Though the New England Patriots are idle this week on their bye, there’s still plenty to pay attention to around the NFL from a fan perspective.
Just because the New England Patriots are on bye this week doesn’t mean that you should be on bye, too. The Pats are one of six idle NFL teams this week (Eagles, Broncos, Texans, Jaguars, Redskins), but that means there are still 26 teams and 13 games worth paying attention to on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday.
Some of these games could have major ramifications on the playoff race that’s already starting to take shape. Other games are important to the Patriots specifically because of their impact on New England’s quest for an 11th straight postseason appearance. And some of the games just seem like they’ll be good games, and are worth watching for that reason alone.
We’ve got you covered with all of what to watch and root for below:
Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders, 8:20 pm EST, FOX/NFL Network
The Raiders are 3.5 games behind the Patriots in the playoff picture, while the Chargers are a full four games behind New England. Neither AFC West squad looks poised to present much of a threat to the Pats this season, but if you have to choose a rooting interest in this Thursday night matchup, maybe back the Black and Silver. The Chargers are a potentially dangerous playoff team (on paper at least), plus this is one of the final four games the Raiders will play in Oakland… so it’d be nice to see them win for sentimental reasons.
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears, 1:00 pm EST, CBS
Ex-Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia has overseen marked improvements in his Detroit Lions from 2018 to 2019, but the results haven’t translated to the NFL standings just yet. The Lions have let a number of winnable games slip through their fingers this season, but there’s no reason to think they shouldn’t be able to put away the Bears on Sunday, even on the road. Chicago (3-5) is easily the biggest disappointment in the league this season considering they finished last year 12-4 and won the NFC North.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 pm EST, CBS
Is it too much to hope for a Ravens loss in Cincy this weekend? Baltimore is fresh off a 37-20 beatdown of the Patriots in primetime, whereas the Bengals have yet to win a game this season. Though headed in two very different directions this year, there’s a reason why the Ravens are only 10-point favorites in this contest: divisional rivalry games are always tough, and you never know exactly what might happen. Remember, the Browns went into Baltimore in Week 4 and beat the Ravens by 15 points. A Cincinnati upset here would definitely go a long way in creating more of a buffer between Baltimore and New England in the AFC pecking order.
Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns, 1:00 pm EST, CBS
Speaking of the Browns, they could also do the Patriots a solid this weekend by knocking off the Buffalo Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium. Cleveland is favored by less than a field goal despite being at home, and they haven’t looked the same since that pasting of the Ravens, having lost four straight since that point. The Bills rebounded after a shellacking at home by the Eagles in Week 8 with an easy win over the Redskins in Week 9. If they fall to Cleveland on Sunday, the gap only widens further between them and New England in the race for the AFC East crown.
Kansas City Chiefs at Tennessee Titans, 1:00 pm EST, CBS
Thanks to their win over the Patriots, the Ravens leapfrogged the Texans and the Chiefs for the inside-track to at least the No. 2 seed in the AFC. Houston slipped up versus Indianapolis a couple weeks ago, and Kansas City dropped back-to-back home games against the Texans and the Packers before finally righting the ship last week against the Vikings. It’s unclear when K.C. QB Patrick Mahomes will be cleared to make his return to action, but it could be as soon as this weekend on the road in Tennessee. Patriots fans should wholeheartedly root for the Titans in this one – not just because head coach Mike Vrabel is a legend in the New England area, but because a Tennessee win would drop the Chiefs to 6-4 and put them 2.5 games behind the Pats in the AFC standings.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints, 1:00 pm EST, FOX
This game looks like one of the bigger mismatches around the NFL in Week 10, and that’s reflected in the nearly two-touchdown line the Saints are favored to win by. While New Orleans is 7-1 and Drew Brees is back under center, Atlanta is 1-7 and Matt Ryan’s status is up in the air after he injured his ankle. The Falcons are playing out this season in an attempt to save head coach Dan Quinn’s job – an attempt that may ultimately prove futile. On the other sideline, Saints skipper Sean Payton should earn Coach of the Year consideration for how he navigated Brees’ multi-week injury and kept his team winning in the interim.
New York Giants at New York Jets, 1:00 pm EST, FOX
The Battle for New York – or technically New Jersey – sounds a lot cooler spelled out that way than it will probably look for fans in attendance on Sunday. These two teams have a combined record of 3-14, making this easily the worst game on the NFL slate in Week 10. Obviously Patriots fans will be pulling for the G-Men because… well, because it’s the Jets.
Arizona Cardinals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00 pm EST, FOX
Another game that offers more intrigue on paper than it probably will on the field, this contest pits Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians against his old team in the Arizona Cardinals. There could be some offensive fireworks down in Florida given Arians’ reputation, as well as the reputation of the man who ultimately replaced him in Kliff Kingsbury. Barring the miraculous, both teams are out of the playoff race already, so this is another game with little bearing on the Patriots… or on anyone else, for that matter.
Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts, 4:05 pm EST, CBS
Should New England fans root for Miami in this game? It’s certainly a plausible option. While it may not seem altogether wholesome to cheer for the Dolphins for any reason in any season, this is that rare opportunity where it may just make sense. It’s safe to say the Fins aren’t going to be challenging the Pats for the division this year – they’re 6.5 games behind New England with only eight games to go. The Colts, on the other hand, are just 2.5 games behind the Patriots in the AFC. Can Miami even feasibly beat Indianapolis on the road? Probably not. Though on an interesting side note, whichever Indy QB starts on Sunday versus Miami will have deep Patriots ties (Jacoby Brissett or Brian Hoyer).
Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers, 4:25 pm EST, FOX
Now that Cam Newton is officially out for the remainder of the season with the foot injury that sent him to IR, the Panthers are Kyle Allen’s team to command. Allen was one of the more surprising and impressive stories of the early season filling in for Newton until it all came crashing down in an abysmal performance against the 49ers. To be fair, San Francisco is the only undefeated team left in the league, so they’re pretty darn good. Still, things aren’t going to get any easier for Allen as he faces off against a Packers team that should be both furious and motivated after getting embarrassed last week by the Chargers.
Los Angeles Rams at Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:25 pm EST, FOX
Once upon a time, this would have been one of the more marquee games in the 2019 NFL regular season. Then Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger was lost for the season, essentially torpedoing the hopes of Steeler Nation at breaking a deep championship run. Pittsburgh is far from being out of postseason contention altogether at 4-4, but it’s hard to imagine them doing much damage even if they do make it to the playoffs without Ben Big under center. The Rams have also been a tad disappointing this year, having lost as many games already as they did all of last season (three).
Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys, 8:20 pm EST, NBC
This should be one of the better games of the Week 10 schedule, so it makes sense that it’s the Sunday Night matchup. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has shaken off his early-season struggles and is now playing complementary football alongside Minnesota’s potent rushing offense and defense; similarly, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has rounded into form just in time to help Dallas take control of the NFC East. With these teams both currently projected to make the postseason, don’t be surprised if this clash has a playoff feel to it, even though it’s still early on in November.
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers, 8:15 pm EST, ESPN
Thanks to the Patriots’ loss to the Ravens in Week 9, the San Francisco 49ers are the NFL’s lone unbeaten team. That said, it’s going to very difficult for them to stay that way. They host the red-hot Seattle Seahawks (7-2) this week in a tough NFC West battle, then have upcoming games to play against the Packers, Ravens, Saints, Rams, and Seahawks again. Perhaps this will sound like a salty Patriots fan who’s still bitter about seeing perfection slip away this season, but it would be downright shocking for the 49ers to navigate that stretch without slipping up at some point. It could happen as soon as Monday night…