NFL Week 10 grades from around the league
Rob Schumacher/USA Today Images

NFL Week 10 grades from around the league

The races for each conference's No. 1 seed saw some shakeups this week, with Carolina, Washington, and Miami dealing upsets to big favorites. The Chiefs also re-emerged from their lengthy slump, injecting additional intrigue to the AFC's playoff pursuit. Here are the Week 10 grades from around the league.

Week 10 Byes: Bears, Bengals, Giants, Texans

 
1 of 28

Reloaded Rams sinking in big spots

Reloaded Rams sinking in big spots
Cary Edmondson/USA Today Images

The past three Super Bowl champions endured two-game losing streaks. The 2018 Patriots had two such skids. But the Rams have trailed by three scores in each of their past two fourth quarters, with a mistake-filled rivalry matchup following last week's feeble effort against the Titans defense. Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, and Van Jefferson led a drop brigade, extending Matthew Stafford's sideline time. The Rams totaled a season-low 16 first downs against a 49ers team that had lost five of its past six. Excepting their dialed-in romp over the Buccaneers, the Rams (7-3) have beaten no .500-or-better teams. Overhyped at this point, Sean McVay's glitzy squad has plenty to prove after its bye.

RAMS GRADE: F | NEXT: at Packers (Nov. 28) 

 
2 of 28

Jimmie Ward changes 49ers' primetime script

Jimmie Ward changes 49ers' primetime script
Kyle Terada/USA Today Images

The 49ers' 44 rushing attempts were the franchise's most since September 2012. Jimmy Garoppolo could spend much of Monday handing off because San Francisco's secondary finally showed up for a primetime tilt. The Packers and Colts bettered the 49ers' DBs in night games, but Jimmie Ward's two-interception first quarter -- after he went four-plus seasons without a pick -- gave the unit the upper hand and keyed a swarm of Kyle Shanahan run calls. Operating in the slot, in the box, and at his free safety post, Ward deflected two passes as well. The eighth-year 49er's INTs produced a TD, led to another, and allowed the underdogs to control a much-needed game.

49ERS GRADE: A | NEXT: at Jaguars (Sun.)

 
3 of 28

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs reawaken in Vegas

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs reawaken in Vegas
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Although the Chiefs defense continues to distance itself from its horrendous start, Kansas City's superstar quarterback looking like himself again will be the NFL's top Week 10 takeaway. Mixing an array of short passes with some of his unequaled off-script abilities, Mahomes posted the third 400-yard, five-touchdown pass performance of his career. It took a slick effort from Darrel Williams to finalize Mahomes' dominant night, but the end result should scare the AFC. At their best, the Chiefs (6-4) possess a gear their rivals cannot match. With the rest of the AFC West fading, the door is wide open again for the five-time defending division champs.

CHIEFS GRADE: A-plus | NEXT: vs. Cowboys (Sun.)

 
4 of 28

Raiders offense cannot create shootout

Raiders offense cannot create shootout
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Raiders went stride-for-stride with the Chiefs in a high-octane Sunday night loss last season in Las Vegas. Their no-show this year will keep the franchise's recent second-half fades relevant. The Chiefs pressured Derek Carr, who gift-wrapped multiple INT chances via emergency heaves, and stripped DeSean Jackson to kill the Raiders' momentum. The hired gun's geometrically perplexing play ending in a fumble headlined a rough night for the 5-4 squad. Las Vegas' 5-2 start did not seem indicative of its personnel. As unique challenges keep intervening, the Raiders may be in a season-defining swoon.

RAIDERS GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Bengals (Sun.)

 
5 of 28

Wilson-Rodgers showdown does not materialize

Wilson-Rodgers showdown does not materialize
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Neither future Hall of Fame quarterback played particularly well, but Russell Wilson's outing certainly presents more long-term concern. Shut out for the first time in his 150-start career, the 10th-year Seahawks passer was beyond rusty in his first start back post-finger surgery. Wilson was 0-for-7 on deep passes (20-plus yards) and went 2-for-15 -- with two INTs -- on throws beyond 10 yards against a depleted Packers defense. Though an eight- or nine-win team will likely earn the NFC's No. 7 seed, a flaw that will recur in this playoff format, the Seahawks (3-6) have four division games remaining and may reside in too deep of a hole.

SEAHAWKS GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Cardinals (Sun.)

