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Top storylines for NFL Week 10

Vincent Frank

Week 10 of the NFL schedule offers us a bunch of interesting games. The slate concludes with MVP candidate Russell Wilson leading his 7-2 Seattle Seahawks into North California on Monday night to take on the undefeated 49ers.

Sunday’s action is no less interesting. Can Kirk Cousins and the Vikings rebound after last week’s loss to the Chiefs? The Carolina Panthers have a statement game against the Packers at Lambeau Field.

Over in the AFC, the Bills look to continue their hot run to start the season while Patrick Mahomes’ return to action in Kansas City changes the dynamic somewhat.

It’s in this that we give you our top storylines for Week 10 of the NFL season.

“Elimination” game in Northern California

At 4-5, the Los Angeles Chargers might have salvaged their season with consecutive wins against NFC North teams in that of the Bears and Packers. In fact, their victory over Green Bay in Week 9 could act as a stepping stone for Philip Rivers and Co.

On the other side, Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders are a surprising 4-4 through the first half of their schedule. Thursday night’s game in Northern California is going to be huge for these two teams now that the first-place Kansas City Chiefs are set get reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes back into the mix.

The end of the Cam Newton era in Carolina?

Fresh off a big win over the Tennessee Titans, Kyle Allen and the Panthers head into the second half of their schedule at 5-3. This has them right in the mix of the NFC Playoff race. It’s a surprising development with Cam Newton now out for the season with a Lisfranc injury.

Riding the MVP-caliber play of running back Christian McCaffrey, Carolina has a real opportunity to make a statement against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers on Sunday. It will head into Lambeau to take on a team reeling from a blowout loss to the above-mentioned Chargers and with renewed questions on offense. Continued success from Mr. Allen could also lead to Newton’s departure from Carolina next spring.

Ravens look to avoid a let down

On paper, Sunday’s game against the winless Cincinnati Bengals should be as lopsided as they come. Lamar Jackson and his Ravens are coming off a blowout win over the previously undefeated reigning champion New England Patriots. Cincinnati is 0-8 on the season and coming off its bye.

That’s just on the surface. Divisional games can get tricky. Half of Cincinnati’s losses have come by single digits, including narrow defeats at the hands of the Seahawks, Bills and these very same Ravens back in Week 6. Baltimore needs to bring it to avoid a let down against Zac Taylor’s squad, especially with rookie Ryan Finley making his initial regular season NFL start for Cincinnati.

Undefeated 49ers up against it

One could very well conclude that the Seattle Seahawks are in a must win situation Monday night against the NFL’s sole remaining undefeated team. Seattle needed a five-touchdown performance from likely league MVP Russell Wilson to dispose of the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. A loss here, and Seattle will fall a stunning 2.5 games behind San Francisco in the NFC West.

We’re going to go in a different direction. Even at 8-0 on the season, the 49ers still have to prove themselves against better competition. Starting a stretch of five games that includes outings against the Seahawks, Packers, Ravens and Saints, Monday night’s game could be a major coming out party for Jimmy Garoppolo and Co. in front of a national audience. Either way, it’s a huge NFC West matchup with major playoff implications.

Bills looks to put final nail in Browns’ coffin

This is one rather interesting game. Despite boasting a 6-2 record and taking on a two-win team, Buffalo finds itself as road underdogs against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. This tells us a story that’s two-fold. Oddsmakers are not sold on the Bills as a legitimate contender. They also believe that Cleveland is much better than its 2-6 record.

Following a humiliating loss to the Denver Broncos last week, these Browns need to run off a huge winning streak to salvage their season. Meanwhile, Buffalo rebounded from a Week 8 loss to Philadelphia by taking out a bad Redskins team. Can Sean McDermott and Co. move to 7-2 by pretty much putting the final nail in the Browns’ coffin? We’ll find out soon enough.

Can the Steelers remain alive?

One of the biggest surprises of the NFL season has been the performance of these Steelers following Ben Roethlisberger’s season-ending injury. Riding some great coaching from Mike Tomlin and better-than-expected play from Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh has won four of five since an 0-3 start to the season.

Currently just one game out of the final wild card spot in the AFC, Pittsburgh will host the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. It’s an opportunity for the Steelers to move to over .500 on the season while handing the Rams a massive blow in their hopes of returning to the Super Bowl.

Rebounding from last week’s disaster

Kirk Cousins and the Vikings were in great spirits heading into Week 9’s game against the Patrick Mahomes-less Kansas City Chiefs. Having won four consecutive, it seemed like the high-priced veteran had helped his team turn the corner. What followed was a downright horrible performance from Cousins and Co. in a narrow loss.

The season certainly is not over in Minneapolis. The Vikes stand at 6-3 and just one game out of first place in the NFC North. However, Cousins will have to get over the hump against a winning team. That comes against the fellow 6-3 Cowboys in Dallas Sunday night. This game will be telling on multiple fronts.

Patrick Mahomes’ return to action

Kansas City went 1-1 in the two games this reigning NFL MVP missed to injury. This helped the team maintain an advantage over the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC West. Though, the Chiefs are just a half game ahead of Oakland in the loss column. That’s one of the most-shocking developments thus far this season.

Kansas City has the pleasure of taking on a Titans team in Week 10 that was blown out in their previous outing against the Carolina Panthers. This comes before a big back-to-back slate against the above-mentioned Chargers and Raiders. Will Mahomes show rust? If so, will Kansas City fall back to the pack in the division?

First-year head coaches on the hot seat

It’s not something we see regularly around the NFL. Head coaches fired after just one season. Most recently, this included Steve Wilks in Arizona and Jim Tomsula with the San Francisco 49ers. There’s now a couple candidates to join that not-so-elite club.

Adam Gase just led the New York Jets into South Beach to take on his former Dolphins squad. It did not go too swimmingly for Gase and Co., leading to speculation that the 1-7 team could move on from him. Remaining in the AFC, Freddie Kitchens is pretty much coaching for his job after a disastrous 2-6 start to the season. A win over Buffalo wouldn’t salvage his career in Cleveland. But a loss would go a long way to seeing him go one-and-done.

Saints look to take advantage of cupcake schedule

Coming out of their bye, two of the Saints’ next four games are against a one-win Atlanta Falcons squad. That should afford Drew Brees and Co. an ability to remain strongly in the race for home-field advantage in the NFC before they host the undefeated San Francisco 49ers in Week 14.

The biggest key to Sunday’s game against Atlanta will be to not overlook a divisional opponent. New Orleans has more talent at every tier. It should dominant. However, a less-than-stellar performance could end up cementing San Francisco’s status as the odds-on favorites in the conference.