The seventh week of the 2016 campaign is upon us and there are some very nice games on the docket. We have a rumble of 3-3 squads in London, two “revenge” games for Sam Bradford and Brock Osweiler, a colossal Sunday night clash between the Seahawks and Cardinals, as well as an important NFC matchup in Detroit with the Lions and Redskins. The playoff picture is getting to be a bit clearer even though it is still early. If the season were to end today we would see the Patriots, Steelers, Raiders, Texans, Broncos, and Bills on the AFC side and the Vikings, Cowboys, Seahawks, Falcons, Redskins, and Packers in the NFC. Things likely won’t stand like this, so here are my early predictions for the teams we will see in the playoffs followed by my Week 7 picks.
#1 Seed- New England Patriots: Probably won’t be seeing this change too much as Tom Brady is still playing the quarterback position at an elite level and the defense making plays. This is the NFL’s team to beat.
#2 Seed- Pittsburgh Steelers: Even though Ben Roethlisberger is banged up now, his injury shouldn’t be serious enough to hamper his entire season. The offense is explosive and fun to watch and when at home this team is a juggernaut. That will help them lock down the second seed.
#3 Seed- Oakland Raiders: Yes, they lost big to Kansas City last week, but I still love what this team brings to the table on offense. Derek Carr has the ability to blossom into an elite quarterback and trust me, I don’t just throw the elite label around. I really do like his arm talent and he has some of the best receivers to throw it to. The defense needs work but if they can simply hold their own, that should be enough to land the Raiders a playoff spot and a division win.
#4 Seed- Tennessee Titans: Call me crazy, but I love what this team has brought to the table early on. They have the best offensive line that nobody talks about and a great ground game to back it up. In a jumbled AFC South, I like the toughest team of the bunch to come out with the crown.
#5 Seed- Kansas City Chiefs: I considered putting them at the #3 seed and could certainly see it happening, but a slightly tougher schedule slides them to #5. Still, these guys are a complete team with a good defense and a fundamentally sound offense. That will get them to the dance.
#6 Seed- Buffalo Bills: I love what Anthony Lynn has done with this offense making it a run-first operation putting LeSean McCoy at the forefront. With a four game winning streak, I can tell you it is not a fluke. This is a good team and will be there at the end.
#1 Seed- Seattle Seahawks: I have stubbornly held on to the claim that this is the best team in the NFC and that is because I love what Russell Wilson is doing at the quarterback position transforming into more of a pocket passer. They still have an outstanding defense to back them up and making Seattle the top team in the NFC.
#2 Seed- Dallas Cowboys: The offense has been good all year long and is dominating teams in the trenches with a great offensive line, but the thing that really wins Dallas the #2 spot is their overachieving defense. If they continue to play like they have been this is a team that will be a tough out come January.
#3 Seed- Atlanta Falcons: I love this offense. Sure, the defense is a bit of a fault but if the offense can continue to score over 33 points per game then this team will be a force to be reckoned with. They are the NFC’s answer to Pittsburgh.
#4 Seed- Minnesota Vikings: Placing them at #4 might seem crazy but I don’t know if they can continue to win all of their games with defense alone. They have yet to prove themselves in a shootout so until they do I will predict a bit of a falloff. This is still a playoff team without a doubt.
#5 Seed- Arizona Cardinals: After their 1-3 start, this team has begun to turn things around with their ground game and aggressive defense. They will still be able to score points with anyone and have a lot of winnable games coming up. This is an 11-5 team still.
#6 Seed- Philadelphia Eagles: I coulda put the Redskins or Packers here but in the end I have to admit that I have caught the Wentz fever. I love the way this team is coached and I think they can sneak into the playoffs as long as their offensive line shores up a bit. Ultimately I see them defeating Green Bay at home in Week 12 which is why they are in over the Pack.
These predictions are certainly subject to change and probably will depending on how the games play out. Anyways, on to the game previews!
Last Week: 10-5
Thursday, October 20th, 8:25 e.t.
