As week seven begins, many teams are determining if they are playoff contenders or should consider looking toward next season. This week has a few good games that should excite fans around the country. With a number of storylines such as Manning’s return to Indy, the return of Gronk, and the Pittsburgh-Ravens matchup, the games should be intense and close.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons:
Before the season commenced, many NFC South fans were looking forward to this matchup. In the preseason both teams had high expectations. However, neither team has met expectations and they have a combined one win between the two teams. The Falcons have been devastated by injuries the last few weeks, but this game could be the worst. After playing 133 straight games, Roddy White will finally miss his first NFL game in his career. Along with White, the Falcons will be without former All-Pros Julio Jones and Steven Jackson. Although the passing game has been efficient, the Falcons inability to run the ball with consistently has greatly constricted their offense and caused problems for Ryan and the wideouts. While the Falcons continue to lose their offensive weapons, the Bucs show that they have none to speak of. Tampa Bay’s offense has been dreadful this season because of their poor quarterback play. Even though Glennon has been nominally better than Freeman, he is still an awful NFL quarterback. The Buccaneers rank last in passing yards per game, which can be directly attributed to their horrible quarterback performances. Besides the quarterback position, the Bucs have a good offense on paper with Vincent Jackson, Doug Martin, and Mike Williams. However, the trio has greatly underperformed because of injuries and a poor quarterback. This season, the Bucs rank second to last in yards and points per game while their running game, a supposed strength, is ranked 20th in the league. Although the Bucs defense has been steady this season, I do not expect them to score enough points against Matt Ryan on the road to beat the Atlanta Falcons in a must win game for Atlanta.
Prediction: Atlanta wins 27-14
Cincinnati Bengals at Detroit Lions:
While the Bucs and Falcons have underachieved this season, the same cannot be said about the Bengals and Lions. Through the first six weeks of the season, both teams have looked like playoff teams, but for different reasons. While the Lions possess a dynamic and fast offensive attack, the Bengals have a solid defense that can stop any offense in their tracks. Both teams are currently first or tied for first in the division and could use a quality win to maintain their leads. The Lions offense has been dynamic this season because of their skill positions like Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, and Mathew Stafford. Currently, the Lions are top ten in yards, passing yards, and points per game. While the Lions have been great on offense, the Bengals have been equally impressive on defense. The Bengals are top ten in yards, passing, rushing and scoring defense per games because of their great defensive line. Cincinnati’s defense is led by Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and Michael Johnson. Although Stafford has not been great against top teams in his career, the Lions should use their speed and skill to overwhelm the Bengals and win the game. A win against the Bengals would propel the Lions to a 5-2 record, which would be significant for a team with little experience. The Lions will probably need 10 or 11 wins to make the playoffs. On the other hand, the Bengals are not desperate for a win. Even if the Bengals lose, they will maintain a lead in the AFC North.
Prediction: Lions win 30-27
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins:
After a 3-0 start to the season, the Dolphins have lost their last two games. The Dolphins desperately need to win this game if they want to compete for the AFC East crown or a playoff spot in the AFC. Although the Dolphins spent a lot of money on Mike Wallace this offseason, he has been extremely ineffective and unworthy of the exorbitant contract. Although Mike Wallace has not been successful, the Dolphins passing offense has been much better than their running game. If the Dolphins are going to succeed this season, they must improve their rushing attack. Luckily for the Dolphins, the Bills are one of the worst rushing defenses in the league. Lamar Miller should be able to grow his confidence and gain a rhythm. The Bills will be led by Thad Lewis against the Dolphins. The two second year player out of Duke was solid during his first start of the season. However, Lewis does not have a lot of talent. Also, the Bills running game has not experienced the same success as last season. CJ Spiller has been hurt all season and has not exploded like last season. The game should be a low scoring game as both have decent defenses, but inconsistent offenses. The Dolphins should have a better chance because of extra time they were given during their bye week, last week. Since Manuel injured himself two weeks ago and cannot start, the Dolphins should win the game. A Dolphin win would put them only one game behind the Patriots, if the Pats win against the Jets this week.
