It's week 10 of the NFL season, and Richard Graves has picked the teams that he thinks are going to come out on top.
Byes: Atlanta, Indianapolis, San Diego, San Francisco
Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets
A hugely important AFC East clash opens up Week 10 – the 4-4 Buffalo Bills travel to New York to face head coach Rex Ryan's former team.
With quarterback Tyrod Taylor and wide receiver Sammy Watkins back in the team, the Bills brushed aside division rivals the Miami Dolphins last weekend. Watkins accounted for 93 per cent of the entire team's receiving yards as he finished with eight catches for 168 yards and one touchdown. The only sour note was the injury to running back LeSean McCoy, who looked sharp prior to sustaining a shoulder injury and is described as "day to day" ahead of Thursday's contest – he is expected to play.
Buffalo will be well aware they can't afford to make mistakes if they are to get a win in this one. The Jets' opportunistic defence ranks third in the NFL with 19 takeaways. Supported by the league's second best running game, averaging 141.6 yards per game on the ground, Buffalo have a top 10 scoring offence (26.1 points per game). The Jets come into this game though with NFL's No 1 ranked run defence (80.6 yards per game).
Pick: Buffalo Bills
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Baltimore Ravens
I've maintained all season the Jaguars are an improving side and now we're beginning to see it in their performances.
Blake Bortles' connection with wide receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns gets better every week and the touchdown grab Hurns made over the head of Darrelle Revis highlighted that.
The Ravens are coming off a bye week – a rest their banged up team badly needed. Although they beat the Chargers on their last outing, it cost them the services of veteran wide receiver Steve Smith. That means wideout Kamar Aiken and tight end Crockett Gilmore are now Joe Flacco's top two receiving options so expect a heavy dose of Justin Forsett on the ground.
That's a strategy which should suit the Jaguars and their seventh ranked run defence, which is giving up just 94.3 yards per game. This could be the game where Jacksonville's promise delivers results.
Pick: Jacksonville Jaguars
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers
It's been a long two weeks for the Lions. Since they last played and were thrashed in London, they've seen both their general manager and president lose their jobs, with everyone else put on alert ahead of next year. If the NFL Draft were today, the Lions would have the first pick.
Meanwhile in that same period, the Packers have suffered straight defeats. It's the first time since 2010 that quarterback Aaron Rodgers has suffered back-to-back losses. Before anyone starts panicking, it's worth remembering both defeats were at the hands of undefeated teams, possessing two of the better defences this year. Detroit are not in that league.
New Lions offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter, has had two weeks to try an implement a new scheme but the Lions haven't been able to protect quarterback Matthew Stafford at all this season and their running game remains the worst in the NFL, averaging just 69.6 yards per game. If that wasn't bad enough, defensively, Detroit give up more points than anyone else as well, conceding an average of 30.6 points per game.
Pick: Green Bay Packers
Miami Dolphins @ Philadelphia Eagles
In the context of their respective divisions this is a big game for both teams but for the Dolphins, they're now in must-win mode to harbour any hopes of being in the postseason.
Philadelphia are tied for the lead in takeaways this season with 20 but they lost impressive rookie linebacker Jordan Hicks for the season with a torn pectoral muscle against Dallas.
For Miami, the loss of defensive end Cameron Wake was highlighted by a relatively ineffective pass rush against the Bills and that's something that must be addressed if they are to take advantage of an error prone Sam Bradford.
This is hardly a match-up which inspires confidence on either side but after a brief upturn, Miami's form has dipped again. Now they're faced with another game on the road the Eagles may have just enough to edge them out.
Pick: Philladelphia Eagles
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers
With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the team, the Steelers offence is a unit to be feared – even without starting running back Le'Veon Bell! Wide receiver Antonio Brown certainly appreciates Big Ben. On Sunday against the Raiders, Brown finished the game with 17 catches for 284 receiving yards (both new franchise records) as Pittsburgh outlasted Oakland in a 38-35 win.
So, to see Roethlisberger unable to leave the field under his own weight was not a welcome sight for Steelers nation. The good news is his foot injury isn't as bad as first feared and the Steelers hope to have him back playing in a few weeks. The bad news – this offence is now in the hands of backups, Landry Jones and Michael Vick. This offence looked completely different when they filled in for Roethlisberger earlier this season and this weekend's game will likely be a struggle.
That being said, the Browns head into this NFC North battle with the 29th ranked scoring offence, averaging just 19.7 points per game.
Throw into the equation the fact that Pittsburgh have home field advantage. If the Steelers can make a few big plays, they should have enough to account for the Browns.
Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers
Chicago Bears @ St. Louis Rams
Banged up and low on confidence, the Chicago Bears still found a way to travel to the west coast and get a big Monday night win over the Chargers – and they did it, rallying from 13-0 down!
This weekend's trip to St Louis isn't so forgiving though. The Rams are a tough, physical side who rank sixth in scoring defence, giving up just 18 points per game. Their 27 sacks is second only behind Denver's much vaunted defensive unit. Allied with the tough running of Todd Gurley this is not a good matchup on a short week for the Bears.
Pick: St Louis Rams
Dallas Cowboys @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Cowboys have now lost six in a row but this will be their last game without starting quarterback Tony Romo – already they know the size of the task in front of them. No team with a 2-6 record has ever made the play-offs.
The Buccaneers are coming off a defeat to the New York Giants and while the 32-18 scoreline looks comprehensive, they did have the opportunities to win the game. Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston is, without question, improving every week and that's beginning to show in his play – he threw seven interceptions in his first four games. He hasn't thrown one in his last four!
