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The Week 10 Wrap

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  • By Neil Reynolds NFL International
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The 'Any Given Sunday' adage applies so fittingly to professional American football that Hollywood wrote up some nice speeches for Al Pacino and made a movie out of it.

Players and coaches also often state that's why we play the games' whenever an upset takes place or something unexpected transpires. And that particular phrase was apt on Sunday night as nine of the 11 games played were decided by a single score.

The downtrodden rose up on Sunday with shock results across the league. Tennessee upset Kansas City, Cleveland ended their four-game slide with a win over Buffalo, Atlanta rocked New Orleans and Miami won for the second week in a row as they edged past Indianapolis. All three 1-7 teams - the Dolphins, the Falcons and the Jets - were victorious.

That Falcons game was a reminder of just how hard it is to predict what is going to happen in the NFL each weekend. Atlanta were in a world of hurt heading into the Superdome having lost six straight. The Saints, on the other hand, were full of confidence; winners of six straight who were about to beat a fierce rival in front of the baying New Orleans faithful.

But all of that was just words on a page or a computer screen. The game needed to 'actually'be played and it was the Falcons who stuck it to their more fancied foes. And a defense which has been the problem all season long in Atlanta rose up to sack Drew Brees six times. That was the most times Brees has been dropped in his illustrious career.

Another big 'surprise' saw Miami run out 16-12 winners over the Indianapolis Colts. But how surprised should we have really been given that Colts' stand-in quarterback Brian Hoyer had lost his previous nine starts and Zach Pascal was Indy's leading receiver heading into the game.

The Dolphins have also put the whole 'Tank for Tua' talk to bed. While management has put together a roster that resembles many league-wide practice squads, they failed to account for some excellent coaching from Brian Flores and the irresistible force that is Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Given their current form, the Dolphins are going to win a few more between now and the end of the season and could very well play themselves out of the top five of the 2020 NFL Draft in Las Vegas.

Who's Hot...

Lamar Jackson... Lamar Jackson continues to make moves on the football field that are normally reserved for a late-night game of Madden NFL with your mates. He was instrumental in Baltimore's 49-13 destruction of the Cincinnati Bengals and is, for me, the leading candidate for the NFL's Most Valuable Player award. Jackson catches the eye with tackle-breaking, spinning touchdown runs like his 47-yarder in Cincinnati, but he is growing week by week into the complete quarterback. As Peter King of NBC Sports pointed out during our studio hit on Sunday night, Jackson is indeed a very nice thrower of the football and completed 15 of 17 attempts for 223 yards and three touchdowns. Even if teams shut down Baltimore's rushing attack - which seems unlikely - I would still back Jackson to have success through the air.

Aaron Jones... The 'other' Aaron in Green Bay is turning into one of the NFL's great drive finishers. Aaron Jones scored at least three rushing touchdowns in a game for the second time this season and he now has an NFL-leading 14 scores on the year. That is more than the 13 Jones registered during the 2017 and 2018 seasons combined. It is no longer on Aaron Rodgers to finish every drive for the Packers and the way this team uses its running backs this season has been very impressive.

Pittsburgh's defense... The Pittsburgh Steelers have fought back from a 1-4 start to a 5-4 record that puts them right in the hunt for a wild card berth in the AFC. And while Mason Rudolph has tried - and failed - to produce offensive consistency, it is the defense that is powering Mike Tomlin's team. Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt are wreaking havoc in the backfield and the secondary is being expertly marshalled by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Minkah Fitzpatrick. He secured his fifth interception since becoming a Steeler and scored on a 43-yard fumble return during Sunday's 17-12 win over the Los Angeles Rams. The Steelers are not only proving tough to score on - the Rams failed to find the end zone in 15 possessions - they are also taking the ball away. The Steelers registered four takeaways against the Rams and now have forced at least two turnovers in eight straight games. That is their longest streak since 1989.

Who's Not...

Kansas City's run defense...The Chiefs held the football for 37 minutes and 51 seconds in Nashville and Patrick Mahomes threw for 446 yards and three scores yet Kansas City fell to the Titans 35-32 and are now 6-4 on the season. One major reason teams hang around against the Chiefs is because KC cannot stop the run. Tennessee rushed for 225 yards and two touchdowns, joining the likes of Baltimore, Detroit, Houston and Indianapolis as teams who have a field day on the ground against the Chiefs. Until that is fixed, and a quick fix does not appear likely, Andy Reid's men are going to play out some high scoring games with little room for error. And that means they will win -and lose -their share of games the rest of the way.

Los Angeles Rams' offense... The Rams can point to the ineffectiveness of Todd Gurley in the backfield and to their underperforming offensive line all they like, but they must be a little bit worried about the $110 million that is guaranteed for quarterback Jared Goff over the next four years. Goff is not capable of putting this team on his shoulders in the same way Russell Wilson can in Seattle and Aaron Rodgers can in Green Bay. The Rams have been renowned for their offensive wizardry under Sean McVay but the wheels have ground to a halt. LA have now gone 19 straight offensive drives without finding the end zone. Who's backing Goff to drag his team out of that slump?

