We’re going need to lower our standards for what qualifies a team as “hot”—or at least that’s been the case heading into Week 7 of the 2012 NFL season. Only three teams playing on Sunday enter their respective games with consecutive wins.
In a season with more good teams and fewer great ones, a big play or two can be the difference between a streak of positivity and a three-week tailspin (because by the fourth, things have probably changed).
Washington Redskins at New York Giants
While the Giants are the “hotter” team—they have won two in a row and four of their last five—Washington has looked like a playoff contender over the last few weeks as well.
Robert Griffin III led the Redskins to victories in two of their last three games. It very well could have been three straight were it not for RG3’s head injury against the undefeated Falcons. In terms of single plays, the rookie quarterback’s 76-yard sprint down the sideline against Minnesota may have been the most dramatic one of the year.
I like the Giants to knock Washington down a few notches in their 1:00 PM matchup at the Meadowlands.
Griffin has been exceptional through his first six games, but he is yet to face a defense with the outside speed of the Giants. Jason Pierre-Paul recorded two sacks against San Francisco.
The Giants have experience with mobile quarterbacks and have done well against some of the league’s best in 2012. Michael Vick, Cam Newton and Alex Smith (three of the top four in yardage excluding RG3) have combined for just 683 yards through the air, 60 on the ground, one touchdown and six interceptions. Granted, Alex Smith’s speed and mobility don’t really compare with those of the others.
Did I mention Washington has the league’s worst pass defense?
There’s a lot to like in D.C., but this will be their most humbling game to date.
Washington 26, New York 34
Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans
The Ravens' four-game win streak is the longest of any team in the AFC. However, it’s really hit the fan in Baltimore.
Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb are done for the year. Haloti Ngata is questionable. All three of their injuries occurred last week.
Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports reports that Terrell Suggs, remarkably, will play “some role” in Houston. I doubt he will do much this Sunday to reduce the fallout from his injured peers.
When Ed Reed is one of the healthiest Baltimore defenders, things are not looking good.
I do not doubt that the Ravens will recover from this situation. The mere fact that all of these players were drafted by the organization clearly shows their eye for defensive talent. You cannot replace players like Lewis and Webb, but I expect Jameel McClain and rookie Courtney Upshaw to have big impacts on the current season.
Unfortunately, this will not happen overnight. Baltimore would be in trouble this week regardless of who they play. The fact that this game is at Houston seems almost unfair.
Baltimore 17, Houston 31
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
Chicago has won three straight and are coming off a bye. Their defense scored twice in each of the last two games. They look to be one of the best teams in football.
If this season has taught us anything, it is that nothing is obvious. I still don’t know what to make of the NFC North. So, why not—here’s my big upset pick of the week.
Detroit is 2-3, but has been in every game except the Week 2 loss to San Francisco. The Lions have been particularly exciting and explosive in the fourth quarter—always a good trait to have.
In an age of overload blitzes, scrambling linemen and backers and wide-nine pass rushes, the Bears have managed to continually establish themselves as one of the league’s top units while using a comparatively basic Cover-2 shell most of the time.
This works for many reasons, but one of the major explanations is that they have very physical cornerbacks. They also have linebackers who can be great in underneath coverage.
Chicago allowed just nine combined points against St. Louis and Jacksonville. Twenty-six quarterbacks throw the ball deep (15-plus yards) more often than Sam Bradford and Blaine Gabbert. Chicago wants to see opposing teams go short.
It is for this reason that I think Detroit can win. If they spread the defense out and send multiple receivers deep, the pressure will shift from Chicago’s corners and linebackers to their safeties.
You know Megatron is going to command double or triple coverage anytime he advances beyond 15 yards, which opens things up for other deep options. He’s been targeted 12 times in each of the last four games. That streak will certainly reach five.
Detroit 24, Chicago 20