So with the regular season officially more than half over, we are seeing more teams suffering from publicly revealed in-house disorder than I can remember having previously witnessed. Yet the franchises enduring the ills of infighting managed to fiercely compete and make all football worth watching. As much as fans complain when their teams lose or struggle, I’m using the Week 10 NFL Match-Up Mania as a tribute to players who dug deep in the most desperate debacle of situations to gather mind and risk body to do the right thing in giving their all to earn their paycheck and offer the fans what they want on Sundays.
Saints v. Cowboys
Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan comes back to face his previous playground in Dallas the week after his brother Rex Ryan and the New York Jets pulled off the upset against his Saints. As much as fans and media may give QB Tony Romo too much blame for the woes of the Cowboys, I would be hard pressed to find those same haters believing that Jets Geno Smith is a better QB than he. Combined with TE Jason Witten and WR Dez Bryant, this offense may leave Rob Ryan with more headaches and disappointment.
The more picky gridiron goer may notice that I’m writing about the ‘Who Dat Nation’ and I didn’t lead with the offense. Sure, QB Drew Brees and TE Jimmy Graham are among the most dangerous connections in the NFL, but unfortunately for New Orleans, Graham is the only big name receiving not currently battling injury. WR Marques Colston still suffers with his knee while the threat of out the backfield and on special teams is reduced with RB Darren Sproles getting banged up in week 9. That’s why the Saints defense is so important in this game. If the Cowboys go mistake free and score as they did putting up 48 against the Denver Broncos, Brees and company may be in trouble.
What makes me so sure the Cowboys go mistake free? The Saints exhibit the kind of weak running defense that Cowboy RB DeMarco Murray has used to build a name for himself. If anyone saw the way former New Orleans RB Chris Ivory shredded his old team as a Jet last week, there’s plenty of reason to think Murray will do the same. While it’s difficult to imply Brees will let a crucial NFC game like this slide, I feel like too many negative factors are beyond even his control as Dallas remains in command of the top of the NFC East.
Broncos v. Chargers
For anyone who has listened to any of my weekly sports talk shows or read my printed pieces, I have a history of a lack of confidence in San Diego. Nonetheless, even with a 4-4 record, the Chargers are owed credit for winning at least 2 contests against the Colts and Cowboys that they weren’t expected to win. Unfortunately, for them it’s embarrassing exploits like losing to the Raiders in an upset that leads them to the precarious predicament of sitting 5 games out of the AFC West divisional lead with an 0-1 divisional record. It’s bad enough they are stuck in the standings against QB Peyton Manning and the Broncos, but losing games you shouldn’t is a killer when jockeying for division position with a 9-0 Kansas City Chiefs squad.
But there is a force that brings more fear in me than the Bolts — The Denver Defense. With Manning being mauled of late in games due to injuries on his O-line and the Mile High defense giving up long passes early and often, there is a noted blue print for victory here against the Broncos.
While the Chargers have TE Antonio Gates and my midseason Offensive Rookie of the year WR Keenan Allen to assist QB Phillip Rivers routing the Broncos in the air, I fail to see the sort of production in place necessary for San Diego’s defense to disrupt the assortment of All-Pros on Denver’s offense. This means this game is a shootout which leads the Chargers to a 4-5 overall record.
Panthers v. Niners
This game is one of those that appears to be easy to pick, but I’m forced to subdue my personal Niner fanhood here. When I examine this closely, I see 2 teams very similarly built. As I briefly alluded to in last week’s Match-Up Mania, San Francisco’s Colin Kapernick and Carolina’s Cam Newton are of like styles as QBs. Both offenses are run oriented while featuring veteran anchors at WR as well as solid TE threats. Heck, both squads even rely on a tough defense.
When you have 2 ground and pound teams, all it takes is one mistake to turn the tide of the game. With the Panthers playing for post season and the 49ers fighting to fortify their spot in the NFC West, both squads need a win this game. When it comes to avoiding mistakes, Coach Jim Harbaugh brings me more confidence than Ron Rivera.
Kyle Nash — @TheSoTG on Twitter
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