Vikings ‘Potent Combination’ & New ‘Lab Creation’ Lead Best NFL Week 10 Reactions

Minnesota Vikings

Getty The Minnesota Vikings celebrate during a Week 10 comeback win in Buffalo.

It’s time to start taking the Minnesota Vikings seriously.

Entering Sunday, the Vikings may have been the NFL’s best team that no one was talking about. But after a performance for the ages from wide receiver Justin Jefferson (more on him later) and a Patrick Peterson interception of Josh Allen to slam the door on the Buffalo Bills in overtime, 33-30, Minnesota sharpened its championship pedigree.

Never has football being “a game of inches” been personified by a single moment or a single game more than the thrilling finish to regulation between the Vikings and Bills.

Just when the Vikings’ hopes of pulling off a colossal upset were dashed, after being stopped short on a Kirk Cousins quarterback sneak from the one-inch line with 50 seconds remaining, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen fumbled the center exchange, on a quarterback sneak attempt of his own, which Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks recovered for a touchdown. 30-27 Vikings.

But, Allen quickly guided the Bills into field goal range on a five-play, 55-yard drive setting Tyler Bass up to kick the game into overtime.

That’s when Kirk Cousins engineered his 25th game-winning drive, and Patrick Peterson sealed the victory when he intercepted Allen at the 2-yard line.

Don’t look now, but the Vikings are 8-1, with the only blemish coming back in Week 2 in Philadelphia against the still-unbeaten Eagles. Minnesota just continues to find ways to manufacture victories, with Sunday’s win the Vikings’ seventh one-score victory.

After Sunday, the Vikings have already notched wins over the Dolphins and Bills, and are an unblemished 3-0 in division play through Week 10.

Beyond finding ways to win tight games late, the Vikings are building confidence each week. That’s a potent combination as the stretch run shifts into gear.

Here are 10 takeaways from Sunday’s NFL Week 10 action.

Kadarius Toney: Andy Reid’s Latest Lab Creation

Brett Veach, Andy Reid, and the Kansas City Chiefs appear to have done it again.

Veach has habitually found value in under-performing former top draft picks and dropping them into Andy Reid’s laboratory. Reid just might have found the Chiefs’ next elite playmaker in Patrick Mahomes’ arsenal, in wide receiver Kadarius Toney.

In his second game since being acquired from the New York Giants in exchange for compensatory third-round and sixth-round draft picks, Toney caught 4 passes for 57 yards, including his first career touchdown.

Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Toney looked like he was made for Reid, Mahomes and the Chiefs’ scheme.

“He’s a better version of Mecole Hardman,” an AFC South scouting director told Heavy on Sunday. “He’s better as a runner after the catch. He’s stronger. Toney can also do a lot of screens and reverses, the same way they used Tyreek Hill.”

There’s only one Tyreek Hill, who is averaging 14.2 yards per reception with 1,148 yards for the Miami Dolphins. But, Toney looks like the closest yet to a true replacement for Hill’s role in the Chiefs’ offense that Kansas City spent the first half of the season trying to discover.

Chosen by the Giants 20th overall in 2021, Toney looks like he found a home in the Chiefs’ vertical passing game. Toney’s speed and playmaking ability after the catch give him the chance to make a real impact.

“Kadarius has always had talent,” the executive said. “His talent will be freed up playing in Kansas City.”

Saquon Barkley Erasing Any Doubt of Giants’ Future

Saquon Barkley didn’t mince words.

“I think I’ve been kind of vocal,” Barkley told reporters following Sunday’s New York Giants 24-16 victory over the Houston Texans. “About how I feel about this place, what I want my legacy to be in this place, I want to be a Giant for life. I’ve been vocal about that.”

Just hours earlier, the NFL Network reported that Barkley and the Giants had engaged in long-term contract extension talks during New York’s bye week. Barkley’s performance against the Texans was the kind that solidifies his future.

