NFL Picks Week 7: Predictions for Every Game
There's just one undefeated team left in the NFL after six weeks. The Green Bay Packers take on the Minnesota Vikings this week for further control of the NFC North and another win on their current 6-0 record. The rest of the games this weekend will be just as important.
The Atlanta Falcons and Matt Ryan head to Detroit to take on the 5-1 Lions in the Game of the Week. Can Ryan and co. get back on track with a second straight win, or will Detroit be fired up after a loss to the 49ers last weekend?
With the Eagles, Patriots and 49ers off this week, you might think it's a boring week. You would be wrong. Let's take a look at every game and break down the winners and losers.
San Diego Chargers at New York Jets
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When San Diego Has the Ball
It is well known that the strength of the New York Jet defense is their secondary. The San Diego Chargers will avoid Darrelle Revis like the plague, choosing instead to beat the Jets on the ground.
Ryan Mathews has had a very good second season, showing the talent the Chargers saw when drafting him in the first round last year. Mathews will be the centerpiece this weekend as the Chargers pound the ball against the Jets' No. 28-ranked run defense.
The Rex Ryan defense is smart at rushing the passer and disguising coverages, but against the run it has been weak. I'm betting on a big day from Mathews.
When New York Has the Ball
The Chargers have the NFL's No. 4 defense, but they are No. 17 in yards allowing on the ground. The Jets would be wise to try to exploit the San Diego run defense with heavy doses of Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson.
The Jets must avoid falling behind early in this game. If they do, the Chargers' pass rush and secondary will shut down Mark Sanchez and the New York passing game. The Jets have done a good job getting points on defense and through special teams; they'll need that this weekend if they hope to win.
Prediction: San Diego 31, New York 18
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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When Chicago Has the Ball
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may only have 10 sacks on the season, but you can bet the focal point of this game will be the Chicago Bear offensive line.
The Bears have allowed 19 sacks and 36 quarterback hits through six weeks, which is surprisingly not the worst of any unit in the NFL (thanks to the Seahawks and Rams). The Buccaneers will look to exploit this weakness with a young defensive line that's aggressive at the point of attack.
When Tampa Bay Has the Ball
The Buccaneers didn't miss a step this weekend without LeGarrette Blount in the lineup against the New Orleans Saints. They should have their No. 1 runner back this weekend, and that's huge news for Tampa.
The Buccaneers will have trouble against a Chicago front seven that has played well this season, but Josh Freeman should be able to attack the Chicago secondary for big plays downfield. It's rare to say the offensive game plan will be to push the ball deep, but Tampa will have plenty of chances this weekend.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 34, Chicago 24
Seattle Seahawks at Cleveland Browns
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When Seattle Has the Ball
Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson may be out this week, and depending on who you ask that may be a good thing for the Seattle Seahawks.
If Jackson is unable to go, the team will lean on Charlie Whitehurst, who played well enough in the team's upset of the New York Giants to leave many in the fanbase clamoring for more. No matter who is under center, the Seahawks will have their hands full against a Cleveland Brown defense that has been stout this season.
The Browns are allowing the seventh-fewest yards per game this season. They should be able to shut down a Seattle offense that has struggled to move the ball and protect the quarterback.
When Cleveland Has the Ball
This would be the week to pound Peyton Hillis into the defense, but he may be out with a thigh injury. Without Hillis, Cleveland will lean on Colt McCoy and Montario Hardesty to power the offense. McCoy has played very well this season despite having little help around him. McCoy needs a big week from Hardesty.
The Seattle defense is giving up just 98 yards per game on the ground. If Hardesty can get going, and if Cleveland can get an early lead, it should be in the driver's seat all afternoon.
Prediction: Cleveland 24, Seattle 17
Game of the Week: Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions
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When Atlanta Has the Ball
This will be a big game for the Atlanta Falcons offensive line. Not only are the Falcons going up against a Detroit Lion defensive line that goes nine deep, they have to find a way to shut down Ndamukong Suh. Not many teams have succeeded, but the San Francisco 49ers did provide a nice blueprint for running the offense around Suh.
Atlanta will need a big week from Michael Turner and Jason Snelling. If Atlanta aims to duplicate the 49ers' game plan, it'll hit Detroit with misdirections and draws running right at the talented Detroit defensive tackles.
Don't overlook the importance of Matt Ryan this week. Alex Smith had a great game against Detroit, and the Falcons will need Ryan to do the same in working the edges.
When Detroit Has the Ball
The Lions have to protect Matthew Stafford much better than they did last week versus the 49ers. San Francisco got to Stafford off the edge and up the middle. Atlanta has the speed at defensive end to do the same.
Jeff Backus will face a tough test this week against John Abraham in the matchup that could very well mean the difference in the game. If Detroit has to keep a tight end in to help block Abraham, Stafford and the passing game become more one-dimensional.
How will Atlanta stop Calvin Johnson? The truth is it won't, but the 49ers were able to win by bracketing Johnson in coverage and keeping him out of the end zone. The Falcons' secondary is more talented than the 49ers', so they should do well this weekend.