 
6 of 28

Packers secondary dominates Pro Bowl opposition

Packers secondary dominates Pro Bowl opposition
Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin/USA TODAY NETWORK

The Packers now rank third in total defense and points allowed. They have done so, for the most part, without their top two defenders -- Jaire Alexander and Za'Darius Smith. Green Bay (8-2) lost Rashan Gary and Whitney Mercilus on Sunday but still handed Seattle its first shutout since 2011. D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett combined for five receptions and 49 yards, and Kevin King and Adrian Amos' end zone INTs cemented a one-sided second half. New Green Bay defensive coordinator Joe Barry did not succeed in Washington, but he deserves credit for having a long-underperforming unit on this level. And the Packers may have another gear to hit once Alexander returns (and if Smith does). 

PACKERS GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Vikings (Sun.)

 
7 of 28

Special teams errors impede Saints' upset quest

Special teams errors impede Saints' upset quest
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Using a quarterback who spent 2020 on practice squads and receivers who would not start for most teams, the Saints were also down Alvin Kamara and left tackle Terron Armstead. Trevor Siemian still threw for 298 yards without a turnover and put New Orleans in a position to tie the game with a two-point conversion. That qualifies as overachieving against the surging Titans. Two missed PATs from the Saints' fourth 2021 kicker -- Brian Johnson -- and a Deonte Harris kick-return fumble that keyed a Titans TD doomed the undermanned offense's effort. The '21 Saints (5-4) were destined to be a low-ceiling team, but they should not be written off just yet.

SAINTS GRADE: C-plus | NEXT: at Eagles (Sun.)

 
8 of 28

Journeyman WR comes through to keep Titans rolling

Journeyman WR comes through to keep Titans rolling
George Walker IV/Tennessean.com/USA TODAY NETWORK

The Titans finally face a non-contender next week, ending their historic streak. Tennessee (8-2) is only the second team to beat five straight squads that qualified for the previous playoff bracket. It took a well-traveled wide receiver to ensure the latest win. With Julio Jones' hamstring issues defining his 30s and Derrick Henry's absence ruining Tennessee's run game, Marcus Johnson came through with a five-catch, 100-yard day. The ex-Eagles, Seahawks, and Colts wideout beat Marshon Lattimore on multiple routes, including a 49-yard catch-and-run early, and accounted for nearly half of Ryan Tannehill's yardage total. 

TITANS GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: vs. Texans (Sun.)

 
9 of 28

Bucs unable to start win streak in favorable spot

Bucs unable to start win streak in favorable spot
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers face just two winning teams -- the Bills and Saints -- the rest of the way, opening the door to a Tom Brady-quarterbacked outfit securing a No. 1 seed for the ninth time. Brady was front and center for the Bucs (6-3) blowing a key chance on the path toward that destiny Sunday, throwing two first-quarter INTs and failing to take advantage of the NFL's 32nd-ranked pass defense -- a unit down Chase Young for most of the game. The 2020 Bucs are the only team in the past eight seasons to make a Super Bowl without a playoff bye; they did so in limited-attendance environments. The current Bucs' schedule will keep them in the race, but Sunday's outing may sting come January.

BUCCANEERS GRADE: D-plus | NEXT: vs. Giants (Mon.)

 
10 of 28

Methodical march seals Washington's upset

Methodical march seals Washington's upset
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers notched a season-high five sacks Sunday but could not deter a six-loss team from orchestrating this year's longest drive. Washington (3-6) pieced together a 19-play march that took up 10 minutes and 26 seconds, spoiling a Brady comeback script and closing out Tampa Bay. Taylor Heinicke, who emerged as a semi-household name thanks to his surprising wild-card effort against the Bucs, went 6-for-6 on Washington's 80-yard sojourn -- easily the premier sequence in a rough WFT season -- that ended on a fourth-and-goal Antonio Gibson TD. With Ryan Fitzpatrick out for the year, Heinicke has a long runway to build on this.

WASHINGTON GRADE: A | NEXT: at Panthers (Sun.)

 
11 of 28

Talented Browns defense no-shows in New England

Talented Browns defense no-shows in New England
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

A shorthanded Browns offense needed a superb defensive effort to beat the Patriots. Nothing of the sort occurred in an ugly game that featured ex-Browns QB Brian Hoyer leading a 95-yard touchdown drive. While Mac Jones made a few excellent throws, the Browns (5-5) hit him just twice. A mediocre Patriots receiving corps bettered the Browns' crew of high-end cornerback investments, stalling a mostly healthy defense's momentum after it shut down the Bengals last week. Somehow, this was the Browns' most lopsided loss since 2005. Cleveland's remade defense features too much talent for this, but consistency continues to elude the team.

