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NFL Winners and Losers: Does anyone want to be great? Buccaneers become latest upset victim

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers brought everyone back from a Super Bowl championship team. If anyone was immune to the weird recent spate of upsets to contenders, you'd think it would be them. 

The entire NFL world has gone mad. The Buccaneers faced the disappointing 2-6 Washington Football Team and looked like the team that was four games under .500. The Buccaneers did little on offense, the defense gave up a fourth-quarter drive that lasted more than 10 minutes with the game on the line, and Washington pulled off a monster 29-19 upset win. It's the Bucs' second straight loss; they dropped a game to the Trevor Siemian-led Saints before their bye

The Baltimore Ravens started Week 10 with a weird loss to the Miami Dolphins. Last week, the Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams were dealt inexplicable losses. And yeah, wee'll get to the Arizona Cardinals' Week 10 face plant in a few. Whenever a team climbs the ladder in the NFL this season, they're knocked off by a team from the bottom rung. The Buccaneers aren't an exception, and it was clear right away they were in trouble. 

Through the first quarter, Brady had 5 yards passing. He had a pair of interceptions too, though one was hardly his fault. Brady threw a nice pass to receiver Jaelon Darden who was hit, and the ball popped into the air. Washington picked it off, and you knew it might be a weird day for the Bucs after that play. 

Tom Brady and the Buccaneers had a rough day at Washington. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Tom Brady and the Buccaneers had a rough day at Washington. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The Buccaneers looked lethargic but got back into the game due to a Washington mistake. WFT receiver Dax Milne was stripped after a catch by linebacker Lavonte David and Tampa Bay recovered. Mike Evans then scored a 40-yard touchdown. The extra point was missed and the Bucs trailed 23-19. At that point you expected the Bucs to take over the game and win. 

After that, Tampa Bay had a tough time getting off the field. Washington went on a monster drive, lasting 19 plays and 80 yards, capped off by a fourth-and-goal touchdown run by Antonio Gibson with 29 seconds left. That put the game away. A championship defense gave up a drive to a mediocre offense that lasted 10:26. It was unbelievable ... except that in the 2021 NFL, seeing great teams inexplicably fall apart has become the norm. 

The Buccaneers should be fine. They're missing Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski, which is surprising given their depth. When they're healthy they're still a talented, championship-level team. And someone has to win a Super Bowl, right? 

Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 10 of the NFL season: 

WINNERS

Minnesota Vikings’ playoff chances: The Vikings are either going to make the playoffs or have a ton of regret over all those close losses.

The Vikings, who had five close losses in a 3-5 start before Sunday, aren’t a bad team. They showed that in a 27-20 win Sunday over the Los Angeles Chargers. They just have a hole to dig out of, and they can’t afford too many more losses. The Chargers win was a good step.

Kirk Cousins found Justin Jefferson early and often (Jefferson had 143 yards), Cousins had two touchdown passes to Tyler Conklin including one under extreme pressure on fourth-and-goal, the defense had a fine day and the Vikings got a huge win. They’re 4-5 and not in the best shape, but given the diluted playoff field, getting the No. 7 seed isn’t too much to ask. Maybe they’ll even do better than that if they’ve figured out how to close out games.

The red-hot Tennessee Titans, barely: The Titans continue to win, even if Sunday was a close call. 

The Titans held on to beat the New Orleans Saints 23-21. The Titans looked like they had the game under control, then gave up two scores late and had to dodge a two-point conversion to win. But they did, as Trevor Siemian threw incomplete after the Saints scored in the final two minutes. 

The Titans continue to defy the odds and advanced stats. They're 8-2 with six straight wins, even if metrics say they aren't that good. But they also don't seem to care what the metrics say because they keep winning. 

Rhamondre Stevenson: The New England Patriots always find a productive running back. They often find a new one every other week. 

On Sunday, it was Stevenson's turn. With Damien Harris out due to injury, Stevenson stepped in as the featured back and looked great. The entire Patriots team looked fantastic as they continued their hot streak, beating the Cleveland Browns 45-7. Stevenson led the way with 100 rushing yards and a couple of touchdowns. 

Stevenson was a fourth-round draft pick out of Oklahoma, and he's a big back who fills the between-the-tackles role in the Patriots' backfield. Harris probably takes back that role next week if he's healthy, but the Patriots know that the rookie can fill in just fine if needed. Knowing the Patriots, he'll have another day in the sun this season. 

Jonathan Taylor, rushing champion? With Derrick Henry out for a while, and Nick Chubb, Damien Harris and Alvin Kamara out, Taylor had a chance to gain ground in the NFL rushing race. And he did.

