Every matchup on a given weekend has some significance, but five games on the Week 10 NFL schedule carries more long-term importance.
However, the list is not focused on what most football fans would consider the best games of the weekend. The main element is how impactful the outcome will be on the playoff picture.
5. Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh is officially in survival mode. Ben Roethlisberger will be sidelined because of a mid-foot sprain, so Landry Jones will temporarily take over under center. Although the team currently holds the sixth spot in the AFC, a win over Cleveland is a necessity.
The Steelers will be off next week, and the post-bye slate against the Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos await. Since Pittsburgh likely must finish at least 4-3 to challenge for the postseason, a slip-up against the Browns could be tremendously costly.
4. Minnesota Vikings vs. Oakland Raiders
Despite a 6-2 start and a share of the NFC North lead, Minnesota has plenty of doubters. Considering it has the second-toughest remaining slate in the conference, there’s good reason. The Vikings could silence a few more critics with a win over a playoff-contending Raiders team, though.
Yeah, you read that correctly. Oakland could be headed for the postseason. But after falling to the Steelers last week, the 4-4 record sans a tiebreaker over a potential Wild Card team is an issue. Plus, the Kansas City Chiefs (twice), Broncos, Packers and San Diego Chargers loom in the future. None of those are easy wins. The Raiders need victories right now.
3. Chicago Bears vs. St. Louis Rams
If the Rams managed to ascend the NFC standings, it’d be an amazing story. But once again, the remaining schedule is a serious problem. St. Louis sits at 4-4, and the second Wild Card team will likely need 10 wins.
Following the matchup with Chicago, the Rams run into the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals on the road, host the Arizona Cardinals and later travel to face the Seattle Seahawks. St. Louis could lose three of those four contests, bringing its best possible finish to 9-7. If the Rams lose to the Bears, they miss the playoffs. Simple as that.
2. Buffalo Bills vs. New York Jets
Although the Thursday Night Football schedule has been relatively mediocre, Week 10’s game is a critical battle. Buffalo (4-4) can’t afford to fall two games behind the 5-3 Jets, who need to pull away from contenders while sitting atop the Wild Card standings.
The AFC East rivals also square off during Week 17, and the victor of this tiebreaker likely earns a place in the postseason. Whichever team wins on Sunday will have the early edge.
1. Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle Seahawks
The eyes of football fans are regularly glued to the television for Sunday Night Football, but the final game should be required viewing in Week 10. Both the Cardinals and Seahawks are coming off a bye week, so they’ll be rested and prepared for a pivotal NFC West clash.
Arizona (6-2) can put some serious distance between itself and Seattle (4-4), which struggled through an unimpressive first half of the season punctuated by a one-point win over an awful Dallas Cowboys team without Tony Romo. With a win, concerns about the Seahawks lessen. With a loss, Seattle needs a scorching finish to even be mentioned as a playoff team.