BROWNS GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Lions (Sun.)

 
12 of 28

Patriots keep ascending in crowded AFC

Patriots keep ascending in crowded AFC
Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire

Lacking their starting running back and housing a receiving corps that features Jakobi Meyers as its top weapon, the Patriots (6-4) mowed down the Browns. Ja'Marr Chase's flashy stats aside, Mac Jones is mounting an Offensive Rookie of the Year case that may be difficult to eclipse. This 19-for-23, three-TD effort -- one going to Meyers, at long last -- marked Jones' most efficient work yet. The Pats mounted three 90-plus-yard drives for the first time this century, with Damien Harris fill-in Rhamondre Stevenson (114 scrimmage yards, two TDs) complementing Jones effectively. It is difficult to envision a playoff bracket not including this surging New England outfit.

PATRIOTS GRADE: A-plus | NEXT: at Falcons (Thu.)

 
13 of 28

Justin Jefferson reignites Vikings

Justin Jefferson reignites Vikings
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers missed the injured Michael Davis on Sunday; Jefferson torched his replacement. Minnesota's second-year star caught nine passes for 143 yards, beating former undrafted corner Tevaughn Campbell for 100 of those yards in a must-win game. Jefferson's outing almost singlehandedly moved the Vikings (4-5) past the multigame funk that engulfed them. Jefferson averaged 3.9 yards per route run against press coverage, per Next Gen Stats; no wideout has matched him here this year. After multiple down games, Jefferson is back on pace to eclipse his rookie record-setting pace of 1,400 yards. 

VIKINGS GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: vs. Packers (Sun.)

 
14 of 28

Chargers offense no longer reliable

Chargers offense no longer reliable
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

While Justin Herbert joined four other QBs in obliterating an inept Eagles secondary, three of the Chargers' past four games have involved shaky offensive efforts. The apparent superstar-in-training averaged 5.7 yards per attempt, with the Chargers (5-4) again not seeing enough from Keenan Allen's supporting cast. The decorated wideout (nine catches, 98 yards) was the lone Charger over 35 receiving yards, and the Bolts did not have a 50-yard rusher in a game in which the Vikings held a 12-minute time-of-possession edge. The Bolts remain in contention this season but need more skill-position depth around Herbert for a 2022 Super Bowl push.

CHARGERS GRADE: C | NEXT: vs. Steelers (Sun.)

 
15 of 28

Run CMC's availability changes Panthers' outlook

Run CMC's availability changes Panthers' outlook
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers are 4-1 with Christian McCaffrey in uniform. Although Cam Newton rightfully stole the headlines from this game, Carolina's running back was the needle-moving presence. The All-Pro changes the Panthers' NFC status. McCaffrey's 161 scrimmage yards came in just about every variety possible. His full-usage day ended a lengthy Panthers offensive slump and did so against a top-five defense. Whether it is Newton or P.J. Walker at QB going forward, Carolina (5-5) will struggle through the air. McCaffrey's presence provides a nearly unparalleled safety net -- one the Panthers need to be careful about overusing.

PANTHERS GRADE: A-plus | NEXT: vs. Washington (Sun.)

 
16 of 28

Cardinals' hurdles stacking up in NFC bye race

Cardinals' hurdles stacking up in NFC bye race
Michael Chow-Arizona Republic/USA TODAY NETWORK

The Cardinals (8-2) have never earned a No. 1 seed in the playoffs, and Sunday's dud will hurt their chances given the NFC West's strength compared to the other bye-vying teams' divisions. Arizona already won without Kliff Kingsbury and Chandler Jones, and last week's outing sans Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins was one of this season's most impressive wins. The shorthanded team looked the part against the Panthers, mustering only 169 total yards -- the Cardinals' worst figure since the Josh Rosen season -- with its second- and third-string QBs playing. While one week remains until the Cards' bye, they probably need Murray back to win in Seattle.

CARDINALS GRADE: F | NEXT: at Seahawks (Sun.)

 
17 of 28

D'Andre Swift withstands workload, wills Lions to tie

D'Andre Swift withstands workload, wills Lions to tie
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Some talented QBs remain on Detroit's docket, opening the door to the possibility the Lions join the 1982 Colts as a winless team with a tie on its resume. Swift, however, showed that is probably an unlikely conclusion. With an injured Jared Goff sitting at 40 passing yards late in a grimy game, Swift carried the Lions (0-8-1) to the season's first tie. The second-year back totaled 36 touches -- the most by a Lion since James Stewart 21 years ago and more than all but one Barry Sanders game -- and his 133 rushing yards led a 229-yard Detroit effort. The Steelers have not yielded that many to a non-Ravens team since September 2017.

