NFL Week 10 Preview: Browns Visit Baltimore in AFC North Showdown
It is hard to imagine anything happening this week that will shock us after what we witnessed in a thrilling and stupendously entertaining Week 9.
Having said that…we do love surprises.
The slate of games in Week 10 contains a handful of terrific matchups. Both the Jaguars and 49ers return from byes and hook up in Jacksonville. San Francisco’s defense brings with it a new toy, defensive end Chase Young. Will he live up to his first name and pressure Jags’ QB Trevor Lawrence? Will the week off help 49ers rediscover their early-season prowess? Or will the Jaguars nab their sixth straight?
In a crucial AFC North showdown, the Browns visit M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, where the Ravens were Edgar Allan Poe terrifying in recent home games. Will the league’s top two defenses neutralize each other’s dual-threat quarterback?
Detroit returns from a bye and visits a Chargers unable to find a running game or a rhythm in the first half of the season. Will the Lions resume their dominance, or will Los Angeles’ passing game and pass rush overcome the Chargers’ other deficiencies?
Let us take a closer look at these games and others that make up the Week 10 schedule.
—WEEK 10 NFL Preview—
BYES: Kansas City, Los Angeles Rams, Miami, Philadelphia
Thursday Night Football recap
Chicago 19, Carolina 16 (F)
In a mostly defensive struggle that saw just one offensive touchdown and 10 total points in the second half, the Bears withstood a last-minute Carolina march to come away with the win.
Trailing by three with seven minutes remaining, the Panthers went on a tortuous 15-play drive but made it no closer than Chicago’s 41-yard line. Facing 4th-and-10 with 1:40 left, the Panthers opted for a 59-yard field goal attempt by kicker Eddy Pineiro to tie the game but it fell short.
Chicago trailed 10-9 at halftime thanks to a 79-yard punt return by Ihmir Smith-Marsette, which gave the Panthers a 7-0 first-quarter lead. In the third quarter, the Bears special teams and defense pinned Carolina deep and forced a punt. Taking over already in Panthers territory, Tyson Bagent and the Chicago offense went 38 yards in nine plays, going ahead when RB D’Onta Foreman plunged in from four yards out.
Foreman was the offensive star for the Bears. His 83 yards helped Bagent and the offense control both the clock and field position. Bagent completed 20 of 33 passes for 162 yards. He did not throw a TD pass but he also avoided the turnovers that sank Chicago in the fourth quarter against New Orleans.
His counterpart for Carolina, Bryce Young, also played error free football — remarkably, there were no turnovers in the game — which was noteworthy given the pressure the rookie QB faced much of the night. The Bears sacked Young three times, and newcomer Montez Sweat recorded six pressures.
Yes, pass protection is apparently not in the job requirements of a Panthers’ offensive lineman. Given that size and durability questions surrounded their franchise quarterback heading into the draft, the Carolina coaching staff and front office must secretly wish that this season could end now.
Then they could focus on building up their offensive line in free agency and next spring’s draft.
Indianapolis (4-5) at New England (2-7), 9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network
Back to Germany goes the NFL.
A far cry from the hallowed matchups of Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady, this game nonetheless represents a much-needed win for a Colts team trying to stay in contact with other AFC Wild Card hopefuls.
Indy QB Gardner Minshew hopes to reprise his zero-turnover game in Week 9 at Carolina. Minshew threw 26 times against the Panthers, but Colts OC Jim Bob Cooter might open up the passing game to take advantage of a Pats pass defense ranked 18th in the league. If he does not, then it will be interesting to see how well the running back tandem of Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss does against the strength of the Patriots defense. Moss comes into the game second in the NFL in rushing with 615 yards.
The Patriots at 2-7 are playing for pride and the role of spoiler at this point. Mac Jones showed signs of improvement the past three games, but still runs the offense at times like he left the parking brake engaged. He and the offense face a Colts defense that wobbles whether playing the run or the pass. Running back Rhamondre Stevenson rushed for 87 yards against Washington, and his increased workload came at the expense of Ezekiel Elliot (just six carries against Washington).
