By Nick Shook
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Time to check your radar, football fans. You might find some playoff teams flying under it. Week 10 saw a bundle of statement games from postseason hopefuls. Marcus Mariota and the 5-5 Titans smashed Aaron Rodgers, thanks to a 35-point first half. Kansas City won its seventh game of the season and its 17th game in its last 19, escaping Carolina with 20 unanswered points and a share of the AFC West lead. The 5-3-1 Redskins stifled Sam Bradford and the Vikings, who have briefly fallen out of the playoff race. Don’t change the channel, this season ain’t over yet. Here’s what we’ve learned from Week 10 so far:
1. The Chiefs aren’t flashy, they aren’t high-powered and while it might sound cliché, it’s true: they find ways to win. In Week 10 it required overcoming a 17-point deficit, and for the longest time, it didn’t seem possible. But with the game in a familiar lull that usually produces a decisive play, Eric Berrycame up big, intercepting a pass underthrown by Cam Newton, who let it fly off his back foot under pressure. Berry took the pick on a winding path across the field, crossing in front of the pylon as he ran out of gas to cut the deficit. After coming up short offensively, Marcus Peters — who had quite a day against Kelvin Benjamin — stripped Benjamin of the ball, legitimately outmuscling him for possession, which set up the Chiefs for Cairo Santos‘ game-winning field goal.
2. The Dab is back, and for three and a half quarters, Cam Newton looked much like his 2015 MVP self. But that’s not the problem with the Panthers, and unfortunately, the climb to the top of the NFC South got much more difficult Sunday. Sitting at 3-5, Carolina faced a game that could bring them closer to .500 or deal a major blow to their playoff hopes. After surrendering a 17-0 lead, it turned out to be the latter. The Panthers would need to win seven straight to finish with a record that might get them into the postseason. They aren’t left for dead, but they’re now in full desperation mode.
3. The box score looks like a game that produced 37 total points. Spencer Ware won’t end up with weekly honors, but he was a crucial part of a Chiefs offense that misses Jeremy Maclin dearly. Ware rushed 13 times for 61 yards, caught a few passes and did the unheralded job of blocking best, picking up an array of blitzes from multiple defensive fronts with authority, planting Luke Kuechly into the ground late in the game on a crucial third down, and also putting a lick on Thomas Davis when blocking downfield for Smith.
— Nick Shook
To read the full analysis from the Around the NFL staff, click here.