NFL GAME-BY-GAME PREDICTIONS – WEEK 7

By Arvind Pendurthi

Last Week’s Record: 13-2 — OVERALL RECORD: 44-31


NEW YORK JETS (1-5) AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (4-2)

Week 6 Results
Jets: L (17-31) vs. Denver Broncos
Patriots: W (37-22) at Buffalo Bills

Geno Smith has had a wildly inconsistent sophomore season thus far; that being said, he is not the only cause of the Jets’ struggles. In fact, critics’ attention should be shifted to the coaching staff, as New York ran the ball 13 times, relying on Smith to throw 43 passes. In addition to the 25:75 pass-run playcalling ratio, the Jets’ running backs were hugely ineffective, averaging 2.1 yards per carry for a whopping 31 yards.

The Patriots coasted to victory behind the arm of Tom Brady, who threw for 361 yards and 4 touchdowns, completing 72% of his passes in the process. However, New England suffered a tough blow as it was announced that RB Stevan Ridley suffered a season-ending ACL tear. Brandon Bolden will most likely see increased carries while Shane Vereen maintains his passing-down role, which may not be much of a setback, given Bolden’s (eerily consistent) production over the last two seasons:

  Carries Yards Yards per Carry Touchdowns Fumbles
2012 56 274 4.9 2 0
2013 55 271 4.9 3 0

Unfortunately, New York did not emerge from week 6 unscathed either. The Jets’ already-weak secondary took a hit as CB Dee Milliner tore his Achilles tendon, landing on the Injured Reserve. Although the Patriots’ running backs will struggle against the Jets’ defensive line, Brady and his receivers will have a field day in Foxborough.

Players to Watch: Jace Amaro (TE – NYJ), Rob Gronkowski (TE – NE) 

Prediction: Jets 14, Patriots 35


ATLANTA FALCONS (2-4) AT BALTIMORE RAVENS (4-2)

Week 6 Results
Falcons: L (13-27) vs. Chicago Bears
Ravens: W (48-17) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Falcons’ 2013 season, in which the team finished 4-12, was blamed on the absence of several key players, including star receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White. Atlanta is off to another slow start this season, yet their roster is nearly in perfect health, with the exception of center Joe Hawley on IR. With Matt Ryan and the receiving corps producing, the Falcons’ offensive struggles lie in the run game.

Baltimore, on the other hand, cruised to a victory on Sunday by scoring 28 points in the 4th quarter alone. QB Joe Flacco had an absurd performance, throwing all 5 of his touchdown passes in just the first 16:00 of the game. He wound up completing 21 of 29 passes (72%) for 306 yards on the day. With Justin Forsett contributing 111 yards on 14 carries (7.92 YPC), the Ravens are a major offensive threat.

Sunday’s matchup looks to be a shootout favoring Baltimore. Atlanta’s defense was heavily exploited by Jay Cutler, who completed passes of 26, 47 and 74 yards. They will not fare any better against Flacco, who possesses arguably the best deep ball in the NFL. Falcons HC Mike Smith must consider handing the bulk of the carries to RB Antone Smith who has run the ball just 13 times this season, yet totaled a ridiculous 126 yards, averaging 9.7 yards per carry.

Players to Watch: Julio Jones (WR – ATL), Joe Flacco (QB – BAL)

Prediction: Falcons 27, Ravens 31


 TENNESSEE TITANS (2-4) AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS (1-5)

 Week 6 Results
Titans: W (16-14) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Redskins: L (20-30) at Arizona Cardinals

Tennessee just managed to scrape by the 0-5 Jacksonville Jaguars, despite 5 sacks, constant pressure from the defensive line, an interception and a fumble recovery. The Titans’ poor performances are intriguing, as they have all the pieces necessary to succeed, yet they have been unable to execute. Charlie Whitehurst completed 60% of his passes for 233 yards, while promising rookie RB Bishop Sankey averaged just 3.39 yards per carry.