This game is too important for the Colts. If Minshew plays a second straight game of error-free football, the Colts coul win by double digits. We think he will, they will. Indianapolis 23, New England 13.
Cleveland (5-3) at Baltimore (7-2), 1:00 p.m. ET
The two top defenses in the NFL match up against two of pro football's most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks in what may be Week 10’s most anticipated game.
What makes these two games within the game must-watch is that neither team’s offensive line does a particularly good job protecting their quarterbacks: the Browns allowed 24 sacks through eight games; Baltimore, 21 through nine. When the strength of both teams (the pass rush) faces a weakness on the other (pass protection), then the well-being of any QBs nearby might be in jeopardy.
The game also showcases the No. 1 and No. 3 rushing offenses in the NFL. Baltimore’s rookie free agent Keaton Mitchell ran wild last week against Seattle (138 yards), but he's dealing with a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable for Sunday's matchup.
Visiting Cleveland seeks to reverse the 27-3 thrashing they received at home from the Ravens back in Week 4. This time around Cleveland has quarterback Deshaun Watson, who in his first complete game since returning from a shoulder injury, threw for two TDs in Cleveland’s Week 9 rout of Arizona.
For Baltimore, Lamar Jackson continues his best season since his 2019 MVP campaign. Under new OC Todd Monken, Jackson is playing at the most efficient clip of his career. Jackson completed 15 of 19 passes and threw for two TDs in the first matchup against the touted Browns pass defense,
Look for Jackson to put up another his top-notch performance and maybe work in former Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who caught his first touchdown of the season last week. Also, the Ravens play at home in 2023 is nothing short of devastating. Baltimore 27, Cleveland 13.
Houston (4-4) at Cincinnati (5-3), 1:00 p.m. ET
A very intriguing matchup featuring a young QB on the rise and one who in recent games reclaimed his spot among the position's elite.
Houston’s C.J. Stroud set the NFL on its ear last Sunday with his epic, record-setting day (470 yards, five TDs) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There will be league-wide attention on what Stroud will do for an encore; Cincinnati defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo will be focused on making sure he does not have anything resembling a repeat performance.
The Bengals’ defense is not very good, ranked No. 27 overall in the league. A key for Sunday will be whether Cincinnati’s Trey Hendrickson (eight sacks) is fully recovered from the foot injury that caused him to exit the 49ers game in Week 8.
If Stroud finds time to throw, WR Tank Dell could enjoy a big day. The rookie will be asked to carry a heavier load with star receiver Nico Collins sidelined this week with a calf injury.
For Cincinnati, quarterback Joe Burrow is playing some of the best football of his career. However, he will be without his own receiving weapons this week: WR Tee Higgins is out with a hamstring injury, and the Bengals announced that WR Ja’Marr Chase is questionable with a back issue.
The injury news to two of Burrow's favorite targets feels like a blow to Cincinnati's momentum. Still, we think Burrow is on too grand a roll and will find a way to make the shorthanded Bengals click on offense. Cincinnati 27, Houston 23.
San Francisco (5-3) at Jacksonville (6-2), 1:00 p.m. ET
In an unusual scheduling event, this game features two teams that both come off bye weeks.
The 49ers, especially on defense, looked like a team that really needed a week off. Rolling with five straight wins, Jacksonville probably wanted to play last week and sustain its momentum.
The big news for San Francisco during its down-time was the acquisition of defensive end Chase Young from Washington. The Niners’ pass rush was largely nonexistent during its three-game losing streak. Now they pair one of the truly elite physical talents in the NFL with Young’s former Ohio State teammate Nick Bosa — and that should alarm offensive tackles and coordinators throughout the NFC.
Should. Whether defensive coordinator Steve Wilks can parlay their new asset into a dominant pass rush is the question being asked around the Bay Area.
