The race to the NFL playoffs are starting, because momentum gained in October pays extreme dividends in November.
Although Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints began 0-4, getting a win over the San Diego Chargers set them up well for Week 7. Traveling to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans getting a win would be an enormous confidence builder en route to rolling off more wins.
Tampa on the other hand, needs a win to reach .500 and remain in the postseason mix. The NFC is really wide open right now and the South is the weakest overall division. Plus, the Bucs have played well outside the division so we know they can compete.
This, however, is just one of many key games featured in pro football's seventh week. Eli Manning and the New York Giants host Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins, and Big Blue is 0-2 in the NFC East entering this crucial matchup.
With all that, let's go through each Week 7 game and predict winners for each.
Seattle at San Francisco
A battle of two excellent defenses, the Seahawks and 49ers are eerily similar across the board. Both present sound running games and an array of receiving targets in the passing game.
The difference here, though, will be Alex Smith and Russell Wilson. After San Francisco got steamrolled against the Giants, Wilson led a comeback over the Patriots. Smith definitely needs to bounce back and Seattle can't afford to get overconfident.
That said, San Francisco can jump ahead early as Seattle has been inconsistent at starting fast.
49ers over Seahawks
Cleveland at Indianapolis
The Browns and Colts will be a much more entertaining game than expected. We have two first-round rookie quarterbacks dueling against two vulnerable defenses.
For Cleveland, Trent Richardson must get fed early and often. Indy gave up a boatload of rushing yards to the Jets last week and controlling the line of scrimmage remains a weakness. On the contrary, the Colts must fly high with Andrew Luck.
The Browns are weaker at defending the pass, so this game essentially becomes Richardson versus Luck. Fortunately for Cleveland, it does have more balance courtesy of the ground game.
Browns over Colts
Tennessee at Buffalo
Here we have two offenses with proven running backs.
Interestingly enough, both are similar as the rushing attacks haven't been nearly as explosive in recent years. Buffalo, however, has a distinct advantage with two studs in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller and the Titans aren't dominant against the run.
Flip to Buffalo's defense and Mario Williams is coming off his best game. Tennessee may be better with Matt Hasselbeck under center, although the passing game will have trouble getting set up as Chris Johnson gets shut down.
Bills over Titans
Washington at NY Giants
Arguably the game of the week, Washington and New York each are coming off a key win. The Redskins sliced through the Vikings with Robert Griffin III and the Giants trounced the 49ers in San Francisco.
Needless to say, it's reasonable for both teams to feel quite confident heading into Week 7. Well, the concern here is whether Big Blue can contain RG3. Being the most mobile quarterback around, he will definitely make plays and get Washington some first downs.
Still, the Redskins field one of the worst pass defenses and if we've learning anything about Eli Manning, it's that he knows how to win. Plus, New York desperately needs this as its 0-2 in the NFC East right now.
Giants over Redskins
New Orleans at Tampa Bay
Regardless of whether it's home or away, Drew Brees and the Saints have trouble against the Bucs. Last season was no different, as Brees tossed three picks to Tampa and the Saints fell on the road.
This season is slightly different, because the Bucs present a more reliable balance to their offense and the defense is opportunistic. New Orleans simply is all in with Brees, whereas the defense remains incredibly susceptible to the run and pass.
Therefore, expect a heavy dosage of Doug Martin to set up play-action. With Vincent Jackson out wide Tampa can keep New Orleans off balance and control the game tempo. Defensively, the Bucs just need to drop eight into coverage as minimizing the damage from Brees will be vital.
Buccaneers over Saints
Dallas at Carolina
Two teams needing a win, the Cowboys and Panthers have explosive yet inconsistent offenses.
Tony Romo and Cam Newton have been turnover machines in 2012 and the pass protection has not been the most reliable. Include a lacking ground game and more pressure is put on the defenses.
Therein lies the distinction, because Dallas is well-versed against the pass and capable of shutting down the run. Unfortunately for Carolina, it has yet to really slow anyone down and completely dominate a game.
