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NFL Week 7 Picks: Previewing Pivotal Matchups on Sunday's Slate

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts after an incomplete pass in the second quarter while taking on the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2013

Another fun day of football is just days away.

As we deal with that co-worker who still thinks that Geico hump day commercial is funny, at least we know that a reward lies at the end of a tunnel with a Sunday filled with NFL action. Then again, the games are loaded with awful advertisements, so perhaps nothing in this world is truly perfect.

Many of these squads certainly have their flaws, but a timely win could steer their season back on the right track. Some of the other sturdier contenders could make a case for top billing with another decisive victory.

Here's a look at some of this week's most interesting matchups. All spreads, set as of Tuesday, are courtesy of Vegas Insider.

 

Cincinnati Bengals (+3) at Detroit Lions

While the Lions and Bengals are playoff contenders, they're also both tricky to gauge.

Cincinnati has stymied Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, but did not fare as well against the incomparable Brian Hoyer and Thad Lewis. Maybe the defense plays up and down to the competition. Maybe it's just a fluke, or maybe Hoyer was actually on the path to becoming better than Rodgers and Brady before getting hurt.

Detroit registered 40 points against the Chicago Bears, but did not fare as well against its other NFC North competitor. The Lions only scored nine points against the Green Bay Packers. They even sprinkled in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals this season.

Both squads are 4-2 and vying for a division title, but the Bengals are battling inconsistency from both the defense and quarterback Andy Dalton while the Lions have surrendered the 26th-most total yards in the league. Predicting this game is a daunting task, but the trend indicates that the Bengals will rise to the occasion and contain Matthew Stafford's high-octane passing offense.

Expect a big game from rookie Giovani Bernard against Detroit's leaky rushing defense to propel Cincinnati to a big victory on the road.

Prediction: Bengals 20, Lions 14

 

Houston Texans (+6.5) at Kansas City Chiefs

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 13:  Matt Schaub #8 of the Houston Texans works out on the field before the start of the game against the St. Louis Rams at Reliant Stadium on October 13, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

At first glance, this pick is a no-brainer. The Chiefs are undefeated with the most sacks amassed and the least points allowed per game. The Texans, on the other hand, are unraveling with four straight losses.

But the numbers suggest that Houston has been terribly unfortunate to find itself in such dire circumstances. Despite averaging just 17.7 points per game, the Texans' offense ranks seventh in the league in defense with 395.7 yards accrued. 

Then again, Houston has surrendered 29.5 points per game, so that must be the problem. Actually, Houston sports the NFL's top defense, giving up a mere 252.8 yards allowed per contest. It takes skill to outgain your opponents by an average of 142 yards while brandishing the league's third-worst point differential.

If Houston can avoid serving up a pick-six for the sixth straight game, it could upset a Kansas City squad that has feasted on favorable competition.

However, that all depends on Matt Schaub's availability. If he cannot play after injuring his ankle, or if Gary Kubiak foolishly decides to bench him anyway, expect another disaster. If Schaub suits up, count on Kansas City to eke out a win that causes everyone to realize that the Texans are not as bad as everything thinks while the Chiefs are not as amazing as their 6-0 record suggests.

Prediction: Chiefs 17, Texans 13

 

New England Patriots (-4) at New York Jets

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Geno Smith #7 of the New York Jets is greeted by Kenbrell Thompkins #85 of the New England Patriots following the Jets 10-13 loss during the game at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by J
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

If their score from the last time these two teams holds up, the Jets will cover the spread.

The Patriots and Jets already met in Week 2, with the Patriots surviving an ugly offensive showing in a narrow 13-10 victory. Geno Smith's three fourth-quarter interceptions sealed the deal for New York.

It's certainly possible that the Jets keep the game tight again. Perhaps they can even pull off an upset over a Patriots' squad still riding the high of an exhausting last-second victory over the New Orleans Saints. 

The more the Jets play, the more their secondary's early success looks like a product of their early opponents' offensive struggles. New York faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills and a New England squad that was still warming up its rookie targets. Over the last three games, however, Gang Green has surrendered 280 passing yards per game.

With Danny Amendola healthy and Kenbrell Thompkins developing a chemistry with Brady, the Patriots will display a more fluid passing offense this time around to top the Jets. Plus, Rob Gronkowski may possibly make his season debut, but who knows?

Prediction: Patriots 20, Jets 13

 

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