NFL Week 10 Storylines: Can McCarthy’s Cowboys hand Packers a sixth straight loss?

Nine weeks down, nine more to go. The NFL season can feel like a bit of a marathon at times but once we hit the halfway point of the season it’s time to pick up the pace and prepare to sprint down the stretch.

In addition to wreaking havoc on the betting lines, the long list of injuries piling up at the mid-season mark is shaping – and, in some cases, derailing – some intriguing Week 10 storylines we’ve had circled on the calendar the past few weeks.

Here’s what we’re watching in each game this weekend.

Seahawks (6-3) @ Buccaneers (4-5) | Sunday 9:30 a.m. (in Munich)

Nothing to see here. Just a totally normal first half of the season for a couple of NFC teams meeting in Munich this Sunday.

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Lions (2-6) @ Bears (3-6) | Sunday 1 p.m.

The Lions are coming off a stunning victory over the Green Bay Packers for their second win of the season, while the Bears are coming off a shootout loss to Miami that felt like a win. Justin Fields threw for three touchdowns and ran for one more against the Dolphins last week, building off another solid offensive effort against Dallas one game earlier. Is the sophomore QB turning a corner?

Broncos (3-5) @ Titans (5-3) | Sunday 1 p.m.

Tennessee’s defence will be missing a trio of its top weapons in Jeffery Simmons, Bud Dupree, and Amani Hooker but could welcome back QB1 Ryan Tannehill. Denver, meanwhile, has an opportunity for a fresh start down the stretch as the Broncos come off the bye and look to build on Week 8’s win over Jacksonville across the pond.

Vikings (7-1) @ Bills (6-2) | Sunday 1 p.m.

The mystery around Josh Allen’s condition has been building all week with his absence from back-to-back practices Wednesday and Thursday. The quarterback suffered what the team is calling an elbow injury in last Sunday’s loss to the Jets.

This video captured Friday only added to the intrigue, as did head coach Sean McDermott calling Allen’s status not just day-to-day but hour-to-hour:

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Allen’s top-secret designation is the biggest storyline here, but he’s not the only Bill in question with the power to significantly shape this game. Star defender Tre’Davious White is day-to-day and it’s unclear if he’ll be ready to make his season debut just yet.

In other words, this Sunday could bring the long-awaited true test for the 7-1 Vikings – the one that will reveal whether Minnesota really is this good – or… it could be the Case Keenum revenge game.

Texans (1-6-1) @ Giants (6-2) | Sunday 1 p.m.

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Jaguars (3-6) @ Chiefs (6-2) | Sunday 1 p.m.

Sports Illustrated NFL insider Albert Breer released the results of his annual mid-season poll on Friday, in which he surveys NFL executives to get an inside perspective on the best performers on the field. Unsurprisingly, Patrick Mahomes – he of a league-leading 2,605 passing yards and 21 TDs – was the mid-season MVP by a mile.

Browns (3-5) @ Dolphins (6-3) | Sunday 1 p.m.

In that same poll in which NFL executives piled on the praise for Patrick Mahomes as mid-season MVP, the overwhelming favourite for offensive player of the year was his former teammate Tyreek Hill.

Fun fact ahead of this matchup against the Browns: Hill’s 1,104 receiving yards on the season so far is almost exactly double that of Cleveland’s top target, Amari Cooper (553) and sits just six yards below that of the Browns’ entire wide receiver group combined (1,110).

Saints (3-6) @ Steelers (2-6) | Sunday 1 p.m.

How about some good injury news, for a change?

Yes, T.J. Watt is officially back.

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Watt suffered a pectoral tear in at the very end of Pittsburgh’s season opener against Cincinnati – a game he’d absolutely dominated, registering six tackles, a sack, and an interception.

Colts (3-5-1) @ Raiders (2-6) | Sunday 4:05 p.m.

Eight games into the 2022 season, the Raiders have already blown three 17-point leads, lost two of their best offensive weapons to injured reserve, and on Thursday announced the sudden retirement of linebacker Blake Martinez after he put up the best stats of his season on Sunday.

And yet, everything is looking juuust fine compared to what’s happening in Indianapolis. Sunday’s game against the Colts marks the debut of rookie head coach Jeff Saturday, whose hiring by team owner Jim Irsay caught everyone by surprise (understatement) and threw Indy even deeper into chaos (another understatement). The outlook continued to spiral with Friday’s news that defensive star Shaq Leonard has been placed on injured reserve.

Cardinals (3-6) @ Rams (3-5) | Sunday 4:25 p.m.

A must-win game between two massively underperforming NFC West teams might now be a battle of the backups after the status of Matthew Stafford (questionable for Sunday with a concussion) and Kyler Murray (game-time decision, hamstring) were both called into question this week.

John Wolford and Colt McCoy are the backups.

Cowboys (6-2) @ Packers (3-6) | Sunday 4:25 p.m.

A bad Packers season just got so much worse with injuries to Rashan Gary, Eric Stokes, and Romeo Doubs. It’s worth wondering whether this disastrous first half of the season affects the kind of homecoming long-time Packers coach Mike McCarthy gets when he rolls into town at the helm of the defensively dominant Dallas Cowboys in hopes of handing Green Bay its sixth straight loss.

McCarthy was emotional when he told reporters about his connection to his former home, where he was head coach of the Packers from 2006 to 2018.

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Chargers (5-3) @ 49ers (4-4) | Sunday 8:20 p.m.

The Chargers are about to embark on back-to-back Sunday Night Football appearances after NBC flexed into Chiefs-Chargers in Week 11. Two straight prime-time spotlights for Justin Herbert is great news for football fans, but perhaps not such a welcome development for the Chargers’ defence – particularly in the area San Francisco thrives most.

Kyle Shanahan and Christian McCaffrey have had an extra week to gameplan against L.A.’s porous run defence – the Chargers are giving up a league-worst 5.7 yards per carry this season – which could spell trouble.

Commanders (4-5) @ Eagles (8-0) | Monday 8:15 p.m.

The Commanders had their worst offensive game in Week 3’s 24-8 loss to Philadelphia, and while this divisional rematch features a different QB (Taylor Heinicke has since replaced Carson Wentz) the dominant Eagles just seem to be getting better and better with each week.

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