The NFL features dozens of young, exciting players, but it is also home to several reliable, productive veterans. This week's top matchups offer a good mixture of both groups. There's a battle between an accomplished, future Hall of Fame quarterback and a hotshot young safety. There's also a clash between a 26-year old, All-Pro running back and two All-Pro linebackers with a combined 23 years of NFL experience. So, who has the edge in these matchups? I've provided my answers below.
Tom Brady vs. Jairus Byrd
Tom Brady will square off against one of the NFL's most underrated players on Sunday afternoon. The Buffalo Bills' Jairus Byrd quietly has developed into one of the NFL's elite players at the safety position. This season, he already has picked off three passes and forced three fumbles. He has outstanding instincts, range and ball skills. He will be the key player for the Buffalo defense as the Bills try and slow down the New England Patriots' offense.
Brady just continues to play at a ridiculously high level. He's tossed 16 touchdown passes to just three interceptions this season. He excels at looking off safeties and creating space for his talented tight ends. Even when the windows are extremely small, Brady still has the arm strength and accuracy to get his weapons the ball.
EDGE: Brady. The Pats superstar will control Byrd with his eyes and keep the young safety from impacting this game.
Champ Bailey vs. Steve Smith
This matchup features two outstanding veterans of the National Football League. Bailey is 34 years old and playing in his 14th season. The Denver Broncos stalwart doesn't quite have the same top-end speed as he did a few years ago, but he makes up for it with flawless technique and instincts. He excels at using his hands to re-route receivers at the line of scrimmage and he has impeccable timing to play the ball in the air.
Bailey will spend most of his day lining up opposite the Carolina Panthers' top receiving weapon, Steve Smith. Smith is 33 years old and playing in his 12th season. He has seen a dip in his production this year, but he still has big-play ability, averaging a robust 16.6 yards per catch. Smith relies on his quickness to defeat press coverage and still has the juice to pull away from defenders when the ball is in the air.
EDGE: Bailey. The Broncos stud will give up a few catches underneath, but he won't let Smith run by him for big plays.
Vincent Jackson vs. Quentin Jammer
These two players know one another extremely well. Jackson spent his first seven NFL seasons with the San Diego Chargers before leaving to sign a lucrative contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past offseason. His large contract has proven to be a bargain for the Bucs. He is on pace for more than 1,400 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. He's easily one of the NFL's top deep threats, as evidenced by his average of 22.9 yards per catch. He excels at high pointing the deep ball and outmuscling smaller defenders.
Jammer should be very familiar with Jackson's ability, having lined up against him in practice for the past seven years. Jammer doesn't have very good ball skills, but he is one of the NFL's most physical cornerbacks. He likes to wrestle at the line of scrimmage and knows all of the veteran tricks to disrupt receivers further down the field. He doesn't have elite speed for the cornerback position, but he rarely gets beat over the top.
EDGE: Jackson. The ex-Charger will be amped up to put on a show against his former team. He will make his presence felt in the red zone in this game.
San Francisco 49ers tackles Joe Staley and Anthony Davis form one of the better bookend blocking combinations in the NFL. They excel as run blockers because they have the strength to create movement at the point of attack and the athleticism to adjust in space. In pass protection, they are quick enough to kick out and cut off edge rushers and strong enough to anchor down versus the bull rush. They will need to continue their solid play this week in order for the 49ers' offense to be successful.
The St. Louis Rams' pass-rushing duo of Chris Long and Robert Quinn is one of the NFL's best. The 27-year-old Long has a relentless motor, while the 22-year-old Quinn has an incredibly explosive first step. They have combined for 11 sacks this season and numerous other pressures and quarterback hits. They are also disruptive versus the run. They use their quickness to knife through gaps and create negative plays for opposing offenses.
Arian Foster vs. Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher
This is the marquee matchup of Week 10. The 26-year-old Foster is one of the NFL's premier players. He currently leads the league in rushing touchdowns (10) and he's fifth in rushing yards (770). He doesn't have "wow" speed, but he has incredible vision, power and balance. He is averaging a league-high 24 carries per game and has yet to fumble this season. The Houston Texans' offense is at its best when Foster gets a lot of touches and I'd look for him to get plenty against this tough Chicago Bears defense.
Briggs (31 years old) and Urlacher (34) have been the poster boys for this Bears defense over the last decade. They both continue to make impact plays on a weekly basis and they have been instrumental in the Bears' 7-1 first-half record. Against the pass, they've combined to intercept three throws, returning all three for touchdowns. Against the run, they are physical enough to take on blockers inside the box and fast enough to run down ball carriers on the perimeter.
EDGE: Briggs and Urlacher. Their gap discipline will be a key factor in closing up Foster's cutback lanes.
Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.