The quietest of the league’s remaining unbeatens is probably the Carolina Panthers and that doesn’t make much sense. Aside from the loud boom they sent rippling across the NFL with last week’s fourth-quarter comeback in Seattle, they have been winning all year despite being undermanned on both sides of the ball. Beyond tight end Greg Olsen, the pass catching corps is limited and star middle linebacker Luke Kuechly missed three games with a concussion suffered in Week 1. Still, they’ve won five straight and our 2015 NFL Predictions for Week 7 say they will make it six against the up and down Eagles at home Sunday night.
There are a couple of really good games on the schedule this weekend in addition to Panthers/Eagles with plenty of intriguing matchups dotting the rest of the slate. So let’s get to the rest of the picks with the usual reminder that the lines come courtesy of Bovada LV and the home teams are in ALL CAPS.
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Bills (-4.5) over JAGUARS: The Bills are banged up, the defense is starting to turn on Rex Ryan and there is no sense of rhythm anywhere to be found within the team. But thankfully for them, they get the Jags in London this week and Jacksonville, after looking to have improved early in the season, now appear to be just the same, old Jaguars.
Jets (+9) over PATRIOTS: As functional as he’s looked thus far, imagine if Ryan Fitzpatrick was even slightly trustworthy? This Jets team, with its tough defense, it’s tremendous lead back in Chris Ivory and No. 1 receiver in Brandon Marshall, could be going places. As it stands, they may be good enough to sneak into the playoffs as a Wild Card in the putrid AFC and they will give the banged-up Pats a game in Foxborough on Sunday. Pay very careful attention to New England’s movement up front as its protections of Tom Brady in the face of so many injuries on the O-line.
Falcons (-6) over TITANS: Marcus Mariota won’t play for Tennessee in this one but it doesn’t matter. Atlanta is a better team and its defense will give the weaponless Titans and their backup quarterback Zach Mettenberger fits, especially coming off the extra time to prepare after playing last Thursday night. This is the second straight year Ken Whisenhunt’s team has embarked on a prolonged losing streak after winning in Week 1. That streak will continue.
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Browns (+6.5) over RAMS: Poor Browns fans. Their team had roughly 37 chances to bury Peyton Manning and the Broncos last week at home and blew every single one of them. There are real signs of progress here though so while those tortured souls who faithfully follow the Browns wait for some sign that they’ve learned how to win, they can take comfort in the fact that this road game in St. Louis will be close if not an outright win.
DOLPHINS (-4.5) over Texans: Perhaps Dan Campbell will be able to reach his team all year via Metallica and extra tight ends and Oklahoma drills. If the defense continues to play as it did against the Titans last week now that it’s free of Joe Philbin and coordinator Kevin Coyle, Campbell could start listening to Beethoven and the Dolphins will win their fair share of games. Houston got back on track last week against the Jags which doesn’t mean much. Miami moves to 2-0 under Campbell.
Vikings (-3) over LIONS: The Lions couldn’t possibly win two in a row, could they? Nah, probably not, especially against a team with a defense like Minnesota’s. The Vikings 16.6 points allowed per game is second in the NFL and they’re eighth in defensive passer rating as per Cold Hard Football Facts. Meanwhile, the Lions are dead last in that category so Teddy Bridgewater may finally be in line for a breakout game. The Vikes move to 4-2.
Steelers (-2) over CHIEFS: Pittsburgh beating Arizona primarily with Landry Jones at QB was one of the bigger upsets of last week. What also stood out in that game was how well the Steelers’ D handled Carson Palmer and the Cardinals’ offense. The lowly Chiefs will never, ever be accused of having a big-time passing game so look for another nice game out of the Pittsburgh defense. Provided Jones plays with anything approaching the same kind of poise he did against the Cards, this should be an easy win for Pittsburgh.
COLTS (-4.5) over Saints: Pity the Colts. Just when it finally appeared they weren’t going to let the Patriots humiliate them any more they went ahead and did the job themselves. With an assist via arguably the worst fake punt in NFL history (courtesy of Sean Wagner-McGough of CBSSports.com), Indy didn’t play all that bad last Sunday night. While the Saints are coming off an impressive division win over the Falcons last Thursday, it’s tough to see them going on the road and beating a probable playoff squad.
Bucs (+3.5) over WASHINGTON: Kirk Cousins better hope it’s not windy on Sunday or there might not be an excuse for his lousy play. This game feels like a big measuring stick for Washington. If a team like Tampa comes to FedEx Field and wins, especially on the heels of Washington’s second-half implosion last week, the annual ‘Skins meltdown will officially be underway. But a win would put that all on hold, at least for another week.
CHARGERS (-4) over Raiders: The Chargers are a team in need of a break after suffering absolutely crushing losses two weeks in a row. Luckily for them, they get the Raiders at home and even though the Raiders are a better, far more competitive outfit than we’re used to, they won’t have enough to stop Philip Rivers. Rivers presides over the league’s No. 1 passing offense and that group will prove too much for Oakland.
GIANTS (-3.5) over Cowboys: Anyone have a clue which Giants team will show up this week? It’s fitting we’re so close to Halloween because the Giants are the biggest trick-or-treaters in the league. Assuming there’s a reasonable amount of pride among this group after whatever was coughed up on Monday Night Football in Philly, the Giants will a) be back home, b) have their chance at revenge on Dallas after the horror of Week 1 and c) be facing Matt Cassel in his first Dallas start. Even if Dez Bryant does miraculously return this week, there’s still too much working against the Cowboys for them to get off the skids.
PANTHERS (-3) over Eagles: Heard someone on the radio this week who said Cam Newton is still outside his 10 best quarterbacks in the league and it wasn’t a caller. That is such a patently absurd opinion that even though this particular host has the right to it, he may want to keep it to himself from here on out. Not only is Newton a Top 10 QB, he’s a legit MVP candidate. Philly showed some very positive signs against the Giants last week (productive front seven play and running game chief among them) but unless the Panthers have a letdown after such a stirring win in Seattle last week, they will remain among the ranks of the undefeated.
CARDINALS (-9) over Ravens: This is what it’s come to with the Ravens: Not even nine points is enough to give them. The Cards have to be smarting after getting beat up as badly as they did in Pittsburgh last week which doesn’t bode well for a team as lost as Baltimore. Based on what went down Thursday night, it’s safe to say the 49ers are the worst team in the NFL yet they spanked Baltimore just last week. Remember, if the Steelers had an even slightly competent kicker, the Ravens would be winless. Their fortunes won’t change on Monday night at Glendale.
Last Week: 5-7-1
Season to date: 48-36-1
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