An early sample size will be available Sunday as the 49ers defense faces a Jaguars offense led by Jacob Lawrence. The third-year QB played more efficiently during the team’s current five-game winning streak: he posted a QB rating of 90 or higher in each of the five. RB Travis Etienne Jr. is a big weapon for Lawrence, not just as a runner but as a receiver too. Etienne lined up wide and caught a 56-yard catch last week against the Steelers last week. Another favorite target of Lawrence is tight end Evan Engram, who grabbed a career-best 10 catches in Week 8.
Speaking of versatile running backs, San Francisco’s Christian McCaffrey looks to get himself untracked on Sunday. Lost in the criticism of the Niners issues on defense is that the team’s running game stalled big time in their three-game slide. The Niners hope for the return of left tackle Trent Williams, but his status (injured ankle) for Sunday is still day to day. His return may also be needed to keep Josh Allen (two sacks in Week 8, nine on the season) away from quarterback Brock Purdy.
The self-reflection afforded by the bye week will help the 49ers more than the Jaguars. Trent Williams will play and Purdy and the Niners defense will rebound. And Kyle Shanahan — with two weeks to prepare for an opponent — will present a game plan roaring with innovation. San Francisco 31, Jacksonville 23.
New Orleans (5-4) at Minnesota (5-4), 1:00 p.m. ET
Another intriguing game between two teams feeling pretty inspired about how things broke for them in recent games.
As with C.J. Stroud, eyeballs league wide will be on Josh Dobbs and how he follows up his Week 9 heroics in leading the Vikings to a comeback win in Atlanta. With a full of practice behind him, expect Dobbs to be even more comfortable with the Minnesota receiving corps. (Update: Tight end T. J. Hockenson is listed as questionable for Week 10 with a rib injury. Star WR Justin Jefferson, out since Week 5, was elevated to questionable this week.)
He goes up against an active and stingy Saints pass defense, which is No. 7 in yards allowed despite being near the bottom of the league in sacking the quarterback. When New Orleans does try to pressure Dobbs, they need to be aware of the quarterback’s elusiveness, which bedeviled the Falcons repeatedly in Week 9.
For New Orleans, this matchup against an improving Minnesota defense is another opportunity for Derek Carr and the Saints’ offense to find some consistency. But first the Saints must block Danielle Hunter, who leads the NFL in sacks with 10. Red-zone issues continue to hound New Orleans, though they face a Vikings defense that is not very stout inside the 20. The Vikings back end needs to worry about containing New Orleans’ lethal big-play threat Rashid Shaheed, who leads the league with a 19.3 yards per catch average.
Minnesota has won four in a row and will be returning home to U.S. Bank Stadium, which promises to be rocking. We think Dobbs and the Vikings bottled something in their thrilling victory over the Falcons. Minnesota 27, New Orleans 17.
Green Bay (3-5) at Pittsburgh (5-3), 1:00 p.m. ET
The Steelers seem to catch a lot of breaks in their 2023 schedule, which partly explains why a team so flawed is 5-3 in the NFL’s toughest division.
This week, Pittsburgh hosts a Packers team that labored in (and lost) games leading up to Week 9. But in its victory over the Rams at Lambeau, the Green Bay offense finally discovered a running game. Aaron Jones rushed for a season-high 73 yards rushing, and the improved ground game helped quarterback Jordan Love achieve his most efficient passing day of the season. The Steelers’ defense is one of the league’s worst at defending the run, allowing 133 yards rushing per game. So expect RB Jones to test out that defense early.
To repeat that balance, the Green Bay OL needs to handle star end T.J. Watt (9.5 sacks) and limit a Steelers pass rush that is among the best at harrying NFL quarterbacks. If the Pack’s offensive line can pass protect, we see Love working the middle of the field with rookie tight end Luke Musgrave, who caught his first touchdown pass in Week 9 and seems primed to be a bigger factor in Green Bay’s passing attack.
Pittsburgh is coming off 10 days from its Week 9 win over Tennessee. For all the criticism directed at him for his and the offense’s slow starts, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett did not throw an interception in his last four games. His improved play seems to correspond with the return of WR Diontae Johnson, who caught 20 passes for 259 yards in his last three games.
