The 2013 NFL season is nearing its halfway point in Week 7, and the playoff picture is beginning to come into focus.
The Seattle Seahawks went into a hostile environment on Thursday night to knock off the Arizona Cardinals in a battle that wasn't easily won. Arizona's defense played a feisty game, but the Seahawks outplayed their divisional rivals to win by two scores.
With 14 more games left on the schedule, there are a few that stand out as contests that will resemble backyard brawls. These teams match up well against one another, and they're known for their physicality.
Here's a look at the toughest games in Week 7, followed by a full list of picks for the entire remaining schedule.
New England Patriots vs. New York Jets
Despite the fact that New England has beaten New York five times in a row, it's hard to find a fiercer rivalry than the one these two teams have.
The last time they met was in Week 2, when the Patriots outlasted the Jets at home, winning 13-10.
New York enters the game with a record of 3-3, and rookie quarterback Geno Smith has struggled with turnovers in every game but one this season. He had an atrocious three-interception outing against the Patriots in Week 2 and threw two picks last weekend in a loss at home to Pittsburgh.
Tom Brady has struggled to find cohesion with his receivers this year, but he's somehow found a way to win games with a skeleton crew of skill-position players around him.
But this week, Rob Gronkowski could finally make his return. Agent Drew Rosenhaus sent out a text to media outlets, as noted by ESPNBoston.com, saying his client was medically cleared to play on Sunday "by all his doctors."
If Gronk is unleashed, then New England should have no trouble winning this road contest.
Final Score: Patriots win 27-17
San Francisco 49ers vs. Tennessee Titans
Even without quarterback Jake Locker, the Titans have proven to be a tough team to beat. The Kansas City Chiefs won in Tennessee 26-17 two weekends ago, and the Seattle Seahawks had a difficult time winning 20-13 at home last Sunday.
Featuring a tough-as-nails defense that has forced 13 turnovers already, Tennessee has a good shot of knocking off the 49ers this weekend at home.
Chris Johnson must show up, however. He hasn't been able to get going this year, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry and has yet to score a single rushing touchdown.
The 49ers feature the league's No. 6-ranked pass defense, and the play of San Francisco's secondary has been exemplary of late. But thanks to injuries up front, the 49ers haven't been able to shut down the run like we've seen the past few years, allowing 112.8 yards per game and seven rushing touchdowns.
On the other side, Frank Gore has been heating up for the 49ers, as has tight end Vernon Davis. The Titans must shut down Gore in order to turn the 49ers into a one-dimensional offense, as Colin Kaepernick has struggled during games in which he's had to carry the offense.
But Gore won't be stopped, and the 49ers will move to 5-2 with a hard-earned victory at Tennessee.
Final Score: 49ers win 31-20
Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
This game screams "ugly football."
Baltimore's defense has really ramped things up since losing badly to the Denver Broncos in Week 1. Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Haloti Ngata anchor one of the league's top defensive lines, and the Ravens have racked up 22 sacks already this year—good for No. 3 in the league.
The Steelers feature one of the league's worst offensive lines, which means Ben Roethlisberger will see heavy pressure all game long—just as he's dealt with all season long. Pittsburgh has allowed 19 sacks this year.
Joe Flacco has been his usual self this year—brilliant one game and putrid the next. He played well against the Green Bay Packers last weekend, throwing two touchdowns in a losing cause.
The team's injuries to skill-position players this year has really hampered his ability to beat teams through the air. As a result, Ray Rice has suffered badly in the running game, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry.
Dick LeBeau will have his defense prepared to shut down Baltimore's limited offensive attack, and the Steelers will win their second game in a row.
Final Score: Steelers win 24-17
Other Week 7 Picks
|Week 7 Picks|
|Minnesota||New York Giants||Giants|
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78