NFL Week 7 Picks: Last-Minute Expert Predictions from Around the Web
And then there were two.
With the New Orleans Saints' loss to the New England Patriots last week, only the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs remain undefeated in 2013.
It's the Broncos who will take center stage in Week 7. Sunday night's showcase game features the return of Peyton Manning to Indianapolis, as the Broncos travel to face the Colts.
Here's how experts from around cyberspace expect that and all Week 7 games to play out.
Experts Roll Call
Before we move on to Week 7's games, let's take a look at our panel of experts.
ESPN: ESPN's picks are a combination of the selections of 13 experts. Those experts include writers like Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter as well as former players such as Mike Golic and Eric Allen.
USA Today: As with the other sites on our panel, USA Today uses a committee approach, with seven writers offering their picks for this week's games.
Bleacher Report: I would be remiss not to include the prognostications of my esteemed colleagues here at Bleacher Report. This year's starting lineup for Bleacher Report's picks team features each of the national lead writers as well as the lead writers covering the NFL's divisions.
There you have it: over 40 NFL experts (plus one computer) all giving their takes on this week's games.
Week 6 went well for the gang, who had one of their strongest weeks so far this season.
Last Week: 9-5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-5) at Atlanta Falcons (1-4)
Final Verdict: In a game that reeked of desperation, both teams fought hard at the Georgia Dome.
However, the Atlanta Falcons apparently wanted it more.
Quarterback Matt Ryan found reserve running back Jacquizz Rodgers for two of his three touchdown passes on the day, and the Falcons kept the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winless with a 31-23 victory.
The ice under Tampa head coach Greg Schiano just got thinner.
ESPN: Falcons (13-0)
CBS Sports: Falcons (8-0)
Fox Sports: Falcons (5-0)
USA Today: Falcons (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Falcons (11-1)
Overall: Falcons (44-1)
Sunday's NFC South showdown between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons could be called "The Disappointment Bowl."
The 1-4 Falcons were the pick of many experts to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVIII. Injuries have devastated the team on both sides of the ball, however, and the Falcons have already lost more games this season than they did in all of 2012.
It's been even worse for the 0-5 Buccaneers. Quarterback Josh Freeman has already been let go. Head coach Greg Schiano may not be far behind.
The overwhelming majority of the experts don't see Tampa getting its first win of the year in Atlanta.
The lone dissenting opinion? Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Ty Schalter:
The Buccaneers have too much talent to be 0-5. Then again, the Falcons have too much talent to be 1-4. Mike Glennon showed some pop against Philly, and the Bucs D matches up well against Atlanta.
Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) at Detroit Lions (4-2)
Final Verdict: There was no shortage of offensive fireworks in the Motor City on Sunday.
Mike Nugent kicked a 54-yard field goal as time expired, and the Bengals moved to 5-2 with a 27-24 win.
ESPN: Lions (11-2)
CBS Sports: Lions (5-3)
Fox Sports: Bengals (3-2)
USA Today: Lions (5-2)
Bleacher Report: Tied (6-6)
Overall: Lions (29-16)
One of Week 7's bigger games takes place in the Motor City, where the leaders of each conference's North divisions will square off.
Both teams were winners last week, with the Lions downing the Cleveland Browns, and the Bengals squeaking by the Buffalo Bills in overtime.
The Lions are the consensus pick, but the experts at Bleacher Report are split right down the middle.
NFL National Lead Writer Michael Schottey picked the Lions to win a close one. "Flip the playing site and I'd flip my pick here," Schottey wrote. "These are evenly matched teams with similar strengths (defensive line, No. 1 receiver) and should play each other close."
NFL National Lead Writer Matt Bowen, on the other hand, likes the Bengals:
This might one of the best matchups of Week 7. Why Cincinnati? The defensive line and the secondary versus Matthew Stafford. Expect to see the Bengals defense force some turnovers in the win.
