Week 10 winners
Aaron Rodgers: He could have easily set the league’s single-game record for TD passes (which would be eight) if the Packers had decided to truly embarrass the Bears. Instead, coach Mike McCarthy showed mercy to Chicago and pulled Rodgers and his six TD strikes, which all came before halftime, midway through the third quarter.
Marshawn Lynch: If the Seahawks are going to release him into the free agent market during the offseason — Lynch is under contract through 2015 but has already expressed displeasure with his deal and is reportedly at odds with team management — the star running back continues to show he remains an attractive commodity after churning out 140 rushing yards and a career-high four TDs in Sunday’s win over the Giants.
Cardinals cornerbacks: With Arizona clinging to a 17-14 fourth-quarter lead and injured QB Carson Palmer in the locker room, star corners Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie took over. On three consecutive Rams possessions, Peterson picked off two passes — he took the second 30 yards for a TD — before Cromartie scooped up an Austin Davis fumble and returned it 14 yards for another score. Arizona’s 8-1 record remains the NFL’s best.
Gambling Cowboys: QB Tony Romo rewarded Dallas’ risk to take him across the Atlantic, restoring balance to the offense with three TD passes despite his balky back, in a 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in London. Romo also managed to avoid further injury despite remaining on the field and taking some punishment late in the game even though the Cowboys were up 31-7 in the fourth quarter.
Chris Borland: San Francisco’s rookie inside linebacker had a huge game for a unit missing injured all-pros Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Borland piled up a game-best 17 tackles against the Saints and, most importantly, recovered QB Drew Brees’ overtime fumble to set up the game-winning (and perhaps season-saving) field goal for the 49ers.
Browns: From the comfort of their couches — Cleveland beat the Bengals on Thursday — they moved into sole possession of first place in the AFC North after the Steelers lost. The Browns, who are 6-3 for the first time in 20 years, could be primed to solidify their standing, too, as they host the Texans and newly named starting QB Ryan Mallett in Week 11 followed by a date with the struggling Falcons.
Second-half Falcons: They broke a five-game losing streak, thanks largely to a strong finish, when they outscored the Buccaneers 14-7 after intermission. In the previous five games, Atlanta had been blitzed 85-38 after halftime.
Matthew Stafford: On a day when Lions WR Calvin Johnson played for the first time in a month, the Detroit quarterback did a nice job spreading the ball around rather than maintaining radar lock on Megatron. Johnson and Golden Tate each exceeded 100 receiving yards and were both targeted at least 13 times by Stafford, whose best throw — a sidearmed, 11-yard, game-winning TD — was reserved for RB Theo Riddick in the corner of the end zone with 29 seconds to go.
Michael Vick: He became the first quarterback to rush for more than 6,000 yards in a career. More importantly, his efficient, turnover-free play helped New York snap an eight-game losing streak, the worst of coach Rex Ryan’s career.
Carson Palmer’s timing: The Cardinals quarterback secured his future in the desert after signing a three-year, $50 million contract extension Friday.
Week 10 losers
Carson Palmer’s timing: He suffered what seems to be a season-ending left knee injury Sunday, which would ruin his bid to enjoy his first NFL playoff win and curtail his role with the best team he’s played for in 12 pro seasons.
Chicago Bears: Just when you thought it couldn’t get uglier, they manage to fall into a 42-0 halftime deficit — the worst half in nearly a century of Bears football — to their archrivals before ultimately succumbing 55-14 to the Packers.
Jimmy Graham: The Saints’ all-pro tight end made just a bit too much contact with 49ers CB Perrish Cox at the end of regulation. Otherwise, the 47-yard Hail Mary Graham snatched for the would-be game-winning TD against San Francisco would have been the play of the year. Instead, New Orleans now sits at 4-5 … still good enough for first place in the woeful NFC South.
Giants run defense: Apparently, it’s nonexistent. New York allowed the Seahawks to roll up 350 rushing yards, and 7.8 per attempt. Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson both hit the 100-yard plateau.
Raiders: Their losing streak has reached 15 games dating to last season, their longest in 52 years. Worse for Oakland fans, owner Mark Davis continues flirting with San Antonio just weeks before the team’s stadium lease expires.
Pass-heavy Steelers: QB Ben Roethlisberger entered Sunday having thrown a record 12 TD passes in his previous two games. He only had one against the Jets as Pittsburgh’s three-game winning streak came to an unexpected end. Big Ben’s aerial show has been impressive, but the Steelers (36 rushing yards vs. New York) might be wise to re-establish offensive balance now that they’ve averaged just 71 yards on the ground in their last four outings. (Also, is it safe to assume Justin Bieber won’t be invited back to Pittsburgh’s Bible study after a performance that surely left many in Steelers Nation taking the Lord’s name in vain?)
Bumbling Bills: They lost three fumbles and went 0-for-4 in the red zone in a 17-13 loss to the Chiefs. Buffalo could very well rue this game at season’s end with Kansas City getting a head-to-head playoff tiebreaker between two teams that began the day 5-3 and can probably only reach postseason with a wild-card berth given the divisions they play in.
Sean Payton: The New Orleans coach experienced his first loss at the Superdome, including playoffs, since the 2010 season. The Saints had won 20 in a row at home under Payton (he was suspended for the 2012 season following the Bountygate scandal) before falling to the 49ers.
Rookie quarterbacks: All three who started Sunday lost. The collective record of Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr and Zach Mettenberger in 2014 is 4-18, and only Bridgewater (3-2) — his Vikings were on bye in Week 10 — is above .500.
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
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