NFL Week 10 winners, losers: Time to add Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray to MVP debate
The second half of the NFL season kicked off with a flurry, highlighted by the Cardinals' game-winning Hail Mary touchdown pass.
Quarterback Kyler Murray is improving with each week and is putting Arizona's hopes for a postseason run on his back. As a result, it's time to start adding Murray to the ongoing debate for the 2020 MVP race, alongside players like Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs, Aaron Rodgers of the Packers and even running backs Alvin Kamara (Saints) and Dalvin Cook (Vikings).
As far as the standings go, there is a logjam in the NFC, and no team has separated itself as the clear and dominant force in the conference. In the AFC, it looks like the undefeated Steelers and the Chiefs, who were on their bye, are in the driver's seat for supremacy.
Here are Week 10's winners and losers.
Kyler Murray's MVP campaign
In his second season with the Cardinals, Murray is becoming one of the league's most entertaining players to watch. And in Arizona's thrilling, 32-30 come-from-behind victory against the Bills, Murray's excellence was on display.
To be sure, receiver DeAndre Hopkins deserves a ton of credit for hanging onto the game-winning catch amid three defenders. But Murray had to escape pressure and uncork a perfectly placed pass while on the run. With two scores on the ground, Murray became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era and fifth in league history with a rushing touchdown in five consecutive games. Overall this year, he has 10 rushing scores in nine games. The NFL single-season record for a quarterback is 14, set by Cam Newton in 2011. And as many other MVP front-runners are suddenly struggling, with the exception of Mahomes, that opens the door for Murray and his 27 total touchdowns.
Dolphins as playoff contenders
Winners of five in a row, including their last three with rookie Tua Tagovailoa as the starting quarterback, the Dolphins are a half game back of the Bills for first place in the AFC East. What's impressive about this Miami squad, as was evident in its 29-21 victory against the Chargers, is that it can win in a variety of ways.
This nearly was the third week in a row that Miami scored a special teams or defensive touchdown, but linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel's blocked punt was returned to the Chargers' 1-yard line, leading to an easy touchdown. Miami's point differential is 62 points better than Buffalo's. Tagovailoa has a perfect 5:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, becoming the second passer in the Super Bowl era to win his first three career starts without throwing an interception.
We often don't throw love to kickers here, but after the week they collectively put together, it's well-earned. Week 10 was a standout for kicking, not only in consistency, but also the quantity of long conversions.
Overall, through 13 games so far this week, kickers are 49 of 53 . Jason Myers of the Seahawks booted a 61-yarder as the first half expired in Seattle's 23-16 loss to the Rams. Matt Prater of the Lions hit a 59-yarder as time expired to win Detroit's game against the Washington Football Team, 30-27. Tyler Bass of the Bills converted on field goals of 54, 55 and 58 yards in Buffalo's loss to the Cardinals.
Browns' rushing game
At times, this Cleveland offense shows its flaws. But in the 10-7 Browns' victory against the Texans, the rushing attack racked up 231 yards on 41 carries and set the tone on a day when passing proved to be a challenge in whipping winds. Thirteen of the team's 20 first downs came through rushing plays.
One caveat here: Houston entered Sunday with the NFL's worst-ranked rushing defense, having allowed 159.5 yards per game. But Cleveland improved to 6-3 and is very much in the picture for one of three wild-card spots, with a berth snapping a 17-year postseason drought. If Cleveland and rookie coach Kevin Stefanski are to accomplish that feat, it's looking more and more like it will be on the back of the offensive line boring holes open for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
It's officially time to start worrying about the Ravens' once-potent offense. In a 23-17 loss to the Patriots, Roman, the coordinator, again struggled to put Baltimore into a steady rhythm. No play represented the lack of a cohesive plan more than a fourth-and-1 call near midfield in the third quarter with the Ravens down 10. Roman dialed up a direct snap to running back Mark Ingram on a windy and rainy night, with Lamar Jackson lined up out wide. It was a poor snap that Ingram couldn't grasp, and he fell on the ball for a turnover on downs.
One year after Jackson won MVP thanks to his unpredictable dual-threat ability, Baltimore's lack of a consistent passing game has put the entire offense in a compromising position. Part of the problem is that Roman's calls have become predictable, while last year's success was so strongly predicated on misdirection. Aside from that, the Ravens still have some more questions to answer, especially why they can't muster comeback attempts and are now 1-7 since Jackson has been the starter when facing a deficit at halftime.
The Taysom Hill as a starting QB narrative
The Saints need to figure out a succession plan for life after Drew Brees. In New Orleans' 27-13 victory against the 49ers, coaches, players and fans saw a glimpse of the problem when Brees was forced out with a rib injury. But what coach Sean Payton opted to do was rather interesting. Rather than put in Hill – who excels as a gadget-play passer, special teams ace, receiver and running back – Payton slotted in backup Jameis Winston. It was an interesting move given that the Saints extended Hill's contract this offseason, making him one of the highest-paid backups in the NFL.
One popular offseason talking point was that the Saints felt Hill was capable of being a franchise quarterback and the heir once Brees moves on. Hill even said in February that he viewed himself that way. If Payton shared that sentiment, however, he would have placed Hill in the game instead of Winston. For Hill to make that leap, in-game reps like these are essential. Hill is a multi-faceted weapon and delivers big plays when called upon. But his usage says everything you need know about whether his own team views him as more than that.
Seahawks' grip on the NFC West
They came into Week 10 with the NFL's best scoring offense, having averaged 34.3 points per game headed into Sunday. The Rams, thanks to a persistent pass rush that annoyed Russell Wilson and an aggressive secondary that picked Wilson off twice, held Seattle to just 16 points. Budding star receiver DK Metcalf, with Rams corner Jalen Ramsey shadowing him for most of the game, saw his first target and catch (which went for 9 yards) with 30 seconds to play in the third quarter.
With L.A. winning, as well as Arizona scrapping its own victory, there is now a three-way tie atop the division. But the Seahawks have lost three of their last four and have serious questions, particularly on the defensive side. Wilson has now committed seven turnovers in the last two games, the offensive line has struggled to protect him and the rushing game was dormant with both Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde out with injuries. All of this added up makes Seattle's position as an NFC contender much more precarious than it looked just one month ago.
Let's start with the good, though there's not a whole lot of it. Even with a massive 27-17 letdown against the division-rival Giants, the Eagles (3-5-1) are still the outright leaders in the NFC East. Now, the bad. The Eagles did not convert any of their nine third-down attempts. Their defense, which often struggles to force turnovers, didn't generate any takeaways against New York quarterback Daniel Jones, who has committed at least one turnover in 19 of his 22 career starts. And quarterback Carson Wentz simply cannot break out of his slump and is on pace to reach career lows in completion rate (58.4%) and QB rating (73.2) and is two picks away from tying a career high in interceptions (14). Maybe the worst part of all of this: the Eagles were coming off their bye.
Philly's next five gamesmay not see the Eagles win a single game. The Eagles will face the Browns, Seahawks, Packers, Saints and Cardinals, all of whom are a combined 32-13. Three of those games are on the road. Even though the division is the weakest in all of football, this game against the Giants was one Philadelphia simply couldn't afford to drop.