NFL Week 7 Predictions: Projecting Scores for Biggest Games on Schedule
When surveying the schedule for Week 7, it is impossible to look past one particular game without a rush of excitement. On Sunday night in prime time, legendary quarterback Peyton Manning leads his undefeated Denver Broncos to Lucas Oil Stadium in a showdown with his ex-team, the Indianapolis Colts.
Led by Manning's successor in last year's No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck, Indianapolis has enjoyed a quick turnaround from the Manning era in winning 15 games since his departure.
A couple of other battles featuring joint NFC East-leading rivals and a pair of other teams atop their divisions will be overshadowed but will nevertheless be of optimum importance.
First we'll break down Manning's return to Indy, then get to two other featured matchups, followed by a complete list of predictions for the week.
Denver Broncos (6-0) vs. Indianapolis Colts (4-2)
The comparisons between Manning and Luck will never end and will be monotonous after a while, but it's still a fresh enough development to look at them now heading into their first head-to-head meeting.
Is Andrew Luck the next Peyton Manning? Check out the comparison of their first 22 career NFL games: pic.twitter.com/2AL90iF3w0— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 16, 2013
What may wind up deciding this game is the developments on defense for both teams, though.
Broncos superstar Von Miller returns and can not only generate immense pressure on Luck but also has the athleticism to chase him down when the precocious signal-caller extends the play with his feet.
In Week 6, underrated Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman suffered a concussion and is day-to-day, per Colts.com's Kevin Bowen:
Chuck Pagano says Jerrell Freeman is day-to-day. LaRon Landry is day-to-day, trending in the right direction.— Kevin Bowen (@KBowenColts) October 16, 2013
That's not a good sign, since he's the leading tackler and is coming off a short week in Monday night's 19-9 loss to the San Diego Chargers.
Denver has so many weapons in receivers Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas that it seems impossible for anyone to slow Manning down. After a bit of a letdown versus Jacksonville last week, look for Manning to tear it up in his old home stadium.
Luck will do his best to keep Indianapolis in striking distance, but Trent Richardson has proven to be unreliable from a productivity standpoint. Facing the league's top-ranked rush defense won't help.
Prediction: Broncos 38, Colts 24
Dallas Cowboys (3-3) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)
Being .500 and atop a division is a stroke of great fortune six games into the season.
However, a win for either of these teams could serve as a launching point for the rest of the campaign and would put the victor at a substantial advantage.
The NFC East may be the worst division in football. With the Washington Redskins at 1-4 and the New York Giants 0-6, this is a golden opportunity for the Cowboys or Eagles to make a statement of superiority.
If you're looking to daisy chain games together between these two, it's more difficult than usual since they share all three of their losses:
The Cowboys 3 losses have come against the Chiefs/Broncos/Chargers. The Eagles 3 losses have come against the Chiefs/Broncos/Chargers.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) October 16, 2013
It may be borderline impossible for Dallas to stop the Eagles' innovative Chip Kelly offense since it has the 30th-ranked defense in terms of total yards yielded per contest. Combine that with substitution issues that can occur when facing such a quick-firing attack, and it could be yet another disaster for Big D.
Then again, the Eagles have the No. 31 pass defense, which should allow Cowboys QB Tony Romo to have a field day.
Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com reported on Tuesday that QB Nick Foles took initial first-team snaps in drills for Philadelphia:
Drills are same as last week: Foles first, Barkley second, Vick third. #EaglesTalk— Geoff Mosher (@GeoffMosherCSN) October 15, 2013
Foles fared well in his maiden start of 2013, throwing for 296 yards and three touchdowns in guiding the Eagles to their second straight win. He's not as fleet of foot as Michael Vick, but he even found pay dirt on the ground, too.
The home-field advantage and the perks of having a star like LeSean McCoy in the backfield will boost the Eagles to first place in a thrilling shootout.
Prediction: Eagles 35, Cowboys 31
Detroit Lions (4-2) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2)
It's hard to tell if either of these teams are for real or if they are playoff-caliber, but what would normally be a showcase for two of the premier wide receivers in football may be diminished.
Calvin Johnson was not himself for Detroit last week as he battled a knee injury, but Bengals stud A.J. Green should give a shaky Lions secondary fits with his playmaking ability.
Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis said that Johnson has been a mentor of sorts for the second-year pro, per the Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett:
Lewis also said Calvin Johnson has been a great mentor to A.J. Green. CJ and AJ worked out some together this offseason.— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) October 16, 2013
The Lions were just able to get a victory over the Cleveland Browns, and pulling off back-to-back triumphs against an AFC North team seems feasible enough.
A lot depends on how healthy Johnson is, but Detroit's official Twitter posted a photo of him on the practice field Wednesday:
Which division leader besides Denver is the most viable Super Bowl contender?
That should inspire optimism to those doubting Megatron after a meager three catches for 25 yards on eight targets in Cleveland.
Also watch for the tight end tandems on each team: For the Bengals, Jermaine Gresham and first-round rookie Tyler Eifert; for the Lions, Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria, who had three touchdown grabs in Week 6.
How each defense neutralizes those X-factor targets should go a long way in deciding this one, but Detroit's key edge comes at the most important position.
That will allow for a close Lions victory at Ford Field.
Prediction: Lions 27, Bengals 20
|Away Team||Home Team||Pick|
|Seattle Seahawks||Arizona Cardinals||Seahawks|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Atlanta Falcons||Falcons|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Detroit Lions||Lions|
|Buffalo Bills||Miami Dolphins||Dolphins|
|New England Patriots||New York Jets||Patriots|
|Dallas Cowboys||Philadelphia Eagles||Eagles|
|Chicago Bears||Washington Redskins||Redskins|
|St. Louis Rams||Carolina Panthers||Panthers|
|San Diego Chargers||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jaguars|
|San Francisco 49ers||Tennessee Titans||49ers|
|Cleveland Browns||Green Bay Packers||Packers|
|Houston Texans||Kansas City Chiefs||Texans|
|Baltimore Ravens||Pittsburgh Steelers||Steelers|
|Denver Broncos||Indianapolis Colts||Broncos|
|Minnesota Vikings||New York Giants||Vikings|
Picks are strictly opinion
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