NFL 2011 Season – Week Seven Preview
As the 2011 NFL season creeps closer to its halfway point, at least four teams will make starting quarterback changes in time for the games of week seven. Meanwhile, other teams may soon consider coaching changes, since eight teams have one victory or less.
NFL schedule for Sun. Oct. 23:
San Diego Chargers at N.Y. Jets – 1:00 PM
New York seeks to build on its win over Miami on Monday night, while San Diego comes off a bye week in hopes of extending its three-game winning streak. Quarterback Mark Sanchez has been inconsistent for the Jets (3-3), but a leaky offensive line has not helped. The Jets hope to get help from the running game, as the Chargers (4-1) have the second-best pass defense in the league, allowing just 179.6 passing yards per game. On offense, San Diego will use running back Ryan Mathews frequently, so quarterback Philip Rivers won't have to throw often against excellent Jets cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Rivers will benefit if tight end Antonio Gates can return after missing three games due to injury. The Jets need to put pressure on Rivers, just like they did to Miami's Matt Moore, whom they sacked four times on Monday.
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 1:00 PM
The game is at Wembley Stadium in London, England. It's the second time Tampa Bay (4-2) has played a regular season game in London, with the last taking place in 2009. Last week, Chicago (3-3) used Devin Hester's speed to score twice and dominate Minnesota, but they may have been more satisfied that quarterback Jay Cutler was protected well. He's still been sacked 19 times, the second-most in the league. Tampa Bay seeks to add to that total and contain Hester and running back Matt Forte, who is fifth in the NFC in rushing yards per game (87.8). If the Buccaneers can create four turnovers, like they did against the Saints last week, they can make it a long trip for the Bears. Buccaneers running back LeGarrette Blount is doubtful with a knee injury. Earnest Graham will carry the load in his place.
Washington Redskins at Carolina Panthers – 1:00 PM
John Beck steps in at quarterback to take over for Rex Grossman, whose four interceptions sabotaged Washington's offense last week. The Redskins (3-2) must take advantage of a Carolina run defense that allows 140.3 yards per game, second-worst in the entire NFL. Expect Ryan Torain to get many carries against the Panthers (1-5), as Beck gets comfortable with the offense. Carolina rookie quarterback Cam Newton must steer clear of dynamic Redskins rookie linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who will look to keep Newton from making plays. Tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen could be key for the Panthers. If they can keep the linebackers and safeties busy in coverage, Newton can exploit any defense.
Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions – 1:00 PM
Detroit (5-1) has another tough matchup just a week after suffering its first loss in 2011. The Lions must protect quarterback Matthew Stafford from the Atlanta pass rush and find a way to generate enough of a running game to keep the defense from playing pass-only sets. If running back Jahvid Best, who left the loss to San Francisco with concussion-like symptoms, doesn't play, the Falcons (3-3) may blitz Stafford even more often. If Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has time to throw, he can take advantage of the Lions secondary with receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones. Falcons running back Michael Turner is primed for a big day, too, after seeing Frank Gore run for 141 yards against the Lions last week.
Seattle Seahawks at Cleveland Browns– 1:00 PM
Seattle (2-3) hopes quarterback Tarvaris Jackson can return from a pectoral strain. If Jackson can't go, Charlie Whitehurst will start. Regardless of the starting quarterback, the Seahawks will need running back Marshawn Lynch to produce yards and points against a Cleveland rushing defense that is 27th in the NFL. The Browns (2-3) may not get many yards out of running backs Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty because the Seattle run defense gives up just 97.8 yards per game. Browns quarterback Colt McCoy will have time to throw, since the Seahawks have just eight sacks. If McCoy can improve his accuracy, he can use the pass to set up the Cleveland running game.
Denver Broncos at Miami Dolphins– 1:00 PM
Miami (0-5) is still winless, while Denver (1-4) is switching quarterbacks -- Tim Tebow for Kyle Orton -- coming off a loss and a bye week. Tebow's mobility and playmaking skills may expose a Dolphins pass defense that allows 284 yards per game, 29th in the league. Miami quarterback Matt Moore will start just his second game of the season. After suffering four sacks, several dropped passes and two interceptions against the Jets on Monday, Moore will face a fast and potentially devastating Broncos pass rush, led by rookie linebacker Von Miller and defensive end Elvis Dumervil. Worse, the Denver secondary is filled with veteran players who feast on inexperience. Dolphins running backs Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas are ailing, but they must help Moore for Miami to have a chance to win.