LIONS GRADE: B | NEXT: at Browns (Sun.)

 
18 of 28

Fumbles derail Mason Rudolph's uphill battle

Fumbles derail Mason Rudolph's uphill battle
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Although it is difficult to imagine this Ben Roethlisberger version faring too much better in Sunday's conditions, Rudolph keeps showing he is ill-equipped to succeed the future Hall of Famer. Against one of the NFL's worst defenses, Rudolph's inaccuracy held Pittsburgh (5-3-1) back -- on a day in which the Steelers oddly let him throw 50 passes. But Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth's late-game fumbles ensured this tie. If a game deserved a tie fate, this one fit the bill. Not picking up a win over the Lions at home stands to cost a low-margin-for-error Steelers team in a deep AFC.

STEELERS GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: at Chargers (Sun.)

 
19 of 28

Eagles secondary halts run of ugly box scores

Eagles secondary halts run of ugly box scores
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Teddy Bridgewater did not join the record-setting list of QBs to complete at least 80% of their passes against the Eagles. Not close, even as the conservative passer took checkdowns. Matched against a talented Broncos receiving corps, the Eagles' cornerbacks won out. No Denver wideout reached 50 receiving yards, and Jerry Jeudy needed garbage time to amass 48. Darius Slay delivered this game's defining play -- a slow-developing 82-yard fumble return that turned a potential game-tying drive into a two-TD lead -- and led the Philly defense's bounce-back effort. At 4-6 with just one over-.500 team left to play, the Eagles are somehow still alive.

EAGLES GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Saints (Sun.)

 
20 of 28

Broncos crash back to earth

Broncos crash back to earth
Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire

After failing to stop Jalen Hurts in the first half, the Broncos saw their offense seldom threaten a bottom-tier Eagles defense in the second. In 21 home games as Broncos head coach, Vic Fangio has lost a third of those by double digits -- more than Mike Shanahan's 14-season total. Fangio's seat is scorching again. Melvin Gordon's latest costly fumble further illustrated ex-GM John Elway's misstep with 2020's $16 million deal, and Bridgewater's Cam Newton-esque effort to stop Slay may, fair or not, be a visual reminder of his Denver stay. A rough day for a Broncos team coming off its best performance. This inconsistent squad should at least be healthier post-bye.

BRONCOS GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Chargers (Nov. 28)

 
21 of 28

Stefon Diggs lights up Jets, keys Bills' re-emergence

Stefon Diggs lights up Jets, keys Bills' re-emergence
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Bills offense recovered from its Jacksonville hideousness, with Diggs' 162-yard day displaying how dangerous the team can be when its top weapon heats up. After soaring to the receiver mountaintop in 2020, Diggs had compiled just one 100-yard game this season. Not coincidentally, the Bills have deployed a less consistent offense. Buffalo bothered to run the ball Sunday (24 attempts) and received a 100-yard day from Gabriel Davis. The team needs more consistent auxiliary work to free up Diggs, who has provided tremendous value to the Bills in playing a second season on his $14 million-per-year Vikings extension. 

BILLS GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Colts (Sun.)

 
22 of 28

Jets players may need a new chant

Jets players may need a new chant
Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com/USA TODAY NETWORK

Teammates continued to serenade Mike White by chanting his name around the facility, after his unlikely Bengals heroics. And the former fifth-round pick had generated buzz to the point legitimate talk he could keep Zach Wilson on the bench emerged. Only one first-round rookie QB over the past 10 seasons has returned to the bench for a non-injury reason after ascending to the starting lineup: Denver's Paxton Lynch (2016). White's four-INT day should ensure Wilson will be back once healthy. Of course, the Jets (2-7) have issues at just about every other position. But their potential big-picture QB problem appears to have sorted itself out.

JETS GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Dolphins (Sun.)

 
23 of 28

Falcons defense spares fans second-half drama

Falcons defense spares fans second-half drama
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

While A.J. Terrell's breakthrough season continued, the Falcons defense as a whole ensured no football of consequence would commence in Dallas after halftime. The Cowboys' 36-3 halftime lead was their largest since 1971, and the Falcons' 40-point defeat margin doubled as their worst since the 2004 Chiefs rushed for eight touchdowns in a 56-10 game. The Falcons (4-5), who lost to the Cowboys by a point in 2020, did contain Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard (83 total rushing yards). That could not have mattered less. This was beyond embarrassing for a team that held the NFC's No. 7 seed going into Week 10.