Kirk Cousins continued to show flashes of ability, particularly on DeSean Jackson’s 64-yard touchdown reception, in which he read the defense pre-snap, directed the offensive line and threaded the needle to deliver the ball. That being said, he is not the Redskins’ answer at QB. He consistently telegraphs his throws, resulting in an 8:8 TD-INT ratio over the last 4 games.

Several analysts have pointed to Alfred Morris’ lack of production as the cause of the Redskins’ offensive struggles. Yet the running back has averaged a solid 4.0 YPC this season, despite facing two top-5 run defenses (Arizona, Seattle). He will find more room to run against the Titans, freeing things up for Cousins and the receiving corps.

Players to Watch: Bishop Sankey (RB – TEN), Alfred Morris (RB – WAS)

 Prediction: Titans 14, Redskins 23


SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (3-2) AT ST. LOUIS RAMS (1-4)

Week 6 Results
Seahawks: L (23-30) vs. Dallas Cowboys
Rams: L (17-31) vs. San Francisco 49ers

For just the second time since Russell Wilson took over at quarterback, the Seahawks were defeated at home. Despite blocking and returning a punt for a TD and recovering a muffed punt, Seattle was unable to translate its special teams dominance to the other aspects of the game. Several uncharacteristic defensive miscues, including a dropped interception on the goal line by Byron Maxwell and numerous missed tackles, allowed the Cowboys to come away with the win.

St. Louis got off to a hot start on Monday night, jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the 1st quarter. The offense quickly cooled off, when Janoris Jenkins allowed an 80-yard touchdown off a simple double move with :14 left in the half. The Rams’ inability to maintain a lead continues to hinder rookie QB Austin Davis’ (21-42, 236 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) development by forcing him into desperation-throw situations, rather than allowing him to progress through his reads on intermediate throws.

One positive takeaway from St. Louis’ performance was the debut of explosive rookie RB Tre Mason, who rushed for 40 yards on just 5 attempts, including a 24-yard burst. Mason should see an increase in touches as Zac Stacy’s role continues to decrease.

The key for the Seahawks this week is time of possession, as they had the ball for just 22:21 to Dallas’ 37:39. Keeping the defense off the field will keep them from getting gassed and allow Seattle to get the ball to bulldozer Marshawn Lynch, opening the pass game up in the process.

Players to Watch: Marshawn Lynch (RB – SEA), Jake Long (LT – STL)

 Prediction: Seahawks 37, Rams 17


CLEVELAND BROWNS (3-2) AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (0-6)

 Week 6 Results
Browns: W (31-10) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Jaguars: L (14-16) at Tennessee Titans

Five weeks after a crushing last-second loss in Pittsburgh, the Browns exacted their revenge by destroying the Steelers at home. Brian Hoyer had a rather disappointing performance, connecting on just 8 of 17 passes (47%). However, his completion percentage was overshadowed by his 27.1 yards per completion average, amassing to 217 yards, including a 51 yard TD strike to tight end Jordan Cameron (3 receptions, 105 yards, 1 TD).

Jacksonville very nearly earned its first win of the season, until Josh Scobee’s 55-yard game-winning attempt was blocked. Blake Bortles had another solid performance, completing 69% of his 46 passes for 336 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Cecil Shorts III reeled in 10 receptions for 103 yards, but given his inability to stay healthy, Bortles will need to rely on TE Clay Harbor (3 catches/91 yards/1 TD) and rookie WR Allen Robinson (8 catches/68 yards) for offensive production.

Despite Bortles’ best efforts, the Jaguars will not find success without a decent run game – something they have been sorely lacking this season.

  Carries Yards YPC Touchdowns Fumbles
Toby Gerhart 48 123 2.6 1 1
Denard Robinson 28 94 3.4 0 0
Storm Johnson 14 48 3.4 1 0

Furthermore, Jacksonville will struggle to contain the Browns’ rush attack of Ben Tate and Isaiah Crowell, who totaled 155 yards and 3 TDs on 4.3 yards per carry. However, Bortles should have another nice performance as the Jaguars’ o-line will have an easier time facing the Browns’ pass rush.