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans – 1:00 PM
Houston (3-3) must do a better job of protecting quarterback Matt Schaub. He's been sacked seven times in the past two weeks, both Texans losses. Without injured wide receiver Andre Johnson, who will also miss this week's game with a hamstring injury, Houston hopes that running back Arian Foster can help roll up yardage. Tennessee (3-2) gives up only 18.8 points per game, so scoring could be a struggle. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, the NFL's sixth-rated passer, has been solid for the Titans. He'll see a lot of pressure from a Texans defense that has 17 sacks, tied for third-most in the NFL. Houston must add to that total without star linebacker Mario WIlliams, who is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Titans running back Chris Johnson is always a threat to take over a game. He has 327 yards in his past two games against Houston.
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders– 4:05 PM
New acquisition Carson Palmer, who will have only practiced three times this season, may start at quarterback for Oakland (4-2), which lost Jason Campbell to a broken collarbone last week. The Palmer trade speaks volumes about how little faith the Raiders have in backup Kyle Boller, who will start if Palmer doesn't. It also suggests that Oakland will run the football with NFL rushing leader Darren McFadden, regardless of its quarterback choice. Kansas City (2-3) knows all about injuries. The Chiefs lost running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Tony Moeaki for the season weeks ago. They have yet to score a rushing touchdown. Kansas City running backs Thomas Jones and Jackie Battle must have some impact on the game, otherwise the Raiders' defense, which has 16 sacks, will chase Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel all day long.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Arizona Cardinals– 4:05 PM
Pittsburgh (4-2) is led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who should compile great numbers against Arizona's vulnerable secondary. If the Steelers can get another big day from running back Rashard Mendenhall, who had 146 yards rushing against Jacksonville last week, they should score a lot of points. The Cardinals (1-4) come off a bye week hoping that running back Beanie Wells, tied for third in the NFL with 95.3 rushing yards per game, can help quarterback Kevin Kolb control the ball, and the clock, by converting third downs. Arizona faces a Pittsburgh defense that gives up the least yards per game in the NFL (270.5).
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings – 4:15 PM
Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder gets quite the challenge in his first career start for Minnesota (1-5) when he faces the unbeaten, defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers (6-0). Ponder, who takes over for the ineffective and recently immobile Donovan McNabb, will have running back Adrian Peterson on his side. He'll also throw against a Packers secondary that gives up nearly 300 passing yards per game, second-worst in the NFL. However, the Green Bay defense will show many different looks to Ponder and force him to beat them. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose 122.5 quarterback rating leads the NFL, is having an MVP-like year. He has 17 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Rodgers should continue to shine, unless Minnesota can pressure him, force turnovers and keep the ball out of his hands.
St. Louis Rams at Dallas Cowboys – 4:15 PM
Dallas looks to become the latest team to victimize the St. Louis secondary, with receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin looking to have big games. However, quarterback Tony Romo must stay away from the game-changing turnovers that have too often marred his play for the Cowboys (2-3). Dallas is much more talented than the Rams (0-5), so they should not allow St. Louis to stay in the game too long. Running back Steven Jackson can be a force for the Rams. However, with the Cowboys rushing defense allowing just 69.6 yards per game, the best in the NFL, Jackson may not have much impact this week. St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford has been sacked an NFL-leading 21 times. Dallas' DeMarcus Ware looks to add to that total.
Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints – 8:20 PM
New Orleans (4-2) averages 29.5 points per game, and Indianapolis (0-6) allows 27.2 points per game, 29th in the league. The Saints need only to limit turnovers and allow quarterback Drew Brees to find his receivers to dominate the winless Colts. A sustained running game from backs Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram would help New Orleans take pressure off Brees and tight end Jimmy Graham, who last week tied an NFL record for tight ends with four consecutive 100-yard receiving games. The Colts will rely on quarterback Curtis Painter, since running back Joseph Addai is questionable with a hamstring injury. If Painter can sustain drives and throw more touchdowns to Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis may be able to keep pace with the Saints.
Mon. Oct. 24
Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars – 8:30 PM
Baltimore (4-1) figures to attack Jacksonville rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert with everyone they have on defense. The Jaguars (1-5) allowed the Steelers to sack Gabbert five times and register many other hits during last week's loss. The Ravens possess even more speed than the Steelers on defense. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew, tied for third in the NFL with 95.3 rushing yards per game, is the only threat in Jacksonville's offense. To compete, the Jaguars defense must create problems for Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, who wins games but is rarely spectacular when doing so. Flacco has turnovers, which Jacksonville will need to win.
On Bye: Buffalo, Cincinnati, New England, N.Y. Giants, Philadelphia, San Francisco