by Robert Ferringo - 10/19/2005
Here's a breakdown of some key games on the Week 7 schedule:
Dallas at Seattle (-3)
Last year, Dallas rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final two minutes to win a memorable 43-39 Monday Night shootout in Seattle. However, the Seahawks have won twice in three games against the Cowboys since Mike Holmgren has been at the helm.
The big story this week for the Seahawks was the loss of safety Ken Hamlin, who got viciously beaten Sunday night outside a nightclub after Seattle's 42-10 victory over Houston. Marquand Manuel (five starts in four years) will take Hamlin's place, and will likely be tested by Drew Bledsoe and the No. 6 ranked offense in the league. Seattle won't mind a shootout though, since they posses the NFL's top offense (407 yards and 28 points per contest). The Seahawks are tough at home, but are only 3-8 against the spread in their last 11 games at Qwest Field.
Julius Jones and Day Nguyen should return for the Cowboys this Sunday, but the Boys lost starting left tackle Flozell Adams for the season. Torrin Tucker will be Adams' replacement. Also, Patrick Crayton is sidelined for 6-8 weeks, and Peerless Price will get a chance to resurrect his career. The Dallas defense has dominated two of the NFL's best offenses the last two weeks, holding Philly and New York to a combined 23 points, 80 rushing yards, and 3-for-23 on third down.
Cincinnati (-1) at Pittsburgh
This is a crucial clash in the AFC North, and a Bengals win will leave them 2.5 games up on the Steelers. However, Pittsburgh is 8-2 against Cincy recently.
The rumor is that Ben Roethlisberger is going to suit up for Pittsburgh. His absence was obvious last week as Tommy Maddox doubled the team's season turnover total - managing four himself after Pitt had just two all year. Former Bengals coach Dick LeBeau, now the Steelers DC, has beaten his old team three consecutive times since 2003. Pittsburgh is 6-2-1 ATS in its last nine road games.
The Bengals have faced the Steelers 28 times since 1990, and this is only the third time that Cincy enters a meeting with a better record. They are 1-1 in those games. I'm going to jinx Carson Palmer by mentioning that he hasn't throw an interception in 148 passes. Cincinnati is 5-1-1 ATS in its last seven games, and 5