The NFL is nearing its mid-season mark with the seventh round of games getting underway in Foxborough tonight. Lets preview the games and highlight the likely winners.
New York Jets @ New England Patriots - PATRIOTS WIN
The Patriots seem to have overcome their September wobbles to start winning games again. Tom Brady has thrown for 292 and 361 yards in the last two games. Against this Jets secondary Tom Brady is going to once again going to rack up the passing yards.
Combined this with the shortened week for preparation, the Jets well documented quarterback troubles and the game being played Gilette Stadium and it is hard to see anything other than a big Patriots win. Like almost every Thursday night game this season this one will be a blowout.
Atlanta Falcons @ Baltimore Ravens - RAVENS WIN
You can win football games by outsmarting the opponent tactically and you can win games by simply running you opponents over (ideally of course you would do both). The problem the Falcons have is that teams are wise to the fact that they can beat them the second way.
The Ravens zone blocking scheme should control the line of scrimmage here comfortably and the likes of Justin Forsett will rush for plenty of yards. Baltimore will win this one easily.
Minnesota Vikings @ Buffalo Bills - BILLS WIN
Without Adrian Peterson and with Cordarelle Patterson not being able to get open Teddy Bridgewater has precious few offensive weapons to throw to. By contrast Kyle Orton has gone from retirement to being the starting quarterback for a team that almost has more weapons then it can effectively use.
At home the Bills should beat a weak Vikings team to stay in contention in the AFC East.
Miami Dolphins @ Chicago Bears - BEARS WIN
Had Knowshon Moreno's season not been ended by an ACL injury then I would have taken the Dolphins here as the Bears run defense is very poor. I still expect Lamar Miller to have a big game but he is not the kind of RB who will plow through tackles in the way Moreno would and this will help the Bears defense enormously.
On top of this the Bears wide receivers are getting back to full fitness. At home Chicago should win.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Indianapolis Colts - COLTS WIN
With injuries to A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and seven other players the depth of the Bengals roster is being severely tested. Ideally, then Cincinnati would want a bye week this week rather than a visit from Andrew Luck, Bradshaw and Hilton who are coming off the back of a four game winning streak.
The Colts will have put the extra preparation time they had to good use and make it five wins on the bounce against the Bengals.
Cleveland Browns @ Jacksonville Jaguars - BROWNS WIN
You don't need to know much about football to know that the Jaguars are not a very good side all you have to do is look at their record and see that they have failed to win a game all season.
Now in fairness to the Jaguars they have been competitive over the last couple of weeks. At some time they are going to come good and win a game, it is not going to be this week however.
The Browns rush attack is second in the NFL only to the Cowboys. Against the Jaguars they will do the same thing they did against the Steelers. They will run the ball over and over again before occasionally giving Hoyer a play action pass.
The Browns no doubt get yards and touchdowns from this but equally importantly they will eat up the clock. This will prevent Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville offense from having much time to do anything on the field and the Jacksonville offense needs all the time it can get. The Browns will win this one.
New Orleans Saints @ Detroit Lions - LIONS WIN
This was the toughest game of the week to call. The Saints have been the biggest under-performers in the NFL this season. Even on their home turf they have struggled to win games. Furthermore, Jimmy Graham isn't playing and the Saints will miss the star tight end more than Lions will miss Calvin Johnson.
Given all this you can't back the Saints especially considering they are going up against a Lions defense which has been the best overall defense in NFL so far this season. With the running game back to full fitness the Lions should have enough about them to squeeze out a narrow win. At home though Drew Brees might make this pick look silly.
Carolina Panthers @ Green Bay Packers - PACKERS WIN
Having a Cam Newton that is able to make plays with his feet again is a big bonus for the Panthers but the Packers should have too much about them for Carolina to stop Green Bay. After some early season jitters the Packers offense is looking like the sort of top five offense that everyone thought it was. At home in Green Bay this one shouldn't even be close. Packers win.
Tennessee Titans @ Washington Redskins - WASHINGTON WIN
Kirk Cousin may take risks that defenses can punish with pick sixes but I just don't see the Titans taking advantage of these chances. The defense would need to take those chances though because the Titans offense is possibly the most soporific in the NFL.
The Jaguars, Buccaneers and Raiders may be bad but at least they have exciting rookies on the roster. The most the Titans have is Bishop Sankey who must haven been the most overdrafted player in fantasy circles this season. He was getting taken as early as the fourth round in some drafts. So far this season Sankey has had one carry inside an opposition's ten yard line. Even with Shonn Greene injured last weekend Sankey didn't get the red zone carries, Jack Battle did.
Washington should pick up a win here against a Titans roster that does nothing to excite.
Seattle Seahawks @ St Louis Rams - SEAHAWKS WIN
After being beaten by the Cowboys in their own backyard the Seahawks will have a point to prove against the hapless St Louis Rams and they will do so with aplomb. Expect to see Russell Wilson going to the read option and making plays with his feet and expect to see Seattle look to get Percy Harvin involved more.
Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chargers - CHARGERS WIN
This game should be a close one but with home advantage and Philip Rivers in superb form I just cannot see the Chargers failing to win. It should be a regulation home win.
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys - COWBOYS WIN
The Cowboys are at home and they are 5 and 1 after beating the Seahawks in Seattle last week. With DeMarco Murray in the form he is in, running behind an offensive line that is the best in the league the Cowboys are strong favorites here. They should be able to take the injury to right tackle Doug Free in stride.
Given all this you have got to think the Cowboys will win against an inconsistent Giants side. The big disappointment here is the absences of Victor Cruz. I don't think his presence would have changed my pick (how can you bet against the Cowboys right now) but it would have been interesting to see if the Cowboy's defense could successfully continued playing man cover with the Giants playing three high quality receivers.
Arizona Cardinals @ Oakland Raiders - CARDINALS WIN
Hopefully for Oakland Derek Carr will continue to show progress in this weeks games but that is the only good news Raiders fans can realistically hope for here. With Carson Palmer fit and playing again the Cardinals are simply too good a team for Raiders to pick up their first win of the season against.
San Francisco 49ers @ Denver Broncos - BRONCOS WIN
At Mile High Stadium it takes something to beat Denver. Right now I don't see the 49ers having this in them. I see the San Francisco offense being shutdown by a Denver defense that is second against the rush and sixth against the pass and I see Peyton Manning doing his thing on offense.
Houston Texans @ Pittsburgh Steelers - TEXANS WIN
The Steelers are in real trouble at the moment. They may have a 3-3 record but they haven't convinced this season even in games they have won. The Texans meanwhile have a 4-2 record and head into this game off the back of two narrow defeats to the Cowboys and the Colts.
The Steelers offensive line is ranked as the sixth worse in pass protection and they are facing J.J. Watt and, potentially, first round pick Jadeveon Clowney. Furthermore, as the Browns showed last week, the Steelers are not great against the run. With Arian Foster at running back this is a weakness that the Texans should be able to exploit. There won't be more than a touchdown in it but the Texans should win.
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