Barkley was the driving force of the Giants’ win, rushing for 152 yards with 1 touchdown in his fourth 100-yard plus rushing effort of the season.

Now 7-2, improbably so for so many reasons; a revolving door along the offensive line and without quality wide receivers, the Giants just might be evolving before our eyes in head coach Brian Daboll’s first season at the helm into a team that can afford to invest in a running back like Barkley. Especially when Barkley has proven instrumental to this team’s brand of winning football.

Buccaneers WRs Found Fountain of Youth in Munich, But Is It Sustainable?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and quarterback Tom Brady had their get-right game in Munich in Week 10 against the Seattle Seahawks, largely on the back of standout performances from star wide receivers Chris Godwin and Julio Jones.

Tampa’s first touchdown of Sunday’s 21-16 win over the Seahawks came off Jones taking a pass from Brady on a shallow crosser 31 yards for a touchdown. Jones appeared to turn back the clock, showing the speed and acceleration that made him one of the NFL’s most feared receivers for a decade but has rarely been seen this season in Tampa Bay.

Later, with the Buccaneers leading 21-3, Brady and company found some insurance when Chris Godwin pulled down a 4-yard touchdown reception. Godwin’s touchdown was his first of the season, and first since tearing his ACL on December 20, 2021 against the New Orleans Saints.

“It’s been big for us,” a Buccaneers front office executive told Heavy. “Because [Godwin and Jones] are finally getting healthy, at exactly the right time.”

The Buccaneers’ offense is at its most efficient when it is funneled through Brady and the passing game, as it was Sunday in Germany.

Now 5-5, facing the NFL’s second-easiest remaining strength of schedule, with only the 49ers and Bengals currently in the playoffs if the season ended today, there might be plenty of time yet for Brady, these receivers, and this team to go on a run.

Justin Fields Makes Another Leap

It’s now getting to the point that Justin Fields is making significant strides on a weekly basis.

Sunday might have been the ideal scenario for the Chicago Bears.

Chicago fell to the Detroit Lions 31-30, to 3-7 on the season, but rose to the No. 6 overall pick in next spring’s draft, if the season ended today, as Fields looked every bit the part of a franchise quarterback.

Fields certainly would like his late pick-six to Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah back, but the second-year signal caller was otherwise flawless on the day, passing completing 12-of-20 passes for 167 yards with 2 touchdowns to 1 interception. One week after setting the NFL single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback, Fields also rushed for a game-high 147 yards with 2 more touchdowns.

As the Pro Football Hall of Fame points out, Fields is only the fifth quarterback in the Super Bowl era to throw a touchdown pass and rush for a touchdown in five consecutive games.

Beyond picking his spots to run, and making the Lions pay for allowing him to the second level of the defense by rattling off runs of 28 yards and a 67-yard touchdown scamper, Fields’ poise from the pocket was improved.

At one point, Fields rolled out, evading the Lions’ rush, extending the play before firing a perfect spiral into a tight window to wide receiver Darnell Mooney for a 13-yard gain. Plays like that show just how much Fields has matured as a passer, as a quarterback.

It’s becoming more evident by the week that the Bears have their quarterback.

Now, it’s just going to come down to fortifying the offense in front of Fields, and adding a third receiver to a suddenly burgeoning receiving corps led by Mooney and Chase Claypool to grow around him.

Jeff Wilson: The Dolphins’ Missing Piece?

The Miami Dolphins’ trade deadline acquisition of former All-Pro EDGE Bradley Chubb stole the headlines, but it’s another Chris Grier pickup that is making an instant impact on the upstart AFC East leaders.

Running back Jeff Wilson, picked up off the scrap heap from the 49ers after San Francisco traded for Christian McCaffrey, has added an explosive element to the Dolphins’ running game that has suddenly elevated it into a worthy complement to Miami’s explosive passing attack.

Sunday, Wilson rushed for 119 yards with 1 touchdown, while catching 2 passes for 24 more yards.