Players to Watch: Isaiah Crowell (RB – CLE), Blake Bortles (QB – JAC)

 Prediction: Browns 24, Jaguars 17


CINCINNATI BENGALS (3-1-1) AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (4-2)

 Week 6 Results
Bengals: T (37-37) vs. Carolina Panthers
Colts: W (33-28) at Houston Texans

After hitting field goals of 44, 38 and 42 yards, Mike Nugent could not put away a 36-yarder in OT, resulting in a tie. Regardless of the disappointing finish, Cincinnati played a very good game, both offensively and defensively. Andy Dalton connected on 77% of his passes, surpassing 300 yards for the 2nd time this season, despite star receiver AJ Green missing the game with a toe injury. Mohammed Sanu took over in his absence, pulling down 10 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown.

The Colts’ matchup against the Texans appeared to be yet another Thursday Night Football blowout, as they put up 24 points in the first quarter alone. TY Hilton exploded for 223 yards and 1 TD on 9 receptions, including deep bombs of 40, 49, 37 and 33 yards. While the passing game was effective, Indianapolis’ running backs were typically inefficient as Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw averaged 2.4 and 3.1 YPC respectively.

RB Arian Foster gashed the Colts’ defense for 109 yards and 2 TDs; Giovani Bernard, coming off a 137-yard, 1 TD performance, should have no trouble doing the same. However, without Green drawing extra attention from Indianapolis’ secondary, Dalton and the receiving corps will struggle to put up points. Cincinnati will need to rely on its speed-power combination of running backs Bernard and Jeremy Hill.

Players to Watch: Giovani Bernard (RB – CIN), Ahmad Bradshaw (RB – IND)

Prediction: Bengals 31, Colts 28


MINNESOTA VIKINGS (2-4) AT BUFFALO BILLS (3-3)

Week 6 Results
Vikings: L (3-17) vs. Detroit Lions
Bills: L (22-37) vs. New England Patriots

Minnesota’s offense suffered Detroit’s wrath on Sunday, putting up just 3 points. Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater took the brunt of the beating, as he was dragged down in the backfield a remarkable 8 times, throwing 3 interceptions in the process. While explosive RB Jerick McKinnon’s increased usage (17 touches, 82 yards) is promising, Cordarrelle Patterson’s 1 rush attempt and 2 receptions are not. Other than the Vikings’ week 1 blowout win, Patterson has not been given the ball more than 5 times in any game.

Kyle Orton and the Bills’ offense did their best to keep up with the Patriots on Sunday, but their defensive unit simply would not allow it. Buffalo’s defensive line struggled to pressure the quarterback, totaling just 2 sacks on the day, while their secondary was horrendous. The Bills’ DBs allowed a touchdown in triple coverage and provided no help-defense, letting receivers waltz into the endzone after just one missed tackle.

Orton has been an improvement over benched QB EJ Manuel, but Buffalo’s offense continues to struggle due to its ineffective run game. Once a breakout star, CJ Spiller has been a shell of his former self, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry compared to 6.0 two years ago. Anthony Dixon’s slowly increasing role may be what the Bills need to fix their offensive issues.

Players to Watch: Cordarrelle Patterson (WR – MIN), Anthony Dixon (RB – BUF)

Prediction: Vikings 17, Bills 24


MIAMI DOLPHINS (2-3) AT CHICAGO BEARS (3-3)

Week 6 Results
Dolphins: L (24-27) vs. Green Bay Packers
Bears: W (27-13) at Atlanta Falcons

Miami suffered a heartbreaking loss at home, giving up the game-winning touchdown with 3 seconds left. However, the Dolphins’ defense is not to blame, as the unit held QB Aaron Rodgers to a 57% completion percentage and RB Eddie Lacy to just 40 yards on the ground. Ryan Tannehill had a decent performance, completing 20 of 31 passes for 244 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he threw 2 crucial picks late in the game, shifting the momentum in Green Bay’s favor.

