The Playbook: Previewing Broncos-Colts, Eagles-Cowboys, more Week 7 games
Buffalo (2-4) at Miami (3-2) — 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS: Miami’s revitalization hit a snag with back-to-back losses to New Orleans and Baltimore before a Week 6 bye. With the trade deadline approaching, Miami’s reportedly looking around for help on its offensive line and possibly at running back, too. Buffalo could use a boost of its own at the quarterback spot. Thaddeus Lewis seems on track to start for a second straight week; if not, it’ll be time for a Flynntervention … as in, Matt Flynn’s Buffalo debut. – CB
New England (5-1) at NY Jets (3-3) — 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS: Next man down? For the Patriots, the latest injury was linebacker Jerod Mayo, the longtime play-calling captain of a defense that has kept New England afloat when the offense can’t. Aqib Talib, who had put every opposing receiver on lockdown, is dealing with a hip injury. If there’s one time for the Jets to flash their great defensive line and get Geno Smith on a consistent path, it would be now. – DF
Chicago (4-2) at Washington (1-4) — 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX: The spotlight always falls on Robert Griffin III when Washington plays (and he may be able to find some success against a worse-than-people-realize Chicago defense). But the key matchup here is Washington’s D against Chicago’s high-powered attack. The Redskins have yet to show they can stop teams consistently. How will they deal with Brandon Marshall, a rising Alshon Jeffery and the rest of the Bears’ offense? – CB
St. Louis (3-3) at Carolina (2-3) — 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX: Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is taking heat for his gameplans, but something’s working — St. Louis ranks third in the NFL with a 66.7 percent touchdown rate (12-for-18) in the red zone. Cam Newton will have to exploit the Rams’ surprisingly weak overall defense with increasing consistency to pull this one out. – DF
San Francisco (4-2) at Tennessee (3-3) — 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX: This marks the end of a brutal three-game stretch for the Titans, which featured games with the Chiefs, Seahawks and now 49ers. To date, Tennessee is 0-2 in this stretch. The 49ers have regained a lot of their 2012 swagger lately, topping 30 points and winning by double digits in each of their past three outings. Both teams boast top-10 defenses, and Tennessee will need a stout effort on that side of the ball to give Ryan Fitzpatrick’s offense a chance. – CB
Cleveland (3-3) at Green Bay (3-2) — 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS: The Packers lost receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb and pass rusher Nick Perry during last Sunday’s win over the Ravens. Dom Capers’ remaining defenders should suffice against a struggling Brandon Weeden, and Aaron Rodgers still has Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley and a rejuvenated run game against a Cleveland defense that has struggled to stay in its gaps. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton has had this issue before — the multiplicity he draws up occasionally leaves his own defenders out of position. -- DF
Houston (2-4) at Kansas City (6-0) — 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS: For a team like the Texans that cannot stop throwing interceptions, the Chiefs loom as a horrible matchup. Kansas City’s defense leads the NFL in takeaways with 18 and has scored in four of six games so far. Houston has decided to throw second-year QB Case Keenum to the wolves; he’ll make his first career NFL start for the desperate Texans with Matt Schaub banged up. – CB
Only For The Faithful
Tampa Bay (0-5) at Atlanta (1-4) — 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX: The two most woebegone teams in the NFC South face off. The Falcons are struggling with injuries, clock management and roster attrition on defense. The Bucs are struggling with … well, everything. The bright side for Tampa Bay fans is that Greg Schiano is setting his replacement up for a very high draft pick. – DF
San Diego (3-3) at Jacksonville (0-6) — 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS: Is this the week Jacksonville finally breaks into the win column? That all depends on which Chargers team shows up. San Diego has alternated losses and wins (with a victory last week) since opening the year with a setback against the Texans.– CB
Minnesota (1-4) at NY Giants (0-6) — Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN: The Josh Freeman era begins for the Vikings against a New York Giants defense that has allowed 14 passing touchdowns — tied with Dallas and Jacksonville for the NFL “lead.” Minnesota’s secondary has allowed big plays, but they’ve also been opportunistic with turnovers, and nobody’s been in a more giving mood than Eli Manning this season. – DF
(Unless otherwise indicated, all stats come from our friends at Pro Football Focus).
• Here’s one way to go 0-6 even with a lot of talent on your football team: The New York Giants have ended 28.6 percent of their drives this season with an offensive turnover. Last season, that number for the G-Men was just 11.8 percent. The Arizona Cardinals rank second-worst at 19.7 percent. The Tennessee Titans are the most efficient team in this regard with just 5.8 percent of their drives ending in the worst possible way.
• With Randall Cobb out of their offense for 6-8 weeks, the Packers may struggle to find slot performance. Cobb had 34 of the team’s 40 slot targets, 26 of its 31 catches, 369 of its 445 yards and the only two touchdowns.
• It might be time for opposing offensive lines to keep a sharper eye on Michael Brockers, the Rams’ dynamic second-year defensive tackle. In his last three games, Brockers has four sacks, two quarterback hits and 13 total stops.
• The Kansas City Chiefs can’t seem to stop creating stars in Bob Sutton’s impressive defense. Last week, it was reserve cornerback Marcus Cooper, who played in Brandon Flowers’ stead in all 80 defensive snaps. He’s picked off passes in each of the last two weeks, and the seventh-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers — picked up on waivers on Sept. 2 — has limited opposing quarterbacks to a 28.1 rating on 140 snaps and eight targets. Not bad for a rookie…
• It appears that the 49ers offense is getting a bit more explosive. Vernon Davis now leads the league in deep targets (passes of 20 yards or more) among tight ends, tallying six catches on 10 targets for 245 yards and four touchdowns. Frank Gore also leads the NFL with 11 runs of 15 yards or more on just 103 attempts.
• Rookie yips for some offensive linemen who should be pretty special when they figure it out: Titans guard Chance Warmack has allowed four sacks and 16 total pressures on 222 pass-blocking snaps, and Chiefs tackle Eric Fisher has allowed three sacks and 17 total pressures on 194 snaps. – DF
• Matchup to Watch: LeSean McCoy vs. Dallas’ depleted D-line.
The Cowboys won in Week 6 with an all-hands-on-deck approach to defense, especially once DeMarcus Ware exited with an injury. They’ll need that and then some in Philadelphia this Sunday. The Eagles have found ways to move the football on most of their opponents, doing yeoman’s work on the ground. LeSean McCoy’s 630 yards has him leading the league in rushing by nearly 100 yards over the next closest competitor.
Another start at QB from Nick Foles, rather than a hobbled Michael Vick, will give the Cowboys a tiny bit more leeway with how they attack McCoy. Foles, though, ripped the Tampa Bay pass defense last week, and Dallas has really struggled to stop teams through the air.
Keeping McCoy somewhat in check would give the Cowboys more of a chance to get after Foles on passing downs. Easier said than done.
• This Week’s Sleeper: Jarrett Boykin, WR, Packers.
Even if James Jones can gut it out with a knee injury Sunday, Boykin is likely to see the field frequently. And if he is going to be out there, Aaron Rodgers will need him to get open at least a couple times so that all the passing-game pressure does not fall on Jordy Nelson.
Boykin did make one catch last week in Baltimore, a 43-yarder that led to a field goal. But that’s his lone catch in 2013 after a five-reception 2012. The chances have not been there yet in Boykin’s career. Sunday could bring a different plot.
• Pressure’s On …: Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce.
Are the Ravens ever going to get their run game figured out? They rushed for all of 47 yards in a loss to Green Bay last week, marking the fifth time in five games that they’ve failed to reach the century mark on the ground. Neither Rice nor Pierce has found any traction — they’re sporting matching (and miserable) 2.8 yards-per-carry averages. Another putrid performance in Pittsburgh would put Baltimore in danger of falling to 3-4 and letting the once-buried Steelers back into the division race.
• Rookie Spotlight: Eric Fisher, OT, Chiefs.
To put it mildly, Fisher has been a massive disappointment thus far. The 2013 No. 1 overall pick has allowed 12 QB hurries and three sacks (both team-highs) while often looking overmatched on the right side of Kansas City’s line. He’ll be tested Sunday by the aggressive Houston defense, and the Chiefs would love to see him begin to raise his game. – CB
• Atlanta Falcons. Enough’s enough. Either the Falcons start their turnaround by knocking off a winless Tampa Bay team, or they ought to start considering blowing up parts of their roster. (Trading Tony Gonzalez to a contender would be a start.) – CB
• Washington Redskins. The 1-4 Redskins are looking for any kind of answer on defense, and they’ve been hanging around doing goodness knows what while the Cowboys and Eagles are looking up. Washington has the Bears, Broncos, Chargers, and Vikings in its next four games. Expecting a second-half turnaround like last year? It might be too little, too late. – DF