Week 10 NFL Preview: What will be the Deciding Factor in this week's games?

This week sees another exciting group of matches on Sunday, including five divisional matchups and a clash between Lamar Jackson and Cam Newton that has been getting a lot of hype this season. Let’s break down all of the potential deciding factors in our Week 10 NFL preview.

Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants

Although these teams met a few weeks ago, the chances of winning the NFC East are almost the same as they were at that point. The Giants are in a slightly worse position, as time is running out for them, but a win here would be huge.

Philadelphia may see RB Miles Sanders return from injury, although the team could choose to sit him once more so that he is fully recovered for the home stretch. On top of that, the Giants are reasonably strong against the run as well, so Sanders may not make a big difference. The Eagles will look to attack downfield with WRs Travis Fulgham and Greg Ward, while Jalen Reagor provides the ability to make yards after the catch on shorter crossing routes and screens. The Giants will look to pressure QB Carson Wentz and avoid big completions, but need to get more out of their LBs in coverage if they are to get sacks with only a 4-man rush. 

For the Giants, they need to get their players into the Eagles’ second level, so that they can have favourable matchups against the LBs. With WR Darius Slayton providing a deeper option, WR Sterling Shepard and TE Evan Engram should see plenty of work on slants, in and out routes in short and intermediate throws to avoid the secondary. While Slayton should see targets against a mediocre Eagles’ secondary, RB, WR and TE screens and short routes to the flats could be a frequent option for the Giants if they can’t withstand Philadelphia’s pass rush. 

The Eagles may be the more well-rounded team, but this win won’t come easy for them with their defensive flaws.

Eagles' Carson Wentz (11) throws under pressure Monday night against the Giants. The Eagles defeated the Giants in overtime 23-17. Sports Eagles Giants

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Green Bay Packers

With the Jaguars’ winning just one game so far this season, and Green Bay seemingly on their way to another divisional title, this matchup should hold few surprises. 

While the Packers have been exposed against the run, potentially giving the Jaguars an opportunity to move the ball throughout the game, Green Bay’s pass defense is strong. Between their secondary and their pass rush, both elements complement each other, making it difficult for opponents to launch steady aerial attacks. 

Although the Jaguars’ 4WR sets may test Green Bay’s depth in the secondary, Jacksonville will have difficulty trying to make a comeback if they can’t control the clock and keep up on the ground. The Packers will use nickel packages for most of the game, lining Safeties up against WRs, helping also bring extra bodies into the box. Jacksonville should complete some passes along the sidelines, but will likely be playing from behind in the second half. 

Green Bay’s passing attack will tear through Jacksonville’s secondary, especially WR Davante Adams over the middle, and the TEs on shorter out routes. Even if the Jaguars can improve against the pass, they will struggle to maintain a close scoreline, playing into Green Bay’s hands.

Washington Football Team @ Detroit Lions

Washington are undergoing another change at QB after Kyle Allen was injured in Week 9, making way for Alex Smith as starter. Smith may have lost some of his mobility, but reads the field better than Allen, and should be able to find his receivers often. 

Despite Washington improving at running the ball too, Detroit will focus on taking this away by sending their LBs to the outside regularly, limiting the RB’s potential as receivers. Smith will then need to make throws consistently. as doesn’t attack the field deep often, further helping Detroit close down Washington. 

Detroit’s own passing attack will be reduced with WR Kenny Golladay out again, but should have QB Matthew Stafford available to attack Washington’s meagre secondary. Although Detroit’s OL will have a tough time withstanding the pass rush, with Detroit’s rushing attack developing as Adrian Peterson and D’Andre Swift find their roles it could take some of the pressure off Stafford and the OL. 

WR Marvin Jones will need to find a way to get open on the outside underneath the CBs, while TE TJ Hockenson stretches the field in Golladay’s absence. WR Marvin Hall will need to also step into a bigger role for the Lions to consistently put points against Washington. If Detroit allows Washington to hang around, they could be forced into needing yet another comeback led by Stafford.

Houston Texans @ Cleveland Browns

Although the Texans have another win after knocking off the Jaguars in Week 9, they don’t look like a team that will win regularly. 

The Texans defense will be exposed against the run and pass, so long as Cleveland QB Baker Mayfield can make the throws he needs to. RB Kareem Hunt should see plenty of work running to the outside and on RB screens, with the Texans’ LBs lacking the speed to keep up with most RBs. With Hunt going and Chubb expected to play some role on his return, the Browns can expect to see single coverage to WRs Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins. Although the Browns won’t attack deep often, which will allow Houston to gamble on bringing up the Safeties and playing Cover 1 or Cover 0. If the Texans can get some stops or throw off Mayfield with their blitzes, they could have a chance. 

