Week 7 NFL Picks: Outlooks for Most Intriguing Weekend Games

Ethan Grant@DowntownEGAnalyst IOctober 18, 2013

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 6: Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs carries the ball against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on October 6, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The best NFL games each week aren't always the ones that look like the most fun on paper. 

Sure, a battle of division rivals with playoff implications is nice, but sometimes the keys to the game and eventual outcome are really cut and dry. 

To find the intriguing matchups on a schedule is a wonderful thing. Not only does it allow us to dig deeper into a few contests from an outside perspective, but it gives us a chance to look at some games that casual fans might not be paying attention to. 

That being said, take a look at my three most intriguing matchups of the weekend below. From inconsistent play to top defenses and all the way down to two franchises making preseason expectations irrelevant, we'll dissect the intrigue here. 

 

Ethan Grant's Complete Week 7 Picks

NFL Week 7 Picks
DateMatchup/Prediction
FinalSeattle Seahawks 34, Arizona Cardinals 22
Sunday, Oct. 20Miami Dolphins 20, Buffalo Bills 16
Sunday, Oct. 20Carolina Panthers 31, St. Louis Rams 19
Sunday, Oct. 20Chicago Bears 21, Washington Redskins 17
Sunday, Oct. 20Detroit Lions 28, Cincinnati Bengals 24
Sunday, Oct. 20Dallas Cowboys 38, Philadelphia Eagles 31
Sunday, Oct. 20San Diego Chargers 22, Jacksonville Jaguars 18
Sunday, Oct. 20New England Patriots 21, New York Jets 12
Sunday, Oct. 20Atlanta Falcons 35, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20
Sunday, Oct. 20San Francisco 49ers 23, Tennessee Titans 20
Sunday, Oct. 20Baltimore Ravens 14, Pittsburgh Steelers 9
Sunday, Oct. 20Green Bay Packers 28, Cleveland Browns 13
Sunday, Oct. 20Kansas City Chiefs 27, Houston Texans 17
Sunday, Oct. 20Denver Broncos 27, Indianapolis Colts 20
Monday, Oct. 21New York Giants 31, Minnesota Vikings 27

  

Breakdown of Most Intriguing Games

St. Louis Rams (3-3) vs. Carolina Panthers (2-3)

Oct 13, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) breaks the tackle of Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams (93) in the fourth quarter at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. A holding penalty called the p
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Strangely enough, the Panthers and Rams are in similar positions in the NFC. 

Heck, even the Panthers' Twitter account took a peek at that assertion on Wednesday:

But perhaps their biggest similarity is that their inconsistencies have been astounding to watch. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah was content avoiding giving a prediction for this game earlier in the week:

Carolina's 2-3 record is deceiving. A five-point loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1 had to feel like a moral victory. A one-point loss to the Buffalo Bills the next week stung, but any head coach will tell you that a chance to win on the road late in the fourth quarter is all you can ask for. 

Then came a blowout win over the New York Giants, followed by a hapless performance in a loss to Arizona. In Week 6, the Panthers looked like the class of the NFC on both sides of the ball in a demolition over the Minnesota Vikings. 

By the same token, St. Louis has been on a roller-coaster ride of its own. A come-from-behind win highlighted Week 1, but since then, three straight losses to Atlanta, Dallas and San Francisco dampened any lingering celebrations. 

A bounce-back of sorts has occurred the past two weeks in wins over Jacksonville and Houston, but the conundrum for both teams is simple: Can either club play consistent football and win against good teams?

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 13:  Alec Ogletree #52 of the St. Louis Rams returns an interception 98 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on October 13, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty I
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

This is a statement game for both teams. The NFC West is still (relatively) wide open, and Carolina won't complain if its fate is resigned to a wild-card bid in the conference later this year. 

The key in this one is defense, where Carolina has been one of the NFL's best teams and St. Louis has failed to stop virtually everyone when the game plan calls for a heavy dose of ground-based, power football. 

