Read ahead for who I have winning the big matchups like Baltimore vs. Minnesota and the Giants versus the Saints. Plus who I think will have big games and who you might want starting on your fantasy football teams.
Houston vs. Cincy
This looks to be one of the marquee matchups of the week, though many will overlook this game purely because it's a 4-1 team (Cincy) versus a 2-3 team (Houston). But despite their record, Houston is a tough team that's been in each game till the very last second (with the exception of the Jets game)
With the 12th. ranked offense (30th. rushing, 5th. passing) the Texans will have their hands full with the Bengals tough defense, which ranks 11th. in fewest points allowed. With the Texans struggling to run and the Bengals biting down on the run, Houston's going to have get something going in the running game or the opportunistic Bengals secondary will be all over their passing game. Not good when the Bengals are one of the top pressuring teams with 14 sacks in only 5 games.
Meanwhile the Texans D will have to bring their A-game against a very balanced Bengals offense. While Houston is ranked 14th. against the pass, they're a dismal 26th. against the run. Not something you want when playing a surprisingly good Bengals running attack (11th.)
Houston's offense can pull the upset if they can get Steve Slaton going early and often. But I think Schaub will be laying on the ground far too often for this offense to get rolling, allowing Cincy to get the win.
Detroit vs. Green Bay
With Stafford and possibly Calvin Johnson out, this Lions offense will be relying on Kevin Smith all game long. Not necessarily a bad thing with the packers being the 20th. ranked rushing defense. But can Culpepper bring some balance to this team on offense so that Kevin Smith can get going without Calvin Johnson? the 16th. ranked passing offense versus the 15th. ranked pass defense brings forth an interesting battle.
On the flipside, the Packers are hoping they can finally get their running game going. Ranked 22nd, they might be able to get some holes opened up against the 21st ranked Lions run defense. But with those Lions linebackers, Ryan Grant might find himself struggling to get through those holes. The Packers would like not to rely on their 12th. ranked pass offense, but against the 26th. pass defense, it might be their best course of action. If Rodgers can stay off the turf, look for him to have a good game.
Statistically, this should be a close game, but I can't see the Lions managing to stop that Packers passing game.
Baltimore vs. Minnesota
Ray Rice is becoming quite the playmaker, but can he get it rolling against the 10th. ranked Vikings run D? Baltimore will have to hope so as they try to reclaim the top spot in the division and hold off the Steelers.
Rice and the 7th. ranked Baltimore running game will have to pray that the Vikings don't play their A-game. Look for the Ravens to try to open up their 10th ranked passing game to victimize the 16th. ranked Minnesota pass defense. Easier said than done with Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, and Pat Williams on the opposing D-Line. But if they can give Flacco time to work, he should find Mason and Heap open frequently.
On the flip side, the Vikings will be struggling to run against the 4th. ranked Ravens run defense, especially with their run game having struggled a bit versus St. Louis last week. Though Baltimore has the 25th. ranked pass D, I don't like Favre's chances versus the likes of Fabian Washington and Ed Reed, especially with the heavy pressure the Ravens will bring to that weak right side of Minnesota's O-Line.
Baltimore will be playing with a purpose, but something tells me that the offense will sputter with Rice struggling to get any running lanes. This will be a great defensive game where one turnover will probably be the deciding factor.
New York Giants vs. New Orleans
The big battle, two undefeated teams enter, one will emerge victorious. If there's one team that I think will have a chance to beat New Orleans, it's the Giants. But with a banged up secondary, can they pull it off?
Brees and the passing game actually shouldn't be getting the most praise on offense. That honor belongs to Mike Bell and the Saints running backs who rank as a very startling 2nd in rushing yards only behind the Dolphins. The Giants actually have the best pass d in the league, but their primary focus has to be watching the run. The Saints will look to break the banged up New York secondary wide-open with a big pass play, but they'll need to get the ground game going first. If New York can somehow slow down th Saints running game, expect a lot of pressure on Brees.
