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*Team listed in BOLD is my pick to win the game
Arizona (vs. Baltimore) – The schedule hasn’t been too kind to the Baltimore Ravens this season, case in point, for the second time this season they have back-to-back games on the road on the West Coast. They opened the first two weeks of the season on the road in Denver and Oakland and both those games resulted in losses. Last week Baltimore traveled to San Francisco and lost 25-20. Outside of Steve Smith, the offense struggled in that game. Justin Forsett ran for 62 yards, but take away his one run for 22 yards and he only averaged 2.3 yards per game on his 16 other carries. That’s not going to cut it against the Cardinals’ run D that just held Le’Veon Bell to 88 yards on just 24 carries. Granted, the Cardinals lost to the Steelers and were beaten by their 3rd string QB. The Cardinals outplayed the Steelers in the first half, but only led 10-3 at the break. Carson Palmer was picking apart the Steelers’ secondary, but they couldn’t find a way into the end zone. Palmer was even picked off in the end zone while his team was trailing 18-13 with 2:20 left in the game. In the end, the Steelers sealed the game when Landry Jones and Martavis Bryant connected on an 88 yard TD. I’m expecting the Cardinals to redeem themselves this week and expect that Carson Palmer and John Brown will come through with another big game this week. But this time the result will be different for Arizona with the Cardinals finding a way to put 6 points on the board more than just once. With Baltimore on the back end of yet another West Coast back-to-back road trip, this is a really good week to take the Cardinals.
Next 3 Games:
Baltimore: vs. San Diego, BYE, vs. Jacksonville
Arizona: @ Cleveland, BYE, @ Seattle
St. Louis (vs. Cleveland) – We all know about the Rams’ offensive issues early on this season, especially throwing the football. But now that Todd Gurley is healthy, he has performed extremely well and teams will have to start planning their defensive game plan around him. Gurley is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and in his two full games he has rushed for 146 and 159 yards, respectively. The Browns allow 5.0 yards per rush and 149.8 rushing yards per game which means the Rams are going to feed Gurley the ball and ram it down the Browns’ throats all game. In order for Cleveland to be successful in this game, they’ll have to throw the ball. But the biggest issue I see is that the Rams’ defense, which has 19 sacks on the season, will dominate the Browns’ offensive line, which has allowed 22 sacks on the season. If Josh McCown can get the ball to Travis Benjamin and Gary Barnidge, they should be able to keep the score close, just as they did against the Broncos last week. But I like the Rams this week coming off a bye and having a little extra time to prepare for Cleveland.
Next 3 Games:
Cleveland: vs. Arizona, @ Cincinnati, @ Pittsburgh
St. Louis: vs. San Francisco, @ Minnesota, vs. Chicago
San Diego (vs. Oakland) – Phillip Rivers continued to put up spectacular numbers in Week 6, this time against the Green Bay Packers. Rivers threw for 503 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he and his teammates were unable to convert the most crucial touchdown at the end of the game on the 2 yard line. Part of that was due to the fact that their struggles continued with running the football and it even led to the benching of Melvin Gordon. Gordon may even lose his starting spot to Branden Oliver, but you should still expect Gordon to split the carries. Don’t expect the Chargers to all of sudden turn it on in that aspect of the game though, at least not this week against the Raiders who have done a very good job against the run, allowing just 3.6 yards per carry and a total of 3 rushing touchdowns on the season. You can expect Rivers to pick apart the Raiders secondary. Keenan Allen suffered a minor hip sprain, but he’s expected to suit up this weekend. As long as he’s good to go, Allen should be in line for another big game. Oakland’s game plan should focus on pounding the ball on the ground with Latavius Murray because the Chargers aren’t very good at stopping the run and have allowed opponents to rush for 5.4 yards per carry and 132.5 yards per game. If they do that, it should open up the passing game for Derek Carr and he should be able to connect with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. The Raiders are coming off a bye, but I don’t think that extra time for preparation will benefit them the way it has for other teams so far this season. I believe the Chargers bounce back after suffering that tough loss against the Packers and come out firing on all cylinders on offense and may light up the scoreboard.
