Bubble Watch:  National Football League Week 10 Preview 

By Ron Johnson

In the olde days, we would just have a few weeks to sift through this madness and determine who is going to the party, and who is staying home. With the addition of Week 18…we still have that amount of time…but it is with a twist. Some of the teams we expect to be in the show are not there, and some we didn’t expect are there.

Heading into Week 10, the postseason looks a little different than what most had thought:

AFC

1) Kansas City Chiefs  (7-2, AFC West Leader)

2) Baltimore Ravens (7-2, AFC North Leader)

3) Jacksonville Jaguars (6-2, AFC South Leader)

4) Miami Dolphins (6-3, AFC East Leader)

5) Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)

6) Cleveland Browns (5-3)

7) Cincinnati Bengals (5-3)

In the Hunt

8) Buffalo Bills (5-4)

9) Houston Texans/Los Angeles Chargers/New York Jets (All 4-4)

NFC

1) Philadelphia Eagles (8-1, NFC East Leader)

2) Detroit Lions (6-2, NFC North Leader)

3) San Francisco 49ers (5-3, NFC West Leader)

4) New Orleans Saints (5-4, NFC South Leader)

5) Seattle Seahawks (5-3)

6) Dallas Cowboys (5-3)

7) Minnesota Vikings (5-4)

In the Hunt

8) Washington Commanders (4-5)

9) Atlanta Falcons (4-5)

10) Tampa Bay Bucs/Green Bay Packers/Los Angeles Rams (All 3-5)

Now that we know where we stand, let’s dive into the upcoming week.

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Thursday Night Prime Football

Carolina vs. Chicago

While we have had a few games that were exciting on Thursday night, does anyone really see this game being anything other than mundane? No disrespect to either team, but it seems that the Panthers are still at the starting gate, and the Bears are still trying to decide whether they want to win the infamous Top Pick Sweepstakes or not. While it is usually easy to hype the start of the new NFL week, I can tell you that a root canal, a colonoscopy, a donkey kick to the pills and even a prostate exam sound more entertaining and exciting than watching this game.

Sunday NFL Lineup (CBS, Fox, NFL Network, YouTube, NFL+)

Indianapolis vs. New England (Frankfurt, Germany)

One lifetime ago, a young Tom Brady and a young Peyton Manning gave us highlight reel-like moments during this rivalry. This time around, we get Gardner Minshew and Mac Jones. While there is speculation that Bill Belichick will be given his walking papers if the Patriots don’t end the season in the playoffs (like to see who has the stones to give the GOAT that ultimatum), the Colts are just trying to erase the misery and stench of Jeff Saturday’s debut that while had its moments of bliss also had its moments of PSS (Putting Up with Saturday’s Sh*t). Now these two teams take their time-honored rivalry to a new setting: overseas. Can Gardner lead the Colts to the promised land along with a chance to move a little bit closer in the playoff hunt? Will the Patriots finally be able to stop the bleeding?

Houston vs. Cincinnati

Looking at this game at the beginning of the year, one would have to expect a massive loss of blood to eye Houston as a legit threat. However, like Burrow has Chase to back him up, Texans rookie C.J. Stroud has Tank Dell to back him up. After last week’s performance, it is not wrong to think that Houston could upset Cincinnati. In fact, it is not wrong to look at Houston and think they could be a problem for a team that is riding high on its return from obscurity. Either way, this game just got a little more interesting with both (yes, I said BOTH) teams vying for a playoff spot.

New Orleans vs. Minnesota

The Saints are trying to get back to their winning ways. It seems that as long as Taysom Hill stays healthy and viable, they should have nothing to worry about. Just one problem with that: Their quarterback is Derek Carr, not Hill. On the other side of the ball, Minnesotans were freaking out after losing Kirk Cousins for the year with a torn Achilles (which has become the most popular injury in the NFL this season), but then a quick-thinking trade for the Generic Create-A-Player has them eyeing the postseason once again. Joshua Dobbs may have found the team that will make him a household name outside of the Twin Cities as he was almost flawless in his debut on Sunday, leading the Vikings to a must-win. Now two teams vying for some form of good footing heading into the big stretch of the 2023 season will compete on Sunday. Which Carr will show up? Will Dobbs’ good luck keep going in his second game as a Viking?

Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh

If there was ever a time for me to be a Packers fan, it’s this game right here. In a rematch of a Super Bowl, the Packers and Steelers will do battle with different title characters in the mix. The role of Big Ben will be played by Kenny Pickett, while the role of Aaron Rodgers will be played by Jordan Love. And while neither quarterback will do enough to impress me, a win for Jordan Love will go a longer way because of the fan base he has to compete with. Steelers fans are more focused on how many sacks T.J. Watt ends up with before he decides that he isn’t winning a Super Bowl in Pittsburgh anytime soon. While the game may look dismal, it’ll be nice to see which ground game will step up, which quarterback will break out of their predecessor’s shadow and if Mike Tomlin will still feel as cocky about his receivers after making it clear that their complaints are as irrelevant as his thirst to be better than mediocre. 

