Steelers vs Panthers

Steelers vs Panthers: It’s Week 10 in the NFL, which means that individual player awards are up for grabs, playoff races are tightening and potential coaching changes could be on the horizon for sputtering franchises.

Here are seven questions for Week 10:

1. Could Thursday night feature a potential Super Bowl preview?

Even without Le’Veon Bell, whose absence has stretched into Week 10, the Steelers have been hot over the past month and look like one of the top teams in the AFC. The Panthers, meanwhile, have made a dramatic jump on offense from last season thanks to coordinator Norv Turner. Specifically, quarterback Cam Newton is having a transformative season in which he’s using his arm (career-high 100.8 passer rating) and his legs (on pace to set a new career-high for rushes).

Both teams could be threats to represent their conferences in the Super Bowl, but who needs this game more? It’s probably Carolina given the strength of their conference and the need to match the play of the NFC South-leading Saints. While a loss wouldn’t be devastating for either team, this is a matchup worth watching, and one that could be reprised in February.

2. How will the Rams bounce back?

Los Angeles suffered its first loss in a thrilling game against the Saints, but there’s no reason for panic. The Rams still look like one of the top teams in the entire NFL, though a tough division matchup against the Seahawks at home looms. With both L.A. and New Orleans having one loss, how each team responds will shape the race for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Rams, behind running back Todd Gurley, have the NFL’s third-ranked scoring offense (33.2 points a game), but the Seahawks are tied for fifth in scoring defense (19.5). The Rams are the clear favorite, but historically this is usually a physical, hard-fought game.

3. Will the Saints extend their NFL-best seven-game winning streak?

Speaking of the Saints, they made their case as the NFL’s best team with their victory against the Rams, but now have a challenging tilt against the 5-3 Bengals, who are fresh off their bye. Cincinnati ranks 10th in scoring offense (27.6 points a game), but the big question is whether that will be enough to keep up with the potent Saints attack that ranks second (34.9). Drew Brees is playing at an MVP level. Michael Thomas is one of the best receivers in football. Alvin Kamara is a do-it-all threat, and the defense is much improved. New Orleans also just brought in veteran receiver Dez Bryant, though it’s likely a stretch for him to play Sunday.

4. Is this the start of an end zone hot streak for Julio Jones?

It took 343 days, came on Jones’ 60th catch of the season and followed six other Falcons recording a receiving score, but Jones finally made it into the end zone with a 35-yard touchdown in Week 9 against the Redskins. Now facing the Browns on Sunday, he could be in line for even more, though history is not on his side. Over the past 29 games, Jones has caught 180 passes for 2,816 yards, but only five of them (or 2.8 percent) were finished in the end zone. Browns rookie corner Denzel Ward has been excellent but suffered a hip injury in Week 9. If he’s good to go, he may shadow Jones all game long.

5. Will Greg Williams defy the odds to get his first win as the Browns interim coach?

Williams isn’t getting any favors from the schedule. In his first test since the Browns fired Hue Jackson, he watched his team getting scorched by the AFC-leading Chiefs. Now on Sunday, he’ll look to get his first win against a Falcons team that has won three in a row and boasts one of the most productive league’s offenses behind quarterback Matt Ryan, who has a career-high completion rate of 70.8 percent. To make matters even more challenging, the Falcons just signed pass rusher Bruce Irvin, whose familiarity with Dan Quinn’s system from their days in Seattle means he could step in right away.

6. Who will take the battle for second place in the NFC East?

A pivotal matchup Sunday night in Philadelphia between the 4-4 Eagles and the 3-5 Cowboys could have significant implications in the division race. The Redskins are 5-3 but dealing with a rash of injuries, so there’s room for a challenger to emerge. Philadelphia is still finding its footing in its Super Bowl title defense. But the Cowboys have been an ineffective offense and are coming off a disappointing defeat against the Titans despite new target Amari Cooper providing a boost. But if it isn’t enough, and if quarterback Dak Prescott and offense don’t turn it around, jobs on the coaching staff could be in danger.

7. With Leonard Fournette trending toward a return, can Jaguars snap four-game skid?

Jacksonville has badly missed Fournette, who has dealt with a nagging hamstring injury all season long. This season, the Jags rank 24th in rushing offense (95 yards a game) after they ranked first in the category last season (141.4). That has put more pressure on quarterback Blake Bortles, who has not delivered consistently. The Jaguars just had their bye week, so they’ve had time to examine some of their issues – in addition to getting the chance to give Fournette some extra rest. He has returned to practice this week, and if he can go, will give the offense a much-needed boost. With the ascending Colts waiting for them Sunday, they’ll need to be better.

Monday Night Football

Monday Night Football 2018 : In a downtown Buffalo hotel, where they were headquartered for the weekend, more than thirty members of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” crew convened in a conference room.

They arrived one or two at a time, fashion be damned.T-shirts and polo shirts, blue jeans and shorts, sandals and slippers. All were appropriate attire. Jeff Triplette, a former referee who works as a rules analyst, donned a Minnesota Vikings shirt.

Nine hours later they would produce a telecast between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. This was the final production meeting, the culmination of a week’s worth of preparation for a three-hour TV show.