Next 3 Games:
Oakland: vs. NY Jets, @ Pittsburgh, vs. Minnesota
San Diego: @ Baltimore, vs. Chicago, BYE
Pittsburgh (@ Kansas City) – Shockingly, the Steelers have found a way to a 4-2 record even though they have been without Ben Roethlisberger since he was injured against the Rams in Week 3. The Steelers have gone on to win two straight games despite having to start Michael Vick who has just been awful. There is talk that Roethlisberger could return this week and no one player will be happier than Antonio Brown. In games with Big Ben, Antonio Brown has caught 29 passes for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns. Without Ben, he has 11 catches for 111 yards and 0 touchdowns. This would be the ideal week for Ben to return because Kansas City’s defense has allowed an average of 277 passing yards per game and has given up 14 passing touchdowns on the season. Kansas City has done much better against the run and even held Adrian Peterson to just 60 yards on 26 carries in Week 6. Although I do think Jeremy Maclin could be in line for a nice game, I think Kansas City will continue to struggle to put points on the board. They struggled in Week 5 to move the ball after Jamaal Charles went down and ended up losing to the Bears 18-17, and they tallied just 57 yards on the ground last week against the Vikings, who had allowed an average of 5.0 rushing yards per carry heading into that game. As long as Roethlisberger returns this week, I really like the Steelers to win this game. And right now, their ranking reflects Roethlisberger starting this game.
Next 3 Games:
Pittsburgh: vs. Cincinnati, vs. Oakland, vs. Cleveland
Kansas City: vs. Detroit, BYE, @ Denver
Seattle (@ San Francisco) – For the previous three years this game would have been the marquee matchup of the week and arguably the most-hyped game of the year. But this Thursday night, this Seahawks/49ers game has lost some of its luster due to the fact that the 49ers are not the same team this year and that the Seahawks have struggled out of the gate and find themselves in a hole at 2-4. The Seattle defense has been a bit of a letdown, especially late in the game which has seen them blow the lead in the 4th quarter in all four of their losses. San Francisco’s defense has played decently over the last two weeks, but they are still susceptible to poor play that leaves them out on the field and giving up long drives. Although they haven’t a recorded a sack in the last two games, the 49ers’ pass rush has been pretty good and they’ve applied pressure on the opposing quarterbacks, but they’ll need to find a way to actually get to Russell Wilson this week. I expect Russell Wilson to be running outside of the pocket throughout this game, and if given enough time, he will hook up with Jimmy Graham often in this game. As for the 49ers’ offense, Colin Kaepernick improved his play for a second straight week, but keep in mind it came at the expense of two mediocre defenses. Geep Chryst has finally opened up the passing game and has allowed Kaepernick to take shots down the field. I just don’t think they’ll have the same kind of success with the deep ball this week against the Seahawks’ defense. San Francisco may be able to keep it close for most of the game, but ultimately I believe this game will come down to the better defense. Additionally, the 49ers have lost 3 straight games against the Seahawks and 5 out of their last 6. I think Seattle extends their winning streak against San Francisco to 4 on Thursday night.
Next 3 Games:
Seattle: @ Dallas, BYE, vs. Arizona
San Francisco: @ St. Louis, vs. Atlanta, BYE
Atlanta (@ Tennessee) – The Falcons suffered their first loss of the season in Week 5, and it was a game I warned you to be cautious about. Prior to this game, 4 of their 5 wins had been nail biters in which the Falcons had struggled during long stretches of those games. Devonta Freeman continued his MVP-type season in Week 6, tallying 156 total yards (100 rushing, 56 receiving). The Falcons will continue to game plan around Freeman against the Titans who have allowed 4.7 rushing yards per attempt on the season. Although Tennessee only allows 184 passing yards per game, that number will definitely go up after this week because I expect Julio Jones to be close to 100% healthy with the extra days of rest. The Falcons will have to do a better job of protecting Matt Ryan in this game than they did against the Saints. As long as Freeman continues to run the ball well and Matt Ryan has enough time in the pocket to find his receivers, I think Atlanta bounces back with a win. Marcus Mariota isn’t expected to play in this game, leaving it up to Zach Mettenberger to take over his duties this week. If and when it is confirmed that Mariota will not play, you could bump Atlanta up a spot or two.
Next 3 Games:
Atlanta: vs. Tampa Bay, @ San Francisco, BYE
Tennessee: @ Houston, @ New Orleans, vs. Carolina
New England (vs. NY Jets) – The two top teams in the AFC East square off this week at Gillette Stadium in what should be an interesting matchup between arguably the best offense (Patriots) and arguably the best defense (Jets). The Patriots have opened up as 9.5 point favorites, but I am nervous that they win this game as easily as some believe. The Jets have run the ball well behind Chris Ivory this season and that will be their game plan this weekend. Just run, run, run. But when they need to pass the ball, the Jets offensive line is going to have to protect Ryan Fitzpatrick and in turn, Fitzpatrick needs to protect the football and end his consecutive game interception streak at 5 games. As we all know, the Patriots are on a mission this season. I thought they were going to beat the Colts handily last week, but they allowed the Colts to stick around and remain within striking distance. I have a feeling that the same will happen this week, although I do believe the Patriots do come out as the winner. The Jets have also lost 4 straight games in New England and have lost 7 of their last 8 against the Patriots. They just have their number and I believe the Patriots will end up beating the Jets once again.