On the flip side, the Giants 9th. ranked passing offense will have to be careful against a turnover-happy New Orleans D which ranks 9th. against the pass. Bradshaw and Jacobs will see the ball more than the Giants receiving corps as the Giants 4th. ranked offense will try to set the tempo against a sturdy 7th. ranked Saints run defense. The Giants always seem to get big rushing numbers no matter what team they play, and I expect this to be no different. If they can get the play-action going, they might be the more exciting offense this game.
The smart money says to pick New Orleans, but they've looked a little shaky at times while the Giants have been picture-perfect.
Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh
The Steelers are looking to get ahead of Baltimore in the division and will most likely do so against the lowly Browns.
With a struggling passing game (26th.) the Browns will be looking for their 8th. ranked running game to give their offense life. Easier said than done when playing the Steelers. Even without Polamalu, this defense is absolutely suffocating. But if Jamal Lewis can get a couple of good runs in, Cleveland's play-action attack might be able to get something going.
Pittsburgh has been trying to get Mendenhall and parker to create a dominant running attack. What better time to do that than when going up against the 32nd ranked rush defense. if you have either back on your fantasy team, start them because Pittsburgh has no reason to air it out at all this game. They'll probably open up the running playbook to see what they can do on the ground all game long.
I can't see Cleveland winning this game in any way possible. But you never know in the NFL.
Carolina vs. Tampa Bay
If you like running backs, this is your game. Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Cadillac Williams, Earnest Graham, Derrick Ward; all will be getting plenty of carries in a game of NFC South cellar dwellers.
It's not that these teams are good running teams (Carolina=23rd Tampa=26th), but their passing games are so bad that its their only choice. Delhomme throws too many bad passes and interceptions and no Tampa QB has looked good this year. it also doesn't hurt that both teams rank near the bottom in rushing defense.
I think we'll see Tampa have the better running game though. Not because they have more talented backs which in my opinion they don't, but because their passing game is potentially the more dangerous. With Kellen Winslow, Antonio Bryant, and the receiving ability of the backs; one good pass could equal a quick TD and a big momentum shift. This threat will open up the running game for Tampa. Delhomme meanwhile is so turnover prone that I can't see this being the case for Carolina. It'll be hard to do though against the 2nd best pass D that Carolina boasts.
In the end, i think a Delhomme turnover and a quick Tampa TD will grant Tampa the upset.
Winner: Tampa Bay
Kansas City vs. Washington
This looks to be another running back battle as these two struggling passing games face off in Washington. The better running game to me will decide the victor.
Both teams are in the 20's in running offense and running defense, but I have to put my money on the Washington running game. With the Skins, there's the threat of a good passing game with Chris Cooley and Santana Moss which might make the Chiefs back off Portis a bit. The Chiefs however don't pose this threat. Not only because of how inept the passing game has been, but because Washington locks down on the passing game so well, ranking 3rd in this category.
The Chiefs will keep it close as they always seem to do, but players like Cooley and Portis make the Redskins offense too much for KC to handle. If you have the Redskins defense on your fantasy team, make sure to start them as this will be a lowing-scoring and low-yardage game for KC.
St. Louis vs. Jacksonville
Jacksonville is easily the best 2-3 team out there. They completely revamped their offensive line and finally got a decent passing game going. Along the way they even managed to work in an option-type offense with David Garrard. Meanwhile St. Louis has gotten their running attack going again, but that's about all they've managed to do.
Jacksonville and Maurice Jones-Drew should have a walk in the park against this St. Louis defense which is 22nd in total defense and 23rd in rush defense. Jones-Drew is doing surprisingly well as one of the few truly every down backs. But what I expect is to see Jacksonville put this pass offense on display. Ranked 19th, Garrard is getting a great chemistry going with a little known receiver named Mike Sims-Walker and a greatly known fossil named Torry Holt. The Rams will need to hope for a miracle against such a balanced offense.
