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Each Tuesday, WhatIfSports.com's NFL simulation engine will provide you with predictions, box scores and statistics for every NFL game that week. The NFL simulation engine generates detailed information including the home team's chances of winning (Home Win %), average score and comprehensive box score link. If you want to share your new found NFL knowledge with friends and family, make sure to check out our NFL Widgets on the WhatIf To Go page or click on the social networking share bar located at the top and bottom of the article.
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Game of the Week: Panthers at 49ers
San Francisco finds itself in familiar territory heading into November. After a stumble out of the gate, the Niners won five consecutive games to post a 6-2 record in the first half of the season, bringing the team's record to 30-10 under the Jim Harbaugh Era. Such a performance is expected from a squad returning most of its integral components from a Super Bowl appearance in February.
The same cannot be said for the Panthers. Carolina has not made the postseason since 2008, and entered the fall with a 15-33 record in its previous three seasons. After a phenomenal rookie campaign, quarterback Cam Newton was victim to the dreaded sophomore slump in 2012. Worse, little was done to the roster in the offseason, meaning more of the same for the Charlotte faithful.
Or so was envisioned. Instead, Carolina has been a pleasant surprise, racking up a 5-3 mark to insert itself into the playoff race. This unexpected fruition has transformed Week 10's journey to Frisco a must-see affair and serves as our WhatIfSports.com Game of the Week.
Although the Panthers sit a game back of the NFC South lead and are slotted for a Wild Card spot, there's doubt Carolina can keep the good times rolling, and with reason. Carolina's victories have come against clubs with a collective 8-33 record. That's what we in the business call “not good.” Certainly the Panthers are not the only team that's been the benefactor of a generous itinerary. Nevertheless, with second-half dates with the Niners, Patriots, Jets and Saints (twice), Carolina will have to earn its way into January.
The Panthers defense will certainly assist in this endeavor. The Carolina resistance is surrendering just 13.3 points per game, second-best in the league. Led by reigning Rookie of the Year Luke Kuechly, the Panthers have suffocated opposing running games to a meager 79.1 yards per outing, lowest in the conference, and the front seven's pressure has resulted in a plethora of ill-timed throws from quarterbacks. This force has correlated to a field day for the secondary, recording 12 picks against just seven scores. Outside of Kuechly, the unit may lack household names, but it's a group that's given offensive coordinators nightmares.
While the defense's merit will keep the team relevant, Carolina's ultimate destiny lies with Newton. In wins this season, the former Heisman winner has been magnificent, with a 69.1 completion percentage, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions. In losses? Not so much, hitting 58 percent of his targets for three trips to pay dirt and five turnovers. Newton has made strides in consistency, accuracy and decision-making this campaign, yet would hardly be described as a sound entity. If he continues this progression, Carolina will be a tough out.
Lining up against Newton will be a Niners defense whose bark matches its bite. Despite a rash of injuries and the sabbatical of Aldon Smith, San Fran is still holding adversaries to 18.1 points per contest, fourth-lowest in the league. The 49ers have been especially stout against the pass, conceding a 57.2 completion percentage (a conference-best) and 221 yards per game (third-lowest in the NFC). With Smith returning to practice this week, this is a unit that is just scratching the surface of its potential.
To reach the Meadowlands in February, though, the Niners will need a steady presence from Colin Kaepernick under center. Since lighting up the Packers in the season opener, the Nevada product has been far from impressive, connecting on 54 percent of his passes and has just as many turnovers as touchdowns (nine apiece). Kaepernick's depleted receiving crew is slowly nearing a return to health, and the Niners offense has been a beast on the terrain, averaging a league-high 153 yards per game. Alas, as Kaepernick goes, so goes the Niners, and unless the third-year arm eliminates some of his erratic tendencies, San Fran remains vulnerable.
So who emerges from this NFC battle victorious? According to the award-winning WhatIfSports.com simulation engine, the 49ers come out on top 55.8 percent of the time by an average margin of 18-17. For the rest of this week's predictions, check below:
Please note: The Cowboys-Saints, Texans-Cardinals, Raiders-Giants, Bills-Steelers and Dolphins-Buccaneers games were resimulated on 11/7 to account for injuries and roster updates.
NFL Week 10
|@ Tennessee Titans||81.0||27||Simulate Game|
|St. Louis Rams||23.0||14||Boxscore|
|@ Indianapolis Colts||77.0||24||Simulate Game|
|@ New Orleans Saints||64.6||31||Simulate Game|
|@ Arizona Cardinals||61.2||23||Simulate Game|
|@ San Francisco 49ers||55.8||18||Simulate Game|
|@ New York Giants||50.4||23||Simulate Game|
|@ Pittsburgh Steelers||45.1||24||Simulate Game|
|@ Minnesota Vikings||43.6||26||Simulate Game|
|@ Baltimore Ravens||43.0||19||Simulate Game|
|@ Chicago Bears||42.4||21||Simulate Game|
|@ Green Bay Packers||34.4||22||Simulate Game|
|@ San Diego Chargers||33.1||23||Simulate Game|
|@ Atlanta Falcons||27.4||20||Simulate Game|
|@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers||24.7||15||Simulate Game|
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