Pittsburgh’s running game, as did Green Bay’s, enjoyed a veritable explosion with 166 rushing yards against the Titans’ defense. The Packers’ run defense (124 yards per game) is not appreciably better than the Steelers’. So the winner of this game may well be the team that establishes and sticks with its ground game.
The Packers win over the Matt Stafford-less Rams feels like an aberration. A rested Steelers team that seems to be gaining confidence with each ugly win will successfully run the ball and stay within striking distance of the AFC North lead. Pittsburgh 23, Green Bay 13.
Tennessee Titans (3-5) at Tampa Bay (3-5), 1:00 p.m., ET
The Bucs may be still be reeling from a crushing loss last week to the Texans in which they were on the wrong end of a historic QB performance.
Now the Tampa defense turns around to find another hotshot young QB loading up, ready to throw haymakers.
Rookie quarterback Will Levis takes on a Bucs secondary that relinquished 470 yards and five TDs to Houston’s C.J. Stroud. Levis himself is just two weeks removed from his own sterling performance, a four-TD in his first ever NFL start, against Atlanta.
For Levis to even approach Stroud’s day — or even his own stunning debut — the rookie from Kentucky needs to reacquaint himself with DeAndre Hopkins. The veteran wideout caught three of Levis’ four TDs against the Falcons but was shut out in the second half by Pittsburgh in the Titans' Week 9 loss.
Overlooked in the Bucs’ defensive collapse to Houston was the stellar clutch play of quarterback Baker Mayfield, who engineered a last-minute drive to give Tampa what looked to be an exciting road win. Oddly enough, Mayfield struggles more at home in 2023 than on the road. Tennessee pressures the quarterback well enough but is really deficient on the back end, meaning Mayfield and receiver Mike Evans might be able to exploit the Tennessee pass defense for multiple chunk plays.
Oftentimes, games between teams fading into oblivion produce the most compelling contests. Not saying that is happening here but…fingers crossed. Tampa Bay 28, Tennessee 23.
Detroit (6-2) at Los Angeles Chargers (4-4), 4:05 p.m. ET
Easily the most captivating game in the late window, the Lions come off a bye and face a Chargers team that is the gridiron definition of inconsistency.
The Lions’ offense welcomes back RB David Montgomery from injury this week. Pairing the hard-running Montgomery with the elusive and speedy rookie RB Jahmyr Gibbs (152 yards rushing in Week 8) gives Detroit a dynamic backfield duo to complement Jared Goff and the passing game.
This week, the Lions face a talented but enigmatic LA defense. The Chargers trot out as good a pass-rushing tandem as there is in the NFL in defensive ends Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. (Update: Bosa did not practice Thursday because of illness. His status for Sunday is not yet certain.) It is an opportunistic unit, which caused 15 turnovers in its first eight games. Still, the Chargers allow a whopping 378 yards of offense, which is 30th in the league. If Goff has time and avoids turning the ball over, Detroit should move the ball at will.
Maybe the most riveting matchup of this game will be the Justin Herbert-led LA offense against a Detroit defense that is ranked fifth overall. Whether the Los Angeles offense can keep DE Aidan Hutchinson in check bears watching, as will the Lions’ secondary and what they can do to contain WR Keenan Allen and RB Austin Ekeler coming out of the backfield.
Though on the road, Detroit’s physicality just packs too much of a punch. Also, another week of LA’s criminally ineffective running game will put too much pressure on Herbert, who will make a couple of key mistakes. We are big believers in the Silver-n-Blue. Detroit 30, Los Angeles 20.
Atlanta (4-5) at Arizona (1-8), 4:05 p.m. ET
With a win, the Falcons are back to .500 and back in the NFC South title chase.
With 59 total yards and a field goal, Arizona’s offense bests its effort from last week.