When the Rams have the ball, they'll have one hting in mind. Run the ball and never stop running. While the O-Line appears to be getting better, it's still giving up a lot of pressure and there's not much at receiver other than Donnie Avery. Avery should see quite a few receptions though against this 30th. ranked Jags pass defense. Watch for a lot of play-action from St. Louis.
I expect Jacksonville's offense to keep rolling as they're slowly becoming one of the better looking teams in the league. But if St. Louis can get their pass attack going, this could be an interesting game.
Arizona vs. Seattle
The Seahawks have tried hard to get their running game going this year, but I doubt we'll see much of it as the Cards rank a startling 1st. in run defense. Though that could be because teams have no need to run on the 32nd. ranked pass defense. If the Hawks want to win, they should follow that same plan. Ranked 12th. in pass offense, Seattle has no shortage of weapons. From Housh, to John Carlson, even the backs can catch; whoever's out there at QB will have weapons to work with.
The Cardinals meanwhile are a team of contrasts. 1st. run D, 32nd pass D; 3rd pass offense, 31st run offense. They might want to try to run this game as they're facing the 8th. ranked pass defense. If not, Trufant and the rest of Seattle's secondary can expect a couple picks their way. The Cardinals need to either have a great day passing or get a balanced offense going, or else this will be a very tough game for them to win. And i doubt they want to rely on that defense to win.
My brain says to pick Seattle, but my gut says to pick Arizona. They're less banged up and much more offensively stable.
Philadelphia vs. Oakland
Two teams at entirely opposite ends of the spectrum. The Eagles are looking like a truly dominant team in the NFL, while the Raiders are ranked 32nd in every single power raking I can find.
Oakland's trying to get a passing game going, this is not the game to be trying to do that in. With the 4th. ranked pass defense and the 8th. most sacks despite an early bye week, expect a lot of turnovers from Russell. Don't expect the running game of Oakland to work very well either as the Eagles are 13th. in that category and can load up 8 in the box all day with their elite secondary. Unless McNabb tells Russell the coverage schemes the Eagles will be running, this offense is going to get next to nothing.
The Eagles on the other hand can expect a lot of success offensively. The 15th. rushing offense will face off against the 30th. run defense so expect big numbers from Westbrook and McCoy. Oakland can't afford to stack the box much either. With DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles can rip off a big pass play any time they drop back to throw the ball. Oakland's only hope on defense is to pressure McNabb into making some bad passes, easier said than done.
Two of the best looking teams in the NFL in a row offers no break for Oakland who's just wishing for their bye week to get here.
Tennessee vs. New England
The Titans have been a prime example of how the results of one season don't necessarily hold true to the next. From best record last year to winless, they're just hoping that they can get their first win. If only they didn't have to play New England.
Get ready for a big-game offensively for New England. Ranking 6th. in pass offense, they'll be getting plenty of yards on the Titans 31st. pass D. Which will then open things up for a surprisingly good Pats running game. it'll have to if they want to run on the Titans 3rd. ranked run defense. If you have Brady, Moss, or Welker, you must start them on your fantasy team.
Meanwhile, the Titans will be trying to get their dynamic duo at running back to roll on a tough 11th. ranked Pats run defense. From there they'll try to spark some life into their 20th. ranked pass offense against the 11th. ranked Patriots. I expect a fairly balanced attack from the Titans to keep New England guessing. Jeff Fisher is a wily one, i think he'll manage to get some good pass plays going for Kerry Collins. It'll be interesting to see if Chris Johnson can finally get jump started.
In the end, New England is looking far too balanced on offense and defense for the one-sided smashmouth Titans. Be glad you're off next week Tennessee.
Winner: New England
Buffalo vs. New York Jets
The Jets look like one of the top teams in the league right now despite that close loss to Miami. Meanwhile the Bills seem to already be done with T.O. as many have said he's on the trade block.
