NFL

Week 7 NFL Predictions: Struggling Stars Who Will Flourish This Weekend

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 08: Running back Lamar Miller #26 of the Miami Dolphins runs the ball against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 8, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Ethan GrantAnalyst IOctober 18, 2013

It's never easy to watch NFL stars struggle. 

But for various reasons, stars do underperform on a yearly basis in every professional sport. This year is no different in the NFL, but struggles can be rectified every Sunday (or Thursday or Monday, depending on the schedule). 

"Struggling" is a word that we think of when players aren't recording any stats, but missing key throws in big moments, only performing well in garbage time and failing to make an impact against good teams are also components of what we will be discussing. 

Without further ado, here are three players who have struggled—for whatever reason—through six weeks of the NFL season and are poised to turn things around in the days to come. 

 

QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots (at New York Jets)

There's nothing like a game-winning drive to get a player off the schneid

Rhyming aside, Tom Brady looked like his old self as the Patriots secured a come-from-behind victory over the previously undefeated New Orleans Saints in Week 6. His last-second throw to Kenbrell Thompkins in the left corner of the end zone was a thing of beauty. 

While his stats (1,480 yards, eight TDs, four INTs, 56.9 percent completion rate) have him ranked in the middle of the pack when it comes to QBs in 2013, Sunday proved Brady can be as dangerous as ever if his receivers continue to grow. 

Oct 13, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New Orleans Saints linebacker Junior Galette (93) chases New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) out of the pocket during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Facing the New York Jets in Week 7, Brady will try to tackle another fierce test. Not only are the Jets a division rival, but he completed less than 50 percent of his passes in a 185-yard, one-touchdown performance the first time these teams met in 2013. The Pats won, 13-10. 

New York boasts an above-average pass defense, but a closer look yields the fact that the Jets are the worst team in the NFL at getting the QB to throw an interception; they only have one on the season. 

Although New England will have to cope with road demons and finding enough adrenaline after last weekend's events, I like Brady to have a solid, turnover-free day and find the end zone at least twice. 

Projected Stat Line: 24-of-33 passing, 288 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs

 

WR Victor Cruz, New York Giants (vs. Minnesota Vikings)

Oct 10, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears cornerback Tim Jennings (26) is flagged for interference against New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) during the second half at Soldier Field. Chicago defeats New York 27-21. Mandatory Credit: Mike D
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Cruz isn't your typical struggling star. 

Just check this tweet from ESPN's NFL Twitter account:

Still one of the most prolific receivers in the game, the salsa-dancing fiend is like every other Giant on the roster now—saddled with the reality that another loss would push the winless streak in town to seven. 

It isn't often that receivers start getting the blame when their quarterback leads the league in interceptions, but that's exactly what head coach Tom Coughlin has done, per this tweet from USA Today's Tom Pelissero:

Following that information, it isn't out of the realm to place Cruz among those who are struggling. Without his three-touchdown performance against Dallas, the Giants wideout has been relatively quiet for most of the season. 

Hakeem Nicks, the running game and injuries deserve plenty of blame too, but when you're a star like Cruz, you take the weight of expectations and criticism well on. It might be unfair, but that's life, and Cruz knows he needs to step his game up to make up for shortcomings elsewhere on the roster. 

Against Minnesota in Week 7, Cruz will have a huge day. The Vikings allow over 300 yards through the air per game through six weeks and have yielded 13 touchdowns to opposing receivers. 

Mark down Cruz for two TDs and even more receptions as his efforts help the Giants get win No. 1 in 2013. 

Projected Stat Line: 11 receptions, 153 yards, 2 TDs

 

RB Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins (vs. Buffalo Bills)

Miller hasn't had more than 14 carries in five games this year, but I expect the Dolphins to finally let him loose against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. He's earned it, and the matchup dictates a strong running game. 

The former Hurricane star has a respectable 4.2 yard-per-carry average, but so far, Miami has not leaned heavily on the run during its 3-2 start. 

Sep 15, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller (26) scores a touchdown during the first quarter against the Indianapolis Colts  at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a bye week, it would be foolish to not try to establish the run against the Bills. 

Buffalo is giving up only 3.9 yards per carry but are allowing over 124 yards per game this season, and Miller is a prime candidate to earn a big chunk of that action this week. After all, he did have a big game against the Bills last season, per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald:

Daniel Thomas has siphoned off some of Miller's production, but you get the feeling that with two weeks of preparation and a chance to kick-start the offensive line in practice, this is the week Miller stands out. Look for a day worthy of both fantasy and real-life praise. 

Projected Stat Line: 18 carries, 121 yards, 1 TD

 

Follow B/R's Ethan Grant on Twitter. 

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