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NFL Week 7: 14 Games, 14 Bold Predictions

Sam Spiegelman

Sam Spiegelman is a native New Yorker covering sports in New Orleans. He likes Game of Thrones way too much. Tweet him @samspiegs.

On Thursday night the New England Patriots edged the reeling the New York Jets to win their third consecutive game and continue to distance themselves in the AFC East.

That was the start of Week 7, but there are 14 more NFL games on the slate this Sunday and on Monday night.

XN Sports will take a look at each one of the other 14 matchups, providing you with some insight and one bold prediction. Last week, we predicted a Torrey Smith blowup and the Bears upsetting the Falcons in the Georgia Dome.

Onto Week 7 …

Giants vs. Cowboys

Winners of five in a row and coming off undoubtedly their most signature win of the season, the Cowboys now return to Jerry’s World to host the Giants, who were shutout by the porous Eagles defense last week in primetime. Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray have been playing lights out, with the latter being among the top one or two frontrunners for MVP, but it’s the defense that stifled Russell Wilson and Co. at home. The Giants were clicking in all three phases before Philly beat them up at the line of scrimmage. Dallas is even better in that area.

Bold prediction: Wouldn’t it be something to knock off the defending champions then be slapped around in your own building a week later? Romo is 8-8 all-time against these Giants, who are without Victor Cruz for the year and still don’t have Rashad Jennings back. The Giants and Cowboys are always good for a classic bout. This one seems destined for overtime.

Falcons vs. Ravens

The Falcons have fallen back down to reality in recent weeks, dropping three in a row and now must travel to the Charm City to face a red-hot Baltimore team. Atlanta is winless (0-3) away from the Georgia Dome, where they suffered their first home loss of the year last week against the Bears. The Ravens’ offense got its confident back last week with a 48-17 thrashing of Tampa Bay. Atlanta ranks 29th against the pass, while the Ravens sit 27th.

Bold prediction: Atlanta suffered its first home loss of the season last week, so it’s only fair to think the team notches its first road win of the year this week. The Ravens’ defense does its best work against the run, but the Falcons attempt only 22 runs play per game. This comes down to the superior pass offense, and it’s the Falcons who pull off the upset.

Titans vs. Washington

There’s controversy brewing in the nation’s capital, where Robert Griffin III returned to practice and has already been anointed Washington’s starting quarterback … once healthy, of course. Kirk Cousins gets the start again this week after tossing three fourth-quarter interceptions in last week’s loss to Arizona. The Titans notched their second win of the year against the 0-6 Jaguars last week. Charlie Whitehurst is in line to make his second start in a row.

Bold prediction: Because quarterback battles are fun, this is a game where the good Cousins shows up. Cousins has not shied away from attempting to make big plays with his arms, and despite it sometimes biting him on the back (see fourth quarter, Arizona, Week 6), it’s more than we saw from RGIII in the early part of the year. Cousins comes up with the impressive stat line — let’s say 295 yards and 3 touchdowns — and again Washington fans are undecided about who they want to see under center going forward.

Seahawks vs. Rams

The Rams played tough in the first half of their loss to the 49ers on Monday night, but eventually the unimposing pass rush and lack of offensive firepower caught up to them. Austin Davis was just average in this one, putting up three points in the final three quarters after leading two touchdown drives in the first. Seattle is coming off its second loss of the season, one shy of their entire total in 2013. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell stated this week the team needs to get Marshawn Lynch more involved. Lynched touched the ball 10 times in the loss to Dallas. The Rams allow the 26th-most rushing yards in the NFL.

Bold prediction:  Say what you will, but Bevell is right — the Seahawks need Beast Mode to jumpstart the offense. I fully expect Seattle to dominate this game, but it won’t be Lynch winning over the hearts of his fantasy football owners. Lynch rifles through the Rams D for more than 100 yards, but more importantly sets up plenty of play-action touchdowns for Russell Wilson and Co. Seahawks remind the rest of the league they’re the bullies on the block with a convincing 45-9 win.