Tennessee vs. Tampa Bay

The Titans are going with Will Levis to lead them hopefully back into playoff contention. Maybe we will see a Derrick Henry sighting in this game, or even a true Baker Mayfield sighting. Baker seems to do better with his back against the wall, as does Derrick Henry. With both teams fighting for the right to represent their respective South Divisions in the postseason, one would think that now is the perfect time to step up or step aside.

San Francisco vs. Jacksonville

The Niners are slipping out of contention. Brock Purdy now knows what it is like to be human. There’s a chance that Christian McCaffrey may not be human. With the potential return of Deebo Samuel, the Niners are looking to bounce back and snap their three-game losing streak in the process. Standing in their way though is a team that has found its footing, has a commanding lead in the AFC South and is looking to repeat their performance from last season that ended with a playoff berth and a plethora of shockers at season’s end. The Jags are dangerous, and it would be good for the Niners to remember that where Samuel returns or not. 

Cleveland vs. Baltimore 

Yes, it is indeed one of my favorite rivalries. The main reason is that back then, it was all about Ye Olde Cleveland vs. The New Age Cleveland. Now, it is all about making a statement with both teams vying for a better spot in the playoff standings. With the Ravens chasing KC and the Browns chasing everyone in the North, this game should be on everyone’s screen come Sunday. Myles Garrett is feeling hungry, but then again, so is Lamar Jackson. Maybe we’ll see OBJ do something other than get hurt and show his age.

Atlanta vs. Arizona

Taylor Heinicke is going to be the man that leads Atlanta to a win over Arizona. Desmond Ridder is going to be the man that leads Atlanta to a win over Arizona. Those are not typos. This is how most coaches would handle this situation. Use what you got to get the W, and with the fact that this NFC South is still wide open with three out of the four teams in it fighting for it, this would be a great time for the Falcons to break the norm and try something different. There isn’t much of a reason to talk about Arizona. They are destined for that top spot in the draft once again. Here’s to hoping they don’t choke the chicken too hard on Draft Day. 

Detroit vs. LA Chargers

The Chargers got back on the good foot and back to .500 in the process as they defeated the Jets easily on Monday night. But the road back to the postseason will not get any easier for them this week as they face a team that has been unpredictably good this season. The Lions are for real, and it’s time for everyone to start putting respect on their name. No longer a sub-par, mediocre punching bag, Detroit is looking to cement its own legacy by keeping its lead over the Vikings with a win over the Bolts. We still wonder which Chargers team will show up come Sunday since they haven’t really turned heads other than their special team performance on Monday night.

NY Giants vs. Dallas

Both teams are coming into this game on losses as the Giants not only lost the game to the Raiders, but they also lost Daniel Jones for the season. If there was any chance of New York to get back into that postseason form from last year, it is not happening this year. On the other side, you got a Dallas Cowboys team that is still having problems learning to count and control their own clock management. Dallas should win this game easily, but as we have seen from the likes of KC, San Fran and even Detroit, on any given Sunday, anyone can be made famous. Dallas will need to find alternatives to CeeDee Lamb, because as good as he is, teams will start focusing their attention on him seeing as how he has become the most reliable hands in Dak’s arsenal.

Washington vs. Seattle 

In theory, this game should be a bright moment for Geno Smith, however, it is anything but that as Seahawks fans are wondering if the real Geno is standing up once more. As for Washington, the Commanders fateful are wondering if Ron Rivera is really the answer for their team. With the current quarterback carousel in the NFL, they may have to just settle for the good they got. Seattle got beaten, victimized, conquered and embarrassed on Sunday at hands of the Ravens, and the Commanders managed to get a victory over Bill Belichick IN Foxboro. But on Sunday, are the Seahawks becoming a one trick pony or evolving into their domination form? And will Washington stay in the thick of the postseason picture or fall from grace with Rivera paying the price with his job?

Sunday Night Football (NBC)

NY Jets vs. Las Vegas

In the beginning, this was to be a showdown of Aaron Rodgers versus Jimmy Garoppolo. With one on the shelf and the other benched for now, we get Zack Wilson versus Aidan O’Connell. But in fairness, Wilson has been a good filler and has the Jets eyeing the postseason right now. As for O’Connell, he won last week in interim head coach Antonio Pierce’s debut. Yes, even the Raiders are becoming something other than a laughingstock. Here is to hoping that the Jets will show something other than how to get a mudhole stomped in you on Sunday night to a mediocre Chargers team.

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Monday Night Football (Or Monday Night Stomach Bug)

Denver vs. Buffalo

There was a time that many would have seen this game and got excited. Wilson vs. Allen. Payton vs. McDermott. Jeudy vs. Diggs. I would even had enjoyed this one. However, both teams are not playing up to their standards, and this game looks more like a B+ at best performance for both. The Broncos are still trying to get themselves a winning record this season, while the Bills are still trying to be anything other than average. Both teams get their chance to show us something on Monday night as the Bills return home after losing a “tight” one to Cincinnati on Sunday night. Can the Bills get their biggest fan base (aka all the “experts”) back? Will we see the return of Mr. Unlimited? Or will this game be loaded with unlimited diarrhea? 

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