Week 7 of the NFL season is loaded with intriguing match-ups and many of the teams who came out of the gate slowly are hoping to get back on the right track before things get out of hand.
Fresh off of big wins, Cincinnati and Detroit face off at 1 p.m. Eastern time looking to stay on top of their respective divisions. Last week, Cincinnati needed overtime to outlast the Bills (2-4) in Buffalo. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton hopes to build off of a strong offensive performance where he threw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns, but could not put enough points on the board to finish Buffalo off in regulation time.
Detroit beat up on Cleveland in the second half after trailing by 10 points at halftime, winning 31-17 at First Energy Stadium. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was a force in the second half, and running back Reggie Bush was dynamic as ever, racking up 135 total yards and a touchdown.
The player to watch is Detroit’s standout wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who missed Week 5 and was limited in last week’s contest, catching only 3 balls for 25 yards. Coach Jim Schwartz was just happy to have Calvin on the field but cautioned Macomb Daily reporters on his effectiveness.
“It’s too soon to really know if it’s any worse or any better than it’s been,” Schwartz said. “I said it was encouraging that he was able to get on the field even though he didn't make a lot of plays.” If Calvin remains a non-factor, the Bengals defense will key in on play-maker Bush and Detroit will struggle to create big plays.
You can bet on big plays when the Cowboys (3-3) travel to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia to face the explosive Eagles (3-3) at 4 p.m. Eastern time. This battle of division rivals will determine a new leader in an NFC East that has lacked quality and disappointed football fans.
The Cowboys and Eagles are not concerned with meeting fan expectations though, as both teams know that each divisional game matters in the always-competitive NFC East. The Cowboys may be without All-Pro defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who has been a monster for their defense and has yet to miss a game in his career, 134 out of his last 134.
The Cowboys have been winning games with their offense thus far, scoring almost 33 points a game on average, thanks to stellar play from quarterback Tony Romo and second-year standout wide receiver Dez Bryant.
The Eagles will be without Michael Vick again on Sunday, starting Nick Foles who will be the difference-maker for the offense. Vick had plenty of praise for his friend Foles when asked about his abilities.
"What people don't know is Nick is very athletic. You'll start to see it as time goes on, but I've always admired the things that he can do,” Vick told USA Today. Foles had a strong showing last week, throwing for just under 300 yards and three touchdowns while also running for one. If Foles is on his game, expect a shootout in Philadelphia.
Peyton Manning has been in a few shootouts during his time in Indianapolis, where he and the Denver Broncos travel to Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time to face the AFC South-leading Colts. The Broncos have not slowed down a bit this season, averaging 44 points a game and Manning himself has thrown for 2,179 yards and 22 touchdowns, both NFL bests.
If game planning for Denver’s potent offense is not already enough for Colts coaches, the Broncos welcome back Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller, who tallied 18.5 sacks in 2012 and will be looking to make a big impression in 2013 coming off a six game suspension.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck must continue to be impressive against the Broncos and scoring on almost every drive will be a must, but it will be the Indy defense that has to show up and get a few stops to keep their team in the game.
The story revolving around this game is the comments stemming from Colts owner Jim Irsay.
Irsay, an outspoken owner normally, took it to the next level as he appeared to criticize Manning for his inability to win the “big” game.
"You make the playoffs 11 times, and you're out in the first round seven out of 11 times," Irsay told USA Today. "You love to have the Star Wars numbers from Peyton and Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie (Wayne). Mostly, you love this ring."
Even if Irsay has a point, poking the bear may not be the wise thing to do. If Manning comes to town with a chip on his shoulder, this game could get out of hand fast.
In other NFL Week 7 action, the Baltimore Ravens (3-3) and Houston Texans (2-4) face difficult road tests to remain in the hunt for their divisions, while the New England Patriots (5-1) fresh off their home victory over the New Orleans Saints (5-1) travel to the Meadowlands to take on the surprising New York Jets (3-3) in a rivalry game. The over-achieving Cleveland Browns (3-3) look to jump to the top of the division with a win over the Green Bay Packers (3-2) who will be without two of their three offensive weapons.