Yes, Arizona has a very low bar to clear in improving on one of the epically awful offensive performances in post-merger NFL history. Fortunately, they do not face as imposing a defense in Atlanta as they did in Cleveland. Also, the Cardinals announced Friday they will change their tune — QB Clayton Tune, that is — and start Kyler Murray at quarterback. Murray has not played since Week 14 of last season, so it seems foolish to expect Murray to reverse the fortunes of the least talented roster in the NFL. Still, Murray is capable of making big plays and frustrating defenses with his elusiveness and ability to throw outside the pocket.
Atlanta — along with Tampa Bay and Dallas — is one of the hangover teams that must pull itself together after a tough Week 9 defeat. Taylor Heinicke will again start at quarterback but should not take lightly an Arizona pass defense (No. 17 in the NFL) that acquitted itself well in Cleveland despite getting support from its own offense. (Heinicke and the passing game look forward to the return of receiver Drake London, who missed last week's game with a groin injury.)
Arizona’s run defense is a different matter, and maybe this is finally the week Atlanta rookie RB Bijan Robinson is fully utilized. The scintillating back did not log more than 14 carries in any of the last six games, and carried only 11 times in each of the last two. True, his backfield mate, Tyler Allgeier, is a tough, gritty runner but Robinson is a game-changer and his big-play talents were wasted in recent games.
Heinicke is calling this game, right before the Falcons' bye week, his team's "Super Bowl." Hyperbole aside, we do expect a focused Falcons team to show up in the desert, and for Robinson to finally break loose and lead the Falcons to victory. Atlanta 27, Arizona 10.
New York Giants (2-7) at Dallas (5-3), 4:25 p.m. ET
The Giants hope that Dallas, in the days immediately following its tough loss to Philadelphia, failed to drink enough water and take some Vitamin B.
A Cowboys’ hangover seems to be the only way this Week 10 game is competitive.
The Giants lost big in Week 9 to a bad Raiders team and, in the process, lost QB Daniel Jones for the remainder of the season. He is replaced again by backup Tommy DeVito, who played OK in stretches against Vegas but needs to protect the ball better if New York is to have a chance. Another key for the Giants’ offense will be whether Saquon Barkley contributes. The talented RB possesses the ability to take over a game, but the Giants must be in the game first to for him to have an impact.
Dallas’ offense, meanwhile, is starting to roll. QB Dak Prescott played his best football of the season in the last two games, throwing for over 300 yards in each. He and WR CeeDee Lamb are in a cordoned-off zone right now, with the WR grabbing 23 passes for 348 yards and two scores in the last two games. The Giants’ pass defense is No. 11 in the NFL, so Lamb against the Giants' DBs could be the most interesting matchup of the day.
With Micah Parsons and a Dallas defense starting to reassert itself and going up against maybe the second worst offensive line in the city of New York, we see the game getting out of hand quickly. Any hangover from the Philadelphia loss will morph into a fury by kickoff. Dallas 38, New York Giants 10.
Washington (4-5) at Seattle (5-3), 4:25 p.m. ET
It might slip under a lot of people’s radar, but it is not a stretch to call this a big game for both teams. A road win for Washington evens their record and improves their playoff hopes as an NFC wild card. If Seattle wins they maintain at the very least a share of the NFC West lead.
The Commanders landed a big road win in Foxboro last week but face a bigger challenge in the Pacific Northwest, where Seattle dealt all week with the embarrassment of its performance in the loss at Baltimore.
A reason for optimism for Washington is that QB Sam Howell, in an otherwise up-and-down season, comes off two good outings in a row, throwing for 722 yards and five touchdowns in the pair. But the game could very well be decided by what happens when a poor Washington running game collides with a Seattle run defense torn asunder by the Ravens in Week 9. Washington did run the ball better against the Eagles (84 yards) and New England (124), which, in turn seemed to elevate the passing game.
A strong day from back Brian Robinson Jr. could mean Howell and WR Terry McLaurin take it to Seattle's young secondary.
