National Football League predictions: Week 7

Packers will defeat Rams, Panthers will fall to Cowboys, Pats to dominate Jets

Arizona Cardinals @ Minnesota Vikings

Sunday, Oct. 21, 1 p.m.

After their hot start this season, Arizona has started to slip the last couple of weeks, losing both games. After their thrilling loss to Buffalo (which also cost them starting QB Kevin Kolb), they look to steal a victory in Minnesota with John Skelton as quarterback. Despite their 4-2 record, Arizona has one of the worst offenses in the NFL. They win games with their stifling defense and the pressure they put on the quarterback. Adrian Peterson has returned in impressive form for the Vikes after his major knee injury last season, and has rushed for almost 500 yards. If Christian Ponder can hold onto the ball and avoid making costly mistakes, the Vikings should be able to control the game and win a close one.

Prediction: 23-17 Vikings

Dallas Cowboys @ Carolina Panthers

Sunday, Oct. 21, 1 p.m.

Dallas came up just short this week against the Ravens as Dez Bryant, despite his otherwise stellar game, dropped a two point conversion to tie the game. Tony Romo was good in the loss, especially at the end of the game. The Cowboy running game, however, was the real star, rushing for over 200 yards against the usually tough Baltimore defense. However, they received some bad news, as Demarco Murray will be out for their game against the Panthers. Luckily, Felix Jones and Philip Tanner are capable enough to shoulder the load this week. Carolina has underachieved this season. After entering the year as a sleeper pick by many, Cam Newton has been unimpressive and their defense hasn’t been able to hold teams. Even without Murray, the Cowboys should be able to make some progress running the ball and they will control the game.

Prediction: 27-14 Cowboys

New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sunday, Oct. 21, 1 p.m.

The Saints got their first win two weeks ago against the Chargers, and there is still no doubt that they have an incredibly explosive offense. They lead the league in pass yards and Drew Brees is racking up the stats once again. New Orleans’ main problem, however, is their abysmal defense. They’ve allowed at least 24 points in every game, and they’ve been forced to outscore teams to win (which hasn’t worked out well). Lucky for them, Tampa Bay has one of the worst pass defenses in the league, and Brees will be able to pick through their secondary with ease. Bucs rookie RB Doug Martin should have a great game against this weak run defense, but it won’t be enough to keep up.

Prediction: 34-20 Saints

Green Bay Packers @ St. Louis Rams

Sunday, Oct. 21, 1 p.m.

St. Louis desperately needs consistent play from Sam Bradford. He was good last week against Miami, even in their loss, but the Rams still rank 27th in passing attack. Their defense has been much better than expected so far, but they will need an outstanding effort this week against a rejuvenated Packers team. Green Bay had a lethargic season until they traveled to Houston last week. With a strong performance by Aaron Rodgers, they showed why they were almost undefeated last season. He threw six touchdowns and looked sharper than he has all season picking apart the Texans’ defense. This may be the game where he comes out of his slump. The defense was also impressive, only allowing 90 yards to the best rushing attack in the league. The Packers are in the midst of a favorable stretch in their schedule, so they should be getting back on track.

Prediction: 27-10 Packers

Washington Redskins @ New York Giants

Sunday, Oct. 21, 1 p.m.

Robert Griffin has improved the Washington running game, and it really showed last week with his 138-yard performance. Their defense will really need to step up this week, though, if they want to challenge the Giants. The Redskins have the worst pass defense in the league and Eli Manning should feast on their secondary. Washington cannot match up with all of the receiving weapons the Giants have. The Giants come into this game brimming with confidence after thoroughly dominating the 49ers. NFC East games are always close, however, and the Giants are known to have trouble with running quarterbacks. Giants win in a nail-biter.

Prediction: 27-23 Giants

Baltimore Ravens @ Houston Texans

Sunday, Oct. 21, 1 p.m.

The Ravens’ defense took a huge hit this week against the Cowboys. They lost their leader, Ray Lewis, for the season and they also lost their best cornerback, Lardarius Webb. This could prove disastrous to their Super Bowl aspirations, as their defense was already looking uncharacteristically shaky this year. Webb has not allowed a touchdown in over two seasons, and he was developing into one of the best corners in the NFL. Houston will look to take advantage of Webb’s and Lewis’ injuries, especially after their humiliating loss on Monday Night Football to the Packers. Expect Houston to pound the Baltimore defense early on the ground and regain their momentum from early in the season.

