Rex Ryan is way smarter than we give him credit for, you know that?
We thought Rex was on his way out in Buffalo at the beginning of this season, and the Bills reflected that with two straight losses. Since making a change at the offensive coordinator spot, and promoting Anthony Lynn to that position, the Bills have ripped off four straight wins. It’s not just the offense, either: the defense has held opponents to 19 points or fewer in the last four games. Their margin of victory in these games has been 11 points or higher. Whatever the right mix of players and talent is, Rex seems to have found it. He is a bold, blustery, and brusque guy, and rubs many people the wrong way. But how can you not give him credit for making moves that have returned LeSean McCoy to his 2013 and 2014 form, and has quarterback Tyrod Taylor playing some of his best football? The Bills seem to be legitimate, and barring a late-season meltdown, are definite contenders for an AFC Wild Card slot, and may even win the AFC East and force the Patriots into a Wild Card.
The Jaguars’ defense is the story locally, and they seem to be keeping games close now that they have gelled (the Chargers game notwithstanding). The debate of whether the influx of talent or the change of defensive coordinator made a difference is moot to me; whatever happened, it seems to have finally worked, and the Jaguars have a respectable defense. If the offense finds its footing, and Bortles regains his confidence, watch out – the Jags will be a truly fearsome team.
WEEK 7 TOP FIVE: Vikings, Cowboys, Falcons, Patriots, Bills
On to the Game Summaries!
BEARS at PACKERS – Earlier this summer, I am sure the NFL was patting themselves on the back for this matchup. The Bears and the Packers, on a weeknight, should be a ratings hit. But the Bears are just awful this year, and while the Packers have enough questions on their offense to maybe make this game interesting (including, apparently, “How quick can we integrate Knile Davis into our scheme?”), this is a good opportunity for Aaron Rodgers to have a rebound game after their loss to Dallas. I’m pretty sure Green Bay is looking for an opportunity to right the ship, and this is as good as any.
GIANTS at RAMS – Will anyone outside of New York and Los Angeles actually set their alarms for this game on Sunday morning? I daresay this game is less of a compelling matchup than the Colts and Jaguars were a couple of weeks ago. The Giants squeaked one out against the Ravens, and the Rams lost despite Case Keenum having a great day last week. I think the Giants will do their part and build a 2-game win “streak” this week.
SAINTS at CHIEFS – Last week the Saints barely won a shootout against the Panthers, who have a practically nonexistent defense. This week, they face a Chiefs defense that shut down the Raiders’ young offense last game, and a deceptively intelligent quarterback in Alex Smith. I think the Chiefs are in far better position to win this game, not the least of which being they will be at home. The Chiefs are getting hot.
VIKINGS at EAGLES – Hello, GAME OF THE WEEK. The return of Sam Bradford to the Team That Traded Him Away And Also Upgraded the QB Position will be a big story, but bigger will be the Tale of Two Defenses. Both of these defenses are talented and both continue to have something to prove. And their quarterbacks aren’t bad either; Wentz led the Eagles back from a large deficit to a near-win, and the “willing the team to win” that great QBs do more often than not will come to him in time. Sam Bradford has had the opportunity to shine and should continue to do so behind a line that, despite their injuries, gives him time to make plays. This is a hard game to call, but by virtue of the fact that their QB has more experience, I see the Vikings continuing their undefeated streak.
COLTS at TITANS – The Titans sit at .500 and have kind of lost the games they’re supposed to lose (to the Vikes, Raiders, and Texans), and won the games they’re supposed to win (against the Lions, Dolphins, and Browns). They face two division games in a row and these next two weeks will show if they should be taken seriously, or if they’re riding DeMarco Murray to victory. The Colts gave up a game they had in the bag this past Monday, and somehow let their opponent score 14 points in less than 3 minutes. I think the Colts have a chance to shore things up and try to right the ship. But if they give another game away, Pagano may be in trouble. I’ll call the win for the Colts.
BILLS at DOLPHINS – You and I both know that the Dolphins only won last week because Roethlisberger got hurt. But how about those Bills? They are running over people left and right. They are one game behind the Pats in the division and they have a four-game winning streak. Rex Ryan looks like a genius for making the change at OC, and LeSean McCoy looks like a star again. I think that they will continue the streak this week, and hand Miami a loss at home.
