NFL

5 Players To Watch In Week 10

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Week 10 could be known as “Super Bowl Rematch Sunday.”

The weekend’s two premier games feature the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers, followed by the Seattle Seahawks taking on the New England Patriots. Accordingly, both matchups draw national television audiences – in CBS’ 4:25 p.m. window and NBC’s SundayNight Football, respectively.

Dallas and Pittsburgh have battled for the Lombardi Trophy three times, most recently 21 years ago. New England knocked off Seattle in Super Bowl 49, a game infamously remembered for Seattle’s decision to throw at the 1-yard line rather than hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch. We all know what happened next.

In both matchups, linebackers come into focus – including an unheralded rookie making only his third career start.

Here are five players to watch this weekend.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals

Naturally, it’s safe to assume David Johnson will be the centerpiece of Arizona’s offensive game plan considering how truly terrible the 49ers have defended the run. San Francisco surrenders 193.0 yards per game on the ground, nearly 50 more than any other team in the league.

But, don’t forget about Fitzgerald. He owns the 49ers as well, catching 16 touchdowns in 25 career games.  In Week 5, the33-year-old veteran hauled in six receptions for 81 yards and two scores.

Oh yeah, Drew Stanton started under center. Carson Palmer’s healthy, and the Cardinals need a win to keep pace in the NFC Wild Card chase.

Brian Orakpo, LB, Titans

Tennessee hosts Green Bay in one of the weekend’s more underrated games. The Titans sit just a game out of first place and, to have any chance in this game, they need to pressure Aaron Rodgers.

An ideal fit in Dick LeBeau’s blitz-happy, 3-4 scheme, Orakpo has seven sacks in nine games and has consistently made opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket. As long as he stays healthy, he’s likely to post his first double-digit sack season since 2013.

If you’ve watched any Packers game this season, Rodgers seemingly has forever to make a decision with the football. David Bakhtiari, who has allowed only 10 pressures this year according to Pro Football Focus, deserves a ton of credit for keeping Rodgers upright.

Brock Osweiler, QB, Texans

So far, the $18 million Brock Osweiler experiment has mostly been a disaster.

Per ESPN Stats and Information, Osweiler ranks dead last among qualified NFL quarterbacks in completion percentage (37.4), yards per attempt (7.6) and on-target percentage (42.4) for throws at least 10 yards downfield. He certainly does not lack the weapons to stretch the field – namely DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V.

Out of a bye week, facing a frankly ordinary Jacksonville secondary and with an opportunity to maintain first place in the woeful AFC South, Osweiler must start playing up to his pay grade. Otherwise, Bill O’Brien may need to seriously consider making a change.

Elandon Roberts, LB, Patriots

Following the Pats’ surprising trade of Pro Bowl linebacker Jamie Collins, all eyes focus on Roberts, a 2016 sixth-round pick out of Houston.

He’s not nearly as athletically gifted as Collins; not many linebackers league-wide are. But Roberts is perhaps more likely to stick within the defensive structure and follow Bill Belichick’s sickeningly cliché mantra of “do your job.”

PFF has given Roberts an 81.8 grade for the season thus far, equating to a quality NFL starter albeit in limited snaps. But his role against Seattle should be interesting. The Seahawks put pressure on linebackers with lots of zone-read concepts in the running game, and a red-hot and healthy Jimmy Graham working over the middle.

Ryan Shazier, LB, Steelers

Prior to the Steelers’ bye week, linebacker Ryan Shazier said Pittsburgh’s run defense was “looking like garbage.” Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount trampled the Steelers for 331 yards over a two-week stretch.

He and the rest of the linebacker corps, particularly James Harrison and Lawrence Timmons, turned in terrific performances against the Ravens – holding Terrance West to 21 yards on 15 carries. Shazier made nine tackles (six solo, 2.5 for loss).

Pittsburgh’s defense also got a huge boost in the form of Cam Heyward’s return from a hamstring injury.

Shazier will have to slow down former Ohio State teammate Ezekiel Elliott, the league’s leading rusher.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.