Week 7 NFL Predictions: How Each Underdog Can Spring the Upset

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IOctober 21, 2012

October 14, 2012; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) runs with the ball past Minnesota Vikings cornerback Chris Cook (20) in the third quarter at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 38-26. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

When predicting any week on the NFL schedule, the possibility of wide-scale upsets must always be considered. Week 7 of the 2012 season is no different, especially after watching what happened to the favorites a week prior. 

In Week 6, nine of the 14 underdogs sprung upsets over their respective Vegas favorites. 

While nine upsets again in Week 7 would be a stunning development, there's little doubt that at least a handful of underdogs will win again over the next two days.

Below, we predict how each underdog in Week 7 of the NFL season can continue the recent upset trend. 

Note: Underdog is italicized in every subheader.

Tennessee Titans (2-4) at Buffalo Bills (3-3)

Win in the trenches, by a wide margin.

Through six weeks, no team in the NFL has allowed more rushing yards per game than the Bills. To win Sunday, Titans running back Chris Johnson needs to crack 100 yards against a defense that is giving up over 170 a contest. 

On the other side, Tennessee has to find a way to generate more pass rush, all while keeping the Bills' two-headed running back duo in check. It will be a difficult but do-able task for an up-and-down front seven on the road. 

Cleveland Browns (1-5) at Indianapolis Colts (2-3)

Control the game on the ground. 

The Colts are coming off one of the worst run-defending performances in recent franchise history Sunday in New York, so the Browns must be able to run the football in Week 7.

The last thing Cleveland wants is for the offense to get one dimensional, especially with Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney coming off the edges on passing downs. With Trent Richardson and Montario Hardesty both likely to get carries, Cleveland has the talent at running back to stay balanced away from home. 

Green Bay Packers (3-3) at St. Louis Rams (3-3)

Get to Aaron Rodgers

When the Packers protect Rodgers, it's game over for opposing defenses. All the evidence you need of that fact came Sunday night in Houston, when Rodgers threw for 338 yards and six touchdowns as the Texans only sacked him twice.

The Rams need strong edge performances from Chris Long and Robert Quinn Sunday. If St. Louis can put Rodgers on the ground consistently, St. Louis has a decent shot at winning its fourth game as the home underdog. 

Arizona Cardinals (4-2) at Minnesota Vikings (4-2)

Win on special teams. 

Both the Cardinals and Vikings rank in the top 10 for scoring defenses, so this should be a low-scoring game. The difference can and likely will come via special teams. 

The Vikings have scored on both a punt and kick this season, so Arizona must be cognizant on all coverage units. On the flip side, getting a couple of big returns from Patrick Peterson could give the Cardinals the edge they need to get to 5-2. 

Washington Redskins (3-3) at New York Giants (4-2)

Continue riding the RG3 train. 

Robert Griffin III has been everything the Redskins expected and more through six games. Keeping him inside the tackle box is almost impossible, whether Griffin III is running or throwing downfield. He's equally dangerous doing both.

The Giants have had problems with athletic quarterbacks in the past, so Griffin III is the obvious key Sunday. Considering Rex Grossman swept New York in 2011, a big game from the rookie quarterback should mean another upset in this series. 

New Orleans Saints (1-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3)

Be the better offense. 

The Saints offense comes into this game with all the publicity, but the Buccaneers might be finding their stride on that side of the ball. Quarterback Josh Freeman has big, physical receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Freeman, and rookie running back Doug Martin has filled his niche as a poor man's Ray Rice.

New Orleans is going to score Sunday, but the Bucs have the firepower to out-gun the Saints, especially at home. 

Dallas Cowboys (2-3) at Carolina Panthers (1-4)

Re-energize Cam Newton.

If the Panthers are going to turn this disaster of a season around, Newton has to be the center piece. Too often in 2012, Newton has looked for the home run when singles would be sufficient. Rob Chudzinski, Newton's offensive coordinator, has done him no favors, abandoning the run and calling too many of the gimmick option plays. 

If Newton gets back on track Sunday, the Panthers can snap Tony Romo's perfect 3-0 career record against Carolina. Newton has had two weeks to get his problems squared away. 

Baltimore Ravens (5-1) at Houston Texans (5-1)

Continuing winning with offense. 

The Ravens will be without Lardarius Webb (ACL) and Ray Lewis (triceps), who both went out with season-ending injuries over the past week. But for all the attention the defense still gets in Baltimore, it's been the offense leading this team in 2012. 

If the offensive line plays well, Joe Flacco can be a surgeon against the Texans' ailing and struggling secondary. And while you wouldn't think so looking at this game on the surface, a shootout is definitely in the cards. Flacco has to hold the biggest gun Sunday in Houston. 

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) at Oakland Raiders (1-4)

Protect Blaine Gabbert. 

Winning with the run seems like a way for the Jaguars to win on the road, but keeping Gabbert on his feet is just as important. The Raiders nearly upset the undefeated Falcons on the road in Week 6 with a relentless pass rush. 

If Gabbert is under pressure Sunday, Jacksonville has little chance. But if the pass rush is halted, the Raiders have a secondary that can be exposed. 

New York Jets (3-3) at New England Patriots (3-3)

Play the game at a Jets pace. 

Getting into a track meet with the Patriots in New England is Week 7 suicide. The Patriots have run 80 or more plays in consecutive weeks, and the Jets can't handle that kind of pace on the road. 

If the Jets find success with ground-and-pound, and the defense isn't overwhelmed against the run, New York can shorten this game and keep the Patriots offense off the field. That would give the Jets a chance to win a low-scoring affair despite being 11-point underdogs.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-3)

Keep Dalton-to-Green going. 

The Steelers will once again be without safety Troy Polamalu, a loss that has turned their rock-solid pass defense into a beatable unit. The Bengals have the one piece to expose Pittsburgh's secondary Sunday night in receiver A.J. Green.

In his second year, Green has arguably been the game's best receiver through six weeks. If Andy Dalton continues connecting with his No. 1 receiver Sunday, the Bengals can score enough points to send Pittsburgh to its fourth loss in 2012.

Detroit Lions (2-3) at Chicago Bears (4-1)

Run the football with Mikel Leshoure. 

If the Lions get one dimensional in Chicago Monday night, the Bears will be heading into Week 8 with a 5-1 record. Matthew Stafford can only do so much without getting help from his run game, especially against this defense. 

Pounding Leshoure at the Bears' cement wall of a run defense will be a difficult, pain-staking process, but the small gains Detroit gets early will pay off later on. Maintaining some kind of balance has to happen for the Lions to get an important win inside the division. 


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