by Page Gerrick Denny // @PDenny29
The 2017 NFL season has been full of surprises. Teams that we all expected to be garbage have pulled off some astounding wins, while teams that we expected to roll over most of their opponents have faltered in losses to much weaker opponents. Pick’em pools have been torn to shreds, and some survivor leagues have already crowned their winner.
Each week, I’ll post my picks and my reasoning behind them, and on Tuesdays, I’ll do a quick rundown on where I went wrong, and what I got right. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my predictions, so feel free to drop a comment on the post, or @ me on Twitter.
Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) @ Oakland Raiders (2-4)
With the Chiefs’ loss in Week 6, there are no remaining undefeated teams. They never managed to gain any momentum, as the Steelers managed to almost completely shut down running back Kareem Hunt by loading the box. The Chiefs are looking for redemption.
Oakland is having a tough year, having lost four consecutive games. It’s hard to watch such a talented team struggle like they have, and they’ll be desperate for a win this week with their season on the line.
The Chiefs have shown their weaknesses, and the Raiders will likely try to exploit them. Defensive end Mario Edwards is finally healthy, so the Raiders have a chance to take advantage of the Chiefs’ weak offensive interior.
Even with Oakland’s talent and desperation and Kansas City’s newly revealed problem areas, I think the Chief’s air assault will be too much for the Raiders to overcome.
Baltimore Ravens (3-3) @ Minnesota Vikings (4-2)
Baltimore has no answer to a solid defense, and it turns out that Minnesota has a great one. The Ravens inefficient offense struggled against the injury-ridden Bears defense last week, and going up against the Vikings is going to be even tougher. They’ll likely need kicker Justin Tucker to nail some long field goals in order to put points on the board.
However, Baltimore’s defense is impressive, especially against the pass, so the Minnesota offense is going to have their work cut out for them. The Vikings are going to need quarterback Case Keenum to have another great performance, and they’ll need to lean heavily on running back Jerrick McKinnon.
I suspect that this will be a low-scoring grind resulting in another win for the Vikings.
New Orleans Saints (3-2) @ Green Bay Packers (4-2)
Green Bay’s secondary has been lackluster, which means that quarterback Drew Brees is likely to have another excellent passing day. And now that quarterback Aaron Rodgers is out, the Packers will struggle to match opposing offenses stride-for-stride.
Green Bay’s unproven backup quarterback Brett Hundley doesn’t seem to be great at moving the ball. But, they do have plenty of offensive weapons that will threaten a Saints defense that struggles to keep opposing offenses in check.
It’ll be a great game with some big plays and plenty of scoring, but I remain unconvinced that Hundley can fill Rodgers’ shoes. I expect the Saints to score just enough to win at Lambeau.
New York Jets (3-3) @ Miami Dolphins (3-2)
The Miami defense is playing to win, having not allowed more than 20 points to any opposing offense this year. One can’t say the same of their offense, which is dead last in passing yards per game and 27th in rushing yards per game.
The Jets winning streak is over. Their defense is fairing well against the pass but rather poorly against the run. The offense is struggling, albeit less than the Dolphins, who managed to take advantage of the Falcons’ inability to close last week.
If the Dolphins continue playing excellent defense and get running back Jay Ajayi some solid carries, I think that’ll be enough to beat the Jets.
Carolina Panthers (4-2) @ Chicago Bears (2-4)
If Bears fans are honest, they’ll admit their team keeps winning games they shouldn’t. Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is a definite upgrade from Mike Glennon, and they are 3rd in rushing yards per game, but their passing game has no spark.
This will be a battle of the defenses, pitting Carolina’s 4th ranked defense against Chicago’s 6th ranked defense. However, the difference in defensive strength against the run could be the key here, as Carolina is ranked 5th and Chicago is 15th.
The Panthers had a rough start to the season, but quarterback Cam Newton has picked up steam. Though their game in Philadelphia was disappointing, they’re coming off a 10-day break, and the Bears are definitely not the Eagles. I predict that “Super Cam” do his thing and the Panthers pull off a win at Soldier Field.
Arizona Cardinals (3-3) @ Los Angeles Rams (4-2)
Arizona has been struggling everywhere. In Week 6, things seemed to take a turn for the better, with the return of key players on the offensive line. The arrival of running back Adrian Peterson, who logged 134 yards rushing on 26 carries in his first week as a Cardinal, may also have something to do with it.
The Rams offense, led by quarterback Jared Goff, has been solid. LA’s 13th ranked passing offense will matchup in their favor this week against the Cardinals, who are 26th in pass defense. There’s no doubt that Arizona will have trouble limiting Goff, running back Todd Gurley and the Rams’ offense.
However, with Arizona’s revival at the line and the addition of Peterson, the Rams 29th ranked run defense is bound to struggle. I think the Cardinals come home from London with a win.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) @ Buffalo Bills (3-2)
No one knows who the starting quarterback for the Bucs will be this week, but whether it’s Jameis Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bucs have their work cut out for them. They’re playing consecutive road games, while the Bills are coming off their bye week. The confidence I had in Tampa Bay early in the season is waning rapidly.
