NFL Week 10 Recap: The Plot Thickens

It doesn't seem like it would be a whole lot of fun at the moment to rehash what happened during the Pittsburgh Steelers' 39-26 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday night. So instead, I'm taking a tour around the National Football League to recap what went down and what it all means to the Steelers as the 2010 season begins its second half in earnest.

* Why not start with the New York Giants, a team that was also 6-2 heading into Week 10? Nobody in their right mind would ever claim that the visiting Dallas Cowboys are a more complete team than the Giants. But in this strange and wacky league where anything and everything can and will happen each week, the Cowboys outclassed the Giants resoundingly with the creaky Jon Kitna under center. Just goes to show you how volatile the league is on a weekly basis, as well as how momentum and small mental edges can mean the difference between looking like a team that's quit and a team that looks inspired and talented enough to beat anybody. Not only that, it's a reminder that every team, contenders included, has a disastrous game or two each season.

* Wow, the Cleveland Browns come this close to pulling off the trifecta of shocking wins since losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 6. First, the Browns knocked off the defending champion Saints, then thrash the Patriots, only to fall in the final minute of overtime this past Sunday to the New York Jets. The Browns looked to be in business too in the extra period when wide receiver Chansi Stuckey took the ball inside the Jets 35 yard line on a catch and run. Oh no, he fumbles! The Jets ultimately won it with a 39-yard catch and run to the endzone by Santonio Holmes, the overtime hero for New York for the second consecutive week. The Browns let a tough one get away, but then again, three missed field goals by the Jets, including one that would have prevented overtime, made this puppy a bit more dramatic than it should have been. Nevertheless, the Browns continue to impress, with Colt McCoy still yet to turn the ball over.

* I know the Detroit Lions are playing an entertaining brand of football, and it's obvious they're doing things the right way under new head coach Jim Schwarz who learned a thing or two about building a winning program during his long tenure coordinating Jeff Fisher's defenses in Tennessee. Still, just do not ever bet on them away from Ford Field. The Lions extended their road losing streak to 25 games by losing 16-14 to the previously winless Buffalo Bills. What's remarkable is that Detroit also has a road losing skid of 24 games earlier last decade (during the '03-'04 seasons). They're on the right track, but there's still a gazillion miles before they sleep.

* There are 19 teams in first place or within a single game of first place after this week's action. Washington, who I believe will win tonight, can make it 20 with a W. The NFL has to be giddy with excitement about just how suspenseful the final seven weeks of the season are going to be. I don't have the numbers handy, but my guess is there haven't been many, if any at all, seasons in the past two decades where every last team has two or more losses through the first 9 games. There simply are no dominant front-runners this year.

* I've heard people try to project the playoff records in the AFC and NFC this year. Prior to this weekend, people argued that 12 might not be enough in the AFC for one unlucky team. Hogwash. First of all, the winner of the AFC West isn't going to finish with more than 11 wins, and really it's more likely that the division is won with 10 or even 9 games. It's highly unlikely that both the Steelers and the Ravens both get to 12 either, and we can write off Tennessee's chances after their recent loss. They'd need to run the table to get to 12 wins.  I'll go to the other extreme in fact and say that no more than three teams finish with 12 wins in the entire AFC, with even just two being a possibility.

As for the NFC, my guess is that there will be a laundry list of teams trying to get to 9-7 for the second wild card spot. Just wait and see how crazy the playoff tiebreaker scenarios get in the NFC in the final weeks of the year. 

* For the second week in a row, the Bengals dig themselves an insurmountable hole in the game's opening quarter. Last week against the Steelers, it was a fumble on the opening kickoff and a quick 10 points for the Steelers. This week, Cincy turns it over twice in :14 seconds in the later stages of the 1st quarter and the Bengals fall behind by a quick 10 once more.They continue to fight hard until the final whistle, but that's got to be an increasingly demoralized group. Keep an eye on them to see if they continue playing hard for their pride in the final months. They've got a number of games against playoff contenders in the weeks to come.

* At 3-6, San Francisco is alive and kicking in the NFC West. Sad, but oh so true. They're just two games behind Seattle at this point, and the moment Matt Hasselbeck gets injured seriously in the upcoming weeks (the day is coming, just a matter of when), Seattle's chances are done.

* Know how crazy this year's been? A Hail Mary game-winner by the Jacksonville Jaguars only seems partially extraordinary to me. Hey, it's the Houston Texans. That's what they do - find ways to lose games. And as Bill Simmons so presciently predicted, Gus Johnson was on the call, meaning a wild ending was destined to happen.

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