REDSKINS at LIONS – The Redskins are on a four-game win streak. They look good! I think they will be a tough match for the Lions, who have won their last two games – both of them at home. The Redskins have put up at least 23 points in four of the six games they’ve played so far, and I think they will have the firepower to go into Detroit and come home with a win.
BROWNS at BENGALS – Despite the fact that Vontaze Burfict may be a psychopath in pads, the Bengals should easily beat the Browns. There’s not much else to say, although I saw a theory the other day that, “the success of the Cavaliers and the Indians helps the Browns cover the fact they’re tanking this season.” I’m not sure how true that is, because they have had significant injuries – but they’ve also got a lot of draft picks this year and no doubt an eye on some top quarterbacks.
RAIDERS at JAGUARS – Talk about a measuring-stick game. Yes, the Chiefs picked apart the Raiders last week, but the Raiders are the most talented team the Jags have faced since week one against the Packers. A game that everyone in Jax wrote off as “easily winnable” is obviously not. But the Jaguars have a defense that has come together and gelled, and quite possibly three of the best cornerbacks in the league. The Jags’ offense, somehow, is still struggling, and a drive-ending interception at the beginning of their game against the Bears last week knocked the entire group of offensive players for a loop. However, they look good in no-huddle. The Chiefs’ defense gave the Jags a blueprint of what they need to do to stop that great, young Oakland offense. There is hope. Jack Del Rio’s return to Jacksonville as a head coach will be a great game. Close wins against the Titans, Ravens, and Chargers and last week’s loss to the Chiefs show the Raiders can be contained. Here’s hoping Everbank is loud and the Jaguars are ready – I’m calling it for the home team.
RAVENS at JETS – I don’t really know how to hype this game up. Brandon Marshall is the only good thing the Jets have going for them offensively, Ryan Fitzpatrick is making horrible decisions and may be pulled for Geno Smith, and their defense is not playing the way they were last year. The Ravens are looking okay, I suppose? But they are doing so with Breshaud Perriman and a bunch of former-star wideouts. I don’t see how they are 3-3 but you have to call what you see, so I think that here, in the battle of Teams That Don’t Look So Good, the Ravens win.
CHARGERS at FALCONS – The Falcons got robbed on that last-second no-call at Seattle. But, this is the NFL so they’ll just kick a rock and say sorry while averting their eyes, and in the meantime we’ll all keep buying merchandise and watching the games. If I am on the Falcons, I am hyped and ready to show the world that we are legit. The Falcons should and will win this game. They shouldn’t have a problem scoring a ton of points on the Chargers.
BUCS at 49ERS – Props to Colin Kaepernick. Not for taking a stand on whatever he is taking a stand on, but for somehow fitting all his poofy hair inside his helmet. That could not have been comfortable, you know? The Bucs are coming off a bye week with something to prove and I think that they are going to travel to San Francisco… uh, I mean, Santa Clara, on a mission to show they aren’t the dregs of the NFC South (that’s the Panthers) and get the win.
PATRIOTS at STEELERS – This game got a lot less interesting with Ben Roethlisberger out of the game. Landry Jones just isn’t the same quarterback and without a solid QB to run the Steelers’ offense, I just don’t think they’ll be able to get going, especially since the Patriots seem to be on a roll. I hope that the Steelers defense can keep this close, but I think the Patriots will win.
SEAHAWKS at CARDINALS – The Cardinals looked good against the Jets, but that doesn’t take much. However, If David Johnson keeps running the way he has been and Carson Palmer continues to be healthy enough to target those excellent wideouts, the Cardinals should win this. Atlanta showed the league that Seattle is vulnerable (they have been for a while), and the Seahawks won on a fluke no-call last week. The Cardinals’ defense seems to have found itself as well, and I think the Cardinals will take this one.
TEXANS at BRONCOS – The Broncos have lost to the offensively superior Falcons and to the… okay, I don’t really know what to call the Chargers, but they are not the best, and I think some combination of Trevor Siemian being a little rusty and Gary Kubiak not being present kind of did them in last Thursday. The Texans have injuries to most of their defensive back squad. Also, as we saw on national television this past Sunday evening (and so far this season, really), Brock Osweiler is pretty bad. So let’s call it for the Broncos.