There aren't enough games that qualify to start calling Week 7 of the NFL season "rivalry week," but there are a few interesting matchups between division foes and a few more that could have playoff implications.
San Diego and Indianapolis will wrap up Week 6 on Monday Night Football, but before that battle takes place, it's a prudent time to take a look ahead to see what's on the docket next weekend.
Between Dallas-Philadelphia, New England-New York (Jets) and Baltimore-Pittsburgh, fans of heated affairs will have plenty to sink their teeth into. Looking for other games to follow? Check out Detroit-Cincinnati, San Francisco-Tennessee or Peyton Manning's first return trip to Indianapolis.
New Orleans and Oakland are the only two NFL teams that get to rest in Week 7, which means a full slate of action will be coming your way. We'll look at every game below and I'll offer up some predictions for how things will unfold.
*For a complete look at the Week 7 NFL schedule, visit NFL.com.
**Highlighted games in the table will be discussed in depth below.
NFL Week 7 Picks/Predictions
|Seattle Seahawks 28, Arizona Cardinals 21||The dreadful QB play of Ryan Fitzpatrick doomed Tennessee against Seattle. I'm not sure Carson Palmer (at least one INT in every game this year) does much better.|
|Miami Dolphins 20, Buffalo Bills 16||Coming off a bye week, the Dolphins are reminded how far Buffalo has come as a team in Week 7. The Bills keep it close again against an AFC leader.|
|Carolina Panthers 31, St. Louis Rams 19||Maybe the hardest game to project this weekend; the Panthers and Rams continue to struggle with consistency but each won big in Week 6. Home turf gives Carolina the edge.|
|Chicago Bears 21, Washington Redskins 17||Chicago feasted on turnovers in a win over the New York Giants, and more could be in store in Washington. The Bears escape with another tight victory.|
|Detroit Lions 28, Cincinnati Bengals 24||How long can Cincinnati keep letting teams hang around in games? Detroit makes the Bengals pay.|
|Dallas Cowboys 38, Philadelphia Eagles 31||Dallas and Philadelphia are NFC East co-leaders with 3-3 records, and this rivalry game has potential to be a shootout.|
|San Diego Chargers 22, Jacksonville Jaguars 18||Jacksonville showed signs of life against Denver in Week 6, and I expect the Jags to do more of the same at home against San Diego.|
|New England Patriots 21, New York Jets 12||New England has won the last five meetings in this series, and I'm not sure Geno Smith has the stuff to record his first victory against the Pats just yet.|
|Atlanta Falcons 35, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20||Atlanta takes out some frustration against the Bucs, who remain neck and neck with Jacksonville for the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft.|
|San Francisco 49ers 23, Tennessee Titans 20||As mentioned above, Tennessee's QB situation has overshadowed its outstanding defensive effort. Another close game, another Titans loss.|
|Baltimore Ravens 14, Pittsburgh Steelers 9||Just two years ago, this was the premier rivalry in the NFL. Now, Baltimore and Pittsburgh each need a win just to stay afloat in the AFC North.|
|Green Bay Packers 28, Cleveland Browns 13||The Packers were keyed in during their 19-17 win over the Super Bowl champs, and the Browns offer an enticing matchup for Green Bay's defense.|
|Kansas City Chiefs 27, Houston Texans 17||Only the Giants (-16) have a worse turnover differential than the Texans (-12). Kansas City (+12) has the best mark in the league. You know where this is going.|
|Denver Broncos 27, Indianapolis Colts 20||Emotions will run high in Indy during Manning-Luck Part 1. Peyton teaches his replacement a few moves in a game-winning fourth-quarter drive.|
|New York Giants 31, Minnesota Vikings 27||Winless no more! The Giants remove their name from the league's zero-win bunch by avoiding the big mistake at home against the Vikings.|
Detroit Gets Win Over Cincy in Battle of 4-2 Teams, Division Leaders
It's been a bounce-back year for Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions, who are right there in the thick of the NFC North race after a win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 6.
The Cincinnati Bengals have also laid claim to the top spot in their division, but Marvin Lewis' bunch has struggled with consistency and survived the Thad Lewis-led Buffalo Bills in overtime to avoid a shocking upset on Sunday.
