Will the NFL return to some form of normality this week? Maybe... or maybe not.

Even in this season of shock results without any clear Super Bowl favourite, Week 10 stood out for its sheer number of upsets.

The defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers were stunned by the Washington Football Team, the Miami Dolphins overturned the Baltimore Ravens and the short-handed league-leading Arizona Cardinals lost to the Carolina Panthers.

When the San Francisco 49ers then beat NFC West rivals the Los Angeles Rams in Monday Night Football, it became the first week in NFL history in which four teams had won by double-digits having entered the week at least four wins behind their opponents.

Week 11 looks no easier to call, and there are plenty of intriguing matchups before even considering the potential for further setbacks for some favourites.

Dallas Cowboys (7-2) @ Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)

With Patrick Mahomes back on form, two of the best teams in the NFL should be set for a titanic tussle at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

Mahomes, setting aside his shaky displays to that point, threw for 406 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions against the Las Vegas Raiders last week, becoming the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to have two games of 400-plus passing yards, five-plus TD passes and no picks in his career.

The 41-14 win represented the league-leading 10th time the Chiefs have scored 40 points in a game since the start of the 2018 season, yet they were topped by the Cowboys, whose 43-3 defeat of the Atlanta Falcons was their biggest since a 48-7 victory over Arizona in 2000.

The Cowboys have gone 5-2-1 all-time previously in games following a win of at least 40 points (including playoffs), but this was an unprecedented success. The team's 29 points in the second quarter in Week 10 were their most in a single quarter of any game in their history.

Indianapolis Colts (5-5) @ Buffalo Bills (6-3)

Neither the Chiefs nor the Cowboys can match the Bills' average winning margin of 26.3 points this year. That is the highest mark in the NFL, having been boosted by last week's 45-17 victory over the New York Jets, their NFL-leading sixth win by 15 or more points.

The Cowboys are ahead of the Bills in points per game, but Buffalo have given up the fewest points per game. The last team to lead on both offense and defense in this regard were the 2005 Colts.

The achievements of this year's Colts team have been rather more modest. Their five wins have come against teams with a combined record of 13-34 (.261).

Still, Jonathan Taylor has excelled, scoring a rushing touchdown in seven straight games – the last NFL player to reach eight was DeAngelo Williams in 2008. In fact, there is rushing talent on both sides of the ball, with the Bills last week having four different players score rushing TDs for the first time in team history.

Arizona Cardinals (8-2) @ Seattle Seahawks (3-6)

Another week, another big NFC West game. The Cardinals' form has tailed away a little since Kyler Murray's injury, but they are still unbeaten on the road and looking to start 6-0 away from home for only the second time in franchise history.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks have their starting QB back, but Russell Wilson did little to help their offense against the Green Bay Packers. He was shut out for the first time in his NFL career in his 166th start (including playoffs).

Seattle's problems on that side of the ball did not end there, though. They were held to under 100 rushing yards for a third consecutive game for the first time since the end of the 2016 season, while only twice in the 21st century have they seen such a streak extended to four games.

Whether or not the Seahawks recover this week, history suggests they are likely to be able to stick with the Cardinals. Six of the past 10 meetings between the teams have been decided by three points or fewer.

Elsewhere...

Cam Newton's Panthers face Ron Rivera's Washington, their first meeting since both left Carolina (Newton returned last week). This is the third time since 2010 a former MVP QB has faced the coach he won his award with, following Peyton Manning versus Jim Caldwell in 2015 and Tom Brady against Bill Belichick earlier this season.

The 49ers are now 4-1 when Jimmy Garoppolo's passer rating is above 100.0 this year (141.7 vs. the Rams) and 0-3 when it is not. He was helped last week by a season-high 156 rushing yards, keeping San Francisco's offense on the ball for just over 39 minutes. They should expect more of the same against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have failed to force a turnover in six games this season.

The Cincinnati Bengals need both of their former LSU stars to rediscover some form at the Raiders. Joe Burrow has thrown an interception in five straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL, while Ja'Marr Chase – surely not helped by his QB's struggles – has fallen short of 50 receiving yards in consecutive games after making that mark in his first seven appearances.

The Detroit Lions will hope to learn from next opponents the Cleveland Browns, who have returned to contention since in 2018 becoming the first team in the Super Bowl era to end a losing streak of 10-plus games with a tie. Last week, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Lions became the second.

