Injuries absolutely ravaged the NFL landscape in week seven. With playoff spots growing more and more clear, which teams can adjust enough to stay afloat in a race that is really heating up?
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cam Newton beat down alert
Cam Newton has reportedly upgraded his game processing speed from checkers to chess according to receiver Steve Smith. Somebody should remind him that this “upgrade” has come against a series of inferior opponents. That streak of good luck should continue against a reeling Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that can’t seem to do enough to win. The fact it’s gotten so bad that fans are petitioning Greg Schiano to use Darrelle Revis properly says it all. Expect the Panthers tough defense to control the tempo against rookie Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon. Newton should handle the rest.
Final score: CAR 28, T.B. 10
Dallas Cowboys at Detroit Lions: Tony Romo vs. Matthew Stafford
Two quarterbacks that live on the stat line lock horns. Tony Romo has the Dallas Cowboys in first place of the NFC East, which is old news while Matthew Stafford has done what he can to cover up the 31st ranked defense in football. Given the general weakness of both defenses and an indoor atmosphere at Ford Field, this game has all the makings of a shoot out. The Romo-to-Dez Bryant and Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson tandems should dominate from the start. What it might come down to is which team can balance out the offense and get some production going on the ground.
Final score: DAL 28, DET 31
San Francisco 49ers at Jacksonville Jaguars: Riding Frank Gore
Poor Gus Bradley just can’t seem to catch a break. It may turn out he his weak Jacksonville Jaguars have the hardest schedule in the NFL at the end of the season. After enduring games against Denver and San Diego, they must return hope to face a San Francisco 49ers team that is rolling on all cylinders since their ugly loss to Indianapolis. Colin Kaepernick has returned to running the ball more which has taken a lot of pressure of the still ailing wide receivers. Expect them to control the game and the clock with Frank Gore and take their shots downfield with Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin.
Final score: S.F. 35, JAC 7
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs: Jason Campbell in trouble
Brandon Weeden got two chances to prove to new Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski that he is worthy of becoming a starter. Clearly he’s failed. Veteran backup Jason Campbell will start in his place against the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s not a good debut matchup for him against that #1 ranked pass rush. Given the quality of defenses the game should be low scoring but unless Campbell can manufacture two or three touchdown drives the chances of the Browns escaping Arrowhead Stadium with a victory are remote at best.
Final score: CLE 14, K.C. 24
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots: Ryan Tannehill eyes Brady
How appropriate. Part of why the Miami Dolphins spent so much money and draft picks in 2013 was to equip their roster with enough talent to topple the New England Patriots. Now here they are, 3-3 with their season teetering on the edge of success or failure and heading into Foxborough to face their longtime rivals. Ryan Tannehill has failed to score more than 20 points against Bill Belichick’s defenses in his career so far, and his offensive line has struggled to protect him this year. Tom Brady is his typical self but tends to lapses into lagging communication with his receivers. Expect this game to be about which defense has the better performance.
Final score: MIA 23, N.E. 27
Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints: Does Thaddeus Lewis have more magic?
Thaddeus Lewis has done a very admirable job filling in for the injured E.J. Manuel at quarterback for the Buffalo Bills. The question now is can he muster enough offense going into the Superdome against a well-rested New Orleans Saints defense? Not only must he face the resurgent defense under Rob Ryan but also keep up with quarterback Drew Brees who is typically dangerous coming off a bye week. The pass rushes should have a big impact on this game. Buffalo might serve themselves well by feeding Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller in order to slow the Saints down.
Final score: BUF 20, N.O. 30
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles: LeSean McCoy is the key
This rivalry has lost much of its luster of late. The New York Giants finally got their first win on an ugly Monday Night while the Philadelphia Eagles can’t seem to find any continuity at quarterback with Michael Vick returning to replace a concussed Nick Foles after Vick himself went down earlier in the year with a hamstring injury. Eli Manning hasn’t had it any easier what with an inconsistent offensive line and no running game to speak of. At this point the two teams are just trying to stay afloat long enough for something to click. Expect this contest to come down to who wins the battle between LeSean McCoy and the Eagles top ranked rushing attack against a Giants defense that held Adrian Peterson to 28 yards in week seven.
Final Score: NYG 26, PHI 21