Next 3 Games:
NY Jets: @ Oakland, vs. Jacksonville, vs. Buffalo
New England: vs. Miami, vs. Washington, @ NY Giants
Miami (vs. Houston) – The Dolphins looked like a completely different team on Sunday against the Titans under new head coach Dan Campbell. Lamar Miller was finally able to run the ball the way we expected him to at the start of the season (19 carries, 113 yards, 1 touchdown). Ryan Tannehill completed 76% of his passes and threw for 266 yards and 2 touchdowns, and the Miami defense turned it on sacking Marcus Mariota 5 times and picking him off on 2 occasions. Reports say that the Dolphins players are buying into Dan Campbell, but will that continue to translate into wins? Also, do you chalk this win up to the fact that they played against the Titans after coming off their bye? I think you can attribute it to both, but I believe this could possibly be the turning point for the Dolphins. They are a little fortunate to go up against the Texans at home this week. Although Houston is coming off a win of their own against the Jaguars, they did allow Blake Bortles to pass for 331 yards and 3 touchdowns. If Tannehill can take advantage of the Houston secondary, the Dolphins should capitalize and win their second straight game.
Next 3 Games:
Houston: vs. Tennessee, BYE, @ Cincinnati
Miami: @ New England, @ Buffalo, @ Philadelphia
Carolina (vs. Philadelphia) – Carolina returns home and remains undefeated after coming away with an impressive win against the Seahawks in Seattle. This is also the first game of a 3 game home stand for Carolina and they face a Philadelphia team that has not consistently played well on the offensive side of the ball this season. It looks as though the Eagles have finally found a way to use DeMarco Murray effectively, but keep in mind he’s going up against the Panthers’ defense this week as opposed to the Saints or Giants. The inconsistency of Sam Bradford was on display against the Giants on Monday night as he threw three interceptions, although only 2 of those should really be attributed to him. But those two particular picks were awful. Bradford has thrown a total of 5 interceptions in the last two games which makes me believe Josh Norman is looking forward to this game and adding to interception total. Luke Keuchly returned to the lineup this past weekend and it looked like he didn’t miss a beat, recording 14 total tackles. With how sloppy the Eagles have played offensively and how well the Panthers have played defensively, I think this is going to be too tough of a game for the Eagles to win on the road.
Next 3 Games:
Carolina: vs. Indianapolis, vs. Green Bay, @ Tennessee
Philadelphia: BYE, @ Dallas, vs. Miami
Indianapolis (vs. New Orleans) – Although the Colts have not played particularly well, they have to be relieved that they are 3-3 on the season and sitting atop the AFC North Division. It helps that the rest of the division is pretty awful, but the Colts don’t have to apologize for that. As we’ve all heard, the Colts lost to the Patriots in Week 6 and the Colts ran one of the worst fakes, ever. I mean ‘ever’ as in the history of the league. Honestly, what were they thinking? Even so, that one play isn’t the sole reason they lost that game to the Patriots. It contributed to it, but it wasn’t the only reason. The Colts were unable to sustain drives on a number of occasions and their offense remained inconsistent. The Colts need to start playing better offensively, especially if they still have aspirations to be Super Bowl contenders. The good news is that they host the Saints this week, and maybe this game could jump start this team. The Saints are 0-3 on the road this season and Drew Brees has been a different player on the road than he has been at home. This is a game I expect the Colts to win, but I’ve been fooled by them already this season. Additionally, this stat provided by Peter King has me remaining cautious with taking the Indianapolis this week in Survivor Pools; Colts in the Pagano/Luck Era versus the AFC South: 19-2. Colts in the Pagano/Luck Era versus all other teams: 20-19.