Buffalo Bills (2-4) at Miami Dolphins (3-2)
Final Verdict: Thaddeus Lewis strikes again!
Despite the fact that no Bills player gained more than 40 yards on the ground, the Buffalo Bills downed the Miami Dolphins 23-21, due in large part to a second straight solid game from quarterback Thaddeus Lewis.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, have now dropped three straight, and the hot start they got off to seems like a long time ago.
ESPN: Dolphins (12-1)
CBS Sports: Dolphins (7-1)
Fox Sports: Dolphins (5-0)
USA Today: Dolphins (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Dolphins (12-0)
Overall: Dolphins (43-2)
After winning their first three games, the Miami Dolphins dropped two in a row heading into their bye a week ago.
Now sitting 1.5 games back of the AFC East-leading New England Patriots, the Dolphins host the Buffalo Bills in Week 7 in an early "must win" if Miami is going to stay in the division race.
Thaddeus Lewis played well in his first start for the Bills last week, but the dinged-up signal-caller and the Bills are headed for their fifth loss of the season according to most of our pundits.
That includes a clean sweep here at Bleacher Report.
AFC East Lead Writer Erik Frenz expects a pretty close game, but Frenz thinks the injuries that have hit the Bills are just too much to overcome:
It's going to be a tough few weeks (or however long it ends up being) for the Bills without EJ Manuel. Not only do the Bills have to travel to Miami, but coming off a bye week, the Dolphins should be getting back to full health. If they can find a way to keep (Ryan) Tannehill relatively clean, they'll win.
New England Patriots (5-1) at New York Jets (3-3)
Final Verdict: The New England Patriots and New York Jets needed extra time to decide their Week 7 showdown.
Actually, it was kind of the officials who decided it.
A controversial unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a missed field goal gave New York kicker Nick Folk an extra shot, Folk made the most of it, and the Jets beat the Patriots for the first time in their last six meetings.
ESPN: Patriots (12-1)
CBS Sports: Patriots (8-0)
Fox Sports: Patriots (5-0)
USA Today: Patriots (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Patriots (11-1)
Overall: Patriots (43-2)
The New England Patriots may not be blowing out teams like they did in 2007, but after downing the New Orleans Saints last week, the Pats sit in their usual spot atop the AFC East.
This week the Patriots travel to face the New York Jets, who much like rookie quarterback Geno Smith have looked great one week and not so hot the next.
All but two of the experts see the Patriots leaving the Big Apple with a win, but Bleacher Report AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst smells an upset:
The Patriots pulled out a thrilling last-second victory at home over the Saints in Week 6, snapping New Orleans' undefeated streak and proving that New England can certainly hang with some of the best teams in the NFL.
This week, it's different—they travel to New Jersey to face the Jets, their most bitter of divisional rivals. The Jets aren't the AFC-championship-caliber squad of the recent past, but they aren't the dumpster fire they seemed destined to become, either. With emotions high, the Jets pull off the upset of the week.
Dallas Cowboys (3-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)
Final Verdict: Want to be an NFL quarterback? The Eagles are hiring.
With Mike Vick sidelined by a bad hamstring, the Eagles watched Nick Foles also go down with a possible concussion.
That forced rookie Matt Barkley into action, the Eagles high-octane offense ground to a halt, and the result was Philadelphia's franchise record ninth straight home defeat.
ESPN: Cowboys (7-6)
CBS Sports: Tied (4-4)
Fox Sports: Eagles (3-2)
USA Today: Cowboys (5-2)
Bleacher Report: Cowboys (8-4)
Overall: Cowboys (26-19)
The Dallas Cowboys travel to Philadelphia Sunday to face the Eagles with first place in the NFC East on the line.
Both teams have had their share of injuries. Nick Foles will make his second start of the year at quarterback for the Eagles in place of Michael Vick.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, will be playing without the services of defensive end DeMarcus Ware and running back DeMarco Murray, both of whom were hurt in last week's win over the Washington Redskins.
Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman is among the majority who feel the Cowboys can win without them, stating simply, "Tony Romo lights up this defense."
NFC East Lead Writer Brad Gagnon, however, feels the home team will get the win:
I think the Cowboys are the better team, but they're in the wrong place at the wrong time. No DeMarcus Ware or Anthony Spencer for a matchup with an offense that is firing on all cylinders. The Eagles win another NFC East shootout.
Chicago Bears (4-2) at Washington Redskins (1-4)
Final Verdict: With the Detroit Lions losing on Sunday, the Chicago Bears were presented with a golden opportunity to take control of the NFC North.
The Washington Redskins were not amenable to this, however.
Quarterback Robert Griffin played by far his best game of 2013 against Chicago. The second-year pro threw for 298 yards, ran for 84 more, and the Redskins hung 45 points on the defense in a four-point Redskins win.
ESPN: Bears (8-5)
CBS Sports: Bears (6-2)
Fox Sports: Bears (3-2)
USA Today: Bears (5-2)
Bleacher Report: Bears (11-1)
Overall: Bears (33-12)
Much like the Atlanta Falcons, things haven't gone at all according to plan for the Washington Redskins in 2013.
The defending NFC East champions are reeling at 1-4 after losing to the Cowboys last week.
Quarterback Robert Griffin ran for a season-high 77 yards in that game. Griffin told the Associated Press via the Washington Post that more scrambling might be just the spark the offense needs:
I’ve got to be the guy that I know that I am. ... Everybody wants me to slide and get out of bounds and do that whole thing, and for me I can’t really listen to that. It’s not that you ignore it. I understand that people are concerned, but there is a day that you have to go out there and play with your instincts.
The experts don't appear inclined to think it much matters what Griffin does, as the visiting Chicago Bears are the choice by a substantial margin.
Carolina Panthers (2-3) at St. Louis Rams (3-3)
Final Verdict: The St. Louis Rams lost a football game on Sunday, dropping a chippy contest 30-15 to the Carolina Panthers.
They may have lost much more.
Bradford will undergo an MRI on Monday, and a serious injury would be a crushing blow to the Rams' offense.
ESPN: Panthers (9-4)
CBS Sports: Panthers (8-0)
Fox Sports: Panthers (4-1)
USA Today: Panthers (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Panthers (9-3)
Overall: Panthers (37-8)
The St. Louis Rams and Carolina Panthers are a pair of teams riding the momentum of impressive victories in Week 6.
Both teams dominated their opponents a week ago, with Carolina blowing out Minnesota while the Rams blasted the Houston Texans.
This week, the love is slanted heavily toward quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers.
Bleacher Report NFC South Lead Writer Knox Bardeen explains why:
Time and time again, Cam Newton shows a spark of genius and then slips back into mediocrity the next game. This 26th-ranked St. Louis defense will give Newton the window to put together two consecutive big-time showings, and I think this time, Newton steps through the window and produces.
San Diego Chargers (3-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6)
Final Verdict: After the Jaguars played the Denver Broncos tough into the fourth quarter last week, it appeared that Jacksonville might at least give the San Diego Chargers a fight this week.
OK, maybe not.
The San Diego Chargers got a second-straight 100-yard rushing game from Ryan Mathews and six sacks from their defense en route to an easy 24-6 win.
ESPN: Chargers (13-0)
CBS Sports: Chargers (8-0)
Fox Sports: Chargers (5-0)
USA Today: Chargers (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Chargers (11-1)
Overall: Chargers (43-2)
The San Diego Chargers got their most impressive win of the 2013 season in Week 6, downing the Indianapolis Colts in a game where the Bolts absolutely dominated time of possession.
The Jaguars didn't fare as well, dropping their sixth straight game in Denver. However, the Jaguars played the undefeated Broncos surprisingly tough in the Mile High City.
