NFL Week 7 Picks: Looking Ahead to Sunday's Fiercest Showdowns

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistOctober 15, 2013

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 13:  Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys throws a pass against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium on October 13, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  The Cowboys defeated the Redskins 31-16.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

So you have a head-to-head bout between Tom Brady and Drew Brees that went down to the wire, and you want more? Fine. Luckily for you, there's a whole new batch of exciting NFL games taking place this Sunday.

As the contenders gradually separate from the contenders, we slowly get a better grasp at which games matter more while attempting to configure the NFL puzzle. At this point, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons bears little to no significance in the NFC South.

Monday night's matchup between the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings? The Mothership picked poorly there.

But have no fear, the schedule also provides important games between division enemies and Super Bowl contenders. NBC is sitting much prettier than ESPN this week, as it gets to broadcast an all-time great returning to his old stomping grounds to square off with a future star.

Here's all the games fit to watch this weekend. 


Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles

Good news: Somebody in the NFC East has to jump over the .500 mark.

The team that picks up its fourth win also grabs sole possession of first in the much-maligned division. Which flawed squad will take control of a grouping that could potentially be seized at 8-8?

While the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins dug themselves deeper holes, the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles each earned victories Sunday to enhance their postseason chances. Tony Romo fell well short of his 506 yards that came in a losing effort to the Denver Broncos, but his friends helped his out this time en route to a 31-16 victory over Washington.

With Michael Vick sitting, Nick Foles scored four touchdowns in his place to guide the Eagles to a win against the Buccaneers. This creates a question mark at quarterback that Chip Kelly has not yet answered as of Tuesday morning. 

As is the case any time two NFC East foes face off; expect plenty of scoring. The Eagles defense ranks last with 420.2 yards allowed per game while the Cowboys are not that far ahead, slotting in at 30th with 413.2 opposing yards. 

Whoever starts for Philadelphia should have an easier time without DeMarcus Ware wreaking havoc in the pass rush. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the ferocious defensive end will miss this game, and a few more, which will mark the first time he's missed action in his nine-year career.

On the other side, Romo should have no trouble moving the ball against a secondary that allowed Mike Glennon some clearance through the air. Philadelphia, which obtained its last two victories over the winless Giants and the Buccaneers, will allow points in bunches to give Dallas the upper hand.

Prediction: Cowboys 38, Eagles 30


Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 15:  (R-L) Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers speaks with head coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens following the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Heinz Field on January 15, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Th
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

On this season alone, this game is nothing special. The Pittsburgh Steelers salvaged their first victory of the season Sunday against the New York Jets while the Ravens look average after catching fire last postseason.

But this is the Ravens and the Steelers. This rivalry always promises to be a close game with brutal, hard-hitting football and all that jazz that causes old-timers in play-by-play booths to salivate.

These teams have a habit of playing close games; seven of their last eight regular-season matchups have been decided by exactly three points. They've split their past 10 bouts over the past five years.

Pittsburgh showed a pulse last weekend, limiting the Jets to six points while Ben Roethlisberger went a precise 23-for-30 with 264 passing yards and a score. More importantly, the defense finally notched some takeaways.

After going four games without generating a turnover, the Steelers collected two interceptions off Geno Smith. Having allowed just 196 passing yards a game, the passing defense has been a strength, so it's reasonable to believe more will come as the turnover rate normalizes.

As for Baltimore, it must find a running game against a defense that ranks 22nd with 114.8 rushing yards per game. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce will each enter the game with 2.8 yards per carry, which simply won't cut it while Joe Flacco battles Troy Polamalu and Co.

This game has all the makings of another 13-10 score, so it boils down to which defense can make a big play. Both squads are solid yet unspectacular, but look for Pittsburgh to steal one at home with some key turnovers.

Prediction: Steelers 13, Ravens 10


Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 08:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts looks to pass against the New York Jets during their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 8, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Jets won 17
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

This story writes itself.

Buckle up for a week filled with tall tales of Peyton Manning returning back to Indianapolis, where he once upon a time led the Colts to nine straight playoff appearances. Now with the Denver Broncos, he meets his wildly hyped successor, Andrew Luck, for the first time.

While Manning continues to huff and puff at every record in sight, Luck has completed 61.8 percent of his passes for the 4-2 Colts, which rusted some of the game's shine by falling to the San Diego Chargers on Monday night.

Manning is obviously the better quarterback right now, and no other offense can touch Denver right now. Still, Indianapolis represents an intriguing matchup.

For starters, its passing defense ranks fifth with 205.7 passing yards allowed per game, but there is a very good chance that number is exposed as a result of facing weak passing offenses. Of course, the defense won't stop Manning, but can it limit Denver to a reasonable score? Keep in mind that 35-40 is a solid result right now.

While the fanfare for Luck has gone overboard—a much-improved offensive line that has paved the way for a stronger rushing attack has made the Colts much better this season—he's good enough to exploit Denver, which enters Sunday night with the league's worst pass defense.

The Colts could give the Broncos, a team that has looked mortal in the past two weeks, all they can handle in a shootout similar to Denver's matchup with Dallas. Expect Manning to do Manning things while Denver's rushing offense pounds past Indianapolis' shaky front seven—but don't plan on a blowout.

Prediction: Broncos 40, Colts 31