However, Cleveland’s own defense is formidable, and if not for Deshaun Watson’s escapability and athleticism, would severely restrict the Texans’ passing attack. Watson is developing chemistry with WRs Brandin Cooks, Kenny Stills, and Will Fuller, allowing them to attack deep regularly over the middle and along the sidelines. If Watson gets time to throw to these players, Houston’s quick-strike scheme will be hard to stop. Houston lacks a run game, and potentially losing RB David Johnson to injury makes that even worse. 

Cleveland’s run game will set up their passing game, and barring errors from Mayfield, they should be able to control the clock, move the ball, and constantly add to their points to eventually close it out.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers

Tampa Bay will want to have a more balanced attack against Carolina, and have a favourable opportunity to get their running attack going again. The Buccaneers need to return to their rotation of RBs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II, despite the latter’s fumble in Week 8 nearly proving costly. With Fournette and Jones, Tampa Bay were better able to disguise their runs, and avoid the middle of the field being clogged with extra defenders. 

QB Tom Brady doesn’t seem to have strong chemistry with any of his receivers on a weekly basis, and his desire to throw to the TEs and slot receivers constantly is allowing opponents to leave the outside receivers in single coverage. Tampa Bay should look to get Mike Evans going with screens, but there will be a reduced passing attack in this game. 

Carolina have exceeded expectations for most of the season, and although they’ve been competitive each week, they’ve been on the losing end too often, resulting in just three wins. With the Buccaneers’ run defence weakening each week since DL Vita Vea was injured, the Panthers will lean on their ground game despite potentially being without star runner Christian McCaffery. 

In turn, this will create space on the outside for DJ Moore and Robby Anderson. While the Buccaneers’ CBs and Safeties have restricted deep passes often this season, they can be targeted in Cover 1 when Antoine Winfield Jr is the lone deep safety with vertical receivers on each side of the field. Curtis Samuel presents a potential x-factor piece for Carolina to get their offense functioning at a high level. Carolina will have the chance to score, but really need to do more against the run if they are to win this divisional game.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Miami Dolphins

The Los Angeles Chargers keep finding new ways to lose, and that doesn’t look set to change against Miami. The Dolphins’ defense is improving steadily, and while there are holes in the secondary at times, outside of WR Keenan Allen and TE Hunter Henry, the Chargers don’t have anyone that can regularly get open. QB Justin Herbert is placing throws in good spots, but with Miami able to double Allen, it will require someone else to make plays. 

The RBs should be used frequently as receivers, as this has caused problems for the Dolphins, but their LBs and DEs drop into coverage frequently enough that the flats can be covered deceptively. Miami will blitz a few times on each drive to force Herbert into quick throws, and will aim to take away his downfield receiver. 

Miami’s passing attack will find space over the middle often, with TE Mike Gesicki and WR Jakeem Grant seeing plenty of targets. Although RB Myles Gaskin is now on IR, Miami are hoping Matt Breida can be available in Week 10. Jordan Howard could continue to see work, but as an extra blocker against the pass rush, as the Chargers will be able to regularly pressure rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa with a four-man rush. While Herbert’s heroics haven’t quite been enough, Tua only needs just enough for Miami to get the win here with the way their defense has been playing.

Denver Broncos @ Las Vegas Raiders

As Denver continues to have well-rounded performances, Las Vegas are finding new ways to win each week. The Raiders have been able to pass deep, short, and run the ball at different times, while also playing well against the pass and run on defense. 

Their most consistent weakness has been the secondary, as their CBs have struggled at times, which should allow Denver to unleash WR Jerry Jeudy over the middle often. While this should see Safety Johnathan Abram start to shade him over the top, it will also free up fellow WRs KJ Hamler, Tim Patrick, and TE Noah Fant on out and vertical routes, with the RBs on underneath curls. 

Denver should remain balanced to keep the Raiders’ defense on their toes, with their RBs diverse enough to be used on either running or pass plays, which the Raiders have struggled with during the season. 

Denver’s defense has been average overall, and should give opportunities for the Raiders to use spacing concepts on short throws. TE Darren Waller will be used on curl, slant and hitch routes, with the other TEs on out routes and WRs on slants and intermediate crosses, will allow them to use the space around the LBs and underneath the CBs. 

RB Josh Jacobs will also see plenty of work, but FB Alec Ingold has been equally valuable in setting the edge, misdirection, and even as a receiver on the outside. Unless Denver’s LBs can read the Raiders’ plays quicker, Las Vegas will put up points, forcing QB Drew Lock to regularly hit receivers to avoid falling behind.

Buffalo Bills @ Arizona Cardinals

With both teams having similar assets, there is little to split them, and they are likely to trade blows throughout the game. Both have mobile QBs, although Arizona’s Kyler Murray is speedier and more athletic than the Bills’ Josh Allen. Buffalo need to play contain rather than blitz in this game, as they cannot allow Murray room to run. 

