Last week there were a lot of close games and a lot of surprise winners. The outcomes of last week go to show you that on any given Sunday any team can win. Now, let’s get down to business. Here are the picks for Week 7 in the NFL.
Cincinnati vs. Atlanta
Atlanta returns home after getting exposed against the Eagles. They return home to a frustrated Bengal team looking to find its groove. The Bengals must get back to running the football with RB Cedric Benson. If Benson is able to run the ball, then the Falcons will have to bring more defenders in the box, giving QB Carson Palmer easier throws. Palmer must value the football and use his weapons when given the chance to throw to them. The Bengals have the talent at receiver to cause problems for the Falcons especially since CB Dunta Robinson is out with a concussion. The Falcons must be able to run the football with RB Michael Turner. If they aren’t able to run the football, it shuts down their whole offense. The Bengals defense will be up for the challenge. They have been playing pretty good football all season long.
Prediction: Cincinnati 23, Atlanta 17
Washington vs. Chicago
Chicago enters this game coming off a bad loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The Bears must re-commit to the ground game and not be so one-dimensional. If the Bears run the ball, the Bears should have easier matchups in the passing game for QB Jay Cutler against a team that gives up a lot of yards through the air. The Redskins must continue to run the football with RB Ryan Torrain. The more Torrain runs the ball with success, the less possessions the Bears offense gets. The Bears defense must be aware of QB Donovan McNabb and his ability to make big plays in the passing game. McNabb and the Redskins offense are at the top of the league in terms of big plays made. In the end, I don’t think Mike Martz makes the adjustments and utilizes his running game more.
Prediction: Washington 24, Chicago 20
Philadelphia vs. Tennessee
This game matches up two offenses that have been explosive in the passing game the last couple of weeks. The Eagles must come out and establish the running game with RB LeSean McCoy. If McCoy is able to get it going, then the play-action passing game of the Eagles will open up. The Titans must stop the run and make the Eagles one-dimensional to win. If not, then the Titans pass rush will be guessing all game and their secondary will be exposed. Also, look for QB Michael Vick to get some snaps in this game. The Titans must continue to pass to set up the run. It is not yet known whether or not QB Vince Young will play, so whoever is at QB, Young or Kerry Collins, must continue to read the defenses and get the ball in the hands of WR Kenny Britt. Britt is playing at another level right now. The Titans also must be aware of where CB Asante Samuel is at all times. I think the injuries on the Eagles offensive line and the pressure of the Titans will eventually wear on the Eagles.
Prediction: Tennessee 31, Philadelphia 21
Jacksonville vs. Kansas City
Jacksonville comes off an embarrassing loss on Monday night to the Titans and they now have to travel to Kansas City. Kansas City will need to come out and establish the run with RBs Thomas Jones and Jamal Charles. If the Jones/Charles combination is successful, then QB Matt Cassel will have time to throw to WR Dwayne Bowe and company. The Jaguars must know where WR/RB Dexter McCluster is at all times. He is the Chiefs most dangerous offensive weapon. The Jaguars will more than likely have a new starting QB this week. David Garrard has a concussion and Trent Edwards banged up his hand in the game Monday night. It is not known if one or both or neither will play. Whoever is at QB for the Jaguars had better value the football. The Jaguars are getting too many turnovers from the QB position. Jacksonville must also get more production out of RB Maurice Jones-Drew. If the Jags are able to run the ball, then the pass rush of the Chiefs, led by OLB Tamba Hali, will have to slow down. The Jags will play hard, but they simply do not have the weapons or the defense to pull off a win on the road in Kansas City.
Prediction: Kansas City 24, Jacksonville 16
Pittsburgh vs. Miami
Pittsburgh goes to South Beach to take on the Dolphins in what will be a physical game. The Dolphins must establish the run. It will be hard task for them to do so against the Steelers defense, but they must attempt to in order to keep some of the pressure off QB Chad Henne. Henne must use WR Brandon Marshall. He is arguably the best receiver in the NFL right now. If he isn’t open, I’m sure WR Davone Bess will be. Bess is a poor man’s Wes Welker. The Dolphins may want to throw quicker passes this week to take some of the pressure off their tackles because they will be going against OLB James Harrison and OLB Lamar Woodley. These two are ferocious pass-rushers. QB Ben Roethlisberger must continue to get comfortable in the offense. WR Mike Wallace and RB Rashad Mendenhall will be key in this game. Mendenhall must continue to pound away at defenses and when he does that, Wallace will be open deep for the play-action passes. I look for the Wallace to have a big game.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Miami 17
Cleveland vs. New Orleans
Cleveland heads to the Big Easy to take on a Saints team that looks like they are turning it on. QB Colt McCoy of the Cleveland Browns didn’t look bad last week. He must calm down and start to relax in the pocket. The best way for that to happen is for the Cleveland ground game to be effective. If RB Peyton Hillis is effective, then the Browns will be able to stay in manageable down and distances against a Saints defense that is very opportunistic. McCoy will have to make sure that he knows where S Darren Sharper is at all times. This Sunday will be Sharper’s first game back from injury. The Saints must continue to do the same things they did last week: run the football and attack defenses downfield. The big plays in the passing game should be there for QB Drew Brees because the Browns have the worst secondary in the NFL and RB Chris Ivory should pick up where he left off in the running game. I look for this game to get pretty ugly.