Chicago Bears (1-5) @ Green Bay Packers (3-2)
The Bears and Packers, in prime time, what could be better? Well, considering the fact that both of these teams have looked dysfunctional as of late, we could be in for one of those “so bad that it’s good” games. Green Bay will be without Eddie Lacy for a bit, but never fear! They scooped up Knile Davis from Kansas City for a mere conditional pick in next year’s draft. This could be a good move if Mr. Swiss Army Knife himself sees action right away with the banged up backfield. Luckily for the Pack, their offensive line is among the cream of the crop in football. Sure, Aaron Rodgers has fallen off and does tend to hold the ball too long inside that pocket, but I am still holding on to hope that he can return to elite form as he does have offensive weapons. A team like Chicago could be a good punching bag for him. The Bears let the Jaguars score 17 points in the fourth quarter last week and lost a heart-breaker at home. Brian Hoyer has been better for them at QB than Jay Cutler was early in the year, although he was facing two good defenses in his limited action but I digress. Cameron Meredith deserves the Where The Hell Did You Come From award of the year. He has shown that he is a reliable target for Hoyer over the last couple of weeks and should continue to be so in this game. However, at the end of the day do I think that The Destroyer can out-duel a former league MVP? I’m thinking that Green Bay comes out angry after getting pushed around at home by Dallas and they put together a nice win. My thought here is a blowout and I actually expect them to play this whole game much like they did the first half versus Detroit but if they do struggle, this could really be one of those ugly games that stays close throughout. We’ll see.
Green Bay 45, Chicago 24
Sunday, October 23rd, 9:30 am e.t.
New York Giants (3-3) vs. Los Angeles Rams (3-3) (London)
We start our Sunday out across the pond when two 3-3 teams clash. Each will be flying over following close wins. The Giants came out on top largely due to Odell Beckham Jr.’s legs as the man racked up about 175 YAC en route to a 222 yard, two touchdown performance to beat the Ravens. The New York offense had been in a bit of a funk lately but all seemed to be well in the second half of last week’s game. Meanwhile Case Keenum actually looked like a franchise quarterback for the Rams against Detroit. He was 24/26 in that game at one point and was simply dissecting the Lion’s defense. Kenny Britt busted out and made an incredible one handed catch deep down field with a defender draped all over him. If you haven’t seen said grab, check it out:
What will he do against a Giants’ secondary that has been up and down this season? I’m guessing something like 4 catches for 75 yards. Now that this prediction has been hammered out, let’s guess on the game. Matthew Stafford just got through with carving this defense up and the secondary looked like a weak spot in Los Angeles. With Beckham Jr. coming back to dominating games and the other crop of good receivers in New York, I see no reason to believe that the Giants can’t have their way with the Rams in that department. I like them to take this one in London. Oh, by the way, Todd Gurley breaks out. Just felt like making a bonus prediction here. By the way, this is the first New York metropolitain area versus L.A. matchup in the NFL in 22 years.
New York 35, Los Angeles 21
Sunday, October 23rd, 1:00 e.t.
New Orleans Saints (2-3) @ Kansas City Chiefs (3-2)
The Chiefs return home for the first time in almost a month to host a Saints team that is coming off of a last second win at home against Carolina. Drew Brees is starting to find some chemistry with his wide-outs and that could mean trouble for opposing secondaries. However, Kansas City just polished off a defensive gem against the Raiders in Oakland and look to build on that momentum and put a little winning streak together. Sure, the weather they played in really helped the secondary out, but it was very encouraging to see the pass rush pick it up against a very solid Oakland offensive line. If they can pressure Brees in this game then they should not have much of a problem defeating them at Arrowhead. There are two matchups I’m looking forward to seeing. One of them is Dee Ford screaming off the edge versus whoever the Saints line up at left tackle, be it Terron Armstead or Andrus Peat.
When healthy Armstead is one of the premier LTs in the sport, so I am secretly hoping to see him play but he is listed as questionable. The other one v. one I want to see is Marcus Peters against Brandin Cooks. Peters is the NFL’s present version of Asante Samuel and he will jump routes and make a ton of plays but will get burnt from time-to-time due to his aggressive nature. If he does goof, Cooks sprint right by him for some more monster plays. He is good for that. At the end of the day, this game will come down to defense and I just don’t have faith that the Saints can slug one out with the Chiefs, especially not on the road. Look for the Chiefs to shorten the game with their short passes and running game en route to a win. The score will be lower due to this projected game plan.
