NFL Week 7 Preview: Cowboys-Eagles, Ravens-Steelers, Bucs-Falcons and More

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There are some real intriguing matchups in week 7, even among the bad teams. Let’s take a closer look at the week 7 schedule in the NFL:

Tampa Bay at Atlanta – The Falcons need to win this game if they’re going to have any shot to get it going and get back into the playoff hunt, while the Bucs are just trying to get one in the win column. If Atlanta struggled scoring before, they’ll have a lot of trouble doing so against Tampa’s defense, especially now that Julio Jones is out and Roddy White is limited by injuries. Mike Glennon will face another defense he should be able to move the ball against, so this could be a great opportunity for the Bucs to get their first win.

Cincinnati at Detroit – This game will be telling for both teams. The Bengals have been strong defensively, but they haven’t played anybody this season that has as many offensive weapons as the Lions. Conversely, Cincinnati has been up and down offensively, while Detroit has struggled to stop most teams, so something has to give on both sides of the ball. This game could come down to which defense can force more turnovers or come up with a stop in a key spot.

Buffalo at Miami – The Bills have been competitive this season, but they’ve been undermanned and unable to close out games. Thad Lewis looked good at quarterback last week, but now he’s hurting heading into this week’s game against the Dolphins, who have had an extra week to get ready. Miami has had problems too, as they haven’t run the ball well this year and they haven’t looked particular good on defense the past couple of games. If Buffalo can stop the run and put pressure on Ryan Tannehill with their strong defensive front, they may be able to keep the game low scoring and within their reach, which would at least give them a chance in the 4th quarter; if not, Miami should be able to win easily at home.

New England at New York Jets – The Patriots were three points better than the Jets in week 2, but New England’s defense is now missing some key players, although their offense is showing signs of life after last week’s comeback against the Saints. This game could be another slugfest, and could come down to whether or not Geno Smith can show some growth coming off a rough outing last week and take advantage of New England missing players on defense. A win by the Jets puts them a game behind the Patriots in the standings, and at home, it’s a game they need to win if they hope to remain competitive in the AFC East this year.

Dallas at Philadelphia – First place in the NFC East is on the line in this game. You should also expect a lot of points to be scored. Both teams have offenses that can light up the scoreboard while both have defenses that probably won’t get in the way too much. If you liked watching Denver and Dallas a couple weeks ago, this game could be even better, as the two are division rivals and the winner will have a huge leg up over the other in the standings.

Chicago at Washington – This is a must-win game for the Redskins. They travel to Denver next week, so a loss here almost ensures a 1-6 start, and there’s no coming back from that, even in the NFC East. RG3 looks a little better running the ball, but still not what he looked like last year, and he hasn’t been consistent throwing the ball. The Redskins could have trouble keeping Jay Cutler and the Bears out of the end zone, so it’ll be up to RG3 to keep pace, but if he can’t, it could mean the beginning of the end for Washington’s 2013 season.

St. Louis at Carolina – These are two of the more inconsistent teams in the league, but both can remain somewhat relevant in the playoff picture with a win in this game. The Rams have had all kinds of trouble stopping the run this year, and that should be the case again this week against a Carolina offense that can move the ball on the ground. St. Louis needs to get its offense going, as the Panthers figure to score a lot of points this week if Cam Newton can continue to play the way he did last week.

San Diego at Jacksonville – The Chargers haven’t won back-to-back games all season, and even against the lowly Jaguars they could be challenged to do this week, as they have a short week and a 3,000 mile trip to make. San Diego did win under similar circumstances week 2 in Philadelphia, and as long as Phillip Rivers and the offense show up ready to play, Jacksonville will have trouble keeping up, but if the Chargers come out sluggish, the Jaguars may be able to take advantage and steal a win.

San Francisco at Tennessee – The 49ers have played well the past couple of weeks, but the Titans are the kind of team that can trip them up. If Tennessee can slow down San Francisco’s running game and force Colin Kaepernick to beat them with his arm, they should have a chance to snap their two-game skid. On the other side of the ball, the Titans need to do whatever it takes to keep the game out of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hands, as he’s proven incapable of winning games. Expect this game to be a slugfest that’s played in the trenches and won on the ground.

Cleveland at Green Bay – This game is more intriguing than people think. The Browns have a solid defense that can slow down Green Bay, as the Packers haven’t quite taken off on offense just yet. Of course, Cleveland will have to score points in order to win, and that could be an issue for them after getting shut out by a less-than-stellar Detroit defense in the second half of their game last week. The Packers have struggled to put teams away the past couple of weeks, and that could be the case again this week, but unless Cleveland exceeds expectations offensively, expect Green Bay to come away with the win, albeit closer than they would like.

Houston at Kansas City – A four-game losing streak and a trip to Arrowhead Stadium isn’t a good combination. The Texans need to be able to run the ball effectively to help neutralize Kansas City’s pass rush. If the Chiefs pin their ears back, it’ll be a long day for Houston. Defensively, the Texans have played well against the pass this year, but the Chiefs don’t try to win throwing the ball; they want to run the ball too, and if Houston can’t find a way to slow down Jamaal Charles, they could be in for a fifth straight loss.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh – This isn’t the usual matchup of NFC North heavy weights we’re accustomed to seeing, but this should still be an interesting matchup nonetheless. Pittsburgh looked like the Steelers of old last week, with a dominating defense that only allowed six points and Ben Roethlisberger being effective throwing the ball, and if that team shows up again this week they’ll have a chance to get things moving in the right direction. As for the Ravens, they seem to have lost their running game, and they don’t have the playmakers in the passing game to make up for it, which means it’s all about their defense keeping games low scoring, otherwise, they’re going to have trouble winning, and this week against the Steelers will be no different.

Denver at Indianapolis – It’s finally here: Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis. There’s certainly been enough talk this week, but all that goes out the window once the game starts on Sunday night. Just as important as Manning this week is the return of Von Miller, who rejoins a Denver defense that needs to put some pressure on the passer. If Miller is in mid-season form, he could be a difference maker. However, if Denver can’t put pressure on Andrew Luck, he and Manning could find themselves in a shootout with one another, which would make the fans the big winners and could allow the game to swing in either direction.

Minnesota at New York Giants – Not the most compelling Monday night game, with the two teams that have combined for just one win this season. However, Josh Freeman making his Minnesota debut will be something interesting to watch, as we’ll find out whether all he needed was a change of scenery or if he really is as bad as what we saw in Tampa Bay the first few weeks of the season. Freeman definitely picked the right defense to play against, although the Vikings haven’t been stout on that side of the ball either, which could mean a big day for Eli Manning as well. It may not be a matchup of good teams, but there could be a lot of points scored, which should make up for it being a rather meaningless game between two non contenders.