Taylor Heinicke is determined to establish himself with the Washington Football Team, and his display in the 30-29 win over the New York Giants was hailed as "gutty" by Ron Rivera.

Filling in for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is out with a hip injury and likely not available until November, Heinicke threw two touchdown passes in a game for the first time in his short NFL career.

The quarterback has had prior spells in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers, but before this season he had tallied just eight games in the league.

Now Heinicke has a chance to play a string of games for Washington, and even though he threw an interception with 2:22 remaining in Thursday night's game, he came good after that, commandeering the drive that resulted in Dustin Hopkins making a match-winning field goal.

Heinicke finished the game with 34-for-46 passing for 336 yards and the two touchdowns, as Washington won their first game of the season.

Speaking on Thursday Night Football, Heinicke said: "Defense came up big and we had a chance to close them out there and throwing a pick is not what you want to do.

"A lot of guys came up to me and said we've got one more chance to do it and fortunately we did. Defense came up and we went down and scored."

Asked whether he considered he had done enough to stay on the team, Heinicke said: "I do, and I have confidence that I can do it. If those guys in the locker room and the facility believe in me, that's all that matters and I think they do, so let's try to keep this ball rolling."

An impressed Rivera was captivated by Heinicke looking to make amends for his error, and by the 28-year-old's overall performance..

"It was very gutty," said the Washington coach. "The thing that was real impressive about him was the way he bounced back after the turnover. Prior to that, he went down and, in what, three plays, he scored a touchdown and turned around, and we were trying to kill the clock, and he made a bad read, made a bad decision.

"But getting that opportunity, he stepped up again."

Heinicke lost his cool and threw down his helmet after the interception, before gathering his thoughts and moving on.

"He was p*****. He was upset at himself, he really was," said Rivera. "He slammed his helmet into the ground. It was just one of those things that you just felt if we can get the ball into his hands...

"He does have the ability to throw the ball, and make all the throws And we've seen that. And he's got a lot of confidence. And when he gets into a really nice rhythm, he can deliver a good ball.

"He's got a little swagger to him and his team-mates feed off of it, they really do."

Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera praised Alex Smith for his impact on a young roster after the franchise confirmed the departure of the veteran quarterback.

Friday's announcement came as no surprise, considering there had been widespread reports of Smith's impending release at the start of the week.

The 36-year-old was pivotal in helping Washington rally from a 2-7 record to win the NFC East and qualify for the playoffs, throwing for 1,582 yards, six touchdowns and eight interceptions after stepping in to take over as starter from Kyle Allen.

However, the former number one overall pick was sidelined by a calf issue for the Wild Card loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Taylor Heinicke started instead and, having done well in his limited opportunities at the back end of the season, was handed a new two-year contract in February. 

Smith was voted as the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year by the Associated Press having recovered from a career-threatening leg injury to resume his career, though he is now looking for a new home after Washington agreed to cut him.

"I had a chance to meet with Alex Smith this week and we had a very honest and real discussion," Rivera said in a statement released by Washington. "We had the chance to reflect on the 2020 season and talk about moving forward into the next year. 

"After the conclusion of that meeting, we decided that it would be best for both parties to move on, and we will be granting Alex his request to be released. 

"I want to thank Alex for his contributions this past year. He made such an impact on our young roster and his leadership was one of the key factors in our late-season success, and in making the playoffs for the first time since 2015. 

"Everyone here in Washington wishes Alex and his family the best going forward and appreciates all that he gave to our organisation."

Smith, who previously played for the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs, made clear in an interview with GQ last month that he intends to carry on playing in 2021, insisting he had "got more left" following his long road to recovery.

He underwent 17 operations and overcame sepsis after suffering a compound fracture injury to his right leg in a game against the Houston Texans in November 2018.

Alex Smith will need to find a new home if he wants to carry on playing as the Washington Football Team reportedly plan to release the quarterback.  

Smith's return to action from a gruesome leg injury was one of the feel-good stories of the 2020 NFL season; the 36-year-old was named Comeback Player of the Year by the Associated Press after throwing for 1,582 yards, six touchdowns and eight interceptions.  

However, according to a report by NFL Network duo Ian Rapoport and Kim Jones, Washington are expected to part ways with the player in the coming days. 

