Here are the middle 10 teams in the National Football League as I see them heading into Week 11 of the 2010 season:
11. Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins might be down to their third-string quarterback, but I actually like Tyler Thigpen. The injuries at the quarterback position might prompt the team to run the ball more often, something that needed to be done anyway. Could the injuries be a blessing in disguise?
12. Oakland Raiders: The Raiders come out of their bye week in the driver’s seat in the AFC West. Yes, you read that right. The silver and black are back, thanks in great part to the emergence of running back Darren McFadden. The team faces a true test against the Steelers this week.
13. Tennessee Titans: I’m not sure if the Titans are a playoff team or not. They were handled by the Dolphins last week and could be one of the top teams on the outside looking in once the postseason rolls around. They need to incorporate Randy Moss into this offense more in the coming weeks.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs are 6-3, but they haven’t beaten a single team with a winning record. That said, they’re headed in the right direction and have a talented offensive core to be excited about.
15. Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs got trounced by the Denver Broncos last week, clouding their future. The Chiefs looked great in the opening weeks of the season, but I’m not sure they’re ready to make a real run at the division title. Their weak schedule should help, but I don’t know if they can outdo both the Bolts and the Raiders.
16. San Diego Chargers: The Chargers are rounding into form, as they seem to do every season. They’re not out of it in the division and could actually be the favorite in the AFC West. The defense needs to shape up, though.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags are coming off a crazy win, but perhaps that kind of momentum is all they needed. They’ve been inconsistent, and I don’t see them making a run at the postseason, but they could be a real tough spoiler matchup for teams down the stretch.
18. Houston Texans: The Texans just can’t overcome their defense. The Jags should not have been in position to win with that Hail Mary last week. Houston can run the ball and they can move it through the air, but they can’t stop anyone. Gary Kubiak could be in trouble, especially if they finish last in the division.
19. Cleveland Browns: I like this Browns team. They don’t have a ton of talent or much sizzle to help them sell NFL tickets, but they’re solid across the board and improving. Mike Holmgren did a great job rebuilding this roster, but the job Eric Mangini is doing can’t be ignored.
20. Chicago Bears: The Bears might be 6-3, but I don’t think they’re for real. I just don’t trust that offensive line. Their lack of a running game is bound to come back to bite them. I don’t see them making the postseason, even at 6-3.
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