Jay Cutler and his receiving duo of Brandon Marshall (6 receptions, 113 yards) and Alshon Jeffery (5 catches, 136 yards) tore the Falcons’ defense apart on Sunday. Surprisingly enough, neither of them were Cutler’s favorite target. Hint: these are the league receptions leaders through 6 weeks.

  Position Receptions Yards TD Yards After Catch
Matt Forte RB 46 376 1 317
Julio Jones WR 44 620 3 157
Jordy Nelson WR 43 632 5 192

In addition to Forte’s 10 receptions for 77 yards, the running back added 80 yards and 2 touchdowns on 17 carries.

While the Dolphins have shown plenty of potential thus far, more consistency is needed from Tannehill for the team to succeed. Though losing RB Knowshon Moreno (ACL, out for season) is a tough blow, Lamar Miller has been very good this season, averaging 5.2 YPC. Miami’s defense is capable of containing Cutler and his receivers, but Tannehill’s performance will determine whether they win or lose.

Players to Watch: Ryan Tannehill (QB – MIA), Kyle Fuller (CB – CHI)

Prediction: Dolphins 28, Bears 21


NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (2-3) AT DETROIT LIONS (4-2)

Week 6 Results
Saints: Bye
Lions: W (17-3) at Minnesota Vikings

Already off to a slow start, the Saints suffered another setback as star TE Jimmy Graham is expected to miss 2-3 weeks with a sprained shoulder. Graham’s absence should result in more targets for rookie receiver Brandin Cooks who has had a rather disappointing season (32 catches, 255 yards, 8.0 yards per reception) given the absurd hype he generated throughout the preseason.

The Lions’ defense guaranteed a win over Minnesota, sacking Teddy Bridgewater 8 times and forcing 3 interceptions. With star receiver Calvin Johnson on the bench with a high ankle sprain, QB Matt Stafford had a quiet game, completing just 57% of his passes for 185 yards and a touchdown. Detroit’s weakest link, however, is its kickers, who are a horrid 2-12 from 40 or more yards. Only 6 games into the season, the Lions are already on their 3rd kicker, Matt Prater (1-3), who they hope will be the answer to their problems.

Detroit’s offensive line has struggled to protect the quarterback this season, allowing 21 sacks so far – 3rd worst in the league. Given the Saints’ pass rushing talent, particularly DE Cameron Jordan and LB Junior Galette, Stafford will need to check down to his running backs. Reggie Bush and Theo Riddick (5 receptions, 75 yards) will provide nice outlet options to do so while Joique Bell handles the bulk of the carries.

Players to Watch: Junior Galette (LB – NO), Golden Tate (WR – DET)

Prediction: Saints 27, Lions 31


CAROLINA PANTHERS (3-2-1) AT GREEN BAY PACKERS (4-2)

Week 6 Results
Panthers: T (37-37) at Cincinnati Bengals
Packers: W (27-24) at Miami Dolphins

Although Carolina caught a lucky break with Mike Nugent’s missed field goal in overtime, they deserved to tie. The Panthers and Bengals were neck-and-neck all game, thanks to a superhuman effort from quarterback Cam Newton who passed for 284 yards and rushed for 107. Carolina’s defense was rather unimpressive, forcing just one sack, but they also stepped up when necessary, intercepting 2 passes.

Aaron Rodgers’ stats – 24 for 42, 264 yards and 3 TDs – from Sunday’s matchup do not do his performance justice, as he willed the Packers to a win. Consistently extending plays (touchdown pass to Randall Cobb) and showing a little creativity (fake spike pass to Davante Adams), Rodgers picked apart the Dolphins’ secondary from start to finish.

While the scoreboard may suggest otherwise, Green Bay is one of the premier teams in the NFL, particularly as a result of its pass offense. Jordy Nelson surpassed 100 yards for the 3rd time this season, catching 9 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, while Randall Cobb leads the league with 7 TD receptions. However, until Eddie Lacy begins playing up to his potential, the Packers’ 3-game win streak will not remain intact much longer.