Kansas City 17, New Orleans 10
Cleveland Browns (0-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (2-3)
Will this be the week that the Browns finally pick up a win? I don’t think so. The Bengals are a desperate team at the moment and despite their horrible road trip they are still very much in the thick of things in the AFC North with the Ravens struggling and the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger unhealthy. A win here would mean everything to the Cardiac Cats as they prepare for a more difficult schedule ahead. For the Browns, Cody Kessler has actually looked like he could be an answer for them at QB, but then again we have been saying the same thing about some of their select signal-callers for the past decade.
If Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott weren’t tearing things up this year, this youngster would be getting much more publicity. He, and Terrelle Pryor, have made this Cleveland offense fun to watch and somewhat competitive. Unfortunately for the Brownies, their defense really puts the Brown in their name. They are having trouble stopping the run which is something that the Bengals are going to try to get churning here in the middle part of the season. Cleveland’s pass D isn’t much better either and oh by the way they just have to go up against A.J. Green. Good luck with that one. Playing at home and desperate, the Bengals will probably come out and play an inspired game, but don’t be shocked if the Browns do make things a bit interesting. I am not very high on Cincy’s defense so this could turn into a shootout. Or, maybe the Cats put together a masterpiece on that side of the ball. Either way, I’m taking the home team here because they should have no trouble on offense against one of the league’s worst defenses.
Cincinnati 37, Cleveland 24
Oakland Raiders (4-2) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3)
For the first time in years, a Raiders/Jaguars matchup isn’t one of the worst games on the season. These teams are fun to watch when each are playing their best. Sadly for the Jaguars, we have yet to see their best. I still think that they are capable of explosive plays on offense with Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Julius Thomas, and… Arrelious Benn??? Yes, we all remember this guy from his days in Tampa Bay. He scored his first touchdown in the NFL in four years last week and it was a go ahead score at that. There could be some gaffs in the Oakland secondary this afternoon as the unit has been very weak all year. They will have to get some pressure on Blake Bortles here because when under pressure he is susceptible to making mistakes. That will be the key here. I’m thinking that Khalil Mack will bust out for a couple of sacks and some additional TFLs in this game. The Jacksonville defense hasn’t been too great this season themselves, but they have been a bit better in the points allowed department which is all that counts in this league. They did struggle in the fourth quarter against Indy, but have otherwise been alright lately. They will have to keep the Raiders to the low twenties if they hope to take this game. Oakland is actually 3-0 on the road this year and is scoring almost 27 points per game in games away from home. This game could end up being fun to watch and both teams should find room to move the ball. Whoever can dictate the pace of game by running the ball should have the edge here. I like what the Raiders bring with DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. Advantage Silver and Black.
Oakland 33, Jacksonville 23
Washington Redskins (4-2) @ Detroit Lions (3-3)
This contest is the zombie game of the week. Both Washington and Detroit appear to have brought their teams back from the dead and are going to try to make a push towards the playoffs. The Redskins would actually be in if the season ended today. Amidst their four game winning streak, the ‘Skins have actually defeated three teams with winning records at the time of playing them and that was something that Kirk Cousins wasn’t supposed to be able to do. Detroit has beaten two teams with winning records at home over the past two weeks and the offense has looked very good in the process. Playing their third game at home in a row should favor them but I feel like the Lions are due for a random collapse. That said I do like them in this game. If Golden Tate is back to 2014 form and Marvin Jones continues to ball then this team could really have something. Matthew Stafford deserves a ton of credit for the last couple of games because he is delivering the ball quickly, accurately, and is cutting down on his mistakes. The Redskins defense has struggled a bit to create turnovers this season and get pressure on the opposing quarterback. Last week Ryan Kerrigan broke out against the Eagles rookie right tackle and Washington as a team got good pressure, but until I see it happen consistently, I am inclined to believe that this is simply a blip on the radar. The only thing that should scare Detroit fans is how easily quarterbacks have picked their defense apart. Opposing QBs have found tons of holes in the defense and a lot of it is due to the fact that they have had the time to do so. The Lions have also had issues rushing the passer. Everything being said, this is a tough game to call but in the end I do like Matt Stafford over Kirk Cousins. This should be a close one.