Prediction: Detroit 35, Atlanta 31
Denver Broncos at Miami Dolphins
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When Denver Has the Ball
Big changes are under way in Denver this week. The team announced it will start second-year quarterback Tim Tebow at quarterback for the first time this year. It also traded wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, a Pro Bowler in 2010, to St. Louis in exchange for conditional draft choices.
Will the changes pay off for Denver? Probably, but only because it is playing a winless Miami Dolphin team.
Denver will look to capitalize in a short passing game that will let Tebow get into a rhythm. This should be the week that Denver looks to go deep, though, as Tebow does have a good ability to get the ball upfield.
The Dolphins need Cameron Wake and co. to live up to expectations this week. Stopping Tebow isn't an easy task due to his run/pass ability.
When Miami Has the Ball
Matt Moore looked as you would expect against the New York Jets. Playing the Denver Broncos is a major difference.
Moore will have his chances against a Denver defense that has really struggled to do much of anything this season. The secondary is hurting, the linebacker crew outside Von Miller looks weak and the defensive line is struggling to get on the same page. Miami will be able to move the ball against this defense.
Brandon Marshall has to be the focus when facing his old team this week. Marshall has big-play ability, but he's yet to show it off in Miami.
Prediction: Denver 17, Miami 10
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans
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When Houston Has the Ball
The Texans may get back star wide receiver Andre Johnson this week in a move that would be enormous for the Houston offense. With Johnson on the field, defenses must respect the deep ball and assign two defenders to the receiver. Without Johnson, defenses have been walking extra men into the box and keying on the run game.
Houston needs a better game from the running backs this week to squeeze out a division win. The Tennessee Titans are No. 10 in the league against the run, but the Texans have the best offensive line in the game. Needless to say, the battle in the trenches will be epic this weekend.
The Titans have played very good defense this season, but their weakness is rushing the passer. Tennessee has just 11 sacks this season. If the Titans can't pressure Schaub, they'll lose this game.
When Tennessee Has the Ball
Remember when Chris Johnson was the best running back in football? During the 2011 season Johnson barely gets mention when talking about what the Titans need to do on offense.
Johnson has been a letdown, but Matt Hasselbeck hasn't been. Hasselbeck has been brilliant, getting the ball to Kenny Britt and Nate Washington and putting up enough points to take Tennessee to three wins. Hasselbeck will face a tough defense this weekend when Houston comes to town, even without Mario Williams at linebacker.
Houston's secondary is much improved from its 2010 unit. Hasselbeck will face constant pressure and heavy coverage all day.
Prediction: Houston 27, Tennessee 21
Washington Redskins at Carolina Panthers
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When Washington Has the Ball
The Washington Redskins pulled starting quarterback Rex Grossman last week after he threw four interceptions. This week the team will most likely roll with John Beck under center. Either way, it won't matter.
Washington has gotten progressively worse as teams study its offense and learn they can confuse the quarterbacks. Beck is no different from Grossman in this regard. With Tim Hightower hurt and the quarterbacks ineffective, Ryan Torain has seen a decrease in production.
Carolina will use the 3-4 defense more this week, putting pass-rusher Charles Johnson in space to make plays. The Panthers need to do something different; they've only notched nine sacks all season. Injuries along the Washington offensive line will give Carolina an edge this week.
When Carolina Has the Ball
This week will be the Cam Newton show, as the rookie quarterback looks to give the Carolina Panthers their second win of the season.
Newton will be the star of the show if his offensive line can keep him protected against dominant pass-rushers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. There will be running lanes for Newton if he can step up against the outside pass rush the Redskins love to bring.
The Redskins will devote LaRon Landry to spying Newton, which means one less player in deep coverage against Steve Smith. That'll be a mistake that costs Washington the game.
Prediction: Carolina 42, Washington 17
Pittsburgh Steelers at Arizona Cardinals
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When Pittsburgh Has the Ball
When you think Pittsburgh Steeler football, you probably have visions of tough, hard-nosed running games. That hasn't been the recipe since Jerome Bettis retired, but last week Rashard Mendenhall got back on track and provided the power running game the team needs.
Against an Arizona defense that has struggled to do anything this year, Pittsburgh should enjoy a solid 40-plus-run day from Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer. Ben Roethlisberger shouldn't have to do much this week as the Steelers run to an easy victory.
What can Arizona do to stop the run game? Not much. The Cardinals are ranked No. 20 against the run and No. 19 in sacks this season despite facing few offensive juggernauts.
When Arizona Has the Ball
The Cardinals' best chance of winning this week is to simply throw the ball up and let Larry Fitzgerald make plays.
Fitzgerald will most likely be matched up with cornerback Ike Taylor in what should be the best one-on-one battle of the day. Taylor won't be able to handle Fitzgerald alone, and he shouldn't be asked to. Pittsburgh will put Troy Polamalu behind Taylor in bracket coverage, which could mean major turnovers if Kevin Kolb isn't perfect.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 39, Arizona 7
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders
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When Kansas City Has the Ball
The Chiefs offense has been up and down this season, with more down than up. Matt Cassel needs to have a big game coming off the bye week to ease concerns in the front office and in the fanbase about his ability as the team's franchise quarterback.
