Taking a spin around the NFL to get you ready for Week 10:
The big questions
The 36-year-old quarterback will make his 208th consecutive start Sunday at San Francisco. It will tie his brother, Peyton, for the second-longest consecutive start streak by a quarterback in NFL history (trailing only Brett Favre’s 297). That’s about the only noteworthy thing Eli Manning has accomplished this season for the struggling New York Giants. He’s averaging just 6.2 yards per attempt this season — 27th in the NFL and on pace to be his lowest average since his rookie year of 2004. The Giants will be in position for a high draft pick and could take their quarterback of the future this offseason, but they might first want to know what they have in rookie Davis Webb, a third-round pick from Cal. With coach Ben McAdoo on the hot seat, there could be reason for him to give Webb a shot. Said McAdoo this week: “I’m not concerned about streaks. We want to try to do anything we can do to get a win.”
Can the upheaval in the NFC continue?
What do the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams have in common? They all missed the playoffs last season, and they’re all leading divisions in the NFC. Since the NFL went to the eight-division format for the 2002 season, there has never been four division champs from one conference who all missed the playoffs the previous season. The Eagles and Vikings both have two-game leads in their divisions. The Saints and Rams are in more tenuous positions. But if the Rams beat the Houston Texans in Los Angeles, they would improve to 7-2 for their best nine-game start since they were 8-1 in the 2001 season. It’s much different in the AFC, where three of the four divisions are being led by teams that were in the postseason last season. Only the AFC South, where the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars are tied atop at 5-3, has a non-playoff team from last season leading the division.
Is the AFC North race over?
The Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2) have a three-game lead in the loss column over both the Baltimore Ravens (4-5) and the Cincinnati Bengals (3-5). Coach Mike Tomlin’s team has a 97 percent chance to win the AFC North, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. That’s the highest percentage to win a division for any team. The Steelers are a 10-point favorite Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts, but they might not be the lock they would appear. In Tomlin’s tenure, which dates to the 2007 season, his team is 5-3 as a double-digit road favorite. The rest of the NFL is a combined 45-4 in such games during that span, and no other team has lost more than one of those games. The four losses were by the Patriots, Packers, Saints and Eagles.
By the numbers
1: Teams in the Super Bowl era to win seven straight games immediately following an 0-2 start. The Saints would join the 1993 Dallas Cowboys as the only teams to do that if New Orleans wins at Buffalo.
3.6: Combined rushing average of Vikings running backs not named Dalvin Cook. The rookie averaged 4.8 yards per carry before he was placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL.
52: Consecutive games, including playoffs, between the Packers and Bears that have been started by either Aaron Rodgers or Brett Favre as the Green Bay Packers‘ quarterback. That will end Sunday when Brett Hundley starts at Soldier Field in place of Rodgers, who is on injured reserve because of his broken collarbone. Hundley and Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky have combined for six career starts, the fewest by opposing quarterbacks in the Packers-Bears series since Week 15 of 1984 (Randy Wright vs. Rusty Lisch).
263: Points scored by the Rams under first-year coach Sean McVay, through eight games. That’s already 39 points more than they scored all of last season.
1,000: Yardage mark from scrimmage that Steelers teammates Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown could reach this week. Bell has 979 total yards, fourth in the NFL, and Brown is fifth at 835. Only five players in Steelers history have reached 1,000 yards from scrimmage in the first nine games of a season. Only six pairs of teammates in NFL history have reached that mark through nine games in the same season.
What we’ll be talking about after Week 10
The Cowboys without Ezekiel Elliott
Now that Elliott’s suspension is back on, the Cowboys’ backfield will feature Alfred Morris, Rod Smith and Darren McFadden. Elliott has 783 yards on 191 carries with seven touchdowns this season. Morris and Smith have combined for 184 yards on 24 carries for the season. McFadden has yet to be active for a game. Dak Prescott will need help from the running game in order to win at Atlanta. By Monday, it will become clear if the Cowboys can function without their most productive offensive player, and the rest of the league will know if Dallas can stay in the playoff race until Elliott returns.
The 49ers will challenge the Browns for 0-16
If the San Francisco 49ers (0-9) can’t beat the one-win Giants, then it’s going to be a race to 0-16. They already have a leg up on the Browns (0-8) because they haven’t had their bye week. The Cleveland Browns, who are at Detroit, have lost 16 straight road games and 21 of the past 22 away from home. With a loss, the Browns would be 0-9 for the second straight year and third time in franchise history.
A quarterback change in Green Bay
Unless Brett Hundley makes significant improvement Sunday against the Bears, the Packers might have to think about trying someone else in Aaron Rodgers’ place. Coach Mike McCarthy already has said he’s not interested in bringing in someone from the outside, so his other option would be Joe Callahan, an undrafted free agent in 2016 who played decent in his rookie preseason. Hundley has lost his first two starts and hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since Week 6 at Minnesota, the game in which he replaced Rodgers after the collarbone injury. The Packers are 3-7-1 since 2008 when Rodgers doesn’t start. Matt Flynn has all three wins.