Is it Week 7 already? Wow, it seems like this season just began yesterday. Anyways, we have officially crossed the threshold of the early stages and are now at the meat and potatoes of the 2013 campaign. We know which teams are good and which ones need work. That makes for easier picks (hence my 11-4 record from Week 6). There are six divisional match-ups to look forward to this week, each one of them holding great importance for the teams involved. Elsewhere in the country, the world will be glued to their television sets to witness the return of Peyton Manning to Indianapolis as the Broncos face the 4-2 Colts. The same cannot be said about the surprisingly putrid Monday Night affair between the Vikings and Giants. But hey, football is football and anything can happen. The Saints and Raiders are idle this week, each coming off of losses the previous week. With that said, we have 30 teams on for this week; 15 unique games, and one monster article in the works. Here we go!
Thursday, October 17th, 8:25 e.t.
Seattle Seahawks (5-1) @ Arizona Cardinals (3-3)
The Cardinals are a tough customer down in Arizona, so the Seahawks will be tested when they fly south to throw fists with their division rivals. Also, anything (and I really do mean anything) can happen in a division game. Todd Bowles will have his defense flying around at home as he tries to match wits with Dan Quinn’s unit from Seattle. They key match-up to watch here will be the MLB Daryl Washington vs. Russell Wilson at quarterback. Washington has played well since coming back from his four game suspension and he will be tested by the legs of the second year quarterback. I expect D-Wash to be used as a spy to cut down on Wilson’s rushing attempt (he has 33 rushing attempts for 240 yards over the last three weeks). If the Cards can contain the Seahawk QB, they have a shot. However, I don’t trust the Arizona offense. They are still struggling to find their bearings and have failed to put up more than 25 points in a game this year. Also, Carson Palmer has thrown a pick in every game this season (with multiple picks in his last four games… yeesh). That said, I have to take the Seahawks on the road here. Their secondary is superior and will likely force a couple more picks. That will ultimately be the difference in what should be a good defensive battle.
Seattle 21, Arizona 15
Sunday, October 20th, 1:00 e.t.
St. Louis Rams (3-3) @ Carolina Panthers (2-3)
This one is a toughie. I haven’t gotten one Panthers game right all year, proving they are a difficult team to figure out (at least for me). The Rams have discovered a bit of a running game with Zac Stacy camping in the backfield, which has helped them over their past two games (which were both St. Louis victories). However, the Carolina defense may be the best one that the Rams have faced since their Week 4 scuffle with the Niners… yes better than the Texans (wow, I just poked the hornet’s nest there). If the Panthers can shut down the running game of the Rams, they should have a pretty easy go of it. Last week, Adrian Peterson was bottled up for only 31 yards on nine carries before he ripped one 31-yarder late in that one. Let’s just say that Zac Stacy is no A.P., so Carolina should be able to stand tall in that aspect. On the other side, will we see the good Cam Newton from last week, or the bad one from two weeks ago? The answer to that question will sway the pendulum one way or another. I’m banking on a so-so Cam backed by a great defensive performance to get the W for Ron Rivera and the Panthers.
Carolina 24, St. Louis 21
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-5) @ Atlanta Falcons (1-4)
If the door hasn’t completely closed on either of these teams this year, then it will certainly slam shut on the fingers of the loser here. The Buccaneers are in search of their first win of the season while the Falcons have been licking their wounds ever since their Week 3 choke job in Miami. Tampa Bay has a pretty good red zone defense while Atlanta has really struggled in that area this year. The Eagles overcame the threat of facing the Bucs within the 20 yard line by bombing a couple of touchdowns down the field and avoiding that area of the field altogether. Can the Falcons do the same without Julio Jones and an injured Roddy White? Doubtful, but I am taking the Falcons nonetheless. Matt Ryan rarely loses in the dome, let alone three straight times. I don’t see another rookie quarterback taking Atlanta down in their home stadium for the second time in a row, so that’s why I’ll stand on that side of the fence. Oh, a bit of advice for Mike Smith: take any points you can get here. Opting out of two field goal attempts in their past two games cost the Falcons big time. Field goals, while not optimal, are more valuable than goose eggs. Just sayin’.
