Week 10 winners and losers

The outskirts of the AFC playoff race remains crowded. Ten teams still have a winning record, which makes every matchup between contenders feel doubly important. That's why Kansas City and Cleveland's wins in Week 10 stuck out.

The Chiefs were outplayed for three quarters in Buffalo, yet found a way to win because of their superior quarterback and red-zone defense. Kansas City has clinched the AFC East title with an undefeated 4-0 record against the division, a record that could come in handy with any tiebreaks against the Bills or Dolphins. I see the Chiefs as a playoff team.

The Browns, meanwhile, needed a big road triumph to legitimize their surprising start. The win in Cincinnati sets up Cleveland to play meaningful games into December, which is a victory on its own. Here's a look at the other winners and losers from Week 10:

Going up

The Philly-New York backup quarterback exchange: Everybody wins! Michael Vick has earned himself another "bridge quarterback" contract with his play for the Jets, while Mark Sanchez is showing what he can do with a coaching staff that plays to his strengths. The losers here: Geno Smith and former Jets coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Eagles' defense and special teams: Philadelphia's system is quarterback-proof in part because the offense barely needs to score. The Eagles have nine return touchdowns, the most in franchise history. That's more than double any other team in the league.

Chris Borland: The 49ers' rookie inside linebacker has 35 tackles in the last two weeks, which seems like a lot. He's one tackle away from the team lead for the season despite playing a handful of snaps in September.

Seattle's two-back offense: There's an air of desperation about the Seahawks turning to a two-back offense where Russell Wilson is essentially the lightning to Marshawn Lynch's thunder. But it's hard to argue with its effectiveness.

Ron Parker's name recognition: The little-known Chiefs cornerback forced a key fumble in Buffalo and applied sticky coverage all day to Bills receivers, usually Sammy Watkins. Parker allowed only four of 10 targets thrown at him to be completed for a total of 21 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. He had two passes defensed at the goal line in the closing minutes. That might be the game of the year for any cornerback. Your no-name 2014 Kansas City Chiefs, everyone!

Detroit's late-game magic: Matthew Stafford has looked more erratic than ever this season, but he's on a serious roll of playing his best in the final minutes of games. This is a 7-2 team with a lot of room to grow now that Golden Tate and Megatron are playing together.

Moving down

Sean Payton's aggressiveness: He smartly went for a fourth-and-1 in Saints territory in regulation, but Payton passed on a fourth-and-1 in 49ers' territory in overtime? The Saints also punted on a fourth-and-2 at midfield in the third quarter. Playing the field position game is not in the Saints' DNA.

Mike Mitchell: Forget the silly jumping over the pile kerfuffle to end Pittsburgh's loss. Mitchell bit hard on play action on T.J. Graham's long touchdown and has generally struggled all year. Steelers fans always want the team to dive into free agency, but this is what happens when you spend big money on mid-level starters.

Pittsburgh's red-zone problems: The Steelers' mental errors and red-zone issues from early in the season cropped up against the Jets once again. They scored three points combined in their three red-zone trips against the Jets, and Antonio Brown's two fumbles in the game were crushers.

Evidence of Jacksonville's progress: The Jaguars are the first team in NFL history to be 1-9 or worse through 10 games for three consecutive years. Every time we buy into Gus Bradley's defensive progress or the fun offensive talent, they lay an egg. Bradley and general manager David Caldwell should get every chance to see their plan through, but they would love to have some wins to show for it down the stretch.

Prime-time games: Week 10 hopefully was the nadir. The combined score of the three prime-time games was 124-38, with all but one of those touchdowns from the losing teams coming after the game was decided. We don't think there is anything to read into all the blowouts other than bad luck (just like last season's string of good games was nothing more than good fortune). Still, the string of one-sided games have dragged down this entire season. Bills-Dolphins on Thursday Night Football and Colts-Patriots on Sunday night can't possibly let us down, can they?

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Week 10 game from an action-packed Sunday. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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