Week 7 Preview: Division Matches Galore
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: October 18, 2012
This week’s preview is a bit shorter than most, but that’s because we’ve got just thirteen games to look forward to! Let’s get to it.
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers, 8:30pm Thursday
Last Sunday was as exciting for Seahawks fans as it was frustrating for the Niners faithful. Seattle’s secondary must be flying high after last week’s two-interception performance against Tom Brady, but the Seahawks have yet to win a divisional game this season, losing to both St. Louis and Arizona on the road. On the flip side of that coin, the 49ers have gone 10-0 in their last ten divisional home games. And the last time San Francisco suffered a loss this season, it went on to beat the Jets 34-0 in New York. Niners quarterback Alex Smith had a rough week against the Giants, so watch to see how he rebounds against stout coverage from the likes of Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas.
Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills, 1:00pm
Could everything finally be clicking for the Bills? With both running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson returning from injuries and a defense that’s begun successfully rushing the passer, Buffalo just might contend in this year’s down AFC East. Titans running back Chris Johnson has now rushed for 90+ yards in two of his last three starts and is assuredly looking to expand on his successes. The better Johnson runs, the more receivers like Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright will approach their potential.
Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers, 1:00pm
Something’s got to give for one of these two teams. Dallas had an incredible outing against Baltimore, rushing for over 200 yards, maintaining possession for over two thirds of the game and executing a successful onside kick, but still managed to come up short with atrocious clock management in the waning seconds. Carolina has posted just one win all season and has yet to fully click on either side of the football. And both teams feature two of the more scrutinized quarterbacks in the league. Both Tony Romo and Cam Newton have faced questions regarding their ability to lead their team to victory. Those questions will likely go unanswered on Sunday, but one of these quarterbacks should be off the hook this week, anyway.
Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans, 1:00pm
There are currently two AFC teams with winning records. They’ll meet this Sunday in Houston. Both the Texans and Ravens are reeling after significant blows to each team’s respective defense. The absence of linebacker Brian Cushing, gone for the season after an ACL tear, left Houston vulnerable to Green Bay’s potent offense. The Ravens will be without starting linebacker Ray Lewis or cornerback Lardarius Webb while safety Ed Reed and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata are playing, but nursing injuries. This game could easily turn into a high scoring affair, something we wouldn’t have anticipated six weeks ago.
Cleveland Browns at Indianapolis Colts, 1:00pm
If you thought the vaunted RGIII-Andrew Luck preseason match was something to be hold, just wait until Brandon Weeden and the Cleveland Browns head to Indy. Although the Browns finally posted their first win last week, don’t expect the trend to continue. The Colts have been a tough out at home this season, narrowly losing in the final moments of the game to division rival Jacksonville. Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden looked awfully effective in his first post-suspension appearance last week. With running back Donald Brown out again on Sunday, Luck may be forced to throw early and often, much to Haden and Cleveland’s delight.
Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings, 1:00pm
In just two weeks, Arizona’s prospects for the season seem to have plummeted. Its defense continues to perform adequately, but offensive injuries have left the team depleted at running back and quarterback. Minnesota is fresh off a stinging loss in Washington, as its defense looked wholly penetrable for the first time all season, but quarterback Christian Ponder and the offense nearly put them in a position to win. Don’t be surprised to see Minnesota’s defense get back on track against Arizona, much to the suffering of quarterback John Skelton in his second start of the season.
Washington Redskins at New York Giants, 1:00pm
I mentioned as much in this week’s Power Rankings discussion, but this divisional match went Washington’s way twice last season, in a final pre-RGIII hurrah. As improved as the Redskins’ offense is with its rookie phenom, this game is far more likely to go in the Giants’ favor. New York is performing at an elite level on both sides of the ball and is getting closer to 100% health. Throw in the fact that, at 0-2 in the division, the Giants are already behind the eight ball and should be fully motivated this week. Of course, the Giants always seem to zig when we think they’ll zag, so this is definitely a game to keep your eye on.