Cam Newton can be mistake-prone, but in front of their home crowd, I like the Panthers to push their record to .500. Then again, the way these two teams have played this year, it's hard to know what to expect. 

Prediction: Carolina 31, St. Louis 19

 

San Francisco 49ers (4-2) vs. Tennessee Titans (3-3)

Sep 26, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin (81) avoids a tackle by St. Louis Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan (31) and avoids stepping out of bounds on the way to a 20 yard touchdown reception during the first half
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

It's been nearly four years since the 49ers and Titans played each other; in 2009 Tennessee won a 34-27 shootout behind two touchdowns and 134 rushing yards from running back Chris Johnson. Alex Smith and Vince Young were the starting QBs for the two teams.

My my, how things have changed.

San Francisco is an NFL power house, and Tennessee is trying to work its way up in the AFC South just a season removed from being a basement dweller in the league.

If you believe this tweet from ESPN's Trey Wingo, this isn't the week to pull for the home team:

The strength of these two teams is on defense. Both franchises boast top-10 units through six weeks of action, and you could argue that the Titans' three losses (in overtime to Houston, Seattle and Kansas City) were all scenarios where the outcome could have gone differently. 

But a 3-3 record isn't a bad start at all for the Titans, who have managed to stay competitive without Jake Locker under center and Johnson averaging a paltry 3.1 yards per carry despite currently sitting in sixth in the league in carries. 

Oct 13, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; General view of the line of scrimmage as Tennessee Titans center Rob Turner (59) snaps the ball against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks defeated the Titans 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODA
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco was an early implode candidate after a 1-2 start, but three straight wins have the 49ers in striking distance again in the NFC West, and the offense is slowly starting to turn things around after a disastrous stretch to start the year. 

The key here could be QB play. Colin Kaepernick has all the potential in the world, but he has done very little since a 400-yard performance in Week 1. Through Week 6, the 49ers were 31st in the NFL in passing. 

Tennessee hasn't been much better through the air, and Ryan Fitzpatrick must avoid needless turnovers if the Titans have any hope in pulling off the upset against the Niners. 

As it is, I expect another close game with the Titans as one of the teams. Unfortunately, Tennessee just doesn't have the "winning" mentality that San Francisco has shown the past two years. It's a 5-2 start for Jim Harbaugh after this one. 

Prediction: San Francisco 23, Tennessee 20

 

Houston Texans (2-4) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (6-0)

Case Keenum will say hello to the NFL for the first time in Week 7.
Case Keenum will say hello to the NFL for the first time in Week 7.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs could be 7-0 on Monday morning. Let that sink in, and then comment below if you still feel this battle of AFC rivals isn't one of the most intriguing games on the schedule in Week 7. 

Maybe more intriguing is the idea that former University of Houston standout and the NCAA's all-time leading passer is getting the start for the Texans. 

That's right: It's Case Keenum time. ESPN's Numbers Never Lie posted this tweet to help get Houston fans excited about the change:

Unfortunately, Keenum is stepping into a rough spot. At 2-4, the Texans are on the brink of drowning in their own despair. It was supposed to be Super Bowl or bust this year in Houston, but now, just making the playoffs would qualify as a miracle. 

How will that desperation play out against Kansas City?

Based on what we've seen from the Chiefs this year, probably not in a way that will lead to an upset. 

Behind one of the best defenses in football, Kansas City has experienced a resurgence unlike anything we've ever seen in the NFL. Through Week 6, the Chiefs have already tripled their win total from 2012. 

As noted by ESPN's Stats & Info, both the offense and defense are doing what it takes to win games:

Houston should not be taken lightly, as its team numbers suggest. With a potent rushing attack and the league's top defense in terms of yards allowed per game, the Texans have their backs against the wall and will be ready for Arrowhead. 

However, the QB shuffle and trend of poor play on defense don't appear poised to stop anytime soon. Houston scares Kansas City in the first half, but the Chiefs adjust in the second half, and Gary Kubiak officially feels his seat get warm. 

Prediction: Kansas City 27, Houston 17

 

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