This isn’t a matter of showing up and waiting for a technician to say “lights, camera, action!”

“People will throw out that phrase, ‘There aren’t enough minutes in the day,’ ” said Joe Tessitore, the Schenectady-bred play-by-play announcer in his first season of doing the package. “That is so true when you’re doing Monday Night Football. You barely have time to breathe during the week if you want to do this the right way.”

Getting it right is the goal for those working on ESPN’s most coveted property. Tessitore, a former WRGB (CBS-6) weekend sports anchor, has worked at the network for 17 years, calling college football and basketball, boxing and other sports, but nothing draws the audience and scrutiny of Monday Night Football, which celebrates its 50th year in 2019.

“I do believe my TV self is similar to my real-life self,” said Tessitore, only the sixth play-by-play announcer in MNF’s illustrious history. “It’s just who I am, but if you think that when the Hank Williams Jr. music goes on, and the red light goes on, that you’re not aware of the fact that you’re on Monday Night Football, you’re lying to yourself. It doesn’t mean I’m speaking differently, but you’re aware, and there’s an expectation.”

Before the music plays, before the Monday morning meeting at the hotel, a lot of planning and effort goes into the production.

‘Terrible Tuesday’

The stadium is barely empty from the preceding game when Jay Rothman, producer of MNF since ESPN acquired the package in 2006, begins to focus on the following Monday night.

“It starts as soon as the game is over,” Rothman said. “Tuesday is a travel day, but we’re watching the game, ripping it apart.”

Once the game ends, Rothman reviews a tape of the telecast on a laptop. His screen contains three video feeds — the pictures seen by millions of viewers, one focused on booth announcers Tessitore and Jason Witten, and another showing Booger McFarland, who does his analysis from a cart that roams the sideline.

“I always say, ‘I’ll give you guys Tuesday off, and then we’ll talk on Wednesday,’ ” Rothman said. “We get home, we’re all exhausted. It’s brutal. I call it ‘Terrible Tuesday.’ It is complete physical and mental exhaustion, but I have to watch and get through it. If we don’t speak Tuesday night, we’ll talk Wednesday, and we’ll critique the show.”

All of the announcers spend Wednesday watching film of both teams. It also is a day when MNF news editor Jim Carr prepares a document, usually around 40 pages, with excerpts of stories written about both teams and other valuable notes.

“That’s a very slow read,” Tessitore said.

Tessitore carves out a small chunk of time Wednesday evening to have tea with his wife, Rebecca, and “watch one episode of a TV show with her.”

Titans vs Cowboys

Titans vs Cowboys : The Tennessee Titans are a hard team to figure out this season, as they are 0-2 against the spread when favored on the NFL betting line but 4-1 ATS when listed as underdogs. Tennessee will play as a dog again when it takes on the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night in Arlington, Texas.

Tierney is a veteran national sportswriter who has emerged as the top NFL expert for SportsLine. He enters Week 9 of the NFL season on a blistering 31-11 run on all his NFL picks,returning almost $2,000 to $100 bettors during that span. He also has a keen eye for when to back and when to fade Dallas, evidenced by his strong 17-8 run on all his picks involving the Cowboys.

The last time the Cowboys played at home,Tierney picked Dallas (+3.5) for a matchup against the Jaguars. The result: Dallas not only covered, but exploded for a 40-7 outright win that covered the spread with an unthinkable amount of room to spare.

Now,he has zeroed in on Cowboys vs. Titans and locked in another strong play over at SportsLine.

Tierney has considered the ramifications of Cooper’s addition to the Cowboys’ offense. The Cowboys have struggled to consistently move the ball this year,with no receiver managing to record more than 40 catches or 350 total yards through seven games.

NFL point spread: The Cowboys opened as four-point favorites; the total was 42 early in the week, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. Line updates and matchup report.

NFL betting pick, via OddsShark computer: 26.4-12.5 Cowboys. NFL picks on every game.

Why the Titans Can Cover the Spread

The Titans won three games in a row going into October but are seeking to stop a three-game losing skid after falling to the Los Angeles Chargers 20-19 in London in Week 7.

Tennessee fell behind to Los Angeles 17-6 early in the third quarter but rallied and scored with 30 seconds left to pull to within one point of the Chargers. The Titans then chose to go for two and the win, and even had two shots at it, but they came up empty.

The Titans outplayed the Chargers, earning a 23-14 advantage in first downs, outgained Los Angeles 390-344, won the ground battle 164-47 and held a 35:25 time-of-possession advantage. But they gave up two long Philip Rivers touchdown passes, threw an interception from the 10-yard line and missed a field goal, albeit a 51-yarder.

They did, however, cover the spread as six-point dogs. The one-point loss was the second for Tennessee in its past three games; on October 7, the Titans fell at Buffalo 13-12 on a field goal at the buzzer.

Why the Cowboys Can Cover the Spread

The Cowboys are riding the NFL roller coaster this season, alternating defeats and victories week by week. In Week 6, Dallas pounded Jacksonville 40-7, but the following week, the Cowboys fell to the Washington Redskins 20-17. Like the Titans, they had Week 8 off.