Players to Watch: Cam Newton (QB – CAR), Eddie Lacy (RB – GB)

Prediction: Panthers 24, Packers 35


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (2-3) AT SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (5-1)

Week 6 Results
Chiefs: Bye
Chargers: W (31-28) at Oakland Raiders

After a slow start to the season, running back Jamaal Charles entered the bye week on a hot streak, averaging 5.1 and 5.3 yards per carry in week 2 and week 4 (out week 3). Furthermore, second year tight end Travis Kelce’s emerging role has injected life into one of the league’s worst offenses. Provided Kansas City’s defense focuses on its strength – pass rushing – the Chiefs will pressure their way to a positive record.

Philip Rivers’ remarkable season continued during a comeback win over the Raiders, in which he connected on 65% of his passes for 313 yards and 3 touchdowns. Luckily for San Diego, despite losing the first 3 RBs on their depth chart to injuries, undrafted free agent Branden Oliver has taken on the starting role with success, totaling 124 yards on 30 touches.

With the exception of rookie CB Jason Verrett’s game-sealing interception, San Diego’s secondary was subpar, conceding 4 touchdowns to a rookie QB. Furthermore, they allowed 6.1 YPC between Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew. That being said, the Chargers will tighten up any loose bolts (pun intended) on the way to their 6th win; Rivers is playing too well to allow any other result.

Players to Watch: Travis Kelce (TE – KC), Philip Rivers (QB – SD)

Prediction: Chiefs 17, Chargers 34


ARIZONA CARDINALS (4-1) AT OAKLAND RAIDERS (0-5)

Week 6 Results
Cardinals: W (30-20) vs. Washington Redskins
Raiders: L (28-31) vs. San Diego Chargers

Even with QB Carson Palmer back at the helm, Arizona’s offense sputtered, gaining just 317 total yards. Palmer (64%, 250 yards, 2 TDs) had a nice game, considering he is still slowly recovering from a nerve injury in his throwing shoulder. His return is good news for the Cardinals’ receivers as he spread the ball evenly.

  Receptions Yards Touchdowns
Larry Fitzgerald 6 98 1
Michael Floyd 4 47 1
John Brown 4 43 0
Andre Ellington 6 26 0

Rookie quarterback Derek Carr looked nothing like a rookie on Sunday. He was very comfortable in the pocket, delivering well-timed passes and showing nice touch on his deep ball. Carr threw for 282 yards, 4 touchdowns and an interception, although his pick came off a late game throw in which he confidently attacked the Chargers’ secondary. Oakland may have finally found their franchise QB.

Arizona had an up-and-down game defensively, allowing 407 yards, but forcing 2 sacks and 4 turnovers. The secondary allowed several big plays, particularly on DeSean Jackson’s 64-yard score, which came as a result of a terrible pursuit angle by safety Tyrann Mathieu. However, they made several big plays themselves, including an excellent interception by CB Jerraud Powers and a game-sealing pick six by S Rashad Johnson. They will do more of the latter when facing Carr and his receivers.

Players to Watch: Carson Palmer (QB – ARI), Derek Carr (QB – OAK)

Prediction: Raiders 14, Cardinals 27


NEW YORK GIANTS (3-3) AT DALLAS COWBOYS (5-1)

Week 6 Results
Giants: L (0-27) at Philadelphia Eagles
Cowboys: W (30-23) at Seattle Seahawks

The Giants’ 3 game win streak, during which they scored at least 30 points in each contest, came to an abrupt halt in Philadelphia. Ben McAdoo’s offense was shut out as QB Eli Manning completed 13 of 23 passes for just 151 yards and RB Andre Williams averaged 3.4 YPC en route to 59 yards. Adding injury to insult, star WR Victor Cruz will miss the rest of the season after tearing his patellar tendon in the 3rd quarter, leaving the receiving duties to Odell Beckham Jr. (2 catches, 28 yards) and Reuben Randle (5 catches, 58 yards).

Although Seattle’s defense and special teams played well on Sunday, the Cowboys’ offense simply wanted the win more. Dallas’ offensive line provided good protection and Tony Romo (66%, 250 yards, 2 TDs) did an excellent job of evading pass rushers, resulting in just 1 sack. He and his receivers – especially Dez Bryant (4 catches, 63 yards) and Terrance Williams (2 catches, 70 yards) – showed great chemistry, connecting on crucial plays multiple times.