As noted by NFL reporter Mike O'Hara, Week 7's Detroit-Cincy clash would be a toss-up at a neutral site:
Early Vegas line favors Lions over Bengals in Game 6 by 2.5-3 points. That's 5 of 6 games the Lions have been favored. Packers the exception— Mike O'Hara (@MikeOHaraNFL) October 14, 2013
The big matchup will be Detroit's offense versus Cincinnati's defense, which should be an exciting battle in the secondary between a talented group of Lions receivers and hungry collection of Bengals corners and safeties.
With the Lions surging and Cincinnati still puzzling us all with performances against Cleveland and now Buffalo fresh in our minds, I like Detroit to seize the 28-24 victory and continue its push toward the playoffs just one year removed from a high draft pick.
That is the trend in the NFL this year, you know.
Dallas Takes NFC East Lead
The Cowboys stood up to Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins on Sunday night, a statement win for their defense after giving up 51 points to the Denver Broncos the week before.
Dallas will need that momentum heading into Week 7, when a road showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles will bring the NFC East's two front-runners together for the first time this season.
The New York Giants (0-6) and Redskins (1-4) are barely treading water, so it's conceivable that a win here would pave the way for one of these two teams to take control of the division during a crucial juncture in the 2013 season.
I like the Cowboys to be that team.
Nick Foles and the Eagles looked great in a 31-20 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, and there's little doubt Chip Kelly's offense has breathed new life into the franchise just six weeks into his NFL career.
However, the Cowboys have a potent offense of their own and are averaging 30.5 points per contest through six games. Tony Romo has limited mistakes, for the most part, and the Cowboys have gotten timely contributions from players up and down the roster.
The injury bug is the one thing that threatens to doom Dallas in Philly; the defensive line depth has to be a concern for Jason Garrett and Monte Kiffin after DeMarcus Ware went down in the second quarter against the Redskins.
As reported by ESPN's Tim MacMahon, Ware and DeMarco Murray are both expected to undergo MRIs for their various concerns on Monday afternoon. Team owner Jerry Jones, when asked about the status of both players, said the injury situation "doesn't seem long-term," per MacMahon's report.
Dallas may very well choke away the NFC East lead later in the season, but right now, a turnover-free afternoon against a porous Philadelphia defense would seem to give Dallas the edge. Cowboys win, 38-31.
Manning Victorious in Indy Return
The game we've been waiting for all season is finally here.
Peyton Manning spent the first 14 years of his NFL career with the Indianapolis Colts, but is arguably having his best season to date in the week before his first trip to Lucas Oil Stadium since signing with the Denver Broncos in 2012.
As noted by the NFL: Around the League Twitter account, the Colts plan to honor Manning's achievements—which include a Super Bowl win and four MVP trophies—before kickoff against the Broncos:
Colts planning tribute to Peyton Manning when Broncos come to town in 10 days: http://t.co/GfznMqqQT8— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) October 10, 2013
Once that ceremony is over, it'll be all business for the two teams.
Both the Broncos (6-0) and the Colts (4-1) are on course for the playoffs this year. Indianapolis won't have time to reminisce about what was with Manning, and because of Andrew Luck, they really don't have to.
Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel explains:
It's tough enough to replace a legend. But what if the legend is now better than ever? Column on Andrew Luck: http://t.co/OGWJXP5T1C— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) October 10, 2013
We all know that Manning and the Broncos are putting up better-than-prolific numbers on offense this year, but quietly, Luck has put together a total QBR of 77.1—third in the league behind Manning and Philip Rivers—and engineered his team to wins over expected Super Bowl contenders San Francisco and Seattle (combined 9-3 record right now).
The big storyline will be Manning's return, but it could very quickly turn into a national coming-out party for Luck.
But Manning and the Broncos have weapons galore on offense and will be highly motivated this week in practice following Jacksonville's insistence on sticking around over the weekend. The Broncos put up 35 points, but it was a less-than-convincing win.
Manning knows Lucas Oil Stadium better than most. Colts fans might not be sending well wishes his way after the future Hall of Famer leads the Broncos on a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter to send Indy to its second loss this year.
27-20, Broncos, in what should be one of the best games of the season to date.
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