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It was a good week to be an underdog in the NFL.
In a season full of head-scratching upsets, Week 9 delivered the most puzzling weekend yet.
Half of the NFL division leaders lost, and four of the five biggest upsets (based on point spread) all occurred this past weekend.
It's part of what makes the league so special - it's impossible to predict.
No one saw the Jacksonville Jaguars holding the Buffalo Bills to six points and taking down the AFC powerhouse for their first win since Week 1. No one saw the Denver Broncos taking out the Dallas Cowboys with Dak Prescott back under centre. And no one saw the Derrick Henry-less Tennesse Titans completely dominating the Los Angeles Rams on their home turf.
The odds would say that the favourites will have their shine in Week 10 and a sense of normalcy will be restored. But this is the 2021-22 NFL season, and nothing is guaranteed - just ask the Bills, Cowboys and Rams.
Here is everything you need to know about the most exciting matchups of Week 10:
Cleveland Browns vs. New England Patriots
Sunday, Nov. 14 at 1:00PM ET | Live Stream
Spread: Patriots -1.0
Over/Under Total: 45.5
Moneyline: Browns (EVEN), Patriots (-120)
Don't look now, but the New England Patriots are suddenly just a half-game back of the AFC East division lead. After years of the division crown essentially being handed to the Patriots before the season even began, this season was supposed to be the dawn of a new era.
But halfway through the season, the Patriots and their rookie quarterback are 5-4 and in the thick of the AFC playoff race.
Mac Jones has had his growing pains, but through his first nine games, the Alabama product is currently looking like the favourite to take home Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Plus, J.C. Jackson - now known as 'Mr. INT' - and the rest of the Patriots defence is once again a unit to be feared under head coach Bill Belichick
— Ryan Spagnoli (@Ryan_Spags) November 9, 2021
New England forced Sam Darnold to throw three interceptions last weekend - two by Jackson, one by Jamie Collins - and with the 24-6 win over Carolina, the Patriots currently find themselves on a three-game winning streak.
Things won't come easy when they look to make it four in a row, however, as they will host a Cleveland Browns team with a renewed sense of purpose.
After finally deciding to part ways with disgruntled star Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns went out and had their best performance of the season in the Week 9 instalment of the Battle of Ohio.
Cleveland completely dominated the Cincinnati Bengals on both sides of the ball, and Baker Mayfield seemed to be playing as though a burden had been lifted from his shoulders.
Baker Mayfield: Highest-graded QB in Week 9 👀 pic.twitter.com/vNqyFANS6e
— PFF (@PFF) November 8, 2021
Mayfield has five career games with a passer rating over 130, and of the five, Beckham Jr. was only active for one - which he did not record a single catch in. This is clearly a case of addition by subtraction, and it may have come at the perfect time for the Browns, who are currently in the midst of a four-horse race for the AFC North title.
Every team in the division is over .500, but if the Browns can establish their identity like they did this past weekend, Cleveland will be a team no one wants to see come January.
They just have to get through Bill Belichick first.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers
Sunday, Nov. 14 at 4:25PM ET | Live Stream
Spread: Packers -4.0
Over/Under Total: 50.5
Moneyline: Seahawks(+170), Packers (-200)
Both the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers should get their starting quarterbacks back this weekend, but they will be returning from very different circumstances.
The Seahawks' Russell Wilson returns for the first time since leaving their Week 5 game against the Rams with a finger injury. Without its franchise star, Seattle limped to a 1-2 record and currently finds itself on the outside looking in on the NFC playoff picture.
Seattle needs a spark, and if there is one man that could give it to them it's Wilson. Plus, the rumour mill is swirling, and the Seahwaks have emerged as a frontrunner in the Beckham Jr. sweepstakes.
The former Browns receiver would add to a receiving core that already features Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf and could be exactly what the Seahawks need to turn their 3-5 record around.
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, the Packers are dealing with a whole different can of worms when it comes to their starter.
Aaron Rodgers had quite the week, and made a lot of headlines for all the wrong reasons after he tested positive for COVID-19.
Rodgers went on the Pat McAfee Show on Friday to explain his side of the story, as well as to discuss his thoughts on the vaccine itself, and the reigning MVP was apparently shocked about the backlash that his vaccination statements received.
With Rodgers out of the lineup in Week 9, the Packers were forced to turn to second-year quarterback Jordan Love, who did not look the part in his first-ever start. From a football standpoint, the Packers need Rodgers back, especially if they want to have any hope of claiming the coveted NFC bye.
According to the NFL COVID protocols, the earliest that Rodgers could return to the team is Saturday, Nov. 15, just one day before Green Bay is set to host the Seahawks at Lambeau Field. Packers head coach Matt LaFleur says that if Rodgers is cleared, he will start on Sunday. Seems like LaFleur has already seen enough Love for one season.
If Aaron Rodgers can return by Nov. 13, the earliest he’s eligible if he’s asymptomatic from COVID-19, Matt LaFleur says Rodgers will “absolutely” start vs. Seahawks. Even if Rodgers misses entire week of practice. Rodgers says it isn’t “imperative” Rodgers practices to play.
— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) November 8, 2021
The Packers defence played well enough to keep them in the game last weekend against the Chiefs, but there is no question that Green Bay is a whole different animal to deal with when Rodgers is calling the signals.
But the Seahawks know they can't afford many more losses, and with the amount of distractions surrounding the Packers this week, it wouldn't be shocking if Seattle pulled off the upset on the Frozen Tundra.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Sunday, Nov. 14 at 8:20PM ET | Live Stream
Spread: Chiefs -2.5
Over/Under Total: 52.0
Moneyline: Chiefs (-145), Raiders (+125)
The AFC West is a mess. Four teams, all with five wins, all over .500 - good luck predicting the outcome of this division.
During the past few seasons, it would be easy enough to say that the Kansas City Chiefs would find their groove and take the division by storm, but the NFL community has been saying that for weeks, and guess what, it still isn't happening.
Sure, they won last week, but it was against the Packers and their backup quarterback who did not turn any heads. Mahomes went 20-of-37 for just 166 yards, while the offence put up a measly 13 points.
The defence is still really bad, as they are currently giving up the most yards per play (6.3) in the entire league. And maybe worst of all, poor Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen seems to be NFL Twitter's punching bag this season.
QBs finding Sorensen week after week pic.twitter.com/pa9DP6Updx
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) November 2, 2021
Luckily for Kansas City, Week 10 brings them face-to-face with a division rival who is dealing with issues of its own.
The Raiders are coming off their worse loss of the year against the two-win New York Giants, and are also dealing with a number of horrifying off-field issues.
Both of their 2020 first-round picks, Henry Ruggs and Damon Arnette, were released from the team in the past two weeks for severe incidents outside of football.
However, despite a season filled with negative issues off the field, on the field, the Raiders have shown flashes they can compete with the best in the league. They have wins over both the Ravens and the Steelers, as well as the Broncos, who are all of a sudden legitimate.
But regardless of their previous triumphs, there is something about beating the Chiefs, no matter their current form, that can give a team the confidence it needs moving forward.
Derek Carr is having a quietly great season, currently sitting third in the league in passing yards, and should only add to that total against a Chiefs defence filled with holes.
Division games are always big, but in primetime, with the division race as tight as it is, they don't get much bigger than this.
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