Michael Donnelly is back. This time, looking at week 7. As always, let us know your thoughts on this week’s predictions!
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (0-5-0) @ ATLANTA FALCONS (1-4-0)
A battle for pride in the NFC South
Neither of these sides would have wanted to be cut adrift at the bottom of the division, let alone this early in the season. Yet that is the fate which awaits the loser, and perhaps still the winner of this game. While the Buccaneers have undergone just about every potential disaster under Greg Schiano so far this campaign, the Falcons have seen bad fortune and injuries take their toll. With nothing more than pride to play for, it is a divisional game nonetheless and a win for the home team would rekindle briefly the faint hope of catching the stuttering Panthers and ethereal Saints. Furthermore, many fans of teams around the NFL, and perhaps some frustrated Bucs fans will be looking for a Falcons victory to turn up the heat on Schiano who has done very little to enhance his reputation as a coach while in charge in western coastal Florida. Nevertheless, Tampa Bay have exhibited that they can play mean defensively and record turnovers at important moments. They will be all the more confident of this when facing a depleted offensive core in the Georgia Dome. Furthermore rookie quarterback Matt Glennon has applied himself well enough since he took over the starting job, but will need a big game to save face for the Bucs in this bout.
PREDICTION: Buccaneers 10-27
BALTIMORE RAVENS (3-3-0) @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS (1-4-0)
The first of the bi-annual ‘slug-fests’ between the heavyweights in the AFC North
With the current SuperBowl holders and their bitter rivals in Pennsylvania trailing the Bengals at the top of the AFC North, this game takes on even more significance. For the Ravens it is a game which they will be confident of winning given the Steelers’ sluggish start. While the Steelers may have plenty ofground to make up to even have a chance of the post-season, they did pick up a valuable first win against a respectable New York Jets side in week six. With Ray Rice healthy, the Ravens can rely upon their run game to much greater extent than the Steelers, who continue to use the ‘committee’ strategy with very little success. However, in Ben Roethlisberger, the home side have a more adaptable leader than his opposite marker, Joe Flacco, in that he has continued his habit of keeping drives alive. The biggest difference this season for both has been that they have more often seen their luck run out in pressure situations. Although it is likely to be a close and bruising game, the Ravens should exert their supremacy and condemn the ‘Terrible Towels’ to obscurity once more.
PREDICTION: Ravens 27-21 Steelers
DENVER BRONCOS (6-0-0) @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (4-2-0)
The homecoming of the Old Master versus the rise of the Young Pretender
As homecomings go, this will be a tricky one for Peyton Manning. Though the Colts were where he made his name, and won his first and so far only SuperBowl, he rolls into town playing some of the best gridiron of his career with a team more than capable of lifting the Lombardi in MetLife Stadium next February. He will no doubt be trying to balance the conflicting emotions of winning over his former team with the caveat that he is still admired in Indianapolis. However, his successor as the darling of the Colts’ fans is fast becoming a legend in the making in his own right. Andrew Luck will see the opportunity to foil the unbeaten Broncos as a major incentive. The worry for the visitors will be that Luck is perfectly capable of doing so, and has shown that he has ‘clutch’ in abundance when it matters. The Colts will be smarting from an untimely defeat to the Chargers on the road in week six, while Denver may be forgiven for being jaded after a win over the Jaguars in which they rarely needed to perform in their highest gear. The main difference of course is that Peyton has plenty of seasons under his belt, and has dealt with enough adversity to temper any excess enthusiasm which may cause his team to take undue risks. While this slight naivety is admirable in Luck, he will need to counter his excitement with his obvious intelligence of the game to avoid a decent Broncos defence scuppering his chance to claim a famous win. The team from the Rockies arguably have better cohesion and diversity in their attacking elements, and that may well be the decisive factor in this game. It should be an entertaining and intense contest, but the Colts will not be the team to blemish the record of the AFC favourites.
PREDICTION: Denver 35-17 Indianapolis
CLEVELAND BROWNS (3-3-0) @ GREEN BAY PACKERS (3-2-0)
The crossroads game…
Perhaps surprisingly, both sides find themselves in a dogfight in their respective Northern divisions of the NFL. For the Browns it’s a case of trying to progress from treading water to grabbing second place with both hands. In the case of the Packers, it is an upstart Lions side and a confident Bears side which mean they are vying for a division which they may have been confident of winning before the season kicked-off. Injuries have blighted the depth chart of the Wisconsin side, while the Browns were cruelly robbed of impressive stand-in quarterback Brian Hoyer to an ACL injury in week five. On his return to action, the designated starting quarterback, Brandon Weeden was neither horrific nor spectacular, but will take confidence in facing a Packers side shorn of star defensive linemen Clay Matthews, while having Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron at his disposal. On the other side of the ball, the Browns also have a defence which is winning plenty of admirers across the league and should worry Aaron Rodgers who is bereft of his marquee receivers and running-back. Though it would be unlikely, the Browns are fighting for enough of a target which means they will grab this game with both hands. The Packers may be able to get past Cleveland, but it’s unlikely they will do so without any further weakening to their roster. If you fancy a risky call this week, this is the ideal game to choose.
PREDICTION: Browns 21-17 Packers
- Seahawks (5-1-0) @ Cardinals (3-3-0) Seahawks win 27-24
- Rams (3-3-0) @ Panthers (2-3-0) Panthers win 19-6
- Bengals (4-2-0) @ Lions (4-2-0) Bengals win 34-27 (overtime)
- Chargers (3-3-0) @ Jaguars (0-6-0) Chargers win 24-14
- Bills (2-4-0) @ Dolphins (3-2-0) Dolphins win 21-10
- Patriots (5-1-0) @ Jets (3-3-0) Patriots win 31-24 (overtime)
- Cowboys (3-3-0) @ Eagles (3-3-0) Cowboys win 24-21 (overtime)
- Bears (4-2-0) @ Washington (1-5-0) Bears win 37-17
- 49ers (4-2-0) @ Titans (3-3-0) 49ers win 17-14
- Texans (2-4-0) @ Chiefs (6-0-0) Chiefs win 24-13
- Vikings (1-4-0) @ Giants (0-6-0) Vikings win 14-10
Byes: Saints, Raiders
A fan on fitba, NFL and ruggerby league in that order. Dundee exile, based in Perth. A journalist as well apparently.