NFL Watchability Index, Week 10: 49ers-Panthers headlines a solid week of games

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With the bye weeks starting to wind down, we're finally getting interesting games again! Welcome to Week 10 of the Watchability Index.

Last week's schedule did not look appealing at first glance -- there was only one game between two teams with winning records, and it ended up being a battle of the backup quarterbacks on Monday night. Thankfully, the rest of the slate exceeded expectations — there weren't many blowouts and we got some exciting finishes. What I'm saying is, don't take this things at face value.

This week, there are a lot more intriguing games lined up. Only four teams are on bye now, leaving us with some nice matchups. The top two games are a divisional grudge match that will decide first place in the NFC North and an afternoon game featuring two of the hottest teams in the NFC right now. As always, I will rank games on a scale of 1-5 to determine which ones are worth your time.

Washington Redskins at Minnesota Vikings

Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network

Sometimes I try to at least muster up some halfhearted defense of why you should watch TNF. But this week? I got nothing. Oregon-Stanford and Oklahoma-Baylor are playing on the same night, with huge BCS implications and dozens of draft prospects to scout. You really have no excuse to be watching this game instead.

Watchability rating: 1

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX

The Seahawks are 8-1 but have shown a lot of vulnerability in recent weeks, including a run defense that has been gashed by the likes of Zac Stacy and Mike James. This playoff rematch with the Falcons may not have the luster it did a few months ago, but it's still a dreaded 1 p.m. East Coast trip for Seattle. Worth watching for the revenge factor alone.

Watchability rating: 3

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens

1 p.m., CBS

The Bengals are still in first place, but their defense took a huge hit with the loss of Geno Atkins. Without such a huge presence along the line, will this finally be enough to spring Ray Rice, he of the 2.7 yards per carry? Probably not. The Ravens desperately need this win if they want to stay in the divisional title hunt.

Watchability rating: 3

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears

1 p.m., FOX

The NFC North race just got a whole lot more interesting after Monday night's events. Jay Cutler said before the game that he expects to be back this week, but after Josh McCown's impressive performance, the Bears can probably afford to wait another week. Meanwhile, the Packers lost Aaron Rodgers and first place, putting the Lions on top with a tiebreaker. Probably the most important game of the week, standings wise.

Watchability rating: 5

Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers

1 p.m., FOX

I was ready to rank this higher based on shootout potential, but with Rodgers out and Seneca Wallace in, the Packers may just pack it in and run Eddie Lacy into the ground. Knowing the Eagles defense, that may just lead to a shootout anyway.

Watchability rating: 2

St. Louis Rams at Indianapolis Colts

1 p.m., FOX

Ever since Kellen Clemens was forced to start, the Rams leaned even more on Zac Stacy. He responded with 261 yards on 53 carries in the last two games, but the Rams still lost those games and are just about out of the playoff hunt. Andrew Luck should finish the job even without Reggie Wayne.

Watchability rating: 1

Oakland Raiders at New York Giants

1 p.m., CBS

The loser of this game can call it curtains on their 2013 season. It will probably be the Raiders, because it looks like Terrelle Pryor's magic pixie dust has run out. He threw seven interceptions in the last three games after having just two in the first five weeks. It was fun while it lasted, though.

Watchability rating: 2

Buffalo Bills at Pittsburgh Steelers

1 p.m., CBS

E.J. Manuel is coming back, so the Bills can finally stop starting sixth-string quarterbacks. Bills fans will probably be asking what could have been a lot after this stretch. Buffalo went 1-3 without Manuel as poor quarterback play squandered a resurgent defense led by Kiko Alonso. At least they're not the Steelers, though.

Watchability rating: 2

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans

1 p.m., CBS

The Titans shouldn't have much trouble climbing back above .500 here after the Jaguars lost Justin Blackmon to another suspension. At least the Jags can take comfort that they have the most stable locker room in Florida right now.

Watchability rating: 1

Carolina Panthers at San Francisco 49ers

4:05 p.m., FOX

Game of the week and it's not close. Carolina is playing some of the best football in the league right now -- it won four games in a row, scoring more than 30 points and allowing fewer than 15 points in every game during that stretch. Not that I'm discounting the 49ers -- they're on a five-game winning streak of their own and have also scored 30 or more points a game in that stretch. They could also have Aldon Smith back this week. The Seahawks and Saints should be watching this game very closely -- whoever wins could become an instant division challenger.

Watchability rating: 5

Houston Texans at Arizona Cardinals

4:25 p.m., CBS

Case Keenum looks like the future! And the Texans lost six games in a row, because that's how these things go. It doesn't feel like it, but the Cardinals are 4-4 and very much alive in the Wild Card race. Credit their defense propping up a scuffling offense just like last year. That ended well, right?

Watchability rating: 2

Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers

4:25 p.m., CBS

Last week, the Bills almost caught the Chiefs looking ahead to their big Week 11 clash with the Broncos. I don't anticipate the Chargers being able to pull that off with the Broncos this week, but AFC West games tend to get wacky.

Watchability rating: 3

Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints

8:30 p.m., NBC

A primetime showdown between two first place teams featuring high-powered offenses. That's enough to get me on board. Interesting to note that the Saints gave up 198 rushing yards to the Jets in last week's loss. We'll see if the Cowboys try opening up the ground game more after running the ball just eight times last week. At any rate, Tony Romo will have to be on his best form here, because Drew Brees is going to make a mockery of Dallas' defense.

Watchability rating: 3

Miami Dolphins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Monday, 8:40 p.m., ESPN

Boy, I bet ESPN really wishes it had flex scheduling now. The only potentially interesting thing about this game might be to see which sideline melts down first.

Watchability rating: 1

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