Texans-Bears marquee matchup of NFL Week 10
By JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency
|Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is tackled by Texans linebacker Connor Barwin as defensive end J.J. Watt (left) and nose tackle Earl Mitchell close in at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Tex., Nov. 4, 2012. (RICHARD CARSON/Reuters)
FIVE STORIES TO WATCH FOR WEEK 10
1. The 7-1 Texans vs. 7-1 Bears Sunday night
Game of the week? You betch'yer booty. And it has all the makings of a helluva game (which means one team will win in a blowout, probably). Can Houston play well against a strong NFC team? We all want to know. Two strong defences, two good quarterbacks, two versatile running backs. Can't wait.
2. The Sean Payton watch
Honest to goodness, has one pro sports team ever commanded so much bad press as the New Orleans Saints in one year? Seriously. So Payton, the suspended head coach, might be a free agent at season's end. More drama in the Big Uneasy, which only goes away if the commish rules that Payton's contract rolls over to 2013. Otherwise, bidders will line up -- fast.
3. Speaking of potential Payton bidders ...
The first of the NFC East's two Beleagured Bowls takes place on Sunday -- aka Dallas at Philadelphia. A pair of teams intent on unseating the Giants have but three wins apiece. The losing coach -- Philly's Andy Reid or Dallas' Jason Garrett -- faces more grief than Charlie Brown at a week of Christmas plays.
4. Andrew Luck
This year's No. 1 overall draft pick had a slow start, especially compared to RGIII. But in leading his Indianapolis Colts to three consecutive wins, Luck is throwing at an elite level -- 72-of-115 for 916 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT and a 126.9 passer rating. With lame Jacksonville up next, look for more great numbers on Sunday.
5. NFC North's wildcard elimination game?
Because Chicago and Green Bay appear to be in good position to lock up the division title and the first NFC wildcard spot, respectively, the loser of this week's Detroit-Minnesota game will see its playoff hopes imperiled. The Vikes (5-4) beat the Lions (4-4) in September thanks to two kick-return TDs.
STOCK GOING UP
The Indy Colts. Chuck Pagano was right when he told his team Sunday that nobody expected them to be 5-3 in early November. And this feel-good story isn't over. Here are Indy's remaining opponents: at Jags, at Patriots, Bills, at Lions, Titans, at Texans, at Chiefs and Texans in Week 17, when they'll probably rest most key starters. Four more wins there and Indy might make the playoffs. Wow.
STOCK GOING DOWN
The New York Giants offence suddenly is in a funk. We suspect it's a temporary funk, that it might have a lot to do with the rigours of a ridiculously hard schedule, and with star WR Hakeem Nicks and star RB Ahmad Bradshaw not practising much in recent weeks. But still. There's a hole to climb out of now.
ON THE HOT SEAT
You can add Buffalo Bills head coach, Chan Gailey. While GM Buddy Nix insists Gailey has nothing to worry about, the anger will really start to flow in Western New York if/once Buffalo loses at New England, to fall to 3-6. Gailey is 13-27 (.325) so far in Buffalo.
HYPE WE'RE BUYING
Any defence that can hold Eli Manning and the New York Giants to three three-and-outs during the fourth quarter of a tight game has me convinced. The Pittsburgh Steelers defence, under co-ordinator Dick LeBeau, has done wonders patching itself together and into a stout unit after being embarrassed by Denver and Oakland in September.
HYPE WE'RE NOT
Something has gone wrong with the suddenly sputtering Baltimore Ravens offence. We're not convinced the comeback win in Cleveland has corrected anything. After scoring touchdowns on a pair of game-opening drives, Joe Flacco and the Ravens offence disappeared -- gaining one first down on their next eight drives -- before rescuing themselves with a late game-winning touchdown.
Sometimes going for it on fourth down is dumb. Case in point, when the Washington Redskins had just driven 78 yards in 15 plays, taking up more than 10 minutes, to get to the Carolina two-yard line. Instead of kicking a field goal, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan went for it, and failed. I woulda kicked a field goal; they needed points off that drive.
The Buffalo Bills have one of the best 1-2 punches in the NFL at running back in C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson -- plus one of the least dynamic passers in Ryan Fitzpatrick. So, of course, Bills coach Chan Gailey barely ran it at Houston -- 16 times compared with 38 passes. Complete fail. Gailey shoulda run it much more.
The Cincinnati Bengals coulda got back into the AFC playoff hunt if they had hung on after jumping ahead of the Denver Broncos, 20-17, early in the fourth quarter. But the Bengals defence let Peyton Manning pilot the Broncos on two consecutive touchdown drives. Now Cinci is 3-5.
GOAT OF THE WEEK
His career in Year 2 was up-shooting nicely earlier in the season, as we noted. But for the second time in three weeks, the Minnesota Vikings quarterback failed to throw for even 65 yards, in a loss at Seattle. He completed just 11 passes. Ponder's Vikes are still 5-4 but play Detroit, Chicago (twice) and Green Bay next. Eesh.
HERO OF THE WEEK
At this rate, Doug Martin might run for 300 yards in his next game. The rookie running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers amassed 251 yards and scored four touchdowns (one, 45, 67 and 70 yards) to lead his team to a 42-32 win at Oakland over the Raiders. The win raised the Bucs record to 4-4. Martin has 487 yards from scrimmage the past two weeks.
ZERO OF THE WEEK
His poor decision late in the loss to the Baltimore Ravens might ultimately cost him his job as Cleveland Browns coach. Trailing 22-15 with 3:53 to go, two timeouts left and his offence facing fourth-and-two on its own 28, he went for it. Brandon Weeden threw a deep pass, incomplete. The Ravens didn't need to pick up one yard, and didn't, to kick a field goal to ice the victory, with 2:53 still to go. Unreal.