Detroit 30, Washington 27
Indianapolis Colts (2-4) @ Tennessee Titans (3-3)
Just as everybody was ready to chalk up a W for the Colts late in the fourth quarter against Houston, the defense collapsed and Indy choked the game away in an overtime thriller. One positive that did come out of this game was an offensive line identity. Cris Colinsworth said it perfectly in the game: the Colts have a little pass blocking on the left and run blocking on the right. They also got their first 100 yard rusher in almost four years when Frank Gore went for 106 in that game. Basically there were a lot of negative conclusions to jump to coming out of that loss, but I’m choosing to focus on the positives for this game. This is because I see this as a trap. It would be too easy to pick Tennessee given the recent collapse and because they are actually better than Indy in almost every area except for quarterback. One thing that we did see last week was the reemergence of Kendall Wright to the Titans’ offense which was encouraging. They have an outstanding ground game to go along with a great offensive line that gives Marcus Mariota time to throw. Logic dictates picking Tennessee here, but I don’t trust that they can get enough pressure on Andrew Luck to dominate this game, which is funny because Luck is constantly getting battered. The AFC South is destined to be a logjam and this game goes a long way to determining this. I’ll take the Colts for no other reason than the fact that my gut tells me to. If you’re looking for a real reason, how’s this: I see Mariota struggling against an Indianapolis pass defense that has actually been fine on the road before the very end of the fourth quarter last week.
Indianapolis 19, Tennessee 17
Minnesota Vikings (5-0) @ Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)
Here’s an interesting game. We have the two teams that made the trade of the year squaring off at the Linc. Sam Bradford returns to Philly playing in purple while the Eagles feel all the more better with their rookie Carson Wentz starting. Even though both quarterbacks have been playing very well and have been careful with the ball, the story of the season for each team is the defensive units of each. We all know that the Vikings have one of the best Ds in the entire league. These guys swarm. The corners cover, the pass rushers generate a lot of pressure, and the linebackers can tackle. Mike Zimmer’s pride and joy of a defense has won the team all five of their games this year and is poised to do so again given the sudden problems that the Eagles have with their offensive line. In Philly, the defense got off to an amazing start and was holding teams to just nine points per game before the BYE. Since then, teams have gotten them for 25.5 ppg, but what is most disturbing for them is the fact that teams have been able to run the ball against them. Washington gashed them a week ago for 230 yards on the ground and it was Detroit’s running game that fueled the Lion’s quick start on this unit in Week 5. When Philly is stopping the run, they are dominant. At home the team is allowing just 6.5 points per game and the defense has been outstanding. Minnesota has really struggled with the ground game thus far on the season so it will likely come down to whether or not Sammy Sleeves can make plays through the air. I think he can, but I also smell a potential upset here. If Carson Wentz can get rid of the ball quickly then the pass rushing dominance that the Vikes can show won’t matter. In the end, what the Eagles like to do is throw screens which is something that Minnesota excels at stopping. It is simply too bad of a match-up for Philly for me to make them my upset of the week. This should be a very good game otherwise. By the way, here is a clip of Eagles’ longsnapper Jon Dorenbos performing some sick magic tricks on the Ellen DeGeneres show, just because it’s awesome.
Minnesota 23, Philadelphia 20
Buffalo Bills (4-2) @ Miami Dolphins (2-4)
The Dolphins just pulled the upset of the year defeating the Steelers at home. I call this the upset of the year because I would have told you a week ago that Miami is the worst team in football while Pittsburgh was one of the best. But in the end the ‘Phins dominated on the ground and racked up 474 yards en route to a blasting of Mike Tomlin and company. Jay Ajayi rumbled for 204 and two scores and Ryan Tannehill did not turn the ball over. Also, Miami’s offensive line turned in one of its best efforts in recent memory as they did not surrender a single sack and simply dominated an injury plagued Pittsburgh D. That said, the ‘Phins have their work cut out for them this week with the hottest team in football coming to town. Buffalo has crushed the Dolphins the teams two get-togethers last year and has won six out of the past eight matchups. One thing that the Steelers did do well against Miami was run the ball and that has been the Bills bread and butter as of late. Ever since Anthony Lynn has taken over as offensive coordinator, LeSean McCoy has gone off and if you have him on your fantasy team, not that he wouldn’t already be, but he is certainly a must-start this week. I see the Bills controlling the line of scrimmage and gashing the Dolphins on the ground yet again. There is no need for the Billikens to stray away from what has been working for them lately.