The erratic play of both sides makes this a tough game to call and it may come down to which team can best limit their mistakes. Dallas absolutely have to win this game to stay in contention in a division where their rivals seem to be doing their best to keep Romo's impending return interesting.
Pick: Dallas Cowboys
Carolina Panthers @ Tennessee Titans
Carolina haven't really been tested. Their offence isn't good enough. They'll be exposed by Green Bay's high powered offence…….these were all arguments I heard last week. Well, not only ARE Carolina good enough, they took care of the Packers and remain one of three teams with a perfect 8-0 record. The Carolina Panthers are the real deal!
The Panthers run the ball better than any other team, averaging 142.3 rushing yards per game. They have a very good defence which gives up a little over 20 points per game. The only slight cause for concern will be, for the second straight week Carolina allowed a three-score lead slip to an uncomfortable position late in the game.
While the Titans had a big win themselves last weekend, this is a daunting proposition. That being said, the significance of winning on the road in New Orleans shouldn't be overlooked. Nor should the character shown in overturning a 21-10 deficit before eventually winning in overtime. Rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota, returning from a knee injury, was sensational, throwing for 371 yards and four touchdowns.
The defensive front they face this week though, isn't Rob Ryan's defence. The Titans aren't likely to be handed the gifts offered in New Orleans.
Pick: Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints @ Washington Redskins
This could end up being a shoot-out, or it could simply become an awful game for the neutral to watch. The Saints defence is simply dreadful! No team in the NFL has given up more points than the 268 they've conceded. In six of their eight games they've given up 26 points or more.
The difference in this game comes on defence where the Redskins are substantially better. They concede around five points per game fewer than the Saints and despite having a banged up secondary give up 51 fewer passing yards per game.
New Orleans have committed one more turnover this year than the Redskins so this contest comes down to who can look after the ball better.
Pick: Washington Redskins
Minnesota Vikings @ Oakland Raiders
Right now, I think Oakland are the more exciting team but the Vikings are a more solid team. They don't do anything flashy but what they do, they do well.
Minnesota likely go into this contest without Teddy Bridgewater but with a defence which ranks eighth overall and second in points allowed (17.5 per game). Raiders fans will likely point to their emphatic win over an equally mean Jets defence two weeks ago, but most of that game was played with Geno Smith at quarterback for New York. Oakland's defence continues to ship points, ranks 24th and allows an average of 26.4 points per game. If Bridgewater plays, he and Adrian Peterson may have enough to silence the black hole.
Pick: Minnesota Vikings
Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos
The Chiefs currently sit three games adrift of the first-placed Broncos but a win on Sunday would not only close that gap, it would remove Denver's tie-breaker advantage as well.
Denver's unbeaten start ended with a shock defeat in Indianapolis as quarterback Peyton Manning's woes continued. He threw two more interceptions in a game which saw the Colts race into a 17-0 lead. To make matters worse for Denver, star linebacker DeMarcus Ware will miss up to four weeks after suffering a recurrence of his back injury.
Before we get too carried away with Denver's shortcomings it is worth remembering they still have the No 1 ranked defence in the NFL. They concede a league best average of 17.4 points per game and lead the league with 30 sacks.
Defensive plays were a key factor in the previous meeting between these two this season and they're likely to play a big part again but the result will be the same.
Pick: Denver Broncos
New England Patriots @ New York Giants
What's to be said about the New England Patriots that hasn't already been said? With a perfect 8-0 record, they haven't really been tested yet, sweeping aside all before them and even in New York, there's no reason to suspect the outcome will be any different this week.
The Patriots will have to tweak their game plan following the loss of running back Dion Lewis for the season with an ACL injury but the Giants suffered another big loss themselves on defence last week with the news defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins' season is over after he tore a pectoral muscle.
The Giants are already giving up around 25 points per game and with the loss of Hankins, do not be surprised if New England give them a heavy dose of running back LaGarrette Blount. Combined with the receiving threat of Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Julian Edelman against a depleted secondary, this has all the makings of a long day for the Giants defence.
Pick: New England Patriots
Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks
In recent years NFC West encounters have become something to look forward to and this is no different. Two good defences going head to head with two teams battling for control of the division.
Seattle have the No 2 ranked defence in points allowed, giving up an average of 17.5 points per game. Arizona have the second ranked scoring offence, averaging 32.9 points per game.
In Chris Johnson they also have the NFL's third leading rusher this season with 676 yards but Seattle have the league's third best rushing offence, averaging 139.5 yards per game.
In so many aspects these teams appear to be mirror images of each other…….except in the passing game. There, the Cardinals have a clear advantage averaging 292.6 yards per game compared to Seattle's 213.6 and that's reflected in points scored with Seattle scoring 12 points per game less!
Pick: Seattle Seahawks
Houston Texans @ Cincinnati Bengals
Week 10 finishes with two teams with very different records. While the Bengals are 8-0, the Texans are 3-5 but know an upset win in Cincinnati would see them tie Indianapolis for the lead in the AFC South.
Houston won two of their last three games before heading into their bye week but Cincinnati are a different proposition who have scored an average of 28.6 points per game. They have the dual running threat of Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard to complement the deep threat posed by wide receiver AJ Green and if Houston can keep those players quiet they've got big Tyler Eiffert to contend with – the Bengals' tight end who leads the league with nine receiving touchdowns this season!
Pick: Cincinnati Bengals