Atlanta 23, Tampa Bay 7
Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) @ Detroit Lions (4-2)
Fresh off of their tight overtime victory in Buffalo, the Bengals are going to gear up for a fight in Detroit that is likely to see points flying. Both of these defense are pretty solid (especially Cincy’s) but for some reason I see a shootout taking place in the motor city. Calvin Johnson vs. A.J. Green… need I say more? Two of the game’s best receivers will be trading big plays in this game, and it should be fun to watch. Now comes the hard part: who to pick. I like what I’ve seen from the Bengals defense, but they have been exposed a bit on the road. On the flip side, Detroit has been explosive at home, scoring 37 points/game in their two outings at Ford Field. Both came against divisional opponents, so the Bengals unit should provide a bigger test. I don’t see the Lions putting up 40 like they did against Chicago, but a 30 point outburst could be in the forecast. I like the Bengals, but love the Lions at home. It’s a hard choice, but I’m taking Detroit. They have more weapons on the offensive side of the ball and I think they will get the job done in front of a friendly crowd.
Detroit 35, Cincinnati 28
Buffalo Bills (2-4) @ Miami Dolphins (3-2)
The Dolphins will be well-rested for this one as they come off of a BYE with the hopes of snapping their current two game losing streak. Standing in the way of their goal is Thaddeus Lewis’s Bills, who exceeded expectations at home last week. Although they dropped a tough one to the Bengals in overtime, Buffalo did do some good things on offense, namely running the ball very well. They will need a big effort from their backs in this one if they hope to win; Miami currently owns the #15 run defense in the league. How will Ryan Tannehill respond in the face of adversity. The Dolphins two game losing streak has forced some people to re-adjust the ceiling for the 2013 season. Can the second year pro raise the roof against a sub-par defense at home? I think I’ll wet my feet with that one; ‘Phins should get back on track against a beaten up Bills team. Look for Miami to win it’s third straight home game against Buffalo here, riding a solid performance from Tannehill and a better effort from their running game. The Dolphin o-line will need to play better though otherwise the Bills’ defenders will be pancaking their quarterback repeatedly. Yes, I am picking the home team here, but I’m not predicting a squash match. This one falls into the category of a soft pick
Miami 20, Buffalo 17
New England Patriots (5-1) @ New York Jets (3-3)
We had the Bills and Dolphins facing off in the previous game, now we get the other two AFC East teams in the Pats and Jets. These two already squared off in a Week 2 quagmire in Foxboro. In case you forgot (which is understandable given the ugliness that was their first battle), the Patriots won 13-10 on the strength of three defensive interceptions. Will a shift in scenery help Gang Green to a victory here? I doubt it, and here’s why. Over the last two seasons, New England has run them out of the gym in New Jersey. Last year the Patriots triumphed 49-19, and the year before they went over 37-16. I find it funny how the Jets play the Pats better in New England than they do at home. So, the recent pattern would say that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are primed for a big win. They were able to down the Saints at home after Brady found Kenbrell Thompkins for a last-second touchdown. Things shouldn’t be that hard this week, I have the Patriots winning handily on the road here. And by the way, I’ve given up on speculating when Rob Gronkowski is going to return. With or without Gronk, New England rolls here.
New England 34, New York 14
Dallas Cowboys (3-3) @ Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)
The top two teams in the NFC East dance to see who takes the lead in a division that is still up for grabs. The Eagles and Cowboys have had eerily similar seasons to this point. They are each 2-0 within their division and have lost to the Chargers, Chiefs, and Broncos. Impressive wins over the Rams and Buccaneers pad the records of the co-leaders of the East. Dallas is #2 in the NFL in points per game with 30.5 while the Eagles are 4th with 27.7/game. Each team has gone over 30 points in a game four times this season (with each losing one of those games). The parallels are endless. The shocker kicker here is this: the Cowboys are 0-2 away from home and the Eagles are 0-2 at home. Something has to give. The Cowboys will have an easy time winning here if they can dominate the line of scrimmage the way they did at home against the Redskins last week. If Tony Romo is protected, he should have no problem picking apart a Philly secondary that is very vulnerable in the middle of the field. If not, the Eagles could run away with this one. I really like the Cowboys in this type of a game, but they have not won back-to-back games all year. Plus, they are dealing with a lot of injuries to their defense while the Eagles are enjoying a pretty healthy season (outside of Mike Vick). Chip Kelly’s team is only getting better and while I can see Dallas winning on the road here, I just can’t pull the trigger.
