Playoff races are heating up - some stil battling for their ticket while others may as well pack it in as they are all but officially eliminated. Check here as 613 breaks down three key match ups from this week's schedule. Find out who will win, who to watch, who will surprise, and more in our Week 10 Preview. Featured games this week include; Bills @ Steelers, Panthers @ 49ers, and Saints @ Cowboys)
BILLS @ STEELERS
- Bills welcome EJ Manuel back for the first time since he injured himself vs. the Browns back in Week 5 on TNF. Unfortunatley for EJ, and the Bills, it seems like the damage is already done. Being in a hole at 3 - 6 Buffalo will need to "circle the wagons" in order to make a legitimate run at the playoffs. Doug Marrone should focus on the development of EJ and this young offense as well as builing upon one of the most improved defenses in the NFL this season.
- Usually a top of the AFC standings the Steelers may have looked over the Bills in previous matchups over the last few seasons but this year's Pittsburgh squad "ain't yo Daddy's Steelers!". Poor ground game, poor pass protection, and an untimidating defense does not sound like the Steelers we know but guess what - thats what they are. Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, and Jericho Cotchery should see plenty of targets as Big Ben may be asked to put the team on his shoulders in order to get the win at home.
- This should be an interesting game although the edge has to goto Pitt DC (and legend) Dick Lebeau as he schemes against a rook QB (Manuel) and Buffalo's young offense - not to mention hosting them in Steel Town. Bills can't execute nearly as well offensively when they are on the road - and although the return of EJ Manuel may help give a spark - LeBeau, Polamalu, and Big Ben should make enough plays at home to bring the Steelers to 3 - 6.
- Players to watch: CJ Spiller, EJ Manuel, Dick LeBeau/ Lawrence Timmons
PANTHERS @ 49ERS
- Another great opportunity to prove himself as an elite QB, Cam leads his Panthers into Candlestick to face the 49ers. Credit needs to go to the surging Panthers D for their teams recent success and they will be put to the test again today trying to contain Frank Gore, Kaepernick and the 49ers rushing attack. Mike Tolbert is earning his money this year and has scored a TD in 3 straight games - will he keep his streak alive vs one of the leagues top defenses? Steve Smith, Greg Olsen, Brandon Lafell, and Tedd Ginn need to hold on to the ball today to reduce some pressure from Cam.
- Coming off their bye week ,and facing a team that has similiar offensive tendencies, the 49ers should be prepared for whatever Carolina is going to throw at them. It will come down to execution on both sides of the ball for Jim Harbaughs team. He needs his defense to control Cam when the play breaks down and he needs his offense to control the line of scrimmage to allow Frank Gore to eat up the clock and keep Carolina's offense off the field. Look for Vernon Davis to be the X Factor in this contest. If the 49ers fail to get him involved their offense could stumble.
- What a game this should be. Similiar QB's going against good D's. Although the hype may suggest Panthers have what takes to beat the 49ers you have to give the edge to Jim Harbaugh and his teams big game/ playoff experience. Getting Aldon Smith & Mario Manningham back plus the extra time off from their bye week - Niners should be primed for a big game in front of their home fans.
- Players to watch: Cam Newton vs Colin Kaepernick, Panthers DLine vs 49ers OLine/Gore,
SAINTS @ COWBOYS
- Saints DC Rob Ryan said he "circled" this game on the calendar when the schedule was released so you know he was looking forward to the opportunity to go against his former team in Dallas. Perhaps he may know a thing or two about the Cowboys? The good news doesn't end there for New Orleans, aside from Rob Ryan's added incentive, the Saints high powered offense faces the Cowboys 31st ranked defense... hmmm. Jimmy Graham, Colston, Kenny Stills, Darren Sproles, one (or all) of these guys will make enough plays for Brees to light up the giant scoreboard in Dalls.
- Poor Tony Romo. Rob Ryan is going to throw the kitchen sink at him all day - and on top of that he has to keep pace with the other #9, Drew Brees. Oh and even better news Dez Bryant may have ruptured a disk in his while making that scene on the sidelines two weeks ago (not really - but he does have a ruptured disk). So what do you do if you are Romo or the Cowboys? You feed the rock to Tony's BFF Jason Witten, and hand the ball to Demarco Murray. Sean Lee is doing a great job at LB for the Cowboys - but he's just one guy.
- Not looking good for America's Team and Jerry Jones this week as they host an angry Sants team coming off a lose. It almost seems inevitable that Tony Romo will be in a late game situation, needing to make a play to keep the Cowboys chances alive, and what will happen...? Oh no! Not again Tony!
- Players to watch: Rob Ryan(Saints D) vs. Tony Romo, (Injured Dez Bryant), Jimmy (Golden) Graham