NFL Week 10: Defining week for Packers and Vikings
America has decided. It continues to be tumultuous week in the country's history and the topic of conversation everywhere is still bring driven by the election. Come Sunday, the dust will perhaps start to settle and that topic will return to the weekend's football.
Sport can be a potent and valuable distraction. It can bring a sense of normality, calming both the frustrated or celebratory mind, due to a simple shift in focus. The issues will still be there on Monday but one hopes that a day off from them can clear the fog whichever way the public voted.
In my usual day job on Test Match Special, I remember covering an England one-day international against Sri Lanka the day after the Brexit vote. Parts of the country were mourning, others jubilant. I was presenting and commentating from Edgbaston and in conversations with our producer Adam Mountford and correspondent Jonathan Agnew it was a tough broadcast to pitch.
The decision was made to carry on our commentary as usual, but with a little more emphasis on humour and to try and entertain the listeners with a touch of extra irreverence and whimsy than TMS provides as a matter of course.
Basically to provide an escape for an afternoon. The reaction we got from listeners was that it did just that, again, no matter what their political leanings were. For those that tuned in perhaps it was partly down to us, and partly down to Jason Roy and Alex Hales hitting thrilling centuries in a 10-wicket England victory.
Let's hope this Sunday the US can feel the same escape and that the NFL can, momentarily at least, change the conversation.
So what's on the menu in week 10?
Well, I believe this could be the defining week for so many teams. The fixtures have fallen in a tantalising way, which is why I've decided to go through all of them.
Green Bay Packers (4-4) at Tennessee Titans (4-5): The Titans are progressing nicely but aren't ready for the play-offs this year even though they may find themselves in the mix due to playing in a weak division. Yet they host a Packers side who are on the brink.
Injury has decimated Green Bay's running game and quarterback Aaron Rodgers has temporarily lost his groove. Defensively Clay Matthews is still missing and that hurts them.
They may have running back James Stark back but they're on a two-game slide and find themselves behind the Vikings and Lions in the NFC North. This isn't an easy game to call.
Minnesota Vikings (5-3) at Washington Redskins (4-3-1): The Vikings, after starting 5-0, have also hit the skids and there is panic setting in.
A lengthy injury list and the surprising resignation of offensive co-ordinator Norv Turner made no difference to a team who simply couldn't move the ball at home last week against an average Detroit defence.
Washington will provide little defensively this week, but the Vikings are on the road, and the Skins are still a side marginally over .500 and trying to keep in wild card contention.
Chicago Bears (2-6) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5): At the time of writing, victory or defeat for either means little. Doug Martin may return to help the Bucs' running game, and on the other side rookie running back Jordan Howard is turning into a star, but let's move on.
LA Rams (3-5) at New York Jets (3-6): Will we see number one draft pick Jared Goff for the Rams or second-year quarterback Bryce Petty for the Jets? No? Then I have no interest in this game.
Kansas City Chiefs (6-2) at Carolina Panthers (3-5): Now, this one is weirdly intriguing. The NFC champion Panthers were horrible over the first six weeks of the season.
Yet in my opinion they are the only team that could start 1-5 and still go on a streak that could squeeze them into the play-offs. They have a nasty schedule but are at home over the next two weeks, so just maybe there is a ray of hope.
The Chiefs still have to face the Broncos home and away, plus host the Raiders and travel to the Falcons. Don't expect any let-up from Andy Reid's side.
Atlanta Falcons (6-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-4): After their 3-0 start with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz at the helm, the Eagles have fallen to earth with a bump and it gets no easier this week hosting the most explosive offense in the league.
Eagles fans may have jumped ahead of themselves due to their start, but there is promise. Their defence under co-ordinator Jim Schwartz is aggressive and they have a franchise quarterback to build around.
But, as written previously, the Falcons have got their act together and it's difficult to see how anyone can stop them in this form. The Eagles' play-off hopes will possibly come to an end this week while the Falcons can cement theirs.
Denver Broncos (6-3) at New Orleans Saints (4-4): I like this match-up. Denver came unstuck against a run-heavy Raiders offense last Sunday and they have to travel again this week and play in the noisy Superdome.
No doubt the Broncos will address that issue this week, but then you have got to contend with quarterback Drew Brees and his explosive passing game.
The Broncos this year have started games slowly, averaging 1.8 points per game in the first quarter (30th in the NFL) but can ill-afford to do that in Louisiana. New Orleans, although woeful on the defensive side of the ball, still have the firepower to make a run at the post-season.
Houston Texans (5-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6): I don't think there is a worse five-win team than the Texans. Yet they ae likely to go to 6-3 on Sunday as the Jaguars are sadly irrelevant.
Houston may be favourites for the post-season from the AFC South, but they will only last a week when they get there.
Miami Dolphins (4-4) at San Diego Chargers (4-5): Here are two teams better than the Texans on current form.
Another 100 yard running game for Jay Ajayi last week continues to allow the Dolphins to do more things offensively, while the Chargers are a couple of brain fades away from being an 8-1 team.
Both will still believe they can make it to January, however the loser of this game will not.
Dallas Cowboys (7-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4): The Steelers got quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back last week, but it was a week too soon after his knee injury.
He struggled on the road in Baltimore but you feel a week on the practice field will get him back in sync. They have lost their last two, have given up first place in the NFC North and have also brought the Bengals back into contention.
Dallas have won seven straight and are the most talked about team in the NFL right now. This is yet another test of rookie pair Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott's progress.
Heinz Field is always a tough place to go no matter what form Pittsburgh are in. Big Ben and running back Le'Veon Bell have to turn the tide this week. Dallas will be fine even if they lose.
San Francisco 49ers (1-7) at Arizona Cardinals (3-4-1): Meh... the Cardinals will win and stay in touch.
Seattle Seahawks (5-2-1) at New England Patriots (7-1): Get the popcorn ready for the rematch from the Super Bowl of two years ago.
The Pats at home with Tom Brady under centre will always be favoured but Seattle's defence is playing at the standard that got them to the 'dance' in consecutive seasons and they will feel they have a point to prove.
Both teams are going to be in the post-season but it's going to be fun to watch.
Cincinatti Bengals (3-4-1) at New York Giants (5-3): It feels as though these sides should have the other's record. But both are in similar positions in that any slip-up in their respective divisions could see January football go by the wayside.
The Giants have a little more wiggle room but the Bengals have been gifted the opportunity to claw their way back in. The two stellar wide receivers on either side - Odell Beckham Jr and AJ Green - make this a must watch.
So let's forget the politics and let those with helmets and shoulder pads slug it out on Sunday. I hope that's one thing all fans can agree on.
A reminder that there is no 5 live NFL this Sunday due to tennis coverage but we will be back on Sunday 20 November.