FALCONS GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Patriots (Thu.)

 
24 of 28

Dan Quinn overdoes revenge game

Dan Quinn overdoes revenge game
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Quinn's Falcons tenure lost steam and needed to end, but he made sure to pay back the team that fired him at first chance. The Cowboys' somewhat rejuvenated defense dialed up the heat Sunday. Each of their three starting cornerbacks intercepted Matt Ryan, who went from averaging 11.4 yards per attempt last week to posting the worst single-game passer rating of his 14-year career (21.4). Dallas defensive tackle Dorance Armstrong also sacked Ryan and hit him thrice; Ryan was out of the game by the fourth quarter. After their new defensive coordinator's masterpiece, the Cowboys (7-2) are back on track in the race for the NFC's bye.

COWBOYS GRADE: A-plus | NEXT: at Chiefs (Sun.)

 
25 of 28

Suddenly frisky Jags defense tests Colts

Suddenly frisky Jags defense tests Colts
Robert Scheer/IndyStar/USA TODAY NETWORK

After Jonathan Taylor appeared ready to drop another 200-yard game on the Jaguars (2-7), as he did in Week 17 last season, they showed their Bills outing was not part of Week 9's fluke spree. Jacksonville's defense, which the Geno Smith-led Seahawks torched on Halloween, limited Carson Wentz to 5.3 yards per attempt and kept the Colts from running away with a game that presented blowout ingredients early. Taylor totaled just 15 of his 116 yards after halftime. Unfortunately, an offense centered around the best quarterback prospect in nine years did little to support this effort. 

JAGUARS GRADE: C | NEXT: vs. 49ers (Sun.)

 
26 of 28

Colts' rookie D-linemen spring to life

Colts' rookie D-linemen spring to life
Robert Scheer/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

After letting Justin Houston walk in free agency, the Colts pinned their edge-rushing hopes on rookies. Through nine games, first-round defensive end Kwity Paye had no sacks and second-rounder Dayo Odeyingbo rehabbed a winter Achilles tear. Both came through to stop the Jaguars' upset bid. Paye recorded his first sack and hit Trevor Lawrence three times, while Odeyingbo's strip-sack ended Jacksonville's comeback bid late in the fourth quarter. The Colts (5-5) have not groomed a homegrown edge rusher of note since Robert Mathis. This outing at least presented progress for the DeForest Buckner-anchored D-line.

COLTS GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Bills (Sun.)

 
27 of 28

Dolphins' blitz success dims Ravens' bye hopes

Dolphins' blitz success dims Ravens' bye hopes
BILL INGRAM /THE PALM BEACH POST/USA TODAY NETWORK

Lamar Jackson's first-half numbers this season closely resembled his 2019 MVP start, but the Dolphins succeeded with their blitz efforts to slow his run at a second award. Two Dolphins safeties -- Brandon Jones and rookie Jevon Holland -- blitzed more times than any safety has in the past six seasons. Jackson's 85.2 rating against the blitz ranks 22nd this season. This figures to pose an interesting challenge to defenses, with blitzes obviously running the risk of Jackson escapes. But one of the NFL's best offenses figures to be tested on this front more often.

RAVENS GRADE: D | NEXT: at Bears (Sun.)

 
28 of 28

Somehow, Xavien Howard only has 2 NFL TDs

Somehow, Xavien Howard only has 2 NFL TDs
BILL INGRAM/THE PALM BEACH POST/USA TODAY NETWORK

The Dolphins (3-7) employ one of this era's premier turnover producers. Howard now has a combined 28 interceptions and forced fumbles. While the ballhawk has surprisingly only converted two of these into TDs, the second of those swung Thursday's upset over the Ravens. Howard's strip of Sammy Watkins and 49-yard return may well affect the AFC's home-field advantage race. Howard remains Miami's best player, though his contract squabbles could prompt the again-rebuilding Dolphins to try trading him in the offseason. Either way, he represents a high-value player for a team lacking many of those.

DOLPHINS GRADE: A | NEXT: at Jets (Sun.)

Sam Robinson is a Kansas City, Mo.-based writer who mostly writes about the NFL. He has covered sports for nearly 10 years. Boxing, the Royals and Pandora stations featuring female rock protagonists are some of his go-tos. Occasionally interesting tweets @SRobinson25.

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