Prediction: 31-20 Texans

Tennessee Titans @ Buffalo Bills

Sunday, Oct. 21, 1 p.m.

This game should be a shootout. Both teams allow over 30 points on average and the Bills’ rush defense has been awful this season, allowing almost 200 yards a game. Chris Johnson has continued to be incredibly inconsistent this season, averaging just over 3 yards per carry. Since his incredibly impressive rookie season, Johnson has hit a wall and defenses have been able to contain his speed. Depending on the type of outing he has, Tennessee could literally run away with it. Buffalo also has a very good running game, especially with C.J. Spiller, but the Titans’ rush defense is quite porous. The Bills take this one.

Prediction: 27-20 Bills

Cleveland Browns @ Indianapolis Colts

Sunday, Oct. 21, 1 p.m.

In a battle of rookie QBs, the Colts definitely have the advantage. Andrew Luck has shown potential and poise early in his NFL career. Brandon Weeden has also improved since his first few starts, and he earned his first NFL win last week by shredding the Bengals defense. The Colts have played well against the pass this season, and the Browns do not have any running game to speak of. Trent Richardson has been disappointing, and he will really need to step up if the Browns want a chance at a win. The Colts should be able to move the ball through the air, as the Browns allow almost 300 yards passing per game.

Prediction: 24-16 Colts

New York Jets @ New England Patriots

Sunday, Oct. 21, 4:25 p.m.

This is a key game in the AFC East, especially due to the Patriots’ weak start. They had trouble running the ball last week against the Seahawks and that definitely contributed to their loss. The Patriots currently have the top ranked offense in the NFL, mostly due to their great balance. If the Jets can take away New England’s running game, they can force their offense to become one-dimensional. Mark Sanchez played well enough last week to stave off critics calling for Tim Tebow, but now he has a tough matchup against a division rival. All eyes will be on him this week and he must control the game if the Jets hope to shock the Pats.

Prediction: 38-20 Patriots

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Oakland Raiders

Sunday, Oct. 21, 4:25 p.m.

Even in their loss last week, Oakland did a good job stopping Atlanta’s running attack. They held the Falcons to three yards per carry, and they hope to do the same this week against the Jaguars. If the Raiders can contain Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars star running back, they will force Blaine Gabbert to beat them through the air, which is exactly what they want. Gabbert leads the league’s worst passing game, averaging only 142 yards per game. Jacksonville lacks receiving weapons, so once their running game is slowed, they are one of the worst offensive teams in the NFL. Even coming off a bye week, the Jags will not be able to implement a good enough game plan to earn their second win.

Prediction: 13-7 Raiders

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals

Sunday, Oct. 21, 8:20 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are banged up. Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley and Rashard Mendenhall head an injury report that is one of the largest in the league. If that weren’t bad enough, they also lost RB Isaac Redman in their loss to the Titans. The once great defense is just a shell of its former self, but they may not need their full strength against Cincinnati this week. The Bengals come off an embarrassing loss to Cleveland. Although Andy Dalton played well, he made too many mistakes, throwing three interceptions. He needs to cut down on the turnovers and keep the Bengals’ defense off the field. The defense is one of the team’s biggest weaknesses, so the longer the explosive offense is on the field, the better.

Prediction: 24-21 Steelers

Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears

Sunday, Oct. 21, 8:35 p.m.

Detroit won last week, but it wasn’t pretty. They managed to orchestrate a fourth quarter comeback against a turnover-prone Eagles team, but they still didn’t compare to their play from last season. The offense stagnates at times, and at one point in the second half, Matt Stafford had 7 straight incompletions. Their defensive line played very well, getting a lot of pressure on Michael Vick, especially in the overtime period. Chicago’s run defense has been amazing this season, only allowing 66 yards per game. Although the Lions are not a running team, the sheer intimidation factor will force them into passing much more than they want to. Stafford has proven to make a lot of mistakes when he is forced to throw too much throughout his career and the Bears are great at forcing these exact types of mistakes. As long as Jay Cutler can manage the game (which he should be able to, especially coming off a bye week), the Bears should take the game.

Prediction: 31-20 Bears