The opposite is true for Buffalo, as they’ve shown some unexpected spark. They have a solid ground game with running back LeSean McCoy, and a formidable defense. The Bills’ ability to force turnovers is as impressive as the Buccaneers’ ability to allow them. With this in mind, I’m giving the Bills a win.
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3) @ Indianapolis Colts (2-4)
Jacksonville is a strange team this year. One week, they’re playing like a legitimate contender, and the next week they revert to looking like the Jaguars of old. Indianapolis is managing to keep it together on offense with quarterback Jacoby Brissett, but their defense has faltered more often than not.
With that said, the Colts are still weak on offense, and now they’re going up against a top 10 defense. While Jacksonville is struggling in the passing game, they’re blowing everyone away with running back Leonard Fournette and their league-leading run game. The Colts’ lacking defense will get them in serious trouble this week.
Tennessee Titans (3-3) @ Cleveland Browns (0-6)
I had predicted a better season for Cleveland, but with their terrible play and perfectly miserable season, they’ve made me regret having such high hopes. No matter who is under center, their offense is dysfunctional.
However, Cleveland has the 8th best defense in the league, with the 6th ranked run defense, which I expect to be an interesting match for Tennessee’s 6th ranked run offense.
Tennessee is coming off a short week, and they have a less-than-frightening defense, but the Browns have a frighteningly bad offense, scoring more than 18 points only once this year against a defense much worse than Tennessee’s.
I do think the Browns could manage to keep this fairly close, but my faith in Cleveland is gone.
Dallas Cowboys (2-3) @ San Francisco 49ers (0-6)
The Niners, just like the Browns, are winless through the first six weeks of the season. They may be the best 0-6 team in recent history though, as they’ve lost their last five games by no more than three points, and most of those matchups have been on the road. They’ve also made a change at quarterback, so we’ll get to see rookie C.J. Beathard’s NFL debut.
The Cowboys are on the rollercoaster from hell with running back Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension status seemingly forever in flux. As of now, Elliott will suit up for Sunday’s game in San Francisco, but that could change a few more times between now and then.
Dallas is coming off a bye and assuming that Elliott plays on Sunday, it’s hard to imagine the Niners getting their first win. However, as is the right of every woman, I reserve the right to change my mind.
Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)
If you like to watch great defenses face off, this game is for you. This matchup pits the NFL’s top two pass defenses against one another. The conditions are perfect for a low-scoring battle between two division rivals that seem to hate each other. On the defensive side of the ball, it’s a draw.
On the offensive side of the ball, I have to give the edge to the Steelers, who have more star power than the Grammy’s. The trio of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown is the stuff of legend.
It’ll likely be a close game, but with the Three B’s playing on home turf, I predict the Steelers get one game closer to the Super Bowl, meaning the Bengals lose their fifth straight game to their AFC North rivals.
Seattle Seahawks (3-2) @ New York Giants (1-5)
Seattle, who are coming off a bye, have surprised many with their struggles this year on offense, and they’re a bit banged up on defense. I think the Seahawks will get back on track, but a win against the Giants is not guaranteed.
New York finally managed to get their run game going against the Broncos last Sunday in a surprising victory. Their defensive line is quite good this year, which is going to be tough for Seattle’s underwhelming offensive line to overcome.
I still don’t have much faith in New York. They’re still missing their top three wide receivers, and it seems improbable that they’ll be able to overcome two elite defenses in a row.
Denver Broncos (3-2) @ Los Angeles Chargers (2-4)
The Chargers have a bad record against the Broncos, having beaten them in only two of their last 13 meetings. But, they’re riding a two-game winning streak and boast the 4th best defense against the pass.
Denver is a bit banged up, but they still have the top defense in the league. Quarterback Philip Rivers and running back Melvin Gordon have been inconsistent, and that’s good news for Denver, who are allowing only 70.2 yards per game and hasn’t given up any touchdowns on the ground.
The Chargers have the worst run defense in the league, giving the clear advantage to Denver. I suspect that running backs C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles will light up the field, in front of a crowd that’s almost guaranteed to have more Broncos fans than Chargers fans in it.
Atlanta Falcons (3-2) @ New England Patriots (4-2)
Neither of these teams is where they were in February, though it’d be easy to pick quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots. But, the Patriots defense is awful, allowing 440.7 yards per game. Even with a great offense, the flailing defense is putting a lot of pressure on Brady.
It’d be a mistake to take the Falcons lightly, even after two losses. The talented trio of quarterback Matt Ryan, running back Devonta Freeman, and wide receiver Julio Jones can get things going quickly. Against a bad defense, the Falcons are dangerous, especially if they remember how to play in the second half.
Even though playing in Foxborough is tough, I think the Falcons take back their pride and pull off an upset.
Washington Redskins (3-2) @ Philadelphia Eagles (5-1)
Heading into the 2017 season, I had no clue how Philadelphia would play, but at 5-1 they’ve shown that they’re playing for the Lombardi Trophy. Their offense is lethal, with quarterback Carson Wentz shredding his way through defenses. They also have a defense that’s good enough to hold off opposing offenses.
Even though Washington has a solid defense, cornerback Josh Norman is out, and that is bad news. The Eagles beat the Redskins in Week One on the road, and there’s no reason for me to expect anything other than another Eagles’ victory.
Chat NFL Football with Page on Twitter // @PDenny29