That performance was enough to make Bleacher Report AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst one of two voters who think the Jaguars will finally notch a victory this week:
The Jacksonville Jaguars started strong against the Denver Broncos in Week 6. Ultimately, their inconsistent defense was no match for Peyton Manning and their offense couldn't keep pace. However, there were a lot of good things the Jaguars did that make it seem like they're due for a win. With the Chargers traveling so far East and not playing exceptional football, look for Jacksonville's time to finally come.
San Francisco 49ers (4-2) at Tennessee Titans (3-3)
Final Verdict: Reports of the demise of the San Francisco 49ers may have been a tad premature.
For the third straight week the 49ers dominated their opponent, jumping out to a huge lead against the Tennessee Titans before eventually winning 34-17.
It's the Titans' third straight loss over a brutal stretch of the schedule that also included games against Seattle and the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.
ESPN: 49ers (12-1)
CBS Sports: 49ers (7-1)
Fox Sports: 49ers (5-0)
USA Today: 49ers (7-0)
Bleacher Report: 49ers (12-0)
Overall: 49ers (43-2)
It hasn't been easy, but last week's dominant victory over the Arizona Cardinals demonstrated that after some early bumps, the San Francisco 49ers are still very much a force to be reckoned with in the NFC.
The Tennessee Titans, on the other hand, got off to a hot start, but injuries and a brutal stretch on the schedule have led to two straight losses and a .500 record.
The schedule doesn't get a bit easier for the Titans this week, and the staffers at Bleacher Report are unanimous in their belief that the visiting 49ers will win the game.
NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman didn't mince words, stating, "The 49ers will atomize Ryan Fitzpatrick."
Cleveland Browns (3-3) at Green Bay Packers (3-2)
Final Verdict: This game really wasn't much of one.
The Green Bay Packers made easy work of the Cleveland Browns in Week 7, winning 31-13 in a game where Aaron Rodgers played like Aaron Rodgers and Brandon Weeden played like Mr. Rodgers.
That was not a compliment.
ESPN: Packers (13-0)
CBS Sports: Packers (8-0)
Fox Sports: Packers (5-0)
USA Today: Packers (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Packers (10-2)
Overall: Packers (43-2)
The Green Bay Packers defeated the Baltimore Ravens 19-17 in Week 6, but it was a costly win. As Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports, the Packers will likely be without the services of wide receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones when they host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
The Packers are also banged up on defense, as linebackers Brad Jones, Clay Matthews and Nick Perry will all miss the game with assorted injuries.
However, the vast majority of experts believe that the short-handed Packers will still be able to handle the Browns.
Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Matt Bowen thinks the Green Bay ground game is the key:
With injuries at the wide receiver position, the Packers will have to adjust their game plan. That means more touches for Eddie Lacy in the run game. Packers grind this win out at home.
Houston Texans (2-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-0)
Final Verdict: The news just gets better and better in Houston.
Granted, the play of second-year quarterback Case Keenum, who posted a passer rating of well over 100, was a bright spot.
However, not only did the Texans lose the game 17-16, but they also lost running back Arian Foster and linebacker Brian Cushing to potentially serious injuries.
2013? More like Friday the 13th
ESPN: Chiefs (12-1)
CBS Sports: Chiefs (8-0)
Fox Sports: Chiefs (5-0)
USA Today: Chiefs (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Chiefs (11-1)
Overall: Chiefs (42-3)
If the 2013 season has been a dream for the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, it's been a nightmare for the Houston Texans.
Labeled a Super Bowl contender entering the year, the Texans have dropped their last four games.
As if that isn't bad enough, the ankle injury suffered by quarterback Matt Schaub in last week's loss to the St. Louis Rams means that Case Keenum will be making his first career start Sunday in Arrowhead.
Most of the pundits don't expect that start to go very well, among them Bleacher Report AFC East Lead Writer Erik Frenz:
If the Texans haven't figured it out by now, they're not going to figure it out on the road against a tough Chiefs defense. The Texans defense is still a force, but their offense can't be trusted to score.
