Like most weeks on the NFL schedule, Week 7 offers up another tasty slate of important midseason games.
Here's some of what Week 7 has in store Sunday and Monday: a pair of 3-3 teams clashing in St. Louis with betting trends on the line, two surprise NFC teams battling in the Metrodome, the introduction of RG3 to the Big Apple, the AFC's most important game to date, a suddenly interesting AFC East rivalry renewal and two inter-divisional matchups in prime time Sunday and Monday.
In the following slides, we predict each game left on the Week 7 NFL schedule.
No Jake Locker (shoulder) for a second straight week means another start for Matt Hasselbeck, who led the Titans to a come-from-behind win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on a short week. The veteran now gets a long week to prepare for a Buffalo defense that has been shaky, to say the least.
After sacking Kevin Kolb five times in Arizona, the Bills have to continue winning on defense with the front four. Pressure has been a problem all season, and the Titans have a pair of tackles—Michael Roos and David Stewart—who are among the NFL's best at protecting the passer.
The Bills will just be glad to be home following a difficult road trip on the West Coast, and teams coming off the Thursday game have looked rusty at times this season. Buffalo squeaks out a win to get to 4-3.
Prediction: Bills 24, Titans 20
The Colts return home after allowing a whopping 261 yards rushing and 35 points to the New York Jets in Week 6. Waiting in Indianapolis will be the Browns, who will be sure to pound the football right at the Colts defense Sunday with rookie Trent Richardson and backup Montario Hardesty (56 yards and a touchdown in Week 6).
But don't sleep on the passing games of these two teams, especially for Indianapolis. One important matchup to watch: Colts receiver Reggie Wayne, on pace to catch 131 passes on 224 targets this season, facing off with recently reinstated Browns cornerback Joe Haden.
Whoever wins this matchup Sunday walks away a winner. I like Haden to slow down the veteran receiver.
Prediction: Browns 20, Colts 17
The betting trends of this matchup point to only one winner. Trends are meant to be busted, however.
The Rams, underdogs in every game this season, are 3-0 as the home underdog. The Packers are 0-2 as the road favorite, with losses in Seattle and Indianapolis. Green Bay is a five-point favorite in St. Louis for Week 7.
Maybe this would be a trendier upset pick had Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers not burned Reliant Stadium to the ground Sunday night in Houston. A Green Bay offense that averaged 35 points a game last season appears to be back and clicking.
Rodgers will get on the scoreboard early, and the Packers' pressure package on defense will force a few turnovers to bust the betting trends of this matchup. Green Bay wins big.
Prediction: Packers 38, Rams 17
Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson is the flashier player who gets more publicity, but what about some love for Vikings corner Antoine Winfield? He's had a bounce-back season, and Pro Football Focus currently ranks him as the NFL's top cornerback through six games.
As most will expect, this game should be controlled by the two defenses. Both Minnesota and Arizona rank in the top 10 for scoring defenses this season.
The difference in Minneapolis Sunday? The quarterback position, where Christian Ponder is a better bet than John Skelton, who is playing for the injured Kevin Kolb.
Vikings get to a surprising 5-2 after seven weeks.
Prediction: Vikings 20, Cardinals 9
This is just the kind of game that the New York Giants under Tom Coughlin lose.
The Giants have been told all week how good they are after securing the 2012 season's most impressive road win in San Francisco. The Redskins beat a good Vikings team and have the game's most explosive new weapon at the quarterback position.
Remember, Rex Grossman swept the Giants as Washington's starter in 2011.
Robert Griffin III continues New York's losing streak to Washington with another eye-catching performance.
Prediction: Redskins 30, Giants 28
One game is just one game, but maybe the offense we should be talking about ahead of this NFC South matchup is the one in Tampa Bay.
The acquisition of receiver Vincent Jackson (370 yards, four touchdowns) has been huge for the Bucs, giving quarterback Josh Freeman a pair of big, physical receivers (Mike Williams). The Saints simply don't have the cover men to match up with Jackson and Williams for 60 minutes.
