Week 10 in the NFL is accompanied by a slew of match-ups that will have a big-game feel to them and a whole host of postseason implications resting on them. Here’s a look at the big three, if you will, and how they are likely to pan out come the end of Sunday’s slate.
Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints
Atlanta (8-0, 4-0 road) will take its undefeated streak on the road this weekend, traveling to the Superdome to take on New Orleans (3-5, 2-2 home).
Until the Falcons beat a quality opponent, their unbeaten record will come with an asterisk. Unfortunately for the Falcons, as it stands, only one team (NY Giants) is left on the schedule with a winning record. That being said, four division games remain, each of which will pose a tough threat.
New Orleans is looking for win for the fourth time in five games, a statistic that would certainly suggest the Saints are finally righting the ship. That makes New Orleans a dangerous team this weekend.
Both teams have excelled at passing the football this season, so expect more of the same. However, both sides are porous when it comes to defending the rush, so were one to take advantage of the running game – as New Orleans dis last week against Philadelphia – sufficient progress could be made.
Odds: Atlanta has become a three-point favorite after the spread opened at evens. The over/under is 54, up one-half point on opening.
Take: New Orleans – Can you ever remember an undefeated team this late in the season that wasn’t favored over a team with a 3-5 record? That’s how this one opened, and although Atlanta is a narrow favorite now, New Orleans is worth the gamble, particularly as the side has won 10 of the last 12 meetings. There’s little chance that this will be anything but a tight finish though. Take the total to go over; both teams rank in the top eight in the league in scoring.
Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles
It’s do-or-die time in the NFC East already, as the Dallas Cowboys (3-5, 2-3 road) visit the Philadelphia Eagles (3-5, 2-2 home).
These two long-term rivals are both desperately in need of a win if they’re to catch the Giants in the NFC East or book a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Both coaches may well be on the hot seat also, as the teams have underachieved.
For Dallas the major problem has been turnovers. For Philadelphia, consistent play calling and protecting the quarterback have turned a promising start into a miserable season.
There’s a certain amount of parity between the sides that goes beyond the team’s records. Dallas is 14th in the league in scoring, while Philadelphia is 15th. Dallas is 18th when it comes to opponents scoring while Philadelphia is 19th.
Dallas leads the all-time head-to-head 59-47 but Philadelphia has won three of the last four including two straight.
Odds: After opening as two-point favorites, the Eagles are now two-point underdogs. The over/under is 44½, one point lower that at opening.
Take: Dallas – Philadelphia hasn’t won three straight against the Cowboys since 2004, and won’t buck that trend this weekend. The lack in face of bookmakers, who have adjusted the favorite in this one, is just. The Eagles are 1-6-1 ATS this season, so take the Cowboys to cover the spread. Take the under; 10 games involving the Cowboys and Eagles have seen the total go under.
Houston Texans @ Chicago Bears
And finally, the biggest game of the weekend, and perhaps the season so far.
Houston (7-1, 3-0 road) takes its AFC best record into Soldier Field to take on a Chicago (7-1, 4-0 home) team that trails only Atlanta in the NFC.
Like Atlanta, Chicago has faced some criticism for a soft opening schedule, having only beaten one side with a winning record. Unlike the Falcons, Chicago’s road to the Super Bowl gets much tougher, with seven of its last eight coming against opponents with a winning record.
Chicago has gotten a lot of offensive assistance from its defense this season. The Bears’ have returned seven interceptions for touchdowns and forced 28 turnovers in total. Charles Tillman forced four fumbles by himself last week against Tennessee. But Houston will not be as easy a mark as the Titans.
The Texans have turned the ball over just six times this season, complimenting what is one of, if not the most balanced team in the league. The side ranks fourth in scoring and third in opponents’ scoring. Believe it or not, the Texans defense, which ranks fourth and second in pass and rush defense, is better on paper than the Bears.
Odds: Chicago is one-point favorites after the spread opened even. The over/under has dropped from 43 to 40.
Take: Chicago – Homefield advantage may be the only factor separating these two sides so it’s worth taking the Bears to win a very close one. With the spread at one point, the Bears will cover. This one has all the markings of an epic defensive struggle, so take the total to go under.
Week 10 Schedule
Thursday: Indianapolis 27-10 Jacksonville
Sunday: (1 PM ET) Oakland @ Baltimore | Denver @ Carolina | NY Giants @ Cincinnati | Tennessee @ Miami | Detroit @ Minnesota | Buffalo @ New England | Atlanta @ New Orleans | San Diego @ Tampa Bay; (4:05 PM ET) NY Jets @ Seattle; (4:25 PM ET) Dallas @ Philadelphia | St. Louis @ San Francisco; (8:20 PM ET) Houston @ Chicago
Monday: (8:30 PM ET) Kansas City @ Pittsburgh
Bye: Arizona, Cleveland, Green Bay, Washington