Over the last decade, the NFL has made rule changes that have shifted the league to emphasize the passing game. Well, defenses have adjusted by investing in sack specialists. Through six weeks of the season, quarterbacks have been sacked 490 times, which is the most at this point since 1998. There’s some food for thought as we bring you our Week 7 rundown:
Top Three Must-See Games of the Week:
1. Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts
The Denver Broncos have been dragging the past two weeks. They were lucky to escape Dallas with a 51-48 win on a day when their defense didn’t show up. Then they put forth a below-average performance this past Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. They still won by 16 simply because the Jaguars are that bad, but still, it was a closer-than-expected save.
Now, the Broncos have to become a lot more vigilant and alert in all three phases of play. They’re playing an Indianapolis team that is coming off a loss to the San Diego Chargers and is therefore going to play with a little more anger than it otherwise might have. Indianapolis’ offense is haunted by dropped passes, and quarterback Andrew Luck is not getting the help he needs from his teammates at the wide receiver spots. Denver should be able to win this game, but if the Broncos don’t become more locked-in on a mental level, they are going to give away a game.
Given that this is an important game personally for Peyton Manning, expect the Broncos to play with more focus.
2. New England Patriots at New York Jets
While so many people in the NFL have rightly noted how well Manning has been playing this season, it is true that New England quarterback Tom Brady has performed at a similarly lofty level. Brady is winning games with no-name wide receivers. He is finding ways to make plays with a patchwork roster. There’s no Wes Welker anymore, Rob Gronkowski is still questionable, Aaron Hernandez is gone, Shane Vereen is hurt and Danny Amendola has been in and out of the lineup.
Brady now faces the New York Jets’ defense, coached by Rex Ryan, a man who has regularly given Brady problems in the past. New England could get pushed around by the Jets for a half, but since they have already played New York this season, the Patriots should find it easier to make second-half adjustments and pull away in the third quarter. The Patriots are -4 favorites on Sunday.
3. Cincinnati Bengals at Detroit Lions
This is the most unlikely meeting of 4-2 teams you’ll see. The Bengals (+3) and Lions (-3) have won the majority of their games but have not looked very convincing in the process. Cincinnati barely escaped Buffalo with an overtime win over a Bills team that had to go to its fourth-string quarterback. Detroit didn’t play well this past Sunday in the first three quarters against Cleveland, but the Lions benefited from the mistakes of Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden. Cincinnati and Detroit have to find ways of ironing out mistakes and playing with much more precision each week.
The Biggest Underdog with a Reasonable Chance to Win is the: St. Louis Rams
The Carolina Panthers certainly played well against the Minnesota Vikings this past week, but should Carolina be favored by six points on the NFL odds against any team other than the Jacksonville Jaguars? Their only two wins have come against the Giants (0-6) and Vikings (1-4). St. Louis was impressive in its own right against the Houston Texans. The Rams have a very good shot to win in Charlotte.
The Best Suicide Pool Pick of the Week is the: San Diego Chargers
It was a close one last week but the Bengals came through. This week, we’ll go back to the well and bet against the Jaguars when they host an underrated San Diego Chargers squad. When you take a snapshot of the Chargers season, you see a couple of late blown leads against Houston and Tennessee. Had they held on in those games, they would be 5-1 right now and would probably be laying at least two touchdowns on this spread at Bovada. They should be able to take care of business against the worst team in the league.