“Having a running back like [Wilson] helps them a ton,” an NFL offensive coach told Heavy. “Not just Tua, but McDaniel as a play-caller. The Dolphins are totally for real.”

Wilson obviously has significant familiarity with Mike McDaniel’s offense — McDaniel was Kyle Shannahan’s offensive coordinator prior to landing with the Dolphins — but his versatility as a runner and receiver out of the backfield has taken significant pressure off quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

The Dolphins are now 7-3, they have knocked off the Bills, Ravens, and Patriots before blowing out the Browns 39-17 on Sunday afternoon, with Tagovailoa along with receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle as focal points. Wilson’s presence has the potential to create even more opportunities for Tagovailoa and the offense’s bevy of weapons.

Christian Watson Makes History, Powers Packers

Christian Watson’s rookie season has been a long meandering road, but Sunday led to paydirt. Three times.

Watson has faced scrutiny over drops and mistakes, even from quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and battled through injuries since being chosen No. 34 overall by the Green Bay Packers this spring. Sunday, Watson held his coming out party against one of the NFL’s stingiest defenses.

Inside a rollicking Lambeau Field against the Cowboys, Rodgers and Watson’s connection was undeniable, as if they’d been teammates forever. The Packers’ rookie receiver hauled in 4 receptions for 107 yards and 3 touchdowns. Against a Cowboys defense that entered Sunday having allowed only 8 all season.

The Packers aren’t in a position to become the first team to ever beat the Cowboys after Dallas took 196 14-point leads into the fourth quarter, without Watson. But, Watson’s effort was historic in an even more individual sense.

As NFL Research points out, Watson is just the second rookie with 3 receiving touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys, joining Hall of Famer Randy Moss having accomplished that feat.

Watson’s performance Sunday was pivotal to the Packers’ win and feels like a glimpse into his future as a focal point of Green Bay’s offense.

Russell Wilson Scrapes Rock Bottom

The Denver Broncos believed they were a quarterback away prior to this season, and Russell Wilson’s Super Bowl pedigree could lift the franchise back to prominence.

That belief has been proven hubris time and time again over the past 10 weeks.

Sunday might have been rock-bottom for Wilson, in a game the Broncos absolutely had to have, against the Tennessee Titans, in order to have any hope of keeping pace in the AFC West.

Sure, Wilson’s first season in Denver includes a 274-yard and two-interception debacle against the Indianapolis Colts. But, falling to the Tennessee Titans 17-10 on a back-breaking interception in the end zone down 17-10 feels like Wilson’s nadir.

Wilson passed for 286 yards with 1 touchdown against the Titans, but his back-breaking interception can’t be overlooked.

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“Father time is undefeated,” an NFL general manager told Heavy, when asked what has led to Wilson’s dramatic downfall this season.

Wilson hasn’t elevated the Broncos, and on Sunday his big mistake in a big spot cost Denver the chance at a comeback win.

Howie Roseman’s Eagles Continue to Win

The Philadelphia Eagles don’t play until Monday night when the NFL’s last of the unbeaten host the Washington Commanders, but Howie Roseman was one of Sunday’s biggest winners, anyway.

Entering Monday night, the Eagles are 8-0 for the first time in franchise history, but following the New Orleans Saints’ 20-10 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia would be picking No. 4 overall in the 2023 NFL draft.

Roseman, of course, flipped picks No. 16 and No. 19 in the 2022 draft to the Saints in exchange for New Orleans’ first-round pick in 2023.

There is some irony in the fact that the Saints’ poor draft night decisions and cap space mismanagement have tanked a roster to the point of picking at the top of the draft, and not only not benefiting from it, but handing that pick to one of the most adept executives in the league at creating value.

The optionality that Roseman has built into the past two offseasons, via the combination of multiple first-round draft picks and cap space, has been instrumental both in the Eagles building one of the NFL’s most complete rosters this season and potentially propping a championship window open for the next several seasons.