Prediction: Dolphins win 17-14
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles:
In a fight for the NFC East crown, the Boys will be heading to the city of brotherly love for first place. Although the Eagles have been incredibly inconsistent, they have a 3-3 record and a share of first place. After a stellar performance against the Bucs last week, the expectations for Foles are extremely high. However, we have seen this before from Foles. Last season, Nick experienced similar success against the Bucs, but failed during his other starts. The Eagles have a lot of talent on offense, but their defense has not been good. Currently, the Eagles rank 28th in the league in points allowed at almost 30 points per game. If the Eagles can continue scoring points at a rapid pace, they may be able to reach the playoffs and win the division. However, the Cowboys have been solid all season. Even though the Cowboys have three losses, they have come by a combined 13 points. Two of the Cowboy’s losses have been against the two undefeated teams in the league, Chiefs and Broncos. If the Boys can maintain their hold of first place by week 11, the Cowboys should be in great shape in the NFC East. Currently the Cowboys are dealing with several injuries to big name players such as Demarcus Ware and DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys should win this game. Romo has been playing with consistency this season and should outplay Nick Foles. Since it is not December or January, Romo should play his best and lead the Cowboys to a win and first place in the NFC East.
Prediction: Dallas wins 27-20
Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins:
After a magical year where RGIII led the Redskins to the playoffs, the Redskins have only one win after the first six weeks. After the knee injury and surgery, RGIII has not been the same dynamic player. Robert does not have the same ability to scramble out of the pocket and run for first downs or find an open receiver down the field. Although the Redskins are recording a lot of yardage, they have not scored a lot of points because they are committing turnovers. Although they are improving from the line of scrimmage, they were horrible last week in special teams and lost the turnover battle. The lone Redskin win has been against the lowly Oakland Raiders, who have only one win this season. Although the Redskins have been unsuccessful this season, they are the favorite at home against Chicago. Although Chicago is 4-2, they have not faced the fiercest competition. However, the Bears are a talented team with a lot of potential and talent at the skill positions. With the recent emergence of Alshon Jeffery, the Bears now have four quality players that can make a big play on offense, Bennett, Jeffery, Marshall, and Forte. If Cutler can manage his mistakes over the final two-thirds of the season, the Bears will be a playoff team and should compete with the Packers for the NFC North Division. Although the Bears do allow a lot of yardage, they are the best team in football at forcing turnovers. The Bear’s cornerbacks are one of the best in the league at jumping routes and turning poor passes into interceptions. The Bears should win this game and feel happy going into their bye week before a Monday Night tussle against the hated Packers.
Prediction: Chicago wins 30-21
St. Louis Rams at Carolina Panthers:
Although the Panthers have started 2-3, they have steadily improved since their bye week in week 4. Over the past few games, Newton has been more effective at scoring points. In two of the last three games, the Panthers have scored more than 35 points. However, the part of the team that has improved the most is the defense. This season, the Panthers rank top seven in both rushing and passing yards. The key to the Panthers offense is their ability to run the ball. The Panthers currently rank 7th in the NFL in running yards per game. The Panthers ability to ground and bound has enabled them to control the pace of the game and the time of possession. The Rams have won two straight and own a 3-3 record in the difficult NFC West. Although they will not reach the playoffs, the Rams could build off of this season for the next one. After two down years, Sam Bradford has improved and looked the former number one pick in the draft. The Rams have scored at least 34 points in their last two games. The Rams are coming off of their best win of the season, which should inspire them to play well this week. If the Rams can become one game over .500, it may energize their fan base and give them the necessary energy to make the playoffs. However, the Panthers should win this game because they have the home crowd on their side and the momentum from their starting quarterback.
Prediction: Panthers win 31-28
San Diego Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars
It looks like another lost season for Jacksonville. Since the departure of David Garrard, the Jags have been looking for any sort of stability at the quarterback position. However, this draft they may be able to pick Teddy Bridgewater. The Jaguars will probably be selecting in the top two because it is unlikely that they will win more than 3 games this season. Although this looked like a possible win at the beginning of the season, San Diego has exceed expectations and seems like a playoff contender. The Jags will be starting Chad Henne at quarterback for the injured Blaine Gabbert. Although Jacksonville has been the worst offensive team in the league, they may be able to turn around their misfortunes. During last weeks valiant effort against the Broncos, Justin Blackmon broke out and looked like the dominant wide receiver that the Jags were hoping to draft when they picked him inside the top ten a few years ago. Also MJD had his best game of the season last week, which should propel him in the next few weeks if they give him the ball. Although the Jags seem to be improving, they will not win against the Chargers and Phillip Rivers. Rivers has regained his success this season for the Chargers. After a few roller coaster seasons, Rivers looks like the top tier quarterback that led the Chargers to numerous playoff victories. The key to Rivers’ success has been his ability to limit interceptions. This season he has thrown only 5 interceptions while compiling 14 touchdowns. With a lack of running talent, Rivers must continue to throw for big yards and limit the turnovers, in order for the Chargers to compete in the AFC West. The Chargers are hot after a great win against the Colts on monday night, so they should win comfortably.