Baltimore Ravens (3-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4)
Final Verdict: Sunday afternoon's matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers was exactly you would expect from these teams.
Hard-hitting. Low-scoring. More than a little chippy.
It was the Steelers who got the last laugh, with a late Shaun Suisham the difference in a 19-16 contest that sent the defending Super Bowl champions to a 3-4 record.
ESPN: Steelers (11-2)
CBS Sports: Steelers (6-2)
Fox Sports: Steelers (3-2)
USA Today: Ravens (5-2)
Bleacher Report: Steelers (7-5)
Overall: Steelers (29-16)
The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers have developed one of the NFL's fiercest rivalries consisting of two similarly built teams who genuinely dislike one another.
The 2013 season hasn't really gone according to plan for either team. The Ravens have been inconsistent en route to a .500 record, while the Steelers didn't get their first win of the year until Week 6.
The Steelers are the pick here, but the vote was close at Bleacher Report.
NFL National Lead Writer Michael Schottey likes the visitors:
People are looking for reasons to count out the Ravens, but they're a better team than the Steelers right now. Their offense is going to look a lot better than Geno Smith's squad did against the Steelers.
Fellow NFL National Lead Writer Matt Bowen, however, took the Steelers:
Two in a row for Mike Tomlin's Steelers? I like the Steelers in this one when breaking down the Ravens' inability to produce in the run game and play consistent offensive football.
Denver Broncos (6-0) at Indianapolis Colts (4-2)
Final Verdict: And then there was one.
The Denver Broncos were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten Sunday night 39-30, and the Colts exposed what's becoming a very real problem for the Broncos.
The Broncos defense, a top-five unit last year, isn't very good, especially against the pass.
ESPN: Broncos (12-1)
CBS Sports: Broncos (8-0)
Fox Sports: Broncos (5-0)
USA Today: Broncos (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Broncos (9-3)
Overall: Broncos (41-4)
Week 7's biggest game takes place Sunday night in Indianapolis, with the unbeaten Denver Broncos putting their perfect record on the line against the Colts.
This game has any number of subplots. The biggest, of course, is the return of a certain veteran quarterback to the building where he had so much success under center for the Colts.
Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay made some controversial comments about Peyton Manning's departure earlier this week, and Bleacher Report NFC South Lead Writer Knox Bardeen thinks Manning is going to make the Colts eat those words:
If you give Peyton Manning extra motivation to win a football game, is there any way on this planet that he doesn't get it done? Manning returns "home" to Indianapolis and gives the crowd one more taste of just how close to perfect he is.
Minnesota Vikings (1-4) at New York Giants (0-6)
Final Verdict: If Sunday night's tilt between the Broncos and Colts brought out the best the NFL had to offer, then Monday's Vikings-Giants game showcased the worst.
The Giants didn't play well, but in the face of the staggering ineptitude of quarterback Josh Freeman the Giants looked like gangbusters against a Vikings team that couldn't move the ball at all.
23-7 G-Men, in a game so ugly it defies description.
ESPN: Giants (11-2)
CBS Sports: Giants (8-0)
Fox Sports: Giants (5-0)
USA Today: Giants (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Giants (8-4)
Overall: Giants (38-7)
Week 7 doesn't exactly end with a bang. Monday night's matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants features two teams with a combined record of 1-10.
The Vikings will start the recently acquired Josh Freeman at quarterback, their third different signal-caller of the year.
The Giants, on the other hand, have had only one quarterback in Eli Manning, who has been a turnover machine so far this season.
However, the majority of the experts think this is the week the Giants end their skid.
Bleacher Report NFC East Lead Writer Brad Gagnon had this to say about this week's Monday night affair:
The Giants actually match up quite well with the Vikings, who haven't had much of a pass rush and don't have the firepower to take advantage of that tame New York defense. At home, the G-Men get their first win of the year.