For a season that by many accounts has been underwhelming, there are some exciting storylines emerging. Offense is down, and scoring has been exceptionally low. Even this past week, where scores appeared to be off the charts, only nine out of 14 games hit the over, 64.2%. Four games fell below 30 total points. I would say that the over will slowly even things out, but up to now, the under has prevailed with many stinker games.
But in spite of that, this season is shaping up to have a strong finish. Here are a few things to look at the rest of the way.
- Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, and Los Angeles Chargers out of the playoffs: As of today, after Week 10, the Bills, Bengals, and Chargers are all outside of the playoffs. The Bills and Bengals were each preseason Super Bowl darlings, and the Chargers were looking to get back to the playoffs for back-to-back seasons. It’s gotten so bad in Buffalo that they fired OC Ken Dorsey after their loss Monday Night against the Broncos.
- Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs: I’m not sure which is more remarkable, the previous three teams being out of the playoffs or the Texans, Browns, and Steelers each being in. The Steelers and Browns are each 6-3, while the Texans are 5-4 after their improbable win in Cincinnati.
- Rookie of the Year AND MVP?: Aside from being a shoo-in to win the Rookie of the Year award, there is some chatter about CJ Stroud winning the MVP. He’s up to the sixth-best odds to win, at 20/1.
- A remarkable turnaround in Denver: People wanted HC Sean Payton’s head after their loss to Miami in which the Broncos gave up 70 points. But after their improbable win Monday against the Bills in Buffalo, they find themselves at 4-5, with a winnable home game against the Vikings to get to .500.
- Different continent, same result: The Patriots went to Germany and did what they’ve been doing all season in the United States … losing. They lost an uninspiring game against the Colts, which saw starting QB get benched before the last drive of the game. It appears to be the end for Mac Jones … and, realistically, Bill Belichick.
- Back up the Brinks truck: Every week that Josh Dobbs plays, he adds money onto his next contract. The Vikings have now won two in a row with Dobbs at QB. He is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. If we’re keeping score, look at Seattle’s QB Geno Smith as a solid comp. He got a three-year/$75M contract with $40M guaranteed after his career-reviving 2022 breakout.
- Army of One: Out of all the four major sports, football fields the largest teams and has the largest rosters. There are, of course, 11 on offense and 11 on defense, as well as special teams and practice squads. And usually, one player doesn’t make that much of a difference (except maybe quarterbacks). But for the San Fransisco 49ers, the loss of Deebo Samuel (and Trent Williams) spiraled the team into a three-game losing streak. Samuel returned on Sunday, and the Niners utterly destroyed the Jaguars 34-3. They seem back on track at 6-3, sitting with the No. 3 seed in the NFC.
- Dark horse Super Bowl matchup?: In an improbable year that has seen a first-time World Series winner in the Texas Rangers, why not a Super Bowl matchup with two teams that have never won? Both teams are currently in the playoffs if the season ended today. And both are in the top 10 in scoring in a year where scoring is down: the Houston Texans and the Detroit Lions. The Lions are currently 13/1 to win the Super Bowl, and the Texans are 75/1.
- Finally, a solid Thursday night matchup: Thursday night games have produced another batch of snoozers, and Jeff Bezos cannot be happy with his investment at this point, but this Thursday should be a great game. The Bengals are heading to Baltimore to play the Ravens. Each team is coming off of a loss, and if Cincy loses again, it will really hinder their playoff chances. It will put them two losses behind the Ravens and back to .500. The Ravens will be sitting at 8-3 and primed to win the division. But a Bengals win gets them to 6-4 and tied with the Ravens in the loss column. In many ways, this Thursday’s game is their season.
- More Injuries: Derek Carr may not be a top-tier QB, but he has proven to be a serviceable one who can lead a team to victory. He left Sunday’s game with a concussion as well as a right shoulder injury. The Saints are in the hunt for the playoffs, and they need Carr at the helm. They are heading into their bye week, which will give Carr the extra time he needs. Vikings RB Alexander Mattison left the game against the Saints with a concussion. With Cam Akers already on the shelf, if they lose the services of Mattison, the team will be severely under-manned against the Broncos this week.