Buffalo 41, Miami 10
Baltimore Ravens (3-3) @ New York Jets (1-5)
The Ravens get a second crack a winning at Metlife in as many weeks when they take on Geno Smith’s Jets. Yes, Smith has been given the keys to the rusted jalopy that the Jets call a team right now. Offensively New York has really had problems protecting the ball and that is something that Geno Smith specializes in. Todd Bowles is probably starting him in hopes that it will create a spark for the team, but in the end I doubt they will gain anything from it. The Jets have not been able to stop the run lately and they are still giving up big plays on defense. The Ravens really should be a big play team and I think they will be this week. I wouldn’t completely rule out an upset here, but if Baltimore plays offensively like it did a week ago they should not have any problem locking this down. You also better believe that their eyes widened after seeing that Ben Roethlisberger is hurt again meaning that the AFC North could still be up for grabs. Meanwhile, what I did not mention before, with the Jets starting Geno Smith it is essentially them throwing in the white towel on this season. They want to see what they have with Smith moving forward so this is his chance for redemption. I like Gang Green to stay competitive in this game but I don’t like them to win it. Terrence West should have a nice game and Mike Wallace will likely get one big bomb touchdown for the road team.
Baltimore 21, New York 17
Sunday, October 23rd, 4:05 e.t.
San Diego Chargers (2-4) @ Atlanta Falcons (4-2)
This game is very appetizing as it looks like it will be an entertaining shootout that should remain close. Afterall, the Chargers are this year’s version of the 2015 Ravens where virtually all of their games have been close and undecided until the final minutes. Philip Rivers is having a banner year and is doing it with what can be widely regarded as an inexperienced group of wide receivers. He is making guys like Tyrell Williams and Hunter Henry into stars. On the other side of the field you have Matt Ryan who is still very much in the running for league MVP and is constantly putting up monster numbers week after week. Julio Jones has fallen into a pattern of posting eye-popping numbers one game and following it with a dud. If that trend continues this week, we are in for a smaller output from him. Even if that does happen, Matty Ice still has other productive receivers to throw the ball to such as Mohamad Sanu, Aldrick Robinson, two very capable backs coming out of the backfield, and budding tight end Lorenzo Taliafero. San Diego’s defense continues to be an above average unit, but they were had the last time on the road in Oakland and I doubt that they will fare any better here. Atlanta could have won last week in Seattle following a comeback from a halftime deficit of 17-3. The fact that they were able to even make that game close tells you all you need to know about this team. They are a near lock for the playoffs and should take this game at home against a team that they are better than.
Atlanta 35, San Diego 30
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) @ San Francisco 49ers (1-5)
The Bucs are coming off of a BYE and have to hit the west coast for the second time this season. Their first trip out there was an ugly one when the team took a 40-7 loss on the chin in Glendale. Will they fare any better this week against a Niner team that continues to get it handed to them week after week? I don’t think so. San Fran is a different team at home than they are on the road, and we all know this. Yes, they are only 1-2 at home so far but they have not been bad on the defensive side of the ball for the most part in those games. Offensively, however, is a different story. Colin Kaepernick has control of the offense now and while he didn’t appear to be a huge improvement over Blaine Gabbert a week ago, I think he has a much higher ceiling and is more capable of explosive plays both down the field and with his legs. His adversary is very much in the same boat; Jameis Winston. Winston has made some nice throws and shown great pocket awareness at times but has been bitten by the turnover bug far too much. He’s still young and is improving, which is what you want to see if you are a Tampa Bay fan, but until he gets there the team will experience some growing pains. Going on the road towards the west coast is something that could be trouble. The 49ers will probably try to run the ball on this unit and I like them to succeed there. Vincent Jackson is heading to IR so it appears that the Bucs are continuing to lose weapons on offense. That certainly won’t bode well for them going forward and it can start to show in this game.
San Francisco 28, Tampa Bay 14
Sunday, October 23rd, 4:25 e.t.