With guys like Lee Evans, Terrell Owens, and Roscoe Parrish, you'd have to expect the Bills to be a top-10 pass offense. Instead they find themselves at 18th, probably due to a completely reworked O-Line which features a lot of average or out-of-place starters. When the Bills face off against this Jets 7th ranked pass D, expect a lot of sacks and bad throws. Keep an eye out for Darrell Revis in the Jets secondary, he's really becoming a top-10 corner. If the Bills want to open up the passing game, they'll have to run as effectively as they have in weeks past with Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. While the Jets with Kris Jenkins and Bart Scott hoped to be better than 19th in run D, they're still a tough unit.
The Jets will be relying on their own running back tandem of Leon Washington and Thomas Jones to get yardage as they rank 9th. in that category and are playing the 31st. run defense. Expect plenty of yards for both guys because this Jets running attack is dynamic game-in and game-out. Once Buffalo starts loading up on the run, look for Sanchez and Braylon Edwards to work on their chemistry. But I look for Cotchery to have the better game because Edwards will most likely be doubled all game. Plus there's Leon Washington and Dustin Keller underneath. If Buffalo doesn't stop the run, their defense will have to hope for a couple bad throws by Sanchez.
The Jets are starting to look a lot like last year's Ravens. With Edwards and Sanchez now being together for two weeks, look for him to catch quite a few. It looks like the Bills will continue to fall further and further.
Chicago vs. Atlanta
The Bears are looking to leap over Minnesota in the division, but a tough game against the dynamic Falcons stands in their way; the Falcons themselves are trying to leap over an undefeated division foe as well.
Even without Urlacher, the Bears 9th. ranked run defense will be looking to shut down Michael Turner and force the Falcons to win via their passing game. But so far, Tony Gonzales and Roddy White have seemed unstoppable, so you have to wonder if their 18th. ranked pass D will fare any better. The Falcons are going to play a balanced game offensively to keep the savvy Bears guessing. They just have to hope Turner and Norwood can slip through for yards and that Ryan won't be feeling too much pressure from Bear blitzes.
With Matt Forte, you'd have to think the Bears would better than the 27th. rushing offense. They'll be trying to get those numbers up against the 24th. Falcons run D. However, to do that Cutler will have to air it out against this 20th. ranked Falcons pass D so that the run game can be opened up. It'll be interesting to see if this undersized and underperforming Falcons D can hold up against the big and tough smashmouth Bears offense.
I think that we'll see both teams come out and try to run an even mix of run and pass plays, but I think the Bears will pull an upset. Look for them to shut down Turner and be bringing the heat on Ryan all day.
Denver vs. San Diego
Two division foes on the opposite end of most people's expectations. The Broncos were thought to be cellar dwellers, but are now undefeated. The Chargers were supposedly going to run away with the division, now they find themselves trailing way behind Denver.
With Tomlinson and Sproles playing incredibly underwhelming football, don't look for this 32nd ranked rushing attack to be used very much. SD will try to win through the air with their 2nd ranked pass offense. From there, a couple big runs from Sproles might keep Denver playing honest. But I don't expect to see that. Denver went from incredibly awful defense, to an amazing 2nd overall defense; 6th in the run, 5th. in the pass. After managing to knock off a very balanced New England offense, a one dimensional Chargers offense could be in a lot of trouble.
Expect this role of opposites to continue as the Chargers rank 26th. in total defense while Denver ranks 6th in total offense. While SD will struggle to move the ball, Denver should do it with ease; especially on the ground. 27th. run D versus 6th. rushing offense. Moreno is looking like a pretty good running back, and his numbers should go up plenty against this SD defense, who might be too preoccupied with Stokley and Marshall to notice Moreno running it. Orton might struggle a bit against the 10th. ranked SD pass D as they'll be bringing pressure all game long. But orton has been pretty much perfect so far this season. With their running game rolling, there's no reason to think this will change.
SD is sinking to mediocrity and Denver is rising to greatness. Unless this SD pass attack really comes alive, I can't see this even being close.
Hope you enjoyed my previews and predictions, and I look forward to seeing you next week as i do the same for Week 7.