Geno Smith and the Seahawks offense managed just six first downs and converted 1-of-12 on third downs against the Ravens. After throwing just one INT in the first four games of this season, Smith threw six in the last four. The Commanders’ pass defense is beatable; they allowed 19 touchdown passes this season, the second most in the NFL.
The Ravens absolutely throttled the Seattle running game. It makes sense that Seattle head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron will come out with a game plan that features running backs Kenneth Walker Jr. and Zach Charbonnet.
The return home is just what Seattle needs to point their offense in the right direction. We think this game will be a close one and give the edge to Seattle because it is playing before its rabid fanbase. Seattle 23, Washington 20
New York Jets (4-4) at Los Vegas (4-5), 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC
What a difference a week can make in the NFL. Heading into Week 9, the Jets were riding a three-game winning streak and looking to prove to a national MNF audience their playoff worthiness.
Cue the sharp sound of a stylus being abruptly dragged across a vinyl record.
The Jets offense stank up MetLife Stadium and betrayed yet another game performance by its defense. Their offensive line, riddled by injuries and poor play, got manhandled by the Chargers' front seven.
For the Jets to rebound in Vegas, their offense needs to be better but quick. It starts with the basics — being able to line up without committing a penalty, something they struggled doing against the Chargers on Monday. The offensive line needs to look something other than a group of Mr. Beans trying to block NFL defenders, otherwise Jets fans can count on Vegas' Maxx Crosby (9.5 sacks) to be every bit as unruly as Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack were for the Chargers.
New York also needs to run the ball. The prospects of Zach Wilson facing Crosby and a Raiders pass defense ranked No. 8 in the NFL is not a welcomed one.
Reeling from their own MNF embarrasment in Week 8, the Raiders fired Josh McDaniels and rode the fiery energy of interim coach Antonio Pierce to a smackdown of the Giants last week at home.
For the Raiders to beat two Big Apple teams in a row, keeping turnovers to a minimum will be key. The Jets' pass defense is also a rough at bat. Against the Giants, Vegas QB Aidan O'Connell was the antidote to a half season of Jimmy Garoppolo turnovers — he did not commit one in the Vegas win. O'Connell playing error-free will be even more important this Sunday as the Jets stole wins earlier this year thanks to their opportunistic pass defense.
But New York's run defense is another matter. This feels like a Josh Jacobs game, and we think he, the Raiders defense and Pierce's sideline charisma will dominate. Las Vegas 20, New York 10.
Denver (3-5) at Buffalo (4-5), 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Seems like Josh Allen and the Bills are always playing in prime time, which makes them a more visible target when they put up inconsistent if not poor performances.
And such performances are legion in 2023.
Despite its rollercoaster of a season, Buffalo stays within a game of the AFC East lead with a win over Denver. For the Broncos, Monday night is almost a must-win situation if they are to entertain any thoughts of making a postseason run.
Denver's hopes for an upset seem much more realistic than it did a few weeks ago, when its defense was the laughingstock of the NFL.
No more. Broncos' defensive coordinator Vance Joseph should be a leading contender for AP Assistant Coach of the Year for the turnaround he has engineered. After being dead last in points allowed for much of the season, the Denver defense held each of its last three opponents to under 20 points. Two of those games were against the mighty Chiefs offense, which Joseph's group limited to just one touchdown drive in the two games.
The Broncos defense has also held two of its three opponents to less than 100 yards rushing and goes up against a Bills' offense that is often sabotaged by its ineffective running game. Something has to give there.
Of course, there's the other side of the ball to consider. Though he threw for three TDs in the win over Kansas City, Denver quarterback Russell Wilson has not thrown for at least 200 yards in a game since the Week 4 comeback win over Chicago. If the Denver defense slips a bit from its recent play, then Wilson, Jerry Jeudy and the rest of Sean Payton's passing game will need to step up and make big plays to get the road win.
Coming off a bye, we think Payton will have ready a game plan that allows them to do just. Look for a back-and-forth contest and an upset to boot. Denver 24, Buffalo 23.