Using Safety Jordan Poyer at the line constantly will help with this, and the Bills can take extra risks leaving themselves exposed deep, as the Cardinals are towards the bottom end of the league in terms of average depth of target. With Arizona’s run game struggling outside of Murray, it further plays into Buffalo’s strength, as they can send extra coverage towards WR DeAndre Hopkins. 

Buffalo will run the ball across the whole line, using their RBs as receivers regularly, setting up deeper passing attacks. By spreading their weapons on levels downfield and across the field, it will be difficult for Arizona to deploy their defenders. The Cardinals’ LBs will provide little assistance on throws to the flats, while also leaving space behind them for WR Stefon Diggs. 

Although Arizona may get Murray going and restrict the Bills’ run game, Buffalo’s better passing attack could be the difference, allowing them to move the ball more consistently.

San Francisco 49ers @ New Orleans Saints

With the 49ers continually struggling to field a team, Week 10 is slightly better as players are cleared of Covid. However, with their DL unable to generate constant pressure, especially against a strong Saints’ OL, Drew Brees should be able to spread the ball around all game. 

RB Alvin Kamara will have a tough time up the middle with LB Fred Warner waiting for him, but should see space as a runner and receiver to the outside. 

New Orleans’ defense will make life hard for the 49ers too, as they are improving against the run, and their LBs are contributing more in coverage and the pass rush. With CB Marshon Lattimore able to close down either Kendrick Bourne, Brandon Aiyuk or Richie James, the 49ers are further limited in their passing options. San Francisco will be creative in their RB usage and WRs over the middle, and with TE George Kittle out as well, there is little for the 49ers to do in this one to keep their chances of a win alive.

Seattle Seahawks @ Los Angeles Rams

After Seattle’s defense was exposed in Week 9 against the Bills, and they need to show more in their secondary against this divisional rival. Los Angeles should seek to throw deep and get after the CBs early on, especially with Seattle providing little pass rush. Having a short option on the outside, such as Cooper Kupp or the TEs, will allow for a release valve against the blitz. 

The Rams will also stay balanced by rotating their RBs to run up the middle and to the outside, sticking with the hot hand, which tends to be Darrell Henderson. Los Angeles should feel confident in their ability to move the ball, but need to get stops on defense as well. 

Seattle have consistently turned to the passing game this season, partly because it has been effective. However, they need to get a running game going so that DL Aaron Donald isn’t collapsing the pocket constantly. With Donald being double teamed, Seattle will use a TE to further protect Wilson. That will allow the vertical passes time to develop, with a third WR, second TE or RB sent on short routes to the outside. The Rams will need their CB opposite Jalen Ramsey to stick with DK Metcalf’s speed or Tyler Lockett’s cut to the inside, otherwise they will be at the mercy of Seattle’s entire playbook. While the Rams seem the favourable team with their passing and rushing attack, their defense needs to hold up its end too.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh narrowly remained the last unbeaten team in Week 9, and will be tested again in Week 10 against a strong passing attack. The Bengals have found a recipe that works on offense, as their 3 WR sets allow them to attack their opponent’s weakness in different ways. 

The Steelers’ secondary has been leaky for much of the season, and when their pass rush doesn’t get home, it allows teams to move the ball through the air. With Tyler Boyd over the middle on slants, Tee Higgins on the outside with physicality, and a third option to go vertical, the Steelers may shift to more zone coverages to force QB Joe Burrow to make more complex reads. 

Meanwhile, the Steelers should aim to run more than they pass, as the Bengals have struggled to defend the ground game, yet have had success against the pass. While WR JuJu Smith-Schuster could have success over the middle, instead of the vertical receivers Chase Claypool and Deionte Johnson, Pittsburgh will need to lean on the ground game if things don’t go well in the first half. 

Cincinnati can go toe to toe with most teams due to their air game, but generally lack the knockout blow they need to put games away, but with Roethlisberger now expected to be active they will have their work cut out for them.

Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots

New England have been a far cry from their dominance over the past two decades, but in a weird year worldwide, they are essentially pushing the reset button. Baltimore have also regressed but not to the same extent, and has been strong against New England for years.

The Patriots’ biggest weakness on offense is their lack of WRs, but against Baltimore’s secondary, not many teams have much success passing the ball. Instead, New England needs to use a creative run game involving QB Cam Newton and 2RB sets if they are to have any chance of keeping up on the scoreboard, as well as taking time off the clock for Baltimore. New England should also use quick passes and screens to keep the ball away from the Ravens’ secondary. 

Baltimore, however, will lean on their run game with extra blockers, as the Patriots’ run defense has struggled all season. New England could seek to add extra DBs to match Lamar Jackson’s agility, but Baltimore should lean on JK Dobbins’ speed and Gus Edwards’ physicality instead. The extra DBs will also help against the likes of TE Mark Andrews, but WR Marquise Brown could have space downfield. 

With Baltimore able to move the ball on the ground and take their shots in the air, New England will be hard-pressed to keep this one to a one-score game.

Owen Ravenna

NFL Analyst