Philadelphia 31, Dallas 27
Chicago Bears (4-2) @ Washington Redskins (1-4)
The Bears just got through disposing of the New York Giants at home last Thursday night, but they almost let that game slip away in the end. The Redskins are slowly getting better, especially on defense but their problems on special teams were magnified last week in Big D. Also, Washington was killed by penalties against the Cowboys; another performance like last week will not sit well with Mike Shanahan and the team will not win. Robert Griffin III did look pretty good last week; he is getting better in a hurry which is a scary thought for defensive coordinators throughout the league. One thing that the ‘Skins have struggled to do this year is stop the run, as they are currently ranked 27th in the league in that category. Matt Forte may be able to make some room in the running game as he vies for his first 100 yard game of the season. Despite this, I have a strange feeling about this one. It has trap-game written all over it. Chicago has fallen off a bit since their 4-0 start and are really lucky to be 4-2 instead of 3-3 at this point. This is my gut feeling of the week, as well as the upset of the week. The Redskins are desperate while the Bears are vulnerable; they seemingly always produce one head-scratcher on the road per year.
Washington 25, Chicago 20
San Diego Chargers (3-3) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6)
Believe me when I say that I want to pick the Jaguars to win a game at some point this year; it’s just not happening this week. The Chargers looked good against the Colts at home on Monday night. They will be traveling across the country on a short week, but the Jags are also making a long flight home from Denver. San Diego has already been through this scenario this season, and we all saw how that worked out (a 33-30 win in Philly). The Chargers major blemish this season was that loss in Oakland, a game in which Philip Rivers threw three interceptions and the team turned it over a total of five times. As long as they limit mistakes on the road, they should have no problem winning in Jacksonville. They will be smart to replicate their strategy from last week and use it on the road here. The Jags lead the NFL in three-and-outs, so if the Bolts can force a couple of those, they will have the chance to dominate the time of possession. In San Diego’s two most impressive wins of the year, that was the thought process and it worked so I see no reason why it won’t against a scuffling Jacksonville team here.
San Diego 30, Jacksonville 10
Sunday, October 20th, 4:05 e.t.
San Francisco 49ers (4-2) @ Tennessee Titans (3-3)
And we all thought something was wrong with the 49ers… Well, it would appear as if they are back to their winning ways; using the moves that brought them to the dance: a power running game coupled with efficient passing and a strong defense. Now that is a formula for success. Meanwhile, the Titans seem to have lost their way as of late. They jumped out to their impressive 3-1 start by playing fundamental football, good defense, and above all else mistake free. After not turning the ball over at all through the first four weeks of the season, the Ryan Fitzpatrick lead Titans have coughed the ball up five times over the past two weeks. They will need to be less liberal with the way they give the ball up if they hope to win here. In fact, Tennessee has a shot if they can play fundamentally sound and control the tempo. However, that may be asking a bit too much when they are taking on one of the NFL’s best defenses. I know they fought hard up in Seattle last week, but I just don’t see them pulling out from this one with a “W”. San Fran at its best is better than Tennessee without their starting quarterback. And by the way, the Titans are #19 in the league at stopping the run. The Niners will look to exploit that and run it right at that front seven. Give me San Fran in an old school slug-fest.
San Francisco 22, Tennessee 16
Sunday, October 20th, 4:25 e.t.
Baltimore Ravens (3-3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4)
It sure seems like the Ravens and Steelers rivalry doesn’t pack the punch that we are used to in the year 2013, but when these two clubs tee off it is always good to watch. As usual, I am expecting a defensive battle; a war of attrition. When I was looking into this game I was really tempted to take the Steelers. They just picked up their first win of the season, and that defense is still one of the better units in the league. They are also playing at home, which could help out a bit however I’m going to take the birds here. Baltimore has been all over opposing quarterbacks this season; T-Sizzle has been playing at an elite level and the Pittsburgh o-line is mediocre at best. Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs will be licking their chops to take some shots at Big Ben. When the Ravens and Steelers face off, the winner is usually the team that can mount the best pass rush. Pittsburgh has only seven sacks on the season; pass rushing is not their cup of tea right now. I like the Ravens to win here in a tough, hard-hitting affair.
Baltimore 16, Pittsburgh 7
Houston Texans (2-4) @ Kansas City Chiefs (6-0)
Logic says go with the 6-0 team here, right? I mean, their defense is really balling out. KC has impressed almost as much on that side of the ball as the Broncos have on offense (okay, I may be reaching there). But still, the Chiefs are playing great under the direction of Bob Sutton. On the other hand, we have a Houston team that has lately been doing more scoring for the other team than they have for themselves. Giving up a pick-six in five straight games isn’t exactly a recipe for success. The big question surrounding this game is whether or not Matt Schaub will be good to go or will the Texans be rocking the T.J. Yates train? Either way, it will be incumbent upon them to run the ball like it’s gone out of style. Seriously, turn the clocks back to 1950 for this one, we are gonna get one of those games. And by the way, to answer the rhetorical question posed at the beginning of this passes: yes. I am taking the Chiefs. I dare you to tell me that these guys haven’t impressed you this season. They will continue to roll on in this game by forcing the Texans into an ultra-conservative (and eventually ineffective) offense. Oh yeah, and the Chiefs have only given up 30 points in their three home games. These guys shut it down at Arrowhead.
