What another riveting Sunday it was. Comeback wins, gritty road victories and wild finishes capped a thrilling Week 10. The Saints made a mockery of the Cowboys and the Panthers look like one of the leagueâs best teams. Have this whole NFL thing figured out? Neither do we. But weâll try our best in the latest edition of what we know:
Panthers 10, 49ers 9 — It’s time to buy the hype on Carolina
If you didn’t want to believe that the Panthers were for real, you were stunned with the outcome in San Francisco.
By way of a relentless defense, which only allowed 151 total yards, and a nearly mistake-free offense, the Panthers were able to win their fifth straight game of the season. Carolina’s defensive line deserves credit for rattling quarterback Colin Kaepernick often and even sacking him a career-high six times. Head coach Ron Rivera, who is a defensive-minded guy, mixed up his blitzes and coverages to confuse the Niners offense. It worked.
The 49ers were able to march into Carolinaâs red zone once, but had to settle for a field goal. The worst part of that drive? Tight end Vernon Davis was knocked out of the game with concussion-like symptoms. San Franciscoâs offense was left exposed and missing Kaepernickâs second-favorite target.
Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams showed off his ability to finish runs, scoring on a 27-yard run before halftime.
Itâs time. Carolina is for real. Cam Newton had a pedestrian performance on paper, completing 50 percent of his passes with an interception. He did, however, come up clutch on third down, connecting on crucial plays.
Another tough test awaits them as they host the Patriots in Week 11.
Saints 49, Cowboys 17 – Drew Brees has another night to remember
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had a successful reunion with his former team.
One week after going up against his brother Rex in New York, Ryan had a chance to avenge the team that fired him a season ago. The Saints were rolling on offense and Drew Brees surpassed Tom Brady with the fourth most all-time passing touchdowns in the second quarter. Brees would finish the night completing 34 of 41 passes for 392 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Brees connected with nine different receivers and was helped out with an effective running game by the three-headed monster of Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. Ingram had a respectable evening, averaging 9.7 yards a carry with a score.
The Cowboys suffered a bruising loss, but an injury to linebacker Sean Lee, who left the game in the first quarter, could be just as devastating. Lee is the heart and soul of Monte Kiffinâs defense, but a left hamstring injury could cause the Cowboys to be ultra-cautious with their star linebacker.
Broncos 28, Chargers 20 – This one’s for John
Not John Elway.
That would be Broncos coach John Fox, who underwent heart surgery earlier in the week to have an aortic valve replaced. OK, no problem. Peyton Manning took it from there.
The future Hall of Famer threw for more than 300 yards and threw four touchdowns again as Denver moved to 8-1. Speaking of Peytonâs four touchdowns, three of them were caught by Demaryius Thomas, who is just one piece of a flourishing Broncos receiving crops.
Manning did suffer an ankle injury late in the game, but managed to stay in. How bad was it? The team released this statement after the game:
Peyton Manning: "I’m pretty sore. They kind of got me twice in that lower area…get an MRI tomorrow and will know more then." â Denver Broncos (@DenverBroncos) November 11, 2013
Hmmm, an MRI? That sounds potentially grim. The Broncos need Manning as close to full strength as possible, as their next three weeks will be a bear. They face the Chiefs at home next week, and then head for a showdown in New England before taking on the Chiefs on the road.
We canât wait to see what happens.
Lions 21, Bears 19 — Detroit could win the NFC North by default
The Packers wonât have Aaron Rodgers for at least a couple more weeks. Chicago got Jay Cutler back for Sundayâs game, but he couldnât finish as an ankle injury forced him to give way to Josh McCown late in the fourth quarter.
So, with the Lionsâ two biggest foes using backup quarterbacks, this 6-3 team has a golden chance to gain some ground and put this division race to bed early. With weapons like Calvin Johnson, that might not be hard.
Megatron did his thing yet again against the Bears, pulling down two touchdown catches in the second half, including this one that ended up being the difference.
That was his 63rd career touchdown catch, which is the most in Lions franchise history. Even better, the Lions swept the season series against the Bears.
Eagles 27, Packers 13 — Is this Nick Foles’ team?
If there’s anyone wondering who the Eagles starting quarterback is long-term, they aren’t paying attention to football in Philly. A week after throwing 7 touchdowns, second-year quarterback Nick Foles threw another three on Sunday.
Foles is connecting on short, intermediate and deep throws and looks to be operating Chip Kelly’s offense with ease. DeSean Jackson hauled in a 55-yard touchdown catch and Riley Cooper finished with three receptions for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Oh yeah, LeSean McCoy had an admirable performance, averaging 6.2 yards on 25 carries (155 yards).