Buffalo Bills'offense... I have not been buying the Bills this season and that's mainly down to a lack of trust of their offense. With Josh Allen still finding his feet as a second-year quarterback, points have been hard to come by in Buffalo and it was no different in Sunday's 19-16 loss to Cleveland. For the fifth time this season, Buffalo failed to score 20+ points and while the AFC is wide open in terms of the race to the wild card spots, I would not be putting my money on the Bills.

The Fast Five...

Mitchell Trubisky has kept the wolves from his door for at least another week after a three touchdown-pass display against Detroit as the Bears snapped a four-game losing streak with a 20-13 win. But make no mistake, Trubisky is on a short leash and still heard plenty of boos while taking on the league's 31st-ranked D.

Kirk Cousins in primetime has long been a discussion point in the NFL but he answered the call on Sunday Night Football as the Minnesota Vikings recorded a 28-24 win over the Dallas Cowboys. Cousins was efficient while throwing for 220 yards and two scores. A few more big wins like that and Cousins can quieten his critics right down.

Jamal Adams had himself a game on Sunday night as the New York Jets registered a 34-27 win over the New York Giants. The do-it-all safety stole the ball away from Daniel Jones to score on a 25-yard fumble return and finished with nine tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and that fumble recovery. Jets management... DO NOT trade this man in the upcoming offseason!

Jameis Winston continues to be an every-week adventure for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and even though he led his team to a 30-27 victory over Arizona on Sunday, I'm not sure he earns a long-term contract in Florida. Is he ever going to change and stop making the stupid mistakes that can undermine his team? I don't think so. After a certain amount of time, you are what you always are.

Cleveland's Baker Mayfield threw two touchdown passes in a game for the first time this season, including the match-winner to Rashard Higgins with 1:44 remaining but that should not detract from the fact that it was another very shaky display at times, particularly in the red zone. I think the pressure could once again build on Mayfield sooner rather than later.

Fact of the Week

Sunday marked the third time this season that the New Orleans Saints failed to score a touchdown. In the period from 2006 to 2018, the Saints had two such games.

Finish That Sentence

Each week in this spot I ask readers - via Twitter - to randomly send me the start of a sentence and, as we do on our NFL UK Live stage show tours, I will finish the sentence with the first thought that comes into my head. Here we go...

From James McDougal (@JamesMcDougal)... The Super Bowl will be shown in England in... glorious high definition on Sky Sports live from Miami so make sure you join us. If you were actually wondering if a Super Bowl will ever be played in the UK, my answer would be a firm no. I think we have a shot at more games in the future and a potential franchise even, but the Super Bowl would be a step too far and would only serve to anger most of America.

From Paul Rhodes (@ChelseaPaul25)... Saints fans are quiet today because... their offense does not look right. Sure, losing to a fierce rival hurts but more worrying for Sean Payton will be Drew Brees getting sacked six times and being held without a touchdown. With Brees under fire and Alvin Kamara not back to 100 percent health, I worry for a New Orleans attack that relies far too heavily on prolific wide receiver Michael Thomas. Sunday was painful in its own right but more worrying is what it means for New Orleans the rest of the way.

From Jamie Cutteridge (@JamieCutteridge) The Tennessee Titans are... better off with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback and Marcus Mariota riding the bench. This team is tough to figure out from week to week but they are always physical, especially on defense, and they play hard. Derrick Henry can wear defenses down and we are entering the time of the year where he usually dominates. Mike Vrabel does a good job with a team that could very well be 9-7 for the fourth season in a row. And that might yet be good enough for a playoff spot in the AFC. As for Tannehill, he is far from perfect, but he adds some electricity to this attack that was missing under the stagnant Mariota.

From Kalvin Baugh (@gaucho143) The team that's currently looking good for the playoffs who I don't think will make it is... the Buffalo Bills. Heading into Sunday, Buffalo had only beaten teams with a combined record of 9-42 and while Sean McDermott's men are 6-3, I think they get found out down the stretch. They cannot generate enough offense and their defense is breaking down a little bit now, especially against the run where they were gashed once again on Sunday, this time by Nick Chubb.

Final Thought���

Things have bunched up in the AFC wild card race and that is very good news for the Oakland Raiders, who saw several results go their way while they had their feet up reflecting on their Thursday win over the Chargers. Indianapolis, Buffalo and Kansas City all lost and the Silver and Black are now in the thick of the AFC playoff race at 5-4 with games against Cincinnati and the Jets over the next two weeks. Jon Gruden is putting together one of the coaching jobs of the year in Oakland and I love the fact that this team - which was riding out an Antonio Brown-inspired media storm in the summer - is now competitive and relevant in the NFL's 100th season. For that achievement alone, Gruden should garner a few Coach of the Year votes.

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