Cowboys over Panthers
Baltimore at Houston
This game will reveal the real Houston Texans. After getting smacked by the Packers, Houston's opportunity to respond against a Super Bowl caliber team is the deal-breaker. And despite the Ravens being banged up, Baltimore's offense is capable of racking up points.
Joe Flacco and Co. are just as balanced as the Texans and create multiple mismatches in their favor.
Houston, like Dallas and Kansas City, will relentlessly run the ball to stay balanced. Even when healthy, the Ravens struggled against the ground game this season, and that simply sets up Andre Johnson downfield.
Texans over Ravens
Green Bay at St. Louis
Green Bay faces another well-disciplined defense in the St. Louis Rams. And although the Rams aren't as stellar as Houston, St. Louis can apply consistent quarterback pressure while locking down in coverage.
Cortland Finnegan can take away half the field and the Rams front seven will get to Aaron Rodgers. So, the Packers must get some suffocating production from their defense. And that's basically a foregone conclusion, because Clay Matthews lines up against a suspect Rams pass protection.
Sam Bradford has been sacked 18 times so far and St. Louis isn't consistent enough on the ground to limit the Packers front seven. Plus, Green Bay's playmaking secondary will force some turnovers.
Packers over Rams
Arizona at Minnesota
Expect Jared Allen and the Minnesota Vikings front seven to dominate this game from the opening kickoff. Arizona has the worst pass protection in pro football and an unreliable rushing attack, even when healthy.
In addition, the Vikings have significantly improved against the pass and last week's loss was just a reality check. Now, the Cardinals also have a strong defense by comparison. Still, Arizona is weaker against the run and Christian Ponder's mobility will negate the pass rush.
Adrian Peterson has a big day and Minnesota rolls from start to finish.
Vikings over Cardinals
NY Jets at New England
The best way for the Jets to win this game is to be run-heavy. And because of the ground success last week, New York must keep that momentum going, which will also keep Tom Brady off the field.
In turn, Gang Green must anticipate New England stacking the box and forcing Mark Sanchez to throw. After all, the Pats get increased odds to win in a shootout. It is, however, important to keep in mind New England's unreliable pass defense that ranks No. 28.
If the Jets are balanced they will win this game. The concern is with Rex Ryan's defense: Can Gang Green completely isolate Brady and the Pats offense? No.
Patriots over Jets
Jacksonville at Oakland
When Jacksonville travels to Oakland we will see two of the NFL's top running backs square off in Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden.
Also, neither teams presents a defense capable of totally limiting the rush or pass. To that end, expect each offense to approach with balance to accumulate first downs and control the tempo. One advantage to the Raiders, though, is possessing the better defense and more explosive receivers.
The Jaguars are underachieving defensively this year and Oakland's balance will have a stronger impact. Lest we forget about Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler which provides the Raiders an immense special teams edge.
Raiders over Jaguars
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
This game will be the turning point for the immediate future of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Mainly because these teams are virtually polar opposites when it comes to age and experience, it's also an even-keeled contest.
Each defense has underperformed through mid October and the offensive rushing attacks have been anything but dominant. Factor in questionable pass protection and something's got to give, right? Yes, and that will be the Steelers quarterback protection.
One major advantage of Cincy right now is its pass rush.
With 20 sacks in six games, the Bengals are No. 2 in the league compared to Pittsburgh's 11 (ranked No. 20). Count receiver A.J. Green and at least the Bengals can also stretch the field when needed, because Mike Wallace has been largely unproductive by comparison.
Bengals over Steelers
Detroit at Chicago
Coming off a bye the Chicago Bears can't afford to let a divisional game slip. Already having lost to Green Bay, sitting at 0-2 in the NFC North as we near November would take away the big wins over Dallas and St. Louis.
As for Detroit, the Lions are rolling with some confidence after the comeback win against Philadelphia. The Lions are also 0-1 in the division, thanks to some horrendous special teams play versus Minnesota, and need a victory to be .500.
The Bears are much more balanced offensively and the defense can get quarterback pressure and force turnovers.
The key for Detroit is Matthew Stafford not tossing picks and setting up the run. Because Chicago is so opportunistic defensively, the Lions lack of balance and overall defense doesn't match the Bears up front on either side.
Bears over Lions
Follow John Rozum on Twitter.