Week 10 marked the halfway point of the season as every team has now played at least nine games in a 17-game season. Some teams took a major blow while others boosted their season. For the first time all year the Lions managed to avoid defeat, although they also failed to win. On the bright side, they no longer have to worry about being the first team to go 0-17. Elsewhere, the AFC West and NFC South divisions got a bit tighter after this week’s results. Of the eight divisions, only three of them have a clear-cut favorite. The Titans, Cowboys and Packers all seemingly have their divisions wrapped up. It’s now a matter of when, not if, those teams officially win their division. Of course, that still leaves a lot to play for as we head down the back stretch of the season. So, let’s jump into it.
Winner #1 Carolina Panthers
The Carolina faithful were treated to the return of Cam Newton, and he quickly scored two TDs for the team. More importantly, the team took advantage of an injured Arizona team. On a day when both the Saints and Buccaneers lost, the Panthers were able to score an impressive win. The win puts them firmly back in the hunt for a division title. The Saints are without starting QB Jameis Winston for the rest of the year and will likely lose several more games. Tampa likely won’t lose many games the rest of the season. That being said, if Carolina can build on this momentum, it won’t be out of the question for them to challenge Tampa down the stretch. Even if they don’t, it’s really good to see Cam Newton back in a Carolina jersey. That alone is a win for this week.
Loser #1 AFC West (Except Kansas City)
We were treated to an AFC West showdown Sunday night between two teams vying for the top of the division. Unfortunately for the neutrals, only one team showed up. Playing at home, the Raiders allowed Patrick Mahomes to run rampant all night. It’s just yet another missed opportunity that frankly everyone except the Chiefs, in this division, have repeatedly wasted. A month ago, Kansas City was dead last in the division and looked like they were in perfect shape to finally be dethroned. Instead, the Chargers continue to throw winnable games away, the Broncos continue their “Jekyll and Hyde” routine, and the Raiders continue to sink. Now the Chiefs have regained their mojo and the division lead. All three teams will look back at the end of the season and rue their missed opportunities, while the Chiefs will likely be celebrating their sixth straight division title.
Winner #2 Dallas Cowboys
Many people were curious to see how the Cowboys would respond to their shocking loss last week. The Cowboys responded by annihilating the Atlanta Falcons 43-3 this past Sunday. A 29-0 second quarter removed any doubt about the outcome as the Cowboys arguably had one of their best games of the season. I know it was only the Atlanta Falcons, but at the beginning of the day the Falcons were in a playoff spot. You can only play who’s in front of you, and the Dallas faithful were rewarded with dominating performances on all three levels. If Dallas can consistently play near this level, they are a strong bet to make a deep run in the playoffs. This is especially true considering their sizeable lead in their division. The number one seed in the conference is still very much in play for this team.
Loser #2 Fans watching Detroit vs Pittsburgh
On a rainy Pittsburgh afternoon, the Lions and Steelers decided before the game to showcase the worst game possible. This game ended in a tie because neither team could be bothered to actually beat their opponents. The Lions couldn’t throw for more than 120 yards. The Steelers seemed determined to hand the Lions their first win by constantly giving the ball to them. Pittsburgh was stunned when the Lions found different ways to say ‘no’. The Steelers tied the game up early in the 4th quarter, and from there things went from bad to worse. Neither team could score again, and thus they went to overtime.
In overtime the Lions did nothing with their first possession. The Steelers quickly fumbled their possession away. The Lions attempted a game-winning FG from 48 yards that was kicked so badly that it didn’t have a chance from 30 yards. After that, both teams traded punts before the Steelers finally made some headway. With about 10 seconds left to go in the game, the Steelers actually got into FG range – except they fumbled the ball on the play, which Detroit naturally recovered. With little time left the Lions ran the clock out and both teams had to settle for the tie. Somehow, the only ones that left the stadium with a loss were the fans.
Winner #3 Green Bay Packers
It wasn’t pretty, and it certainly wasn’t impressive, but a win is a win. Their win puts the Packers at the top of the NFC, as a few of their biggest rivals suffered defeats this weekend. The Rams, Saints, Buccaneers and Cardinals all lost this weekend, with only the Cowboys keeping pace. This gives the Packers full control of their destiny since they own several tiebreakers over their nearest competition. As for the game, the offense sputtered, but did enough as the defense shut the Seahawks out. I know this was Russell Wilson’s first week back from injury, but that Green Bay defense is legitimate this season. Besides the week one disaster, the Packers defense has exceeded expectations all season. If they can get their offense back on track, this team might legitimately be the team to beat in the NFL, and maybe Aaron Rodgers can finally get that second ring.
Loser #3 Los Angeles Rams
The Rams came into this week trying to rebound after getting embarrassed on national TV last weekend against the Titans. They then woke up this past Monday morning with an opportunity to draw level with the Cardinals after their surprising loss. Instead, the Rams laid another egg on national TV – this time losing to the 49ers – and would simply own Rams coach Sean McVay. The Niners have now won five straight over the Rams and are really a team that McVay can’t overcome. The loss obviously is a missed opportunity, but more than anything this team is struggling as they enter their bye week. Normally heading into your bye week is a good thing. Unfortunately, waiting on the other side is a showdown in Green Bay against the Packers. For a team that’s supposedly all in, the Rams need to right the ship in a hurry, otherwise this will be a colossal failure.