Browns vs. Jaguars

Somebody break up the Browns! Cleveland has outscored its opponents 50-10 over the past six quarters of football. Brian Hoyer is making fans forget about first-round pick Johnny Manziel as this team quietly remains in contention in the AFC North. The Jaguars’ shortcomings against Tennessee kept them out of the win column for a sixth consecutive week. Rookie Blake Bortles already eclipsed the 1,000-yard passing mark, though. Fellow rookie, Storm Johnson, also from UCF, became a new element in the Jaguars’ offense.

Bold prediction: Would Jacksonville’s first win of the year come against the surging Browns? I don’t think we’re confident enough to predict that just yet. Cleveland is on a roll, and the Jaguars don’t have what it takes to slow them down right now. By the day’s end, the Browns will be in first place in the AFC North.

Bengals vs. Colts

The Bengals are in dire need of a win. They were rolled by New England then settled for a tie last week against the Panthers, and now sit at 3-1-1 after a 3-0 start. The loss of A.J. Green hasn’t stopped the offense from putting up points, but the All-Pro receiver could be the difference between a win and a tie. The Colts are one of the league’s hottest teams, winning four in a row to ascend to first place in the AFC South. Andrew Luck is a bonafide MVP candidate and is playing as well as any quarterback so far this season.

Bold prediction: This is a must-win for Cincy, but the Colts and Luck are looking to continue their hot streak. The Bengals’ vaunted D has surrendered 936 yards of total offense over the past two weeks, while Indy has held its last two opponents — the Ravens and Titans — to under 300 at home. I don’t think either team is that much better than other, but Green’s absence makes a difference. Adam Vinatieri splits the uprights to give the Colts a fifth straight win.

Vikings vs. Bills

Minnesota has dropped two in a row, but against superior NFC North foes in Green Bay and Detroit. Teddy Bridgewater played very average last week against the Lions, who own the NFL’s top defense. Now he has a chance to redeem himself against Buffalo, who defeated the Lions two weeks ago and are in need of a win to get over .500 on the year and remain in the hunt in the AFC East.

Bold prediction: The Bills rank 1st in the NFL in rush defense, which might not matter too much since Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon are the Vikings’ two running backs. This could be a chance for Bridgewater to make a name for himself as a rookie. Bridgewater leads a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter to edge the Bills in Orchard Park.

Dolphins vs. Bears

Miami nearly pulled off the upset over Green Bay last week, if it weren’t for Aaron Rodgers‘ late touchdown to Andrew Quarless. That upset certainly would’ve looked awesome for me and my Week 6 bold predictions. However, I did predict the Bears would hand Atlanta its first home loss, and Jay Cutler and Matt Forte made that come to fruition. The Bears are winless in two games at Soldier Field this season, and now host a Dolphins team without Knowshon Moreno for the remainder of the season.

Bold prediction: I couldn’t pick the Dolphins to upset an NFC North team two weeks in a row, could I?  Let’s blame this one on the Bears, who have been nearly impossible to get a gauge on all season long. Just when you think Cutler and Co. have figured it out, they come up short in what should be a win. I give Ryan Tannehill the edge in the Windy City as they finally do pull the upset of the NFC North foe.

Saints vs. Lions

Thanks to a bye, the Saints have had two weeks to prepare for the NFC North-leading Lions. Jimmy Graham won’t be available for the Black and Gold, but Mark Ingram will. The Saints are coming off an overtime win over Tampa Bay before their week off, and since Mike Glennon exploited their defense it’ll be interesting to see what adjustments Rob Ryan has made. The Lions own the NFL’s top defense, which should be a challenge for Drew Brees and Co. The Lions will again be without Calvin Johnson, but a familiar face in Reggie Bush should be available.

Bold prediction: If this one was in the Super Dome, I might have more confidence in this pick. But it’s at Ford Field, so I’m going out on a bit of a limb when I guess that New Orleans finally gets a signature victory over Detroit. If the Saints are going to make a run at the division crown, it starts here. Sean Payton is familiar with Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who was with the Saints prior to getting the job. Payton exploits that knowledge, and the Saints pull out the victory.