Prediction: Chargers win 27-13
New England Patriots at New York Jets:
In the most compelling matchup of the 1PM games, the New England Patriots will be headed into the Meadowlands to play the New York Football Jets. After a tightly contested first matchup, the Jets and Patriots game should be another close game. Similar to their week 2 matchup, the Patriots will be greatly affected by the injury bug. Along with Amendola, who was injured for the last game, the Patriots will be without Mayo, Wilfork, and Talib. An argument can be made that these are the three most important players on the defense. Wilfork is a run stopper, which will be vital as the Jets want to establish a quality running game. Mayo is a good linebacker who calls all of the Patriots’ defensive plays, which means that their defense may be unorganized during the first half of the game. Talib has been one of the best corners in the league. Last week, he dominated Graham and intercepted Smith twice in their week two meeting. However, the Patriots will return All-World tight end Rob Gronkowski back to the lineup. Gronk is a physical beast and has a mismatch against every defensive player. Although Gronk will not be 100%, he should help in the red zone, as the Patriots are currently 30th in red zone efficiency. During the first six weeks of the season, the Patriots wide receivers have been extremely inconsistent and unreliable. Although Dobson and Thompkins had solid games against the Saints, they were horrible against the Jets in week 2, as they dropped numerous passes. If the Patriots lose the game, they can fall into a first place tie with the Dolphins, who are playing the Buffalo Bills. The Jets have been preparing for this game, since they lost at New England in week 2. Rex desperately wants this win, as it could be the last time he coaches against Belicheck with the Jets. The Jets defense should improve as Dee Millner will be returning from a hamstring injury this week. The Jets will need all their pass rushers and cornerbacks in order to stop Brady for the second time this season. Since their last matchup, the Jets front seven has significantly improved with the emergence of Mohammed Wilkerson and Damion Harrison and the addition of Quinton Coples. Although Smith looked horrible in the fourth quarter against the Patriots, he has grown as a quarterback and is making better decisions with the football. If Smith only threw one or two of his three interceptions, the Jets would have won the game. This whole season has been a roller coaster ride for the Jets. Since they had a poor performance last week, they should rebound and come away with the upset win at home in front of 50,000+ raucous fans.
Prediction: Jets win 27-24
San Francisco 49ers at Tennessee Titans:
Prediction: 49ers win 34-17
The 49ers are hot and the Titans have not played well since losing Locker. Although he will come back, the 49ers represent too big a hurdle for the Titans to overcome.
Cleveland Browns at Green Bay Packers:
Prediction: Packers win 31-13
The Packers have looked like one of the best teams in football since their embarrassing loss to the Bengals a few weeks ago. Their offense is becoming multidimensional, which should strike fear into defensive coordinators. The Browns were playing well a few weeks ago, but the loss of Brian Hoyer and the addition of Brandon Weeden seems to significantly set back their offense.
Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs:
Prediction: Chiefs win 24-7
The Chiefs are tied with the Broncos for the best record in the league and their play backs up their record. At home, the Chiefs are one of the best teams in football. The Texans are starting Case Keenum at quarterback for the first time in his life. The Chiefs should cause at least three turnovers against the young quarterback in a raucous environment.
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers:
Prediction: Ravens win 17-14
Although the teams are no longer the beasts in the AFC North, they still maintain one of the best rivalries in football. The may not possess the vicious defenses any longer, but the games are still must see television. The Steelers have been horrible this season, but they won their first game last week. The Ravens are also playing better and should earn the win in Pittsburgh.
Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts:
Prediction: Colts win 31-30
In the best and most contentious game of the week, Peyton Manning will return to play his old team. Both teams look like playoff contenders. However, Peyton and the Broncos’ play has deteriorated over the last few games. Although the Broncos will have Von Miller back for the game, the Colts offense should be able to control the clock, move the ball with ease, and ultimately win the a close game in the final few seconds to ruin Manning’s return.
Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants:
Prediction: Giants win 20-17
In one of the worst and ugliest games of the weekend, the Giants should earn their first win of the season. The two teams have combined for one win this season, but neither team has won in America. The Giants have been playing better in the last few weeks and are playing at home. The Vikes will be starting Josh Freeman so expect a heavy dose of Adrian Peterson against the poor Giants defense. However, Eli and the offense should be able to pull out the win and give the Giants’ fan so relief and happiness for the first time this season.
Stats from espn.com