Green Bay Packers at St. Louis Rams, 1:00pm
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers put many questions to rest about Green Bay’s offense in last week’s six-touchdown showing. He looked as fantastic as he ever has, moving fluidly in and out of the pocket and executing precise, strong throws… most certainly eliciting a massive sigh of relief in Wisconsin. But one of the worst opponents for Rodgers to face one week removed from his glorious return to form would be St. Louis. Especially at home, where the Rams have yet to lose a game. Two of the four teams allowing fewer points per game than the Rams? Seattle and San Francisco, both of whom defeated the Packers. Speaking of, the entire NFC West is in the top five of points allowed this season. Mind blowing.
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00pm
If New Orleans is going to live up to its offensive potential and make a run for a playoff berth, it needs to start this week in a crucial divisional game. The Bucs’ offense found a whole new gear last week against the Chiefs, but all performances against the Chiefs must be taken with a grain of salt. Unless you lose to them, which the Saints deftly managed earlier this season. With Drew Brees at the helm, the Saints will always be in striking distance (even when down double digits), but the defense in New Orleans has yet to put together a full game. But the way Tampa Bay’s secondary has performed (allowing the second-most yards per game in the League), this game could be all Brees, all day.
New York Jets at New England Patriots, 4:25pm
In recent seasons, this has been a must-see, marquee game. With both teams hanging onto .500 records in a locked up AFC East, it just feels like the excitement for this game has been somewhat sullied. That being said, these two teams are quite familiar with one another. Sure, New England has taken most of the recent victories and New York has been the subject of incessant lampooning in 2012, but the Patriots aren’t bringing their standard invincibility to the table (even if their average margin of deficit in losses is 1.3). After the media shellacking head coach Rex Ryan and his team has taken over the first seven weeks of the season, wouldn’t it be something to see the Jets grab a W at Gillette? Don’t hold your breath or anything, though.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders, 4:25pm
Yes. I double- and triple-checked the schedule this week. If you’re not getting the Jets-Pats, you’ll be subjected to a pair of 1-4 teams battling for midseason irrelevance. Harsh of an assessment as that may be, there’s simply not much at stake in this game. Oakland could have made headlines had it capitalized on early turnovers against the undefeated Falcons last weak, but it couldn’t and didn’t. The Raiders are more talented top to bottom than the Jaguars, so I expect running back Darren McFadden to rush for triple digits (the Jags are giving up 163 yards a game on the ground), and quarterback Carson Palmer to make strides with his receiving corps that, due to injuries, has been patchwork up until this point in the season.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals, 8:20pm
To wrap one’s mind around what Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton may accomplish Sunday night, think about what Matt Hasselbeck was able to get done last week. The Steelers’ defense may not be allowing many yards per game (fifth-ranked 295.8), but it’s allowing a 17th-ranked 23 points each game… including games against Oakland and Tennessee. Dalton has thrown the most interceptions returned for touchdowns so far this season, but that stat likely won’t matter against a defense that’s managed two picks in total. This game has major implications in the AFC North race, so expect a strong showing from each team.
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears, 8:30pm Monday
The Bears’ defense has been a turnover-generating machine this season, which should be enough to give Matthew Stafford and the Lions’ offense pause, right? Consider, then, that Stafford threw five interceptions in two meetings last season. Two were returned for touchdowns. Combined with the way Detroits’ special teams has defended kick/punt returns this season and the consistent threat posed by returner extraordinaire Devin Hester, Chicago could be in a position to win Monday night’s game based on its defense and special teams alone.
Kim O'Hara is the Associate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @arahomik
Check out more After Further Review...
Plus, Grandma Ida paid a visit to Ray Rice; are the 49ers overhyped; and Jay Z hires a female football agent. ...Read More05-21-2013 | Comments (0)
Plus, does the read option have a future and Tom Brady continues to be perfect. ...Read More05-19-2013 | Comments (0)
Will Darrelle Revis play all 16 games? Will Percy Harvin end the season with 1000 yards? Go ahead and place some fake bets. We did. ...Read More05-17-2013 | Comments (0)