Prediction: New Orleans 38, Cleveland 13
St. Louis vs. Tampa Bay
St. Louis takes their game to Tampa Bay to face the resurgent Buccaneers. Sam Bradford must be smart with the football and use his running game. RB Stephen Jackson must control the game and the tempo for the Rams. If Jackson is effective, then the Rams will be able to attack the Bucs secondary down the field. The Bucs have to start getting something out of the running game. QB Josh Freeman isn’t to the point in his career where he can carry an offense at any stretch. If RB Cadillac Williams, RB LaGarette Blount and crew can get the ground game going, then Freeman should have an easier time passing the ball to WRs Mike Williams and Aeriluis Benn.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 23, St. Louis 14
San Francisco vs. Carolina
The 49ers travel east after their win over the lowly Raider to face an equally bad Carolina team. RB Frank Gore finally got on track running the ball last week. In order for the 49ers to be successful, they must continue to pound the football at a subpar Panthers run defense. Once the 49ers hit the Panthers with the run, TE Vernon Davis should be wide-open. He should have a big game. The Panthers must get back to running the football with an attitude. In order to win this game, the Panthers must have their Smash N Dash combo of RB DeAngelo Williams and RB Jonathan Stewart be effective. If they are effective, then WR Steve Smith will have an easier time getting open. The trouble is, I don’t think the ground game of the Panthers will wake up this game.
Prediction: San Francisco 24, Carolina 16
Buffalo vs. Baltimore
Baltimore returns home to face a struggling Buffalo team. The Ravens should come out and run the football with RB Ray Rice. The running game will make the passes down the field easier for QB Joe Flacco and the Raven offense. I look for WR Anquan Boldin to continue his stellar season against a depleted Bills secondary. The no-name offense that is the Bills must have QB Ryan Fitzpatrick make some plays passing because the Bills will not be able to run the football on the Ravens. WRs Lee Evans and Roscoe Parrish will also have it tough in the passing game because S Ed Reed makes his return to the lineup this week. This game should be over very quickly if the Ravens come out and handle business.
Prediction: Baltimore 27, Buffalo 10
Arizona vs. Seattle
Arizona returns off their bye week to face a surging Seattle team. QB Max Hall makes his first road start of his career and he should have two of his WRs, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet, back for this game. If Hall has some assistance in the running game this week, then he should be able to spread the ball around. If he doesn’t have any assistance, then it could be a long day for Hall against an aggressive Seahawk defense. QB Matt Hasselbeck must continue to attack defenses with his arm while the running game gets caught up. I look for RB Marshawn Lynch to establish himself as the lead back in Seattle this game.
Prediction: Seattle 24, Arizona 17
Oakland vs. Denver
The Raiders travel to Denver after a very bad loss to the 49ers. The Raiders must run the football to be successful. To be honest, the Raiders have no passing game, so the run will be all they have against this aging Denver defense. Denver is the complete opposite of Oakland. They must have a running game show up to complement their passing attack. I think that RB Knowshon Moreno gets it going this week and runs all over one of the NFL’s worst run defenses.
Prediction: Denver 26, Oakland 14
New England vs. San Diego
The Patriots head out west to take on a enigmatic Chargers team. QB Phillip Rivers leads the best passing offense in football against a Patriots secondary that is young. He should have a field day again this week even though he may be without one of his favorite targets, TE Antonio Gates. Rivers also must get some help from his running game this week. QB Tom Brady must have a big day passing the ball this week. The short pass game is essentially their running game, so Brady must be on target to WRs Wes Welker, Deon Branch and company. If the Chargers are able to make Brady uncomfortable in the pocket, then the Chargers will win this game.
Prediction: San Diego 31, New England 24
Minnesota vs. Green Bay
The teacher faces the pupil as Brett Farve returns to Green Bay yet again. The Vikings must continue to run the football with RB Adrian Peterson. If they are able to run on the Packers, then WR Randy Moss could get loose in the Packer secondary. Peterson must do better in pass protection pickups. If he doesn’t, then the Packers could get to Farve all night long. For the Packers defense, they may get a big boost with CB Al Harris returning from a knee injury. QB Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense must get back to running the football. Ever since RB Ryan Grant went down with a knee injury, the running game hasn’t been the same. RBs Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn must step up and take some pressure off Rodgers. Rodgers should be able to attack the Vikings secondary pretty easily if the Packers run game produces and if the offensive line gives him time.
Prediction: Green Bay 23, Minnesota 17
New York Giants vs. Dallas
New York heads to Dallas to take on a desperate Cowboy team. The Cowboys must take care of the football on offense. QB Tony Romo must spread the football around and must get help from his running game. If the running game gets it going, then Romo can be lethal with the play-action pass. The Giants must continue to run the football and attack downfield. If I were the Giants, I would attack CB Mike Jenkins. He is the weak link in the Cowboys secondary. The Giants also need to make sure they know where OLB DeMarcus Ware is at all times. The feeling I’m getting for this game is that the desperation of this Dallas team will produce their best showing all season.
Prediction: Dallas 27, New York Giants 17
Here are my picks for the week. If you think you have what it takes, step up to the challenge and put your picks against mine.