And don't forget how well Freeman played last week, even against a bad Chiefs defense. He went for 328 yards and three touchdowns; his best performance in some time. The Saints defense may be just as bad as Kansas City's.
Prediction: Buccaneers 31, Saints 28
The history between these two teams should make this pick a no-brainer. Dallas is 8-1 against the Panthers, and Tony Romo has a perfect 3-0 record when facing Carolina.
That said, the Panthers should be primed to pull off this upset at home.
Head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski have had two weeks to get quarterback Cam Newton back on track, and there should be no team more desperate to get a win in Week 7 than the Panthers.
I'll take the counted-out quarterback and team with its back against the wall playing at home.
Prediction: Panthers 31, Cowboys 20
Ravens-Texans is the AFC's game of the season so far, pitting two 5-1 teams against one another for control of the No. 1 seed in the conference. It's early, but this one will matter later too.
The majority of pundits are ready to count out the Ravens, who lost cornerback Lardarius Webb and linebacker Ray Lewis in the span of 24 hours this past week. But the Ravens haven't won with defense in 2012. It's been on the back of the offense, and I don't think that changes in Week 7.
Quarterback Joe Flacco will have one of those games in Houston that he points back to come contract negotiation time. "Hey (Ravens GM) Ozzie, remember when I single-handedly won that game in Houston? Better add a few million in there."
Ravens take hold of the AFC Sunday.
Prediction: Ravens 34, Texans 27
A sleeper of a game record-wise and implication-wise. But there's a few names to watch in this matchup.
For Oakland, it's receiver Denarius Moore. Is Carson Palmer happy to have this guy back or what? The two connected for 104 yards and a score in Week 6, and the Raiders offense is just a different unit when Moore is in the lineup.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert is the guy to watch for Jacksonville. The Raiders front four controlled the game in Atlanta, but the Oakland secondary can be beat (and beat big) if there's protection up front. Gabbert needs to take advantage against a defense that will be keying on Maurice Jones-Drew throughout.
Oh, you need a winner? I'll take Oakland.
Prediction: Raiders 27, Jaguars 13
Remember when the Patriots were set to run away with the AFC East and the Jets were dead in the water? How things can change in the NFL over just one week.
Thanks to New England's choke job in Seattle and the Jets' stomp of the Colts, New York now has life atop the division (thanks to tiebreakers). The game now carries the weight this rivalry should.
While the New York locker room has every reason to believe in itself, envisioning the Jets defense stopping Tom Brady's breakneck offense is hard to do. With so many plays run each week, the Patriots are a good bet to score, and score a lot.
Tempted to pick the Jets on the road, but New England is too much offensively.
Prediction: Patriots 42, Jets 28
This prime-time matchup is closing in on a must-win for both the Steelers and Bengals.
Pittsburgh has already lost three games and, more importantly, some of its defensive mojo. No Troy Polamalu has meant no fear for opposing passing offenses, and teams have scored 115 points on this defense.
The Bengals have lost consecutive games to the Dolphins and Browns after a 3-1 start. Losing a home division game, and falling to 3-4, would put Cincinnati in a big hole.
Bengals receiver A.J. Green is the difference in this game. He's arguably the game's best receiver right now, and not having Polamalu handicaps the Steelers defense.
Prediction: Bengals 28, Steelers 23
The Lions basically saved their season by coming from behind to beat the Eagles in overtime in Week 6. But waiting on Monday night are the Bears, who are 4-1 this season and capable of putting another big dent into Detroit's playoff aspirations.
One question that could decide this game: Can the Lions run the football against a Bears front that ranks first in the NFL against the run?
I don't like Matthew Stafford's chances if the Bears shut down Mikel Leshoure and the Lions run game. A one-dimensional Detroit offense means a fourth loss for the Lions this season.
Prediction: Bears 26, Lions 17