The NFC East is Everything Everyone Thought the AFC West Would Be

Speaking of the Eagles, Philadelphia is leading what has become the most competitive division in football.

Entering the season, the anticipation was that as many as three teams from the AFC West would make the postseason and that the Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders each had the requisite pieces and quarterbacks in place to make a Super Bowl run. Instead, only Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs would make the playoffs if the regular season ended today.

While the AFC West has disappointed, the NFC East has emerged as the league’s deepest division.

Philadelphia enters Monday night 8-0, Brian Daboll’s upstart Giants are 7-2, the Cowboys are 6-3, and all would qualify for playoffs if the regular season ended today. Plus, the Commanders would be the first team out.

Gone are the days of the NFC “Least,” and if the season ended today, three teams from the East would make up the NFC playoff field.

The Eagles still have four division games in front of them, and whichever team emerges from this gauntlet will be truly battle-tested when the postseason begins in January.

How Can the Raiders Stick With Josh McDaniels After … That?

Josh McDaniels has done the unthinkable.

McDaniels’ Las Vegas Raiders fell to the Indianapolis Colts 25-20, just six days after Jeff Saturday was hired as the Colts head coach.

You might remember that Saturday replaced the fired Frank Reich, and Saturday’s only head coaching experience prior to his NFL debut was at the helm of Hebron Christian Acadamy (GA) from 2017 to 2020.

That is, until throttling McDaniels and the Raiders, walking the walk after talking some serious trash talk last month:

Now 7-24 over his last 31 games as an NFL head coach, McDaniels hasn’t only lost to an opposing head coach whose hiring was an affront to the entire profession due to his lack of experience, the Raiders head coach has overseen three losses his team led by 17 points or more.

According to NESN, McDaniels’ contract buyout “reportedly is significant,” which imaginably would be the only hurdle standing between Raiders owner Mark Davis and pulling the plug on this entire failed experience.

For the Raiders to have this much talent; Derek Carr and Davante Adams, and Josh Jacobs, and a loaded defense with playmakers at all three levels, and be 2-7 with losses to the Saints, Jaguars, and now the punchline known as the Colts on the ledger is an embarrassment. How much more embarrassment is Davis capable of stomaching before instead opting to open his checkbook? We might be about to find out.

NFL Week 10 MVP: Vikings WR Justin Jefferson

Justin Jefferson authored what might be the most impressive performance of what is already an impressive career. The star wide receiver was an indispensable piece of the Vikings’ thrilling comeback win over the Bills.

Jefferson caught 10 passes for a career-high 193 yards with a touchdown, yet somehow his performance was even more impressive than his eye-popping stat line.

With the game hanging in the balance, Jefferson caught 5 passes for 89 yards during the fourth quarter and overtime. Jefferson’s day even included one of the most impressive catches in NFL history, a one-handed snag that he somehow held onto despite Bills defensive back Cam Lewis having two hands on the football on a do-or-die 4th & 18.

“The list of what makes him special is a long one,” an NFL offensive coach told Heavy. “First of all, he’s long, fast, and has incredible ball skills. It also helps that you can line him up anywhere.”

Jefferson is instrumental to the success of the Vikings’ offense and is quickly emerging as one of the premier players at the position in the sport.

NFL Week 10 Breakout Star: Buccaneers RB Rachaad White

The Buccaneers started third-round rookie running back Rachaad White, over Leonard Fournette, against the Seahawks and the former Arizona State standout responded by throwing himself a belated Oktoberfest coming-out party.

As Fournette got the Buccaneers on the board first with a rushing touchdown, White offered a glimpse of Tampa’s future, slashing and dashing his way to 105 yards while averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

“Rachaad White is a heck of a player,” a Buccaneers personnel executive told Heavy. “He really can do it all.”

White’s outburst against Seattle was the exclamation point on what has been a steady and versatile rookie season. Through the first 10 games of his career, White has already rushed for 222 yards with 1 touchdown and is averaging 6.8 yards per reception.

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