Week 10 in the NFL brings rest for six teams. Three AFC contenders (Denver, Indianapolis, and San Diego) will formulate their plan of attack for a playoff push; Houston will have a chance to reevaluate its quarterback situation; and Minnesota and Washington try to heal and keep morale high.
What should we expect from this group when they return to the gridiron?
Not only are the Colts 6-3, but they play four of their final seven games at home. Five of the seven are against teams likely to miss the playoffs (sorry Cleveland, we’re including you). Indianapolis bounced back from a 51-34 loss at Pittsburgh in week 8 by dominating the Giants 40-24 on Monday. Their only losses are against the Steelers, Broncos, and Eagles – all of whom would qualify for the playoffs if they started today. The Colts lead the NFL in passing, are middle of the road in rushing, and defend the rush pretty well. Indianapolis is an NFL best 7-2 against the spread, including a 4-1 mark on the road. Following their bye last year, the Colts edged Houston 27-24. Two years ago, in their first season under Chuck Pagano, Indy beat the Packers 30-27 after a week off. Including playoff byes, the Colts have won eight of their last ten games following a week of rest. They will host the AFC-leading Patriots in week 11, though, who will also be well-rested. (For a more in-depth, early look at that game, see our “sneak peek“.)
After a 2-5 start, the Vikings enter their bye week on a two-game winning streak which kept their playoff hopes alive. Minnesota got by Washington 29-26 last week after beating the Bucs 19-13 in overtime during week 8. Still, the Vikings are likely thinking “what might have been?” In week 7, they allowed a touchdown in the final seconds to fall 17-16 at Buffalo. That TD is the difference between a winning and losing record for the 4-5 Vikings. Minnesota’s wins have all come against sub-.500 teams. In addition to Washington and Tampa Bay, the Vikings beat St. Louis and Atlanta in the first month of the season. They will be facing another sub-.500 team – Chicago – after the bye.
Minnesota is 5-4 against the spread and 2-2 at home. With rookie Teddy Bridgewater under center, the Vikings have struggled to pass the ball, though they defend the aerial attack well and, despite missing Adrian Peterson, have been solid on the ground. The Vikings have lost their last four games following a bye.
New England Patriots
Winners of five straight and seven out of eight, the Pats sit atop the AFC heading into their bye week. Four of their five straight wins have come at home; the Patriots beat the Bengals, Bears, Jets, and Broncos at Gillette Stadium, and also won at Buffalo. New England opened the year 2-2 (beating Minnesota and Oakland, while dropping games to Miami and KC) which caused wide-spread panic in Boston. With the Pats back at the top, all systems have returned to normal.
The Pats are 5-4 against the spread on the year and 3-2 ATS at home. Surprisingly, Bill Belichick’s squad has lost two of their last three following a regular season bye, including a 24-20 loss at Carolina last year. Belichick is usually fearsome when he has an extra week to prepare. Including playoff byes, New England is 15-3 after a rest week dating back to 2003.
San Diego Chargers
After a week six win in Oakland, the Chargers were 5-1 and on top of the world. Philip Rivers was an MVP candidate and San Diego was a lock for the playoffs. Three straight losses late, the Chargers are eager for a bye week. San Diego dropped a tight 23-20 battle with Kansas City in week 7. While that loss was disappointing, it was a close game against a good team, and things still looked rosy in southern Cal. Then the Chargers lost at Denver 35-21 and looked a class below Denver all game. Concern started to build among the Chargers’ faithful. Last week, the Chargers were shutout 37-0 in Miami and Rivers threw three interceptions. The bandwagon emptied.
The good news for San Diego is that they are still over .500 and in the thick of the AFC Wild Card race. The better news is that their next game is at home against the winless Raiders. An Oakland tonic has been a great cure for slumping teams this season.
The Chargers are 5-4 against the spread and 3-1 at home. San Diego has struggled running the ball this year – especially in the last two games – Rivers has thrown five interceptions in his last two games after throwing just three in the first seven. In coach Mike McCoy’s first season last year, the Chargers lost three in a row after the bye. In the last six years, San Diego has only managed one win immediately after the week off.
The Redskins played two straight road games before their bye, and return to the road for two of three after the week off. Washington is 3-6 straight up and against the spread. After starting 1-1, losing at Houston and beating Jacksonville in DC, the Skins lost four straight. Following wins over the Titans and Cowboys, they dropped a close game to the Vikings in week 9. The Skins have dropped five of their last six games after a bye week. The good news is that RGIII is back in the lineup. After a mediocre performance against Minnesota, the Redskins are hoping the dynamic pivot will start to play like the Griffin of old as he gets more playing time under his belt. Like San Diego, Washington also has a home game against a cellar-dwelling team after the bye, as they welcome Tampa Bay to FedEx field in week 11.
With running back Arian Foster banged up in Houston’s 31-21 home loss against Philadelphia in week 9, it is a good time to rest for the Texans. Houston stands at 4-5 overall and 5-4 against the number and there is some discussion about whether Ryan Fitzpatrick should be replaced at quarterback by either Ryan Mallett or Tom Savage. Four of Houston’s final seven games are at home and they still get to face Jacksonville twice. Their first game back, though, is a road contest against the Browns.
The Texans wins are against Tennessee, Buffalo, Oakland, and Washington. Their loses have come against teams who are a combined 27-16 this year.
(Photo credit: Mr.schultz (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)