Kansas City 23, Houston 12
Cleveland Browns (3-3) @ Green Bay Packers (3-2)
The Browns magical early-season run came to a screeching halt at home last week against the Lions. Now, they are tasked with trying to chop down the oak tree that is the Green Bay Packers. The Pack has looked very good at home this year, winning their games by a combined score of 60-29. The Browns still have not found much of a running game, and in games like this being able to ground and pound the ball would have helped quite a bit. Instead, it is Green Bay that has enjoyed great production out of their backfield (hows that for a change of pace?). Oh yeah and Aaron Rodgers is better than Brandon Weeden. True story. The Packers may be without Randall Cobb and James Jones for this one, but they still have their double A battery at QB. Maybe this won’t be a laugher, but I do think that Green Bay should be able to take care of business pretty handily here.
Green Bay 34, Cleveland 17
Sunday, October 20th, 8:30 e.t.
Denver Broncos (6-0) @ Indianapolis Colts (4-2)
This is the game that everybody will be tuning in to. In case you have been living under a rock, the Broncos are putting on a show each week on offense and are becoming a main attraction in the NFL. Plus, Peyton Manning will be making his return to Indy to throw down with his successor in Andrew Luck. #storylinesgalore Now, on to the actual analysis. The Colts were humbled last week against the Chargers out in San Diego. Uncharacteristic penalties and a bevy of drops played a large role in the loss. However, lost in the thick of the game was how easily the Bolts were able to move the ball against the Indy defense. Philip Rivers repeatedly took the ball up and down the field on the Colts (with the help of a strong running game). The philosophy here is that if the Chargers could slice through the Indy “D”, then the Broncos should absolutely carve it up. But then again, Denver is having its way with everybody’s defense, so bringing this up may be a waste of time. So… I’m just gonna say this: it is very hard for me to pick against Peyton Manning and the Broncos until I find a good reason to. An emotional return is not a good enough reason. Earlier in the year there was a huge return of Andy Reid to Philadelphia when the Chiefs took on the Eagles. Kansas City took that one just like the returning figure will take this one. The Colts could keep it interesting early, but as it always does the Broncos offense will pull away in the second half.
Denver 45, Indianapolis 24
Monday, October 21st, 8:40 e.t.
Minnesota Vikings (1-4) @ New York Giants (0-6)
I keep saying this every week, so it is bound to be true one of these times. Here goes nothing: the Giants will come out and play inspired football en route to their first win of the year. I really think they are getting closer to victory. Last week in Chicago, New York barely missed pulling off the upset. This time they will be playing host to an ailing Minnesota team that just got it handed to them by the Carolina Panthers at home. As odd as this sounds, I think that the Giants will win this game in the same way they won most of their games from 2011: with a strong performance from Eli Manning. Old Eli can’t be this bad, right? He can’t afford to be this week. By my last check, Michael Cox was the scheduled starter for the Giants heading into this week… seriously. Brandon Jacobs sustained an injury last Thursday night, but I don’t think it will be enough to hold him out of this game. It is hard to pick the Giants because of their atrocious situation in the backfield, but the Vikings have sort-of the same problem at quarterback. In this, a passing league, not having a starting quarterback ironed out is a major problem, and we will see that on Monday night. Will Josh Freeman make his Minnesota debut, or will it be Matt Cassel going? Who knows. All I know is that Eli Manning will be going and it is about time for Big Blue to live up to their billing. I’ve got the Giants here.
New York 27, Minnesota 20
This week I am going to add a little something new at the end of this prediction column. Let’s call it the weekly bonus predictions (that totally… does not have a ring to it). Anyways, I will devote the final part of these upcoming articles to predicting things about the week other than the outcome of the games themselves. Besides that, you know where to find post game analysis for every Week 7 game this week. Come on back for some more fun, and as always thank you for reading!
Week 7 Bonus Predictions-
Upset of the Week: Redskins over Bears
Sure Bet of the Week: Chargers over Jaguars
Rookie of the Week: Eddie Lacy
Offensive Player of the Week: Tony Romo
Defensive Player of the Week: Mario Williams
Best Overall Offense: Denver Broncos
Best Overall Defense: New England Patriots