As the second half of the season gets into full swing, each week is going to take on more importance. With that in mind, Week 10 has plenty to offer.
Here are the 10 things I will be watching closely:
1. Pressure to perform
When the Eagles traded Donovan McNabb within the NFC East, they basically said they weren't afraid to face their old leader. Then McNabb came back to Philadelphia and led the Redskins to an ugly win in Week 4.
Things haven't been great for McNabb since that victory. The quarterback hit a low point after he was benched against the Lions, but will be looking to right the ship.
McNabb doesn't have the weapons Michael Vick has at his disposal, and should try to move the chains with his feet. A victory here, in an important divisional game, could quiet the critics.
2. Third time the charm for Moss?
Randy Moss gets his second No. 84 jersey this season, and there's no guarantee he is done moving around in 2010. Moss is talented but didn't always play hard for Tom Brady and Brett Favre.
In the Vikings' first game without Moss, Favre threw for a career-high 446 yards. In New England, the passing game has slowed down a bit since Moss was dealt, particularly Wes Welker.
Now Moss replaces the injured Kenny Britt. Vince Young probably needs to heave Moss a few deep balls early to keep him interested. In the end, Tennessee is still a running team with Chris Johnson.
3. Depth perception
Whether it is plugging in players due to injuries or poor play, depth is critical to winning. This weekend Troy Smith (49ers), Chad Pennington (Dolphins), Jimmy Clausen (Panthers), Jon Kitna (Cowboys), Shaun Hill (Lions), Ryan Fitzpatrick (Bills), Colt McCoy (Browns), and Derek Anderson (Cardinals) are all starting at quarterback. There have already been 69 quarterbacks to play this season.
4. Immediate test for Garrett
The biggest story of the week came out of Dallas with the termination of Wade Phillips and appointment of Jason Garrett as head coach. The Cowboys have been lackluster, at best, and they put the pads on for practice this week. The unfortunate reality is they face the Giants on the road. New York is on a five-game winning streak and is averaging 6 yards a carry on first down. If the Giants get that aspect rolling again, the "new" Cowboys will look like the old Cowboys. If Dallas passes the first test, then Eli Manning will be waiting. The last two times Dallas was in New York, Manning put 66 points on the board and threw five touchdowns.
5. Sweeping a tough chore
It is very difficult for teams to sweep division opponents. Last year, only two teams swept their respective divisions (Indianapolis and Cincinnati) and only three were swept (Detroit, St. Louis and Washington). With eight division matchups this week, beware of teams that lost the first game like Arizona against Seattle, Philadelphia vs. Washington, Dallas against New York, and Carolina vs. Tampa Bay. There's at least one win waiting to happen, probably two.
6. How the West was won
No one can make a strong case for any team in the NFC West. The Rams have a rookie quarterback and are 0-3 on the road. The other teams in the division have injury problems and rotating quarterbacks. What's interesting is all four teams play each other Sunday. The Rams head to San Francisco, and the Seahawks go to Arizona. We should start to see this picture clear up.
Brett Favre and Co. are looking to carry over the momentum from a comeback win against the Cardinals when they travel to Chicago for a matchup with the rival Bears. **More ...**
7. Road to victory
The turmoil surrounding the Vikings somewhat subsided because they rallied to beat the Cardinals at home. Now they head to Chicago in search of their first road win (0-4). The story is about Brett Favre when I talk to Bears fans. He haunts Chicago, where he is 13-4 with 29 touchdown passes at Soldier Field. He's not the only one to worry about. Adrian Peterson has 733 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns in six games against the Bears. The road woes could finally turn around for the Vikings.
8. Ryan express
There are not many more colorful coaches in the NFL than Rex Ryan. He matches up against his twin brother, Rob, when the Jets and Browns play this weekend. You can tell which one is Rob by the long hair, but you can't tell by the game plans. The Ryan brothers lead the NFL in blitz/pressure calls and there will be no stopping them here. Mark Sanchez and Colt McCoy better be ready for guys coming from everywhere as the Ryan boys try to outdo each other.
9. Life without Ochocinco?
I saw Bengals massive left tackle Andrew Whitworth "encourage" Chad Ochocinco to get back in the huddle and try to help the team beat the Steelers. Terrell Owens is the most targeted receiver in the NFL with 99. Ochocinco is at 76, and I wonder how it is bothering him that he is no longer the go-to guy. I also wonder how the offense would function if he wasn't on the field. After watching the Vikings do what they did last week without Moss, maybe it's time for the Bengals to do the same!
10. Benefits of the bye
Byes late in the season are much more beneficial because injuries start to mount and teams need the rest. Last week, teams off a bye went 6-0. The Rams and 49ers come off a bye to play each other this week. The Jaguars, Redskins, Broncos, and Titans are the other four teams returning from a break. Tennessee travels to Miami, but the other three teams are at home. So far this season home teams off a bye are 10-2.