Week 7 in the NFL kicked off Thursday night in Glendale as the Seattle Seahawks outlasted the Arizona Cardinals 34-22 to continue their NFC West dominance. Seattle was led by three touchdown passes from Russell Wilson, and Marshawn Lynch rumbled for 91 yards and a score. Their defense was also good, intercepting two passes off Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer and sacking him seven times. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said it was a good road win.
On Sunday the 0-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the 1-4 Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome. These are two teams that have struggled to start this season and have had to deal with a bounty of injuries and problems. Coming off their bye week, the Falcons will play their first game without star receiver Julio Jones, who is out for the season. The status of other starters – Roddy White, Steven Jackson, Sam Baker, Akeem Dent, and Sean Witherspoon – are all up in the air for Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Bucs have had to deal with an outbreak of MRSA, a staph infection that is resistant to many antibiotics; it caused offensive guard Carl Nicks to have surgery on his foot. The Bucs will look to move forward with rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, who threw for 273 yards and two touchdowns last week. Head coach Greg Schiano says the team needs to improve its turnover margin to get into the win column.
The 3-2 Miami Dolphins host the 2-4 Buffalo Bills Sunday afternoon. The Bills look to end a six-game road losing streak, and will look to dial up the pressure on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The Bills rank third in the NFL with 21 sacks this season; Mario Williams has been very effective, recording eight sacks so far. With a win the Dolphins will improve to their best start since 2003, but they’ll need to improve a mediocre running game and league-worst pass protection unit that is on pace to break their sacks allowed record by Week 9. Tannehill says the bye week should help them sort some things out.
The 3-3 San Diego Chargers come to town to face the 0-6 Jacksonville Jaguars. The Chargers look to climb above .500 for the first time this season following a big win against the AFC south leading Indianapolis Colts. Rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen has emerged as a top target for quarterback Phillip Rivers, hauling in 20 catches for 302 yards and a pair of scores in the last three weeks. The Jags will look to get into the win column for the first time this season with Chad Henne getting the start at quarterback. The Jags will be without wide receiver Cecil Shorts III, so Henne will lean on Justin Blackmon again, who has 326 yards in the two games since his return from suspension.
Peyton Manning will return to Indianapolis this weekend, the city where he spent the first 14 seasons of his career and won four MVP trophies and a Super Bowl. The 6-0 Denver Broncos will face the 4-2 Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday night. The Broncos look to rebound from their worst offensive output of the season, even though they still managed to put up 35 points. The defense will receive a boost with the return of All-Pro linebacker Von Miller from suspension for violating the league’s drug abuse policy. The Colts will look to bounce back from a disappointing loss in San Diego last week where they struggled mightily on third down. The Colts are 9-2 at home under head coach Chuck Pagano and Manning also heaped praise on Colts second-year quarterback Andrew Luck and says the Broncos defense will face a challenge.
Other key match ups around the league:
The 4-2 Detroit Lions host the 4-2 Cincinnati Bengals, and Lions receiver Calvin Johnson has reportedly looked better in practice after battling a knee injury the past few weeks.
In an AFC East battle, the 5-1 New England Patriots visit the 3-3 New York Jets. Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski has finally been cleared and is expected to make his debut, while stud linebacker Jerod Mayo is out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle.
Finally, in a classic NFC East rivalry the 3-3 Eagles host the 3-3 Cowboys in a game that could have big implications for the division title. The Cowboys will be without starting running back DeMarco Murray and possibly defensive end DeMarcus Ware, while the Eagles will start Nick Foles at quarterback as Michael Vick’s hamstring is not quite ready to go.
The New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders are on bye this week; don’t forget to adjust your fantasy football lineups accordingly.