Getting back Jonathan Baldwin this weekend will be huge. Kansas City should have a full component of wide receivers to attack an Oakland Raider secondary that will give up big plays.
Oakland will need to pressure Cassel early and often. The quarterback has fallen apart at times this season when teams get to him early. Expect big days from the left side of this Oakland Raider defensive line.
When Oakland Has the Ball
The Raiders will be without Jason Campbell this week, and maybe the rest of the season, as he recovers from a broken collarbone. That means either Kyle Boller or Terrelle Pryor (or both) will be under center. That's not good news.
The Raiders will look to limit what the quarterbacks have to do by handing the ball to Darren McFadden and Michael Bush as much as possible. It helps that this game is in Oakland, where the crowd noise will favor the home team and help prevent penalties.
Kansas City's pass rush has gotten better in previous weeks, and it'll bring the heat this weekend as it attempts to rattle the new quarterbacks in Oakland. If Kansas City is to win this game, it'll need big plays from Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.
Prediction: Oakland 24, Kansas City 23
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
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When Green Bay Has the Ball
I would love to tell you the Minnesota Vikings have a chance this weekend, but they don't. Minnesota has a good pass rush, but if it couldn't get to Jay Cutler behind the piss-poor Chicago Bear offensive line, there is no way in hell it'll get to Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers will move the ball at will against this defense that has been exposed week in and week out. If you have Green Bay players on your fantasy team, play them this week.
When Minnesota Has the Ball
The biggest question this week will be who is starting at quarterback for the Vikings? Coach Leslie Frazier benched Donovan McNabb to start the fourth quarter, choosing to give rookie Christian Ponder his first taste of the NFL.
The team has said it will decide Wednesday, but honestly, it won't matter this week. The Vikings could start any quarterback in the NFC not named "Aaron Rodgers" this week and they wouldn't beat the Packers.
Prediction: Green Bay 55, Minnesota 3
St. Louis Rams at Dallas Cowboys
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When St. Louis Has the Ball
The Rams will take the field this week in practice not knowing if quarterback Sam Bradford will be able to go Sunday or not. Bradford has suffered a high ankle sprain and may be out this weekend, but will it really matter?
Fans of the Rams will argue that on any given Sunday, any team can win or lose. That makes for a great movie quote, but it's not true. The Rams have absolutely no chance at beating Dallas this weekend. None.
St. Louis has been battered by injury and so far failed dramatically to live up to preseason expectations. Even its move to trade for Brandon Lloyd reeks of denial and desperation.
When Dallas Has the Ball
Jason Garrett should have fun this week. After two straight losses, the Dallas offense will enjoy a potential record-breaking day against a St. Louis defense that has been horrid this season. The Rams are allowing the most rushing yards of any team in the NFL, which means even Felix Jones will have a big game this weekend.
Dallas should not struggle to move the ball on Sunday as it dismantles a winless St. Louis team.
Prediction: Dallas 42, St. Louis 0
Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints
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When Indianapolis Has the Ball
"Curtis Painter versus Drew Brees on Sunday Night Football...catch the fever!"
I apologize for being negative, but some of the games this weekend flat-out suck. Colts-Saints, Packers-Vikings and Rams-Cowboys will all be nap-inducing games. If anything, it will be exciting to see how many points the Colts, Vikings and Rams lose by.
The Colts may net 200 yards on offense, but given the choice I would take the under on that number. The winless streak continues in Indianapolis, and the chances of landing Andrew Luck increase each week.
When New Orleans Has the Ball
The record for most yards by an offense in a single game is 735 by the Los Angeles Rams vs. the New York Yanks in 1951. If the Saints wanted, they could crush that record this weekend. They won't, but they could.
I see no way the Colts could hope to stop the New Orleans offense.
Prediction: Saints 42, Colts 3
Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars
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When Baltimore Has the Ball
After a depressing game on Sunday night, the Monday Night Football game of the week at least gives fans their first prime-time look at the Baltimore Ravens this season. Take a long, hard look at the Ravens; they're one of the best teams in the game.
Baltimore has won by mixing the run game of Ray Rice with downfield passing from Joe Flacco to Anquan Boldin and rookie Torrey Smith. That will be the game plan this week as the Ravens look to put away the Jaguars, something the Pittsburgh Steelers couldn't do last week.
I like what Jacksonville is doing on defense, but its secondary will have no answer for the improved Baltimore wide receivers.
When Jacksonville Has the Ball
No defense in the NFL is playing better than the Ravens are this season. The Jaguars are playing rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert. You do the math.
The Jaguars know they must rely on running back Maurice Jones-Drew this week, taking the ball out of Gabbert's inexperienced hands as much as possible. MJD is a great back, but against a Baltimore defense that is keying on the run, even he will struggle to make a difference.
Prediction: Baltimore 27, Jacksonville 9