Despite facing a run defense that has allowed 3.1 YPC this season, DeMarco Murray rushed for 100+ yards for the 6th consecutive week, remaining firmly on pace to break the 2,000 yard mark. Here are his yardage totals through 6 weeks compared to the last two RBs to join the 2000-yard Club – Adrian Peterson in 2012 and Chris Johnson in 2009.

  Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Total
Murray 118 167 100 149 136 115 2,093*
Peterson 84 60 86 102 88 79 2,097
Johnson 57 197 97 83 34 128 2,006

*Projected Total

While Peterson and Johnson started off rather slowly, picking up at a torrid pace over the course of the season, Murray simply needs to stay healthy and run the way he has all season. He will have no trouble doing so against New York.

Players to Watch: Odell Beckham Jr. (WR – NYG), DeMarco Murray (RB – DAL)

Prediction: Giants 21, Cowboys 35


SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (4-2) AT DENVER BRONCOS (4-1)

Week 6 Results
49ers: W (31-17) at St. Louis Rams
Broncos: W (31-17) at New York Jets

The Niners escaped St. Louis with a close win, thanks to inconsistent play on both sides of the ball. San Francisco’s defense started slow, allowing 14 points in the 1st quarter, including a simple play action release on which the secondary bit hard. However, Colin Kaepernick (22-35, 343 yards, 3 TDs) began to heat up quickly, hitting Brandon Lloyd for an 80-yard score with just :24 left in the first half. Though they had plenty of opportunities to put the game out of reach with a field goal, poor playcalling resulted in two failed 4th down conversions.

Denver had an eerily similar win, with an identical scoreboard and a game-sealing pick six. However, the Broncos appeared to be far more in control, particularly due to a well-balanced offensive attack. RB Ronnie Hillman rushed for 100 yards on 24 carries while Peyton Manning completed 67% of his 33 passes for 237 yards and 3 TDs.

Manning is just 3 touchdown passes shy of breaking Brett Favre’s all-time record of 508, meaning history could very easily be made on Sunday night. Between Demaryious Thomas (10 receptions, 204 yards, 1 TD) and Julius Thomas (4/51/2), the Broncos will have no trouble beating San Francisco through the air. Colin Kaepernick will need to bring his A-game to stand a chance in what is sure to be an explosive shootout.

Players to Watch: Colin Kaepernick (QB – SF), Peyton Manning (QB – DEN)

Prediction: 49ers 37, Broncos 42


HOUSTON TEXANS (3-3) AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS (3-3)

Week 6 Results
Texans: L (28-33) vs. Indianapolis Colts
Steelers: L (10-31) at Cleveland Browns

Houston very nearly clawed its way back from a 24-point 1st quarter deficit, falling just short after a Ryan Fitzpatrick fumble with 2 minutes left in the game. The Texans relied on their stars, WR Andre Johnson and RB Arian Foster, producing good results in doing so. Johnson pulled down 7 passes for 99 yards and an absurd touchdown grab while Foster sliced-and-diced his way to 109 yards and 2 TDs.

The Steelers played poorly on both sides of the ball, resulting in a blowout loss to their rival Cleveland Browns. Pittsburgh’s secondary struggled, particularly against TE Jordan Cameron, while their rush defense allowed 158 yards on the ground. Furthermore, Ben Roethlisberger completed just 50% of his throws, resulting in 228 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception.

Despite yet another week of big performances from RB Le’Veon Bell (18 carries, 82 yards) and WR Antonio Brown (7 receptions, 118 yards), the Steelers failed to capitalize, as they were unable to score a touchdown on 3 redzone possessions. Facing a tough Houston defense and a strong rush attack, Pittsburgh will find itself on the wrong side of .500 come Monday night.

Players to Watch: Arian Foster (RB – HOU), Ben Roethlisberger (QB – PIT)

Prediction: Texans 24, Steelers 21

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