Welcome back to this weekly column on the National Football League, a cocktail of light-hearted musings, analysis – and of course gambling.
Week 10 of the NFL opened at Heinz Field when Pittsburgh Steelers hosted an in-form Carolina Panthers.
Running back Christian McCaffrey scored for the Panthers on their opening drive. But Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger eats pressure. His first pass of the game found JuJu Smith-Schuster who levelled the scores with a 75-yard touchdown.
Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton, under pressure from a strong Pittsburgh defense, then threw an off-balance pass that was picked off by Vince Williams who ran in for the touchdown. It had taken only 24 seconds of game time for the Steelers to hit the front.
The second half was all Pittsburgh. Their defence sacked Newton five times and held the Panthers to just four of 11 third-down conversions.
Carolina’s Eric Reid was ejected for a poorly timed high tackle on Roethlisberger. This summed up the Panthers’ night – their timing was always off.
The Steelers posted a Heinz Field record score in their 52-21 win. Pittsburgh shared the offensive spoils, all seven touchdowns scored by different players.
Pittsburgh now sits at 6-2-1, just half a game behind New England in the overall AFC standings.
The Cincinnati Bengals were thrashed at home 51-14 by the New Orleans Saints.
The teams traded early touchdowns but the Saints’ offence went off in the second quarter.
An Andrus Peat block flattened a defender allowing the powerful Mark Ingram to bust through for a 28-yard touchdown.
Ingram proved a handful for the Bengals, totalling 104 rushing yards and 58 receiving yards. His 33-yard run in the third quarter skittled Bengals’ defenders like ninepins.
Alvin Kamara picked up two touchdowns as the Saints racked up a 35-7 lead at half.
The win moves the Saints to 8-1, neck and neck with the Rams at the top of the NFC.
New England Patriots, on a six-game winning streak, travelled to Tennessee to face the Titans. However, the Titans meant business and started brightly with a 58-yard kickoff return by Darius Jennings.
Nothing went right for the Patriots, a rib-rattling sack on Tom Brady just before half-time epitomising the meanness of the Titans’ defense.
Tennessee won 34-10 to keep their season alive at 5-4. The Patriots are 7-3, still two wins ahead of Miami in the AFC East.
The Seattle Seahawks took on a Los Angeles Rams team coming off their first loss of the season.
Seattle took a 14-7 lead in the first quarter featuring a maiden touchdown to rookie Rashaad Penny.
The Rams regained the lead going into halftime through a trademark 17-yard touchdown run by Todd Gurley.
The lead changed again in the third quarter when Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson found Tyler Lockett for a 23-yard touchdown.
But the Rams wouldn’t be denied, a further two touchdowns in the final quarter giving them a 12-point lead. Seattle fought back, but couldn’t pull off the miracle play at the end, LA winning the game 36-31.
The Rams’ big names hit big numbers: Jared Goff threw for 318 yards, Gurley picked up 120 rushing yards, while Brandon Cooks had a 100-yard receiving game.
Chicago Bears kept a slender lead over the Minnesota Vikings in NFC North by defeating the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. Up 26-0 in the first half, Chicago eased up to win 34-22 in a match where their kicker, Cody Parkey, hit the uprights an incredible four times.
Kansas City Chiefs accounted for the Arizona Cardinals 26-14 and stay atop of the AFC.
In a crucial AFC South battle, Indianapolis Colts pipped the Jacksonville Jaguars 29-26. The Colts at 4-5 are still in the hunt but the 3-6 Jaguars appear cooked.
Green Bay Packers kept their playoff hopes alive with a 31-12 home win against the Miami Dolphins.
The Dallas Cowboys also kept their foot in the playoff door, with a victory at the Philadelphia Eagles. Twice the Eagles levelled the scores in the final quarter but the Cowboys hung for a 27-20 win.
Washington Redskins scored the only touchdown of the game to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16-3. The Redskins hold a two-game lead over the Cowboys in the NFC East.
The divisional leaders after week ten look like this:
AFC: Kansas City (9-1), New England (7-3), Pittsburgh (6-2-1), Houston (6-3)
NFC: : LA Rams (9-1), New Orleans (8-1), Chicago (6-3), Washington (6-3)
Next week features the standout match of the year so far when the Chiefs take on the Rams in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning Australian time – a game you will not want to miss.
Week 10 signalled the arrival of the Pittsburgh Steelers as a contender for the AFC. The Chiefs and the Rams are still front-runners for the Super Bowl, but like elections and horse races, as indeed in life, nothing is certain.