Next 3 Games:
New Orleans: vs. NY Giants, vs. Tennessee, @ Washington
Indianapolis: @ Carolina, vs. Denver, BYE
Minnesota (@ Detroit) – The Lions secured their first win of the season last weekend against the Chicago Bears in overtime. Mathew Stafford and Calvin Johnson finally clicked for the first time this season with Stafford throwing for 405 yards and 166 of those yards were to Megatron. For a second straight week Detroit’s defense did play well and they couldn’t stop the Bears from moving the ball and scoring. In the last two weeks, the Lions have allowed an average of 38 points per game. Minnesota is coming off a bye and currently have the 6th and final playoff spot. It might be a little premature to talk about the playoffs this early, but in reality, this is an important game for the Vikings. The Vikings and Lions played one another in Minnesota in Week 2 and the Vikings came away with a 26-16 win. In that game, Adrian Peterson ran for 134 yards on 29 carries. I don’t think their game plan is going to change this week as AP will be responsible for carrying the Vikings on his back. The Lions have also allowed 10 rushing touchdowns on the season, tied for dead last with the Falcons, and with AP having 5 rushes of 20+ yards on the season, I’m expecting him to break one for a long touchdown in this game. But I’m a little hesitant to lock the Vikings in as strong or decent play this week because the Lions have won 4 out of their last 5 at home against the Vikings.
Next 3 Games:
Minnesota: @ Chicago, vs. St. Louis, @ Oakland
Detroit: @ Kansas City, BYE, @ Green Bay
NY Giants (vs. Dallas) – Take away their opening drive against the Eagles and the Giants did not play well at all on Monday night and were extremely sloppy. Eli Manning was sacked 3 times and the Giants struggled to get the offense into any kind of rhythm. The Cowboys defense is just about at full strength with Greg Hardy, Sean Lee and Rolando McClain ready to roll after their bye week. The Cowboys are also going to start Matt Cassel at QB this week and there is a chance that Cassel could be throwing to Dez Bryant in this game. Dez has killed the Giants in the past, but he also had Tony Romo as his QB, so this could be interesting to see how well he clicks with Cassel. The Giants have lost 5 straight games against the Cowboys including 3 consecutive losses at home. I think that gets snapped this week, but it’s not a game I’d bank my Survivor Pool on this week.
Next 3 Games:
Dallas: vs. Seattle, vs. Philadelphia, @ Tampa Bay
NY Giants: @ New Orleans, @ Tampa Bay, vs. New England
Jacksonville (vs. Buffalo) – Things are quickly falling apart in Buffalo. Injuries have piled up (Sammy Watkins is the latest to get hurt again and will probably be out against the Jaguars) and the defense hasn’t played as well as people expected which has also led to Mario Williams questioning his defensive role. Now the Bills and Jags get to travel to London, which could be a positive thing for the Bills who have lost 3 straight games at home. For the Jaguars, Blake Bortles has played well overall, but he threw another pick-six last week against the Texans. With weapons such as Julius Thomas, Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson, Bortles could be in for another good game this week, he just has to cut down on the mistakes. With both of the teams struggling at the moment, I’d recommend avoiding this game this week.
Next 3 Games:
Jacksonville: BYE, @ NY Jets, @ Baltimore
Buffalo: BYE, vs. Miami, @ NY Jets
Tampa Bay (@ Washington) – It’s not a secret that Washington is a mess offensively. Kirk Cousins has now thrown 2 more interceptions than touchdowns for the 4th time in just 6 games this season, their best runner Matt Jones sat out last week with a toe injury and it looks as though DeSean Jackson will miss his sixth straight game this week. I don’t trust Alfred Morris as a runner if he’s expected to get the bulk of carries. Morris looked great in Week 1 against the Dolphins, but since then, he has failed to rush for more than 62 yards in any given week and has a total of 176 rushing yards while averaging just 2.9 yards per carry since Week 2. On top of that, he’s yet to run for a touchdown. On the defensive side of the ball, Washington’s defense has been completely embarrassed by Devonta Freeman and Chris Ivory over the last two weeks. In the last two games, Freeman and Ivory have run for 153 and 146 yards, respectively, and they both averaged 6.3 yards per carry. Running the football has been the Buccaneers’ strength of late. Over his last 2 games, Doug Martin has averaged 114.5 yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, they can’t be trusted in the passing game. They need to finally get Mike Evans going, but due to the fact that Jameis Winston can’t be trusted yet, I am not able to feel confident enough to take the Bucs this week. My recommendation is to avoid both teams this week.
Next 3 Games:
Tampa Bay: @ Atlanta, vs. NY Giants, vs. Dallas
Washington: BYE, @ New England, vs. New Orleans
Week 7 Survivor Pool Rankings:
1. Arizona Cardinals
2. St. Louis Rams
3. San Diego Chargers
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Seattle Seahawks
6. Atlanta Falcons
7. New England Patriots
8. Miami Dolphins
9. Carolina Panthers
10. Indianapolis Colts
11. Minnesota Vikings
12. New York Giants
13. Jacksonville Jaguars
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers