Welcome to another edition of Justin Hier’s weekly game previews and predictions!
As has been the case this NFL season, fans from all over were treated to a wide array of upsets on Sunday, continuing one of the wildest first halves of an NFL season in recent memory. The most shocking of those upsets? The Miami Dolphins’ 20-0 second half run against the Atlanta Falcons that erased a 17 point halftime deficit. This week, those same up-and-down Dolphins face a New York Jets team that absolutely spanked them up in the Meadowlands just a few weeks ago, but this time, they play at Hard Rock Stadium. Will the Dolphins get their revenge? Find out the answer below... along with my list of previews and predictions for the rest of the week 7 slate.
Each week of the NFL season, I’ll be giving you a sneak peak of the action ahead, as well as my own forecast for the outcome of each contest. Feel free to leave your own predictions and opinions in the comments below!
Week 6 prediction record: 6-8
2017 season prediction record: 54-37
Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) at Oakland Raiders (2-4) - 8:25 PM ET on CBS/NFLN
The final undefeated team of the 2017 season took home its first loss last week, as the Chiefs just barely fell to Ben Roethlisberger and company in Arrowhead Stadium. This week, I see the Chiefs swiftly getting back on track against a sub-par Oakland defense and slumping Derek Carr. For some strange reason, the Raiders just can’t seem to put it all together despite retaining many of the same pieces that were so integral to last year’s explosive Offense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a turnaround at some point this season, but this week, the Raiders will be outmatched by Andy Reid’s squad, falling to a very surprising 2-5.
Score prediction: Kansas City 28 - Oakland 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) at Buffalo Bills (3-2) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX
The Buccaneers and their 30th ranked defense got trampled by a revived Adrian Peterson last week, but are facing a far less imposing Buffalo offense this Sunday. The biggest question mark entering this contest is the health of starting Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston suffered an AC joint sprain against the Cardinals, but he appears on track to play. His ability to stretch the field and hit Mike Evans on the boundary will be the determining factor in Tampa Bay’s ability to overcome the Bills.
Score prediction: Buffalo 23 - Tampa Bay 17
Baltimore Ravens (3-3) at Minnesota Vikings (4-2) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS
Even while being led by backup signal caller Case Keenum, the Vikings are continuing to compete against tough teams. Last week, they caught a break, playing the Green Bay Packers and facing an offense was forced to play sans all-time great Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers’ devastating collar bone injury will make the path to winning the NFC North far easier for the purple and gold. Baltimore’s sluggish offense won’t be able to keep up with a surprisingly dangerous Jerick McKinnon, no matter who ends up lining up behind center for Minnesota.
Score prediction: Minnesota 21 - Baltimore 13
New York Jets (3-3) at Miami Dolphins (3-2) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX
I don’t think anyone outside of Miami’s locker room expected the Dolphins to come back from being down 17 at halftime against the reigning NFC champions. In fact, the Jets were in far better position to overthrow the defending Super Bowl champs at halftime in their game last Sunday, than Miami was to achieve their comeback. Yet, the Dolphins emerged victorious, while the Jets fell to 3-3 due to an all too controversial officiating decision.
Now, the Dolphins will host the Jets down in South Florida with the hopes of maintaining the offensive momentum they’re beginning to develop and the defensive dominance they’ve sustained thus far. As we’ve learned this season however, the Jets are not the pushovers we all expected them to be.
Score prediction: Miami 20 - New York 14
Arizona Cardinals (3-3) at Los Angeles Rams (2-2) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX
Arizona seems to have finally found balance on the offensive side of the ball. Before one of the greatest running backs of this generation was shipped to the desert, Bruce Arians’ offense was relying far too heavily on the arm of an aging Carson Palmer and the hands of a somehow still productive Larry Fitzgerald. With All Day now in the fold, this offense is suddenly far more threatening than before.
The Rams though, have been just as dangerous. Jared Goff has made massive strides under newbie head coach Sean McVay, while Todd Gurley has put his dreadful 2016 campaign in the rear-view mirror. The one glaring weakness of this Rams team is Wade Phillips’ 24th ranked defense.
Score prediction: Arizona 26 - Los Angeles 21
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3) at Indianapolis Colts (2-4) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS
Man, this Jaguars team is hard to decipher. One week I have them pegged as the clear AFC South favorites, the next they completely flop like a fish out of water. Even with this defense playing at full throttle, it remains the be seen if the Jaguars are for real.
The Colts, on the other hand, are much easier to read. Andrew Luck recently suffered a setback in his return from shoulder surgery and may very well be sitting out the rest of the season. Despite the promising play of youngster Jacoby Brissett, the Colts are not a playoff team without Luck.
Score prediction: Jacksonville 19 - Indianapolis 10
New Orleans Saints (3-2) at Green Bay Packers (4-2) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX
Poor Cheese Heads. The Packers were already one of the most injury plagued teams before Aaron Rodgers’ shoulder hit the turf last Sunday. Now, the Green Bay faithful are resting their hopes on Brett Hundley, who’s yet to make his first career start. Rodgers’ injury is devastating, and the whole league will miss his magical play.
With all that said, there’s still one future Hall of Fame quarterback taking the field at Lambeau this weekend. Drew Brees, at the ripe old age of 38, is still playing outstanding football, and it seems as though his defense might finally be catching up. Make no mistake, the Saints’ defense is no shutdown unit, but the secondary and front seven are both making plays, something that couldn’t be said about previous Sean Peyton-led units.
Score prediction: New Orleans 30 - Green Bay 14
Carolina Panthers (4-2) at Chicago Bears (2-4) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS
The Panthers look to be truly rebounding after a rough 2016 season. Cam Newton’s offense came close to taking down the Philadelphia Eagles, arguably the top NFC outfit, in week 6, and the team’s only other loss has come against the white hot Saints.
The Bears beat a sputtering Ravens team last week as rookie gunslinger Mitchell Trubisky secured his first career win. However, things won’t be as easy against the Panthers this weekend, even if Luke Kuechly (concussion) is forced to sit.
Score prediction: Carolina 28 - Chicago 16
Tennessee Titans (3-3) at Cleveland Browns (0-6) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS
Marcus Mariota appears to have escaped Monday night’s win over the Colts without suffering a setback with his hamstring injury, a very good sign for a Titans squad that is so reliant on its mobile signal caller to move the ball. On the Browns’ side of things, head hancho Hue Jackson is flip-flopping back to DeShone Kizer at the quarterback position. It’s become pretty clear though, that Cleveland does not have a passer on its roster who is quite ready to face NFL level competition.
Score prediction: Tennessee 24 - Cleveland 14
Dallas Cowboys (2-3) at San Francisco 49ers (0-6) - 4:05 PM ET on FOX
The San Francisco 49ers fell to the Carolina Panthers by a score of 23-3 back in week 1. Since then, they’ve lost five games by a total of 13 points! That’s 2.6 points per game. After suffering such heartbreaking losses week after week, rookie head coach Kyle Shanahan has pulled the plug on the Brian Hoyer era in the Bay Area. It’s time for first year QB C.J. Beathard to take the reigns and breathe some new life into an offense with the potential to score points.
Dallas is coming off of a much needed by, before which they had a heartbreaking loss of their own to the Green Bay Packers. According to the latest development in Ezekiel Elliot’s convoluted court case, the all-star running back will be available this weekend. The 49ers should win at some point this season, but not against Elliot’s Cowboys.
Score prediction: Dallas 31 - San Francisco 21
Denver Broncos (3-2) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-4) - 4:25 PM ET on CBS
I take full responsibility for being about as far off as possible on my predicted outcome of last week’s Broncos-Giants contest, but so was just about every member of every NFL related media outlet in the country. The biggest takeaway from that matchup: the Broncos need their offense to perform in order to help out their elite defense.
The No-Fly-Zone simply can’t win games on their own, and it’ll be up to C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles to pick up the slack. Starting quarterback Trevor Siemian has a minor shoulder injury that he’ll attempt to play through, and he’s down quite a few receivers in the passing game, so in order to overcome a fierce Melvin Gordon-Joey Bosa pass rushing duo, the Broncos rushing attack will need to come out firing.
Score prediction: Denver 23 - Los Angeles 21
Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) - 4:25 PM ET on CBS
These two AFC North rivals play each other tough every time they take the field, and Mike Tomlin’s Steelers have a running reputation of playing down to their competition, so I expect this bout to be close. The Bengals and Steelers are boasting the league’s second and third ranked defenses respectively, which means Andy Dalton and Ben Roethlisberger will have their work cut out for them. Expect to see a heavy dose of Joe Mixon and Le’Veon Bell in what should be a heated slugfest.
Score prediction: Pittsburgh 17 - Cincinnati 14
Seattle Seahawks (3-2) at New York Giants (1-5) - 4:25 PM ET on CBS
As I stated above, the Giants pulled off one of the most unexpected wins of the 2017 season last week, and they did it with a run game that showed signs of life for the first time in recent memory. Orleans Darkwa has what it takes to keep this offense afloat with the passing game in ruins after Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall’s injuries, but whether or not his offensive line can play up to par remains to be seen.
If the Giants want to win once more, they’ll have to stick to the run heavy formula that gave them their first victory. Against a Seattle defense that has been mediocre thus far, that might not be as tough as one might think, especially when Ben McAdoo’s unit is playing the Seahawks away from Century Link Field.
Score prediction: New York 21 - Seattle 17
Atlanta Falcons (3-2) at New England Patriots (4-2) - 8:30 PM ET on NBC
Just about everyone in the football universe had this matchup circled on their calendar’s as soon as the NFL schedule was released months ago. This Super Bowl rematch should be one of the most exciting contests of the weekend. New England’s defense is in no position to hold off Atlanta’s offense the same way it did in the second half of last year’s historical comeback, so despite the lackluster showing Matt Ryan presented against the Dolphins’ defense last week, he should put up plenty of points this time around.
I foresee big games for these two teams’ star players. We should see plenty of Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Brandin Cooks, and Rob Gronkowski in what I see being a high scoring affair. What will be the difference maker? I believe it will come down to Tom Brady enjoying the luxury of playing this game in Foxborough.
Score prediction: New England 34 - Atlanta 27
Washington Redskins (3-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) - 8:30 PM ET on ESPN
Carson Wentz has been on fire as of late. The second year gunslinger looks more comfortable in the pocket and is continuing to make plays out of it. If he continues this hot streak, he could find himself in the MVP race as the season rolls on. This week, he gets a Redskins defense that has played good fundamental football, earning a respectable twelfth place ranking in total yards allowed.
Kirk Cousins hasn’t been bad either. The Redskins signal caller is commanding an offense that ranks sixth in the league and is playing a rather vulnerable Eagles secondary. The winner of this contest will be the team with the better performing passer. I’m giving this matchup to Wentz.
Score prediction: Philadelphia 27 - Washington 23