NFL Picks: The powerful AFC North on display in Week 10 as Cleveland visits Baltimore

Around the AFC

The North remembers. The best division in football is the AFC North. At the halfway mark, all four teams would be in the playoffs and three enter Week 10 at 5-3. The other is 7-2 Baltimore. Something’s got to give this weekend, though, as the Ravens host Cleveland in a game featuring maybe the two best defenses in football. Myles Garrett is putting together a dominant season for the Browns. The Ravens are loaded. Can Baltimore’s star quarterback Lamar Jackson be the difference?

Wilson’s woes. The Jets made a call to stick with Zach Wilson when Aaron Rodgers got hurt in Week 1 and, half a season later, it’s not looking good. New York’s latest brutal offensive outing came Monday night in a 27-6 loss to the Chargers. That followed three straight wins, to be fair, but the Jets’ terrific defense is doing the heavy lifting. Nathaniel Hackett’s offense, meanwhile, is averaging 16.5 points per game (No. 30 in the NFL) and ranks No. 31 in EPA/play.

Now vs. next. Two teams that decidedly do not have quarterback problems and square off Sunday: Cincinnati and Houston. Joe Burrow looks like an MVP candidate since he’s recovered from a training camp calf injury that lingered in the opening weeks. Over four straight Bengals wins, he’s thrown for 1,113 yards, 10 touchdowns and two picks on 75.8% completions. Hello. The Texans’ C.J. Stroud, meanwhile, continues his stellar rookie year. He’s thrown for 2,270 yards and a ridiculous 14 touchdowns against one interception. Fun one Sunday with the present and future of great quarterbacking on display.

Around the NFC

Kyler’s return. Kyler Murray is back. The Cardinals quarterback is returning after an 11-month recovery from a 2022 knee injury. What’s interesting is Arizona, of course, is in the running for the top of the 2024 draft. So, can Murray do enough to show he’s the guy over the second half of the season? Does a new regime in Arizona definitely want him to be the guy? Regardless, it’s in everybody’s best interest that he plays well … and stays healthy.

Alive and (kind of) well. Want an example of how it doesn’t take a perfect team to be in contention in the NFL? Look no further than New Orleans at Minnesota. Both are 5-4. Derek Carr hasn’t been particularly good for the Saints. Kirk Cousins is out for the Vikings. And yet each are squarely in playoff contention. Minnesota’s won four straight.

Detroit’s big opportunity. The Lions are in control of the NFC North at 6-2. After this week, they’ve got Chicago and Green Bay at home and a chance to really solidify their dominance. But first, a road trip to Los Angeles to take on the 4-4 Chargers. Justin Herbert’s team has won two straight, but this’ll be their stiffest test since losing at Kansas City. For the Lions, a path to 9-2 is in the offing. Can Dan Campbell’s team take advantage?

Game of the Week

San Francisco at Jacksonville

A few good options this week, but this one gets the nod because it features teams headed in different directions. The Niners have lost three straight after their ballistic start, scoring 17 in each loss. The Jags, meanwhile, were 1-2 before reeling off five straight wins. Both teams are coming off their bye weeks and added at the trade deadline — DE Chase Young for San Francisco, OL Ezra Cleveland for Jacksonville. Kyle Shanahan’s team travels all the way across the country as a 3-point road favorite. The Niners really need this one, and just might find a way to sneak it out.

49ers 24, Jaguars 23

Lock of the Week

New York Giants at Dallas

What is this, the ACC? Not often the NFL features a 17-point line. But that’s the case with the Cowboys hosting the Daniel Jones-less Giants. New York’s quarterback struggled, got hurt, returned and then tore his ACL. Now he’s out for the year and Brian Daboll will start Tommy DeVito. The Cowboys, meanwhile, are coming off a tough loss to Philadelphia and need to find a way to keep pace. They’ll be hard-pressed to win the NFC East, but are in good position wild card-wise as long as they win the games they’re supposed to. Like this one.

Cowboys 34, Giants 6

Upset of the Week

Tennessee at Tampa Bay

The Will Levis era is off and running in Nashville. Tennessee’s rookie quarterback tore up Atlanta in his first career game and then … didn’t tear up the Steelers in a 20-16 loss. Even still, he’s got a big-time arm, and the Titans are rolling with him from here. The Bucs got off to a nice start, but have now lost four straight. Tough stretch for quarterback Baker Mayfield, head coach Todd Bowles and company. They’re trying to put a stop to that as a one-point home favorite, but expect a slog in the process.

Titans 20, Buccaneers 17

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