It’s a tough loss for Green Bay as it suffered back-to-back losses at Lambeau Field for the first time since 2008. Seneca Wallace was lost to a groin injury and Scott Tolzien, who was on the practice squad a week ago, threw two interceptions. Can Green Bay keep afloat in the NFC North while Aaron Rodgers recovers from a fractured collarbone? It doesnât get easier next week as the Packers travel to East Rutherford to play the Giants, who are on a three-game winning streak.
Giants 24, Raiders 20 – Big Blue still isn’t out of it.
Strange, right? But with the way the NFC East is, you canât count anyone out. And guess what? The Giants are now riding a three-game winning streak after outlasting the hapless Raiders.
This game was memorable not only for the Giantsâ defense holding Oakland to 213 total yards, but also for the return of running back Andre Brown. That latter had missed the first eight games of the season while mending from a broken leg and his first taste of game action was solid.
Brown rushed 30 times for 115 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. Itâs good to see him back where he belongs.
And who knows, the Giants could end up playing for the division title by Week 17. Hey, stranger things have happened.
Seahawks 33, Falcons 10 — These two teams are in completely different places
Remember back in January, when Atlanta outlasted Seattle at home for a berth in the NFC Championship Game? Wow, is that a distant memory.
Fast forward to November and the Falcons are a complete dumpster fire, having been ravaged by injuries and several close losses. So, it should come as no surprise than Sunday turned into an old-school beating, as Marshawn Lynch pounded out 145 yards, every one of which probably left bruises on Atlantaâs D.
There was also this grab by Golden Tate, which is a catch-of-the-year candidate:
The Seahawks, an upstart last season, are now 9-1 and will get even better as key pieces on their offensive line could return next week. You know who else could return next week? Percy Harvin. We could be looking at the top seed in the NFC.
Ravens 20, Bengals 17 – The AFC North is a confusing place
The defending champs weren’t going to go down without a fight. While the Ravens entered this game with a 3-5 record, they had other plans for their division foe. Baltimore got off to a 17-0 start and was able to hang on in overtime.
It wasnât without any panic, though. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw up a prayer at the end of regulation and somehow AJ Green was able to haul it in. It forced overtime.
The Ravens defense stiffened when it mattered most and the offense was able to get kicker Justin Tucker in field-goal range for the game-winner.
Who will win the AFC North? The Ravens – even with an ugly offense — are just one game behind Cincinnati in the loss column. Who knows what will happen?
Steelers 23, Bills 10 — Le’Veon Bell adds a nice dimension to the offense
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has taken a lot of hits over the years, and can’t afford to keep standing in the pocket. Thatâs where running back LeâVeon Bell comes in.
The rookie did some nice things on Sunday, despite not having eye-popping stats. He gained just 57 yards on 22 carries against the Bills, but also gained another 39 yards on three catches out of the backfield. He also scored a touchdown that gave Pittsburgh a comfortable 14-point cushion.
Bell missed the first three games of the season, all of which the Steelers lost. Since his return, the team has gone 4-3. Not bad.
Cardinals 27, Texans 24 — Hey! The Cardinals are right there!
Where?! Right in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt. Admit it, youâre surprised.
The Cardinals (5-4) have quietly won two of their last three games are now just a game out of a wild-card spot. Will they find a way into the playoffs? Well, that’s going to be tough, as the two teams ahead of them are the 49ers and Panthers.
But for now, the red birds can feel good. Props to them.
Jaguars 29, Titans 27 — How serious is Locker’s injury?
Jake Lockerâs season is likely done as multiple reports indicate the third-year quarterback left Sundayâs action with a possible season-ending injury.
Locker, who returned to the sideline on crutches, is believed to have suffered the dreaded Lisfranc injury, which typically requires surgery to repair. While the Titans were a quiet playoff contender, their hopes might have taken a devastating blow. To make matters worse, they lost to the previously winless Jaguars.
Though, one must be inspired by Jaguars head coach Gus Bradleyâs enthusiasm:
Rams 38, Colts 8 – Is it time to panic in Indianapolis?
Tavon Austin chose a great day to have a breakout game. After nine weeks of underwhelming play, the Ramsâ first round rookie racked up 310 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in a thrashing of the AFC Southâs best team.
By the time the third quarter rolled around, the Colts were facing a 35-point deficit.
The Colts’ offensive line continues to struggle and coordinator Pep Hamilton continues to struggle to find the best way to feature running back Trent Richardson. Andrew Luck looked out of whack and threw three interceptions, targeting T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener a combined 18 times.
Fortunately for the Colts, they have a favorable schedule, playing a Jack Locker-less Titans team twice in the next three weeks.