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Week 10 NFL thoughts

A few quick observations from the 10th week of the season:

• Maybe I was too quick to write off the Saints. It's funny to say this after a team allowed 27 points and the opposing quarterback, in this case Matt Ryan, to throw for 411 yards, but the Saints' defense might be starting to play just well enough for them to have a chance. They held Michael Turner to 15 yards on 13 carries in their 31-27 win Sunday, and even though Ryan's numbers were excellent, holding the Falcons offense to 27 points isn't a terrible day at the office. Should Seattle and Minnesota fall off, I'd take the Saints over the Cowboys, the Lions, the Cardinals and whoever else for the sixth NFC playoff spot.

• This week's back-from-dead team in the other conference has to be the Bengals. I know the Giants aren't exactly rolling right now, but that's a pretty impressive 31-13 win nonetheless. Andy Dalton had just 199 yards, and 56 came on one pass to the awesome A.J. Green, but it's encouraging for the Bengals that their up-and-down young QB completed 70 percent of his passes and had a 4-0 TD-to-INT ratio. Pittsburgh has a two-game lead, but it has an injured Ben Roethlisberger and just needed overtime to beat Kansas City. Miami just got beat 37-3 by the freaking Titans. The Chargers aren't exactly making the right kind of headlines. You can't convince me Cincinnati isn't a pretty decent bet to sneak into the playoffs. Well, except by pointing out that they're the Bengals and that Marvin Lewis is their coach, that is.

• I still can't believe that Miami/Tennesse final. While the Dolphins had shown all kinds of life in the first half of the season, the Titans' three wins came by a combined seven points over the inconsistent Lions, the inconsistent Steelers and the bad Bills. They had been outscored 308-182 and were coming off that absolutely brutal loss to the Bears. But for one week, the team that at least one idiot picked to win the AFC South showed up. Jake Locker is healthy again. Most importantly, a defense that had been among the NFL's worst held an opponent to 255 yards and had three interceptions, even if it was against Ryan Tannehill. It seems more an abberation than a turning point, but it's a surprise either way.

•Another surprise was the Rams earning a 24-24 tie with the 49ers. Much has been made about the missed field goals in overtime, or the time-clock gaffe. The thing I think deserves more scrutiny was Rams coach Jeff Fisher calling a timeout early in the play clock with 1:13 left in regulation and his team facing first-and-goal down 21-17. They scored four seconds of game time later, but the 49ers drove down and hit a tying field goal with three seconds left in regulation. The Bears fan in me who wanted a 49ers loss was moaning, "Why?" at Fisher the second he called the timeout, and I think Fisher is in a way fortunate that so much else in the game overshadowed his own poor clock management.


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