Taylor cruised to a 100-yard game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Indianapolis Colts squeezed out a 23-17 win. If Taylor stays healthy, he should win a rushing title. He had 116 yards Sunday. He's more than 200 yards ahead of Chubb, who was third place in the NFL in rushing yards entering Week 10. Henry led the NFL coming into Week 10 but he might not play again this season. Taylor is positioned well to be the NFL's top runner this year, and perhaps help the Colts into the playoffs.

LOSERS

The Arizona Cardinals being our one trustworthy team: It’s not like the Cardinals didn’t have excuses. Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins and Chase Edmonds were out. That’s a lot for any team to overcome.

But what we saw on Sunday was startling. The Cardinals took a bad loss, being absolutely blasted 34-10 by the Carolina Panthers with P.J. Walker (and occasionally Cam Newton) at quarterback. Even with the Cardinals absences, it didn’t compute how they could look so bad after a strong 8-1 start to the season. They lost to a shorthanded Packers team a couple weeks ago, but that was a close game. This one was not.

Arizona will obviously be better when it gets its offensive stars back. Sunday was ugly. But it’s not like any other Super Bowl contenders have avoided awful losses lately.

Russell Wilson’s return: It was great and exciting for Wilson to return so soon from finger surgery. No offense to Geno Smith, but we want to see stars like Wilson play.

But the guy wearing No. 3 for the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday looked little like Wilson.

Wilson rushed back from a major injury and it showed in a 17-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers. He rarely made a good throw and missed on several that he usually completes in his sleep. He missed some that Smith would have made easily. The Packers didn't play well on offense, and the game was there for the taking for Seattle. Wilson just couldn't do it. 

The Seahawks have to just hope that Wilson was rusty and what we saw Sunday wasn’t a physical issue that won’t resolve itself anytime soon. It looked like he could have used another week or two off, but it’ll be very hard to turn back now.

Denver Broncos’ winning streak: Just remember, nothing you see one week in the NFL matters much to the next week.

Last week the Broncos mauled the Dallas Cowboys. They totally shut down their offense. Dak Prescott did nothing. If you thought the Broncos turned a corner, you were wrong.

Jalen Hurts and the Eagles carved up Denver in a 30-13 win. Eagles cornerback Darius Slay put an exclamation point on the win with a fumble recovery on a failed fourth-down run and a great 82-yard return for a touchdown.

The Broncos looked good a week ago. The defense played really well. You had to wonder where that team disappeared to in Week 10.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Even if Ben Roethlisberger isn't what he was, the Steelers are still better with him. That's probably a bigger statement on Mason Rudolph. 

The Steelers' succession plan at quarterback isn't any clearer after Sunday, when Pittsburgh struggled all game behind Rudolph against an 0-8 Lions team and barely escaped with a 16-16 tie. The Lions had a shot at their first win but an overtime field-goal attempt barely got off the ground. The Lions settled for a half-win after Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth fumbled with eight seconds left in overtime and Pittsburgh near field-goal range. 

The Steelers didn't have Roethlisberger, who was in the COVID-19 protocol. They shouldn't be that much worse without a limited 39-year-old quarterback but what's behind him is worse. What the Steelers will do when Roethlisberger is finally done is a topic for another day. On Sunday, it was disappointing to not beat a winless Lions team. 

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons hadn't trailed by 33 or more points at halftime of a game since 1967. Until Sunday. 

The Falcons had the bad fortune of going against an angry Dallas Cowboys offense. CeeDee Lamb and Ezekiel Elliott each had two touchdowns in the first half, and the Cowboys scored a touchdown on a blocked punt. The Cowboys led 36-3 at halftime. They won 43-3

It's easy to write off the blowout as a bad team getting smashed, but the Falcons haven't been all that bad. In fact, if the playoffs started after Week 9, the Falcons would have been the final wild-card team. But Sunday was a big wake-up call for Atlanta. 

New York Jets defense, again: It has to be troubling how many points the Jets give up in certain games.

The Jets, coming off an awful showing against the Indianapolis Colts, gave up 38 points to the Buffalo Bills with six minutes left in the third quarter. The Bills cruised the rest of the way to a 45-17 win. Some of the points were due to the Jets' offense doing nothing and giving the Bills some short fields, but it's not like it's a new thing for the defense to get embarrassed. The Bills could have put up 50 easily if they didn't let up in the fourth quarter. New Jets coach Robert Saleh came in with the reputation of a defensive star, but New York hasn't seen that yet.