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Saturday, July 11, 2020

15 key questions for NFL Week 10

Mitchell Trubisky

The playoff races will really start to heat up now that we’re reaching Week 10 of the NFL season. We’re also seeing numerous teams start to look toward the future in various ways, and there will be one notable quarterback change this week that bears watching. All the same, even the bad teams are providing us with some interesting storylines, to say nothing of the contenders.

What’s worth watching in Week 10? Here are 15 key questions.

1. How much more of a chance will Mitchell Trubisky get?

The Bears really don’t want to give up on the former No. 2 overall pick, and it’s understandable why not — they’ve put a lot of hope and resources into him. After last week’s effort against the Eagles, however, it feels like the writing is on the wall. Trubisky and the Bears’ offense have been brutal in recent weeks, and it’s kind of a surprise that the quarterback hasn’t lost his job yet. His status must be hanging by a thread. We will see if he can keep the role for another game.

2. Can Ryan Finley show he deserves a long-term shot with the Bengals?

After finally realizing that Andy Dalton is not the quarterback to lead them into the future, the Bengals have turned to rookie Ryan Finley to see what he can offer. It’s the smart move — they’re winless, they’re not going anywhere, and they might as well find out if Finley is competent enough to start going forward. The Baltimore Ravens will provide an immensely tough test for the rookie, one that might not be a fair barometer as a first start, but there’s something to be said for starting against a quality defense. Finley’s presence alone will at least make the Bengals worth a glimpse.

3. Can the Bills keep Nick Chubb in check?

The Bills have an excellent pass defense, and Cleveland’s offense is in disarray in many ways. That essentially leaves one real option for the Browns: run the ball with Nick Chubb. Three of his last five games have produced 100-yard rushing days, and the Bills have some vulnerability on the ground. It’s basically their only vulnerability, however, and if they can find a way to at least contain Chubb, it’s hard to see the Bills losing this.

4. Will Patrick Mahomes be fresh for the Chiefs?

We know now that Mahomes will play, and his injury-enforced rest might be good for him. He didn’t quite look like his usual self in the last three games before he was injured. As long as he’s fully recovered, he may be a bit sharper against the Titans, who will be weakened by the absence of Malcolm Butler from the secondary. The Chiefs held their own without Mahomes; if he is at full strength, they could go on a run quickly.

5. Can the Falcons make Drew Brees sweat at all?

Quite remarkably, the Falcons had not had a sack since Week 3 before they took down Russell Wilson twice last week. For a defensive coach like Dan Quinn, that’s just embarrassing, and calls into question whether they can even pressure Drew Brees this week. The Saints have a sturdy offensive line, which, combined with Atlanta’s lack of pressure, could mean Brees has tons of time to pick apart a bad defense. It could be a truly ugly week for the Falcons in what has become a string of them.

6. Which quarterback will have a badly needed get-right game in Giants-Jets?

Both Daniel Jones and Sam Darnold needed this game to come now. Both are young quarterbacks under a lot of pressure, though it’s fair to say Darnold has faced more considering the trajectory of his team’s performances and the higher expectations he faces. Both New York teams have vulnerable defenses that can be taken advantage. Both quarterbacks could have a good day, and both need one, though it’s probably Darnold who has a higher ceiling and more weapons to work with at this point.

7. Is the Tampa Bay defense ready for Kliff Kingsbury’s attack?

The Buccaneers’ defense hasn’t really stopped anyone this year. That’s good news for the Cardinals, coming in off a surprisingly strong performance against the 49ers and with David Johnson back in the fold. The Buccaneers are fading fast at 2-6, and have yet to win a home game all season. This is a tough matchup for them — despite their issues, the Cardinals have a pretty solid offense that is particularly adept at running the ball — and could drop them to a miserable 2-7.

8. Will the shorthanded Colts have enough to see off the Dolphins?

It doesn’t even matter if Jacoby Brissett plays or not, as he’s been called a game-time decision by the team. The Colts have various other injury issues, with top wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell sidelined against Miami. This shouldn’t matter, as the Dolphins are one of the league’s worst teams, and Marlon Mack will be there to carry the load. Still, Miami finally has won a game, whether that helps their mindset or not. It may be the defense leading Indianapolis in this one.

9. Will Aaron Rodgers right himself against Carolina’s solid defense?

Rodgers had a brutal day against the Chargers last week, as did his entire offense. Things won’t get a lot easier against Carolina, a team that has been pretty solid when it comes to containing the passing game. The good news is Rodgers is at home, and he’s generally played his best football at Lambeau Field. The fact that the Panthers are vulnerable to the run could also mean that it opens up the passing game more. Rodgers doesn’t stay off his game for long, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he makes the Carolina defense look fairly ordinary.

10. Will Pittsburgh be able to score enough on the Rams?

Jared Goff on the road against a good defense feels like a recipe for disaster for the Rams. That said, they’re pretty solid on defense themselves, and Mason Rudolph isn’t Goff. This could actually be a fairly low-scoring struggle between two offenses in sub-optimal spots against a pair of above-average defenses. Rudolph is going to need to perform, especially without James Conner in the backfield. If he doesn’t, Goff could play poorly and still win.

11. Does the Minnesota defense have enough to handle the Cowboys’ weapons?

Defense has been Mike Zimmer’s calling card in Minnesota, but they’re looking a little more vulnerable these days, particularly in the secondary. When healthy, the Cowboys have the receivers to hurt any team, and the Vikings are going to have to be very wary of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Pressure on Dak Prescott will be essential, and the Vikings have the pass rush to make that happen, but there’s a lot to be wary of here from Minnesota’s perspective that could lead to a tough week for them.

12. Can the Seahawks run over San Francisco to make an NFC West statement?

Kwon Alexander’s season-ending injury could have far-reaching implications for the 49ers, whose defense has been dominant all season. Alexander’s absence could be bad news against the Seahawks, who have a quality back in Chris Carson and no fear of using him. This is a massive test for San Francisco, as they’re up against a really good offense and a division rival that won’t give up the chance at an NFC West title easily. If the Niners can win this one, there’s really not much to stop them before the end of the regular season.

13. Can Kyle Allen prove he can lead the Panthers to the playoffs by handling a good team?

Kyle Allen has been decidedly average for much of the season, and with Cam Newton on injured reserve, he might have to do better than that going forward. The Panthers are 5-3 and very much in the playoff race, but Allen needs to step it up starting with Sunday’s game against the Packers. Green Bay does not have an elite defense despite a strong start to the season, and Allen could be in a good spot to succeed here. But it has to start somewhere, and there’s no better place than against a fellow playoff contender.

14. Are the Titans well-equipped to handle Patrick Mahomes’ return?

There is something enjoyable about watching a quality defense take on an elite quarterback, and that is certainly possible on paper when the Titans face Patrick Mahomes. Malcolm Butler’s injury reduces the quality of this matchup somewhat, but Tennessee defensive coordinator Dean Pees has done an outstanding job with this unit and should make for an interesting tactical battle. Mahomes is back from injury and should be fresh, but the Titans have been limiting quarterbacks all season. We’ll see if they can do it again.

15. Which Kirk Cousins will Dallas face?

Cousins is a weekly odyssey at this point. One week he looks like the franchise quarterback the Vikings signed, and another he’ll look like he has no business starting. Dallas has forced opposing quarterbacks into tough spots more than once this season and, overall, has been a very good unit against the pass. That’s not great news for Cousins, though he sometimes defies logic and takes full advantage of these seemingly strong matchups. One thing is for sure — he has to be good for the Vikings to beat Dallas.

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