NFL Week 7 Preview: Quarterback? More Like Unwelcome Back
Several important intra-conference games highlight the NFL schedule this week, including two games featuring quarterbacks who will return to face their former teams. Here’s a preview of Week 7:
Thursday, October 20
The Packers’ Backfield Is a Mess
Chicago at Green Bay | Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.; 8:25 p.m. (ET) on CBS
How is everything going for the Packers? Well, quarterback Aaron Rodgers can’t throw accurately and running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks are injured. Other than that … Already two games behind the Vikings in the NFC Central race, Green Bay (3–2) is struggling to find consistency on offense and it’s unquestionably the fault of the backfield.
The Pack traded a conditional draft pick to the Chiefs for running back Knile Davis earlier this week. They hope Davis will give them someone to run the ball against Chicago (1–5) on Thursday in case Lacy (ankle) can’t go. Starks (knee surgery) definitely won’t. Is Jim Taylor available?
Of course, the running game is just a decoy to help Rodgers do what he does best: pass. It’s just that he hasn’t been doing that very well in 2016. He's ranked 26th in the league in completion percentage (60.2), missing several open receivers and causing Packers drives to stall when they could have kept the team’s defense off the field.
Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer has shown staying power since stepping in for the injured Jay Cutler. If he’s given time, he could put enough points on the board to make this one very close.
Sunday, October 23
Welcome Back to Philly, Sam!
Minnesota at Philadelphia | Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Perhaps the only active player or coach Eagles fans would like to see more this week than Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford is Niners’ head coach Chip Kelly. However, San Francisco isn’t coming to Philly; undefeated Minnesota (5–0), led by a flawless Bradford and the NFL’s second-best defense, is.
Slingin’ Sam has yet to commit a turnover since being traded from Philadelphia (3–2) to the Vikings just before the start of the regular season. He committed 20 in 14 games for the Eagles last year. The trade, made after Vikes QB Teddy Bridgewater sustained a season-ending knee injury, has worked out very well for both teams; it cleared the way for rookie Carson Wentz to lead the Philadelphia offense, something Bradford didn’t do very well in 2015.
The Eagles have stumbled in close losses to the Lions and Redskins the past two weeks. The Philly offensive line must protect Wentz against the NFC sack leaders (19) and hope that their defense can return to the form that fueled the team’s 3–0 start. That starts with putting pressure on Bradford, something their fans will love doing all day.
Landry Jones vs. the Pats? Ugh.
New England at Pittsburgh | Heinz Field, Pittsburgh; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on Fox
This Sunday’s Patriots-Steelers game should have been a potential classic between AFC title contenders. However, Pittsburgh (4–2) will be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who hurt his knee in last Sunday’s loss to Miami. Backup Landry Jones will spell Roethlisberger, which is difficult to do on the field or in a written preview.
Expect the Steelers to use running back Le'Veon Bell often and try to control the clock against New England (5–1), so that Pats’ quarterback Tom Brady can’t have his way with Pittsburgh’s 31st-ranked defense. If Jones has to air the ball out, the Steelers will certainly be at a disadvantage.
The Seahawks-Cardinals Game Is Huge
Seattle at Arizona | U of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC
Seahawks-Cardinals has blossomed into one of the NFL’s best rivalries. The first installment of this year’s NFC West war happens in primetime on Sunday. Blessed with the NFL’s best defense and a wizard-like quarterback who finds a way to win games even when he plays terribly, Seattle (4–1) has already taken a commanding 1.5-game lead in the division. Arizona (3–3) has underperformed this season thanks to injuries to — and spotty play by — quarterback Carson Palmer. That could mean another multi-turnover day in a big game, something Cards fans are getting used to.
If the Seahawks can win Sunday, they can potentially go three games up in the loss column in the NFC West near the halfway point of the season, almost an insurmountable lead.
Monday, October 24
Wanted: Brock Osweiler
Houston at Denver | Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN
One wouldn’t think a quarterback as mediocre as Brock Osweiler could create animosity with any fan base. Think again. Rabid Broncos fans — and their nouveau Orange Crush defense — are still pretty miffed by Osweiler’s spurning the reigning Super Bowl champions for a big contract with the Texans.
Denver (4–2) has moved on to the mediocrity of Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch under center, leading to two consecutive losses after a 4–0 start. They are happy to see old pal Osweiler back, because, well, they want to crush him into a pile of lanky bones.
The World’s Tallest Quarterback has "led" Houston (4–2) to first-place in the AFC South; he’s the NFL’s 29th-ranked passer, just ahead of Blaine Gabbert of the Niners and Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Jets — both of whom have been replaced. Maybe Texans fans should be rooting for Von Miller to clobber Osweiler, too.
Jokes aside, this is a key game between two AFC division leaders with great defenses and ordinary quarterbacks. Whichever team’s signal-caller makes the fewest mistakes should win.
Sunday, October 23
N.Y. Giants at Los Angeles | Twickenham Stadium, London, England; 9:30 a.m. (ET) on NFL
New Orleans at Kansas City | Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Indianapolis at Tennessee | Nissan Stadium, Nashville; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Cleveland at Cincinnati | Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Washington at Detroit | Ford Field, Detroit; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Oakland at Jacksonville | EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Buffalo at Miami | Hard Rock Stadium, Miami; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Baltimore at N.Y. Jets | MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Tampa Bay at San Francisco | Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.; 4:05 p.m. (ET) on Fox
San Diego at Atlanta | Georgia Dome, Atlanta; 4:05 p.m. (ET) on Fox