His career had previously appeared in serious jeopardy after he suffered a compound fracture of his right leg during a game against the Houston Texans in November 2018. Following initial surgery, Smith developed necrotising fasciitis – a rare but serious bacterial infection – and sepsis.  

After a total of 17 operations and having avoided the need for the leg to be amputated, he went through a lengthy and arduous rehabilitation regime before returning to the active roster last year.  

Smith was called to duty when Washington starter Kyle Allen was hurt in the Week 5 game against the Los Angeles Rams. His family were there to witness him play again too, though it proved to be a tough outing: he was sacked six times while completing nine of his 17 pass attempts for 37 yards in a 30-10 defeat.  

Allen resumed starting duties before a serious ankle injury against the New York Giants in Week 9 put an end to his campaign. Smith again stepped in, throwing for one score and three interceptions in a 23-20 defeat. There were career-high numbers for passing attempts (55), completions (38) and yards (390) the following week in a loss to the Detroit Lions, at which stage the franchise had a 2-7 record.  

Yet Smith celebrated a first win as a starter in 754 days against the Cincinnati Bengals, the first of five in a row for Washington under his stewardship as they rallied to clinch the NFC East title.  

A calf issue denied him the chance to play in the Wild Card playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, though. Taylor Heinicke started instead and, having done well in his limited opportunities under head coach Ron Rivera, was handed a new two-year deal in February.  

Smith - who previously played for the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs - will seemingly not be back for the 2021 season. 

Taylor Heinicke was not able to draw up a famous win for Washington on Saturday, but the quarterback studying for an engineering degree may have laid the foundations for his future in the NFL.

Heinicke threw for 306 yards and a touchdown, as well as rushing for 46 yards and a further score, in a 31-23 playoff defeat for the NFC East champions to Tampa Bay.

Those stack up as impressive numbers for someone who was not even meant to be playing in the Wild Card game in the first place.

Alex Smith had steered Washington to the divisional title in Week 17, yet he failed to overcome a calf injury in time to start against the Buccaneers.

With their first-choice option ruled out, Washington turned to a 27-year-old they had only signed to their practice squad in early December, an undrafted quarterback who had spent time with four other teams in the league and who had previously thrown a grand total of 58 pass attempts in his NFL career.

The new addition did catch the eye when coming in to replace the underperforming Dwayne Haskins, Washington's first-round pick in 2019, in the fourth quarter of a Week 16 defeat to the Carolina Panthers. Still, this was different. This was the playoffs. This was a game against Tom Brady. This was in primetime.

While there was no fairytale result for the underdog in the end, Heinicke emerged as the headline story from the opening day of the postseason.

His performance made him just the third quarterback to have at least 300 passing yards and 40 rushing yards in a playoff debut, a feat previously achieved by Daunte Culpepper and Tim Tebow (who both won, by the way).

"I have nothing but respect for number four," Washington receiver Terry McLaurin said of his quarterback after the loss.

"The way he came in and handled his business on a moment's notice when we found out that Alex wasn't going to be able to go. He was just prepared for the moment. That's what this league is about, being prepared for your moment."

So, what's next for the new hero? Heinicke is set to become a free agent but made clear in the aftermath that he would like to be back with Washington. The franchise ended the Haskins experiment considerably early by releasing him last month and while Smith is still under contract, he will be 37 by the time the next regular season begins.

Head coach Ron Rivera - who described his quarterback's display as "gutsy" - would not be drawn over the team's plans for the future in the immediate aftermath.

"We'll see what happens. I was just very proud of what he did, coming out and competing the way he did and helping us get where we are today," Rivera, who had previously worked with Heinicke at the Carolina Panthers, told the media.

There may be alternative options elsewhere too, considering plenty will have seen what Heinicke produced against the Bucs. At the very least, he profiles as a solid back-up in a sport where they are coveted – teams are willing to pay to have a reliable understudy waiting in the wings.

"I'm proud of myself and I'm happy that coaches believed in me and gave me the opportunity. Hopefully I can do it again next year," Heinicke said.

"I want to be in the NFL, I want to keep playing ball. It's a dream of mine and [I will] keep working towards it."

Heinicke should get his wish to keep playing, whether that be in Washington again or somewhere else.

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