New England Patriots (5-1) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)
Forgive me if I am not super excited about this game, but this one is like getting a bug inside your soup at a restaurant. This should have been one of the marquee matchups of the season with the high flying Pittsburgh offense hosting the best team in football with the Patriots. Instead, with Ben Roethlisberger being ruled out for this game we get Jarvis Landry vs. Tom Brady. Does anybody really think that he can throw up points with Tom Brady? I know I don’t. Yes, Pittsburgh still has plenty of weapons on offense, but the team instantly gets less explosive without Big Ben under center. This could not have come at a worse time with New England coming to town. Tom Brady has looked unstoppable since returning to football and he has to be licking his chops looking at the Steelers defense. This is a team that has been dinged up on that side of the ball and has surrendered a lot of deep balls. They are no longer the steel curtain, but rather the bathroom curtain as they will open up quite frequently leaving the team exposed. Rob Gronkowski is back to dominant form and he has had some days against this Pittsburgh defense in the past with a pair of three touchdown games. I expect him to score twice here as the Pats take it to the Steelers. Maybe we will get a chance to see Roethlisberger and Brady square off in the playoffs, but it will not be happening in the regular season unfortunately.
New England 41, Pittsburgh 21
Sunday, October 23rd, 8:30 e.t.
Seattle Seahawks (4-1) @ Arizona Cardinals (3-3)
Okay, Sunday Night Football found itself a barnburner of a game. This is, without question, the best game of the week. The Cardinals seem to be finding their mojo again starting with David Johnson on the ground. Meanwhile the Seahawks are proving that their defense is still one of the best in the entire league and Russell Wilson is really developing into more of a pocket passer. The Cards have dominated two straight games with their running game and defense. Playing at home, I expect them to try to do the same. Keeping Carson Palmer upright will be important because if Arizona can avoid negative plays, they should easily be able to win this game. I like them here because of there defense. Russell Wilson is not moving around as much as he once did due to his injuries, but the team has been better for it. The inability to escape the pocket as quickly could really show here with edge rushers Robert Golden and Chandler Jones. Look for those to to push the pocket inward and make things tough for Wilson and his shorter frame. Tyrann Mathieu appears to be returning to prime form and was able to play some nickel corner for the first time a week ago as opposed to his very deep safety position that he was in for the first part of the year. Christine Michael had a tough game yardage wise against the Falcons last week, but still found the end zone twice. If he can’t get things going in this game then the team could be in some trouble. Coming on the road to Glendale in prime time against a hungry Cardinal team seems to be a recipe for disaster and I think that the Cards come up with a huge win.
Power Pick of the Week: Arizona 26, Seattle 19
Monday, October 24th, 8:30 e.t.
Houston Texans (4-2) @ Denver Broncos (4-2)
Monday Night Football fans get treated to a nice matchup between two 4-2 teams when the Texans come to town to take on the Broncos. Brock Osweiler returns to the scene of the crime to take on his old team. He orchestrated a nice come from behind win against the Colts in prime time last week but I don’t like his odds in this game. Denver obviously has a much better defense, and Brock O. did struggle throwing the ball for three quarters against an Indy defense that is nowhere near as good. I don’t trust him to take good enough care of the football in this game to win. Also, it will have been almost two weeks since the Broncos have last played. They will be well rested and should not have much trouble taking care of Houston in this game. In order to snap the two game losing skid, Denver has to stop the run. Lamar Miller had a nice game a week ago which set up Osweiler for success, but this week he likely won’t fare better. I haven’t mentioned anything about the Broncos’ offense because they are not going to be the focal point of the game. However, they should see some nice one-on-ones outside. Jonathan Joseph didn’t have the greatest of games in coverage and I don’t like him against either Emmanuel Sanders or Demaryius Thomas. If Denver can’t win this game at home then their great 4-0 start will start to look fluky because they have a lot of competition in the division and are already 0-1 in games against their AFC West foes.
Denver 20, Houston 12
Week 7 Bonus Predictions
Sure Bet of the Week (4-1): Green Bay over Chicago
Upset of the Week: Indianapolis over Tennessee
Offensive Player of the Week: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
Defensive Player of the Week: Everson Griffen, DL, Vikings
Rookie of the Week: Devonta Booker, RB, Broncos
Best Quarterback: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Best Running Back: LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills