NFL Week 7 Predictions: Can't Miss Picks and Complete Matchup Guide
The Houston Texans are going to destroy the Baltimore Ravens in Week 7—one of a few can't-miss picks on the NFL schedule.
After six weeks, the playoff picture is beginning to take shape, as there are some teams we know won't be sniffing the postseason and some teams that are sure to make it to the tournament. As such, some games are easy to predict, but for the most part, parity is still alive and well in the NFL.
Here are my locks for Week 7.
Houston Texans Over the Baltimore Ravens
Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb are out, and Ed Reed is playing through a torn labrum in one of his shoulders (h/t 105.7 The Fan, via the Baltimore Sun). And, while Terrell Suggs will be officially taken off the PUP list in Week 7, he's not expected to play in this game, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Furthermore, all-world defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is ailing after suffering a "sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee and an injured right shoulder" in last week's contest against the Dallas Cowboys (h/t Baltimore Sun).
The Ravens defense has already shown major vulnerability against the run this season, giving up 136.5 yards per game and seven touchdowns on the ground through six games.
Arian Foster is going to have a monster game, as the Texans will not hesitate to ride their bell-cow running back the entire game against this wounded defensive unit. He was shut down for the first time all season long in Week 6 by the Green Bay Packers, but lightning won't strike twice.
Joe Flacco has been horrible on the road this season, completing just about half his passes while throwing one touchdown and two interceptions. The Texans defense, which was torched by Aaron Rodgers for six touchdowns last week, is out for vengeance.
They'll find it in this game, and Flacco will have one of his legendary bad games.
The Texans will win big at home.
New England Patriots Over the New York Jets
The Patriots are still smarting from getting toasted by the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6 at CenturyLink Field (You mad, bro?)
The Jets come into this contest having annihilated the Indianapolis Colts at MetLife Stadium due to a career-best showing from Shonn Greene.
This is a perfect storm for an absolute blowout win for the home team.
Greene won't be able to come anywhere close to duplicating his 166-yard, three touchdown performance against the vaunted front seven of the Patriots—a team giving up a scant 83 yards per game against the run and only two rushing touchdowns through six games.
We've seen what happens to the Jets offense when Greene can't find running lanes: Mark Sanchez ends up becoming the focal point of the offense, leaving the door wide open for disaster.
Sanchez and his receivers have had major issues connecting so far this season, due to flat-out drops and Sanchez's tendency to become highly inaccurate for long stretches at a time (under 50 percent completion rate for the season).
On the flip side, the Jets defense can't stop teams from running at will (No. 28 run defense, giving up over 150 yards per game with eight touchdowns allowed through six games).
Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden and Danny Woodhead are going to have a major impact on the outcome of this game, and as the Jets attempt to buckle down and stop the run (unsuccessfully), Tom Brady will have multiple chances to hit his receivers over the top of the secondary for big plays.
The Pats will win by at least two touchdowns.
Chicago Bears Over the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football
Last week's win at Philadelphia kept the season alive for the Lions, but the Eagles and Lions are both on the same, self-destructive path this season, and I can't trust either team to play with any consistency.
Some people point to Matthew Stafford's gaudy passing numbers (just under 300 yards per game) and believe that the touchdowns will start to fall down like rain. To this point in the season, though, Stafford has thrown just four touchdowns in five games, compared to five interceptions.
It's not hard to see why, either. Stafford has been just chucking the ball up in the air at times, hoping Calvin Johnson will come down with the ball.
He's constantly trying to fit balls into spots that are completely covered, and given the fact that the Lions can't run the ball (under 100 yards per game), defenses are fully focused on covering the back end.
In truth, Stafford's lucky he hasn't thrown than five picks.
Enter the Bears at Soldier Field this Monday night.
The Bears are the No. 2 team in the NFC in the plus/minus turnover stat with a plus-nine through five games. The team's secondary has been on fire, intercepting 13 passes already this season.
Julius Peppers and his mates on the front line have been wreaking havoc on opposing offensive lines on a weekly basis, tallying 18 sacks through five games.
Combined with the fact that Jay Cutler is actually getting decent protection in the pocket for the past couple of games and that Matt Forte is fully recovered from his ankle injury (h/t Chicago Sun-Times), this game could be over before halftime.
And now, the rest of Week 7's matchups.
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
This game gets my "Bloodbath of the Week" stamp.
The Seahawks and 49ers both feature top defenses and punishing running games. The key to this game will be at the quarterback position.
Alex Smith and Russell Wilson will both face heavy pressure all game long, and the winner will be determined by which one of them can take care of the football while making key third-down conversions.
Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills
These two teams feature the worst scoring defenses in the NFL, with both teams allowing over 32 points per game.
Both teams have struggled to put together any semblance of a consistent offense this season, either, so this game could turn into a shootout or a defensive slugfest.
In the end, I'm betting on Chris Johnson to come through with another big game after his Week 6 performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers against the worst rush defense in the NFL.
The Bills could be in for another heartbreaking loss at home.
Washington Redskins at New York Giants
This is one of the games that I won't miss this weekend, and if you have the chance to catch any of the action, you shouldn't hesitate to do so.
Robert Griffin III vs. Eli Manning—it doesn't get much more intriguing than this matchup.
Furthermore, if the Redskins can find a way to beat their divisional rivals, they'll be up on them in the NFC East, as the Giants are already 0-2 within their division.
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Talk about a gut-check game for the Saints, as another loss would drop this team to 1-5.
Will the Saints continue to fall in 2012?
The Buccaneers love to pound the ball with their running game, using rookie Doug Martin and Legarrette Blount as liberally as possible. This young team hasn't exactly been dominating on the ground so far this year, averaging just over 100 yards per game, but the Saints defense may be the cure for their struggles.
The Saints have the worst rushing defense in the NFL, allowing their opponents to gain over 170 yards per game, and if the Bucs can get their running game going we could see a huge upset.
The Saints are coming off a bye week, though, and big win on the road seems to be a likelier outcome.
Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers
In this matchup between two struggling teams, the Cowboys would seem to have an edge—even on the road.
The Cowboys feature the top defense against the pass in the NFL, and Cam Newton's sophomore slump could well reach a breaking point against this unit.
On the other side, the Panthers defense struggles to contain opposing passing attacks—something Tony Romo and his big receivers could exploit all night.
The wild card of this game is Cowboys running back Felix Jones, who could have a huge game against the Panthers defense—a unit that gives up nearly 130 yards per game.
Cleveland Browns at Indianapolis Colts
This game features two of this year's rookie quarterbacks, Brandon Weeden and Andrew Luck.
The Colts are still licking their wounds after getting lambasted by the Jets last week. Luck and Reggie Wayne continue to be one of this year's best combos, and they may have another monster game against a Browns secondary that has underperformed to this point in 2012.
The biggest key for the Browns will be whether or not rookie running back Trent Richardson can make it through the game after he suffered a bit of cartilage damage to his ribs in Week 6. He's been limited in practice this week and will wear a bulletproof flak jacket this week, according to the AP.
Green Bay Packers at St. Louis Rams
Aaron Rodgers threw six touchdowns against the Texans last week, but he may find the St. Louis Rams to be less obliging this week.
Will the Rams upset the Pack?
The Rams and Packers both feature a strong pass rush up front and ball-hawking defensive backs. Given the fact that both offensive lines struggle to protect the passer, this game could turn into a defensive battle.
The biggest key for both teams will likely be whether or not they can get a running game going to keep their opposition's pass-rushers at bay.
Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings
I have no idea what to expect from the Cardinals in this game.
John Skelton will be the starting quarterback, and he's had some success with this team in the past. That said, he's not a mobile quarterback, he has no running game behind him and his offensive line is the worst in the NFL at protecting the passer.
The Vikings have yet to lose at home this season, and given the balance this team has on offense and the Cardinals struggles in the same category, it could be an easy win for the home team.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders
This game easily qualifies as my "Stinker of the Week".
These two teams come into this game with a combined record of 2-8, and neither team looks to have any answers for their woes.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
This game is important for both teams, and not just because they're divisional rivals: We could be witnessing a changing of the guard by the end.
Will the Bengals overtake the Steelers in the AFC North this year?
The Steelers are playing like a team on its last leg (especially on defense), while the Bengals are starting to surge.
The biggest key will be whether or not sophomore quarterback Andy Dalton can make better decisions with the football than he's been doing the past few weeks. If he cuts back on his mistakes, the Bengals could win this game by a big margin.
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