certain to become a star in fantasy football. But based on his recent struggles and this week's matchup against Carolina, Ryan could be in for another tough start.
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Not all the action in football takes place within the white lines. Check out the NFL's sizzling sideline attractions, the cheerleaders.
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Week 10 games (all times ET)
Thursday, Nov. 12
San Francisco 10, Chicago 6
Sunday, Nov. 15
Atlanta at Carolina, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Tampa Bay at Miami, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Detroit at Minnesota, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Jacksonville at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. (CBS)
New Orleans at St. Louis, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Buffalo at Tennessee, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Denver at Washington, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Kansas City at Oakland, 4:05 p.m. (CBS)
Seattle at Arizona, 4:15 p.m. (FOX)
Dallas at Green Bay, 4:15 p.m. (FOX)
Philadelphia at San Diego, 4:15 p.m. (FOX)
New England at Indianapolis, 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Monday, Nov. 16
Baltimore at Cleveland, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Bye week: Houston, N.Y. Giants.

» Complete schedule


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