Panthers vs. Packers

Winners of three in a row, the surging Packers welcome the Panthers to Lambeau Field, where they’re 2-0 this season. Rodgers has been surfacing as an MVP candidate of late, throwing 10 touchdowns in his past three games, and owning a 15:1 touchdown to interception ratio on the year. Of course, Carolina is coming off a tie with the Bengals, but remain atop the NFC South standings. The positive sign for Panthers fans is Cam Newton mustered up his best dual-threat effort on the year in Week 6.

Bold prediction: Newton turned heads with his dominating offensive performance against Cincinnati last week. The Packers have ascended to the fifth-best pass defense in the NFL, but keep in mind they’ve done so against the likes of Miami, Chicago, and Minnesota. Whether it’ a product of an easy schedule or the fact that they’ve turned a corner will be determined in this one. Rodgers vs. Newton is worthy of primetime, but you have to side with the quarterback whose been playing lights out of late. Rodgers is too much for this Carolina defense, and Julius Peppers has a strong outing against his former club.

Chiefs vs. Chargers

San Diego has reeled off five straight victories, the last being a close one against the Raiders. The Bolts are 3-0 at Qualcomm Stadium, where MVP frontrunner Philip Rivers has completed better than 74 percent of his passes for 9 touchdowns and 1 pick. The Chiefs, coming off a bye, have had two weeks to prepare for these Chargers. They’re 1-2 on the road, but boast a top-7 pass defense.

Bold prediction: The Chargers are rolling, and this year they have proven to be unlike the Chargers teams of old that would come up short when you’d least expect it. They reminded us of those teams by almost falling to the winless Raiders last week. The Chiefs have what it takes to give San Diego a run for its money, but I don’t think they have a defender capable of slowing down Branden Oliver. The Chargers win by a narrow margin, and former Chiefs corner Brandon Flowers gets a game-sealing pick of Alex Smith.

Cardinals vs. Raiders

Carson Palmer returned just in the nick of time last week to lead the Cardinals over Washington. Now he faces his former club, the Raiders, who have started the year off 0-5. With the win, the Cardinals took over sole possession of first place in the NFC West, which by the way includes both the Seahawks and 49ers. The Raiders continue to look up in their divisional standings, as right now they’re on track for a top-five draft pick. We wonder if they can take away any momentum from their close 31-28 loss to San Diego.

Bold prediction: We can attribute Oakland’s valiant effort against the Chargers to the emotion of trying to get a win for interim head coach Tony Sparano. We can also expect that momentum to be short-lived. Despite the wealth of injuries, Arizona’s defense is too talented for Derek Carr to try and pass on. Conversely, Palmer should have a field day picking apart the Oakland secondary. In this lopsided Cardinals win, count on two pick-sixes.

49ers vs. Broncos

Denver finds itself in a position where it needs to keep pace with the Chargers, and this time the test grows tougher against the 49ers, who despite off-the-field noise have reeled off three wins in a row. Peyton Manning is three touchdowns shy of breaking Brett Favre‘s mark for the most touchdown passes in NFL history. San Francisco has allowed 9 touchdowns through the air, good for fifth-best in the league.

Bold prediction: The 49ers have played out of their minds of late, but I have a feeling that despite what Manning says about wanting or not caring much about the record, he really wants to get it over with. Manning notches the hat-trick before the second quarter expires, and as a result the Broncos cruise to a double-digit win over San Francisco.

Texans vs. Steelers

This amounts to a must-win for both teams as they try to remain in the playoff hunt. The Texans have dropped two games in a row, the last allowing the Colts to overtake them for first place in the AFC South. The Steelers have been nearly impossible to figure out all season, and last week perplexed us further with a total flop against the Browns. Both teams are 3-3, yet another loss could instantly make division titles and playoff spots hard to come by.

Bold prediction: The Texans’ best asset is J.J. Watt, but this week we could see first-round pick Jadeveon Clowney, who’s being described as a game-time decision. We’re probably a week away from seeing Clowney unleashed without a snap count. The Steelers offensive line allowed Ben Roethlisberger to get hit five times and sacked twice, and the Browns don’t have a marquee pass-rusher. Watt, the Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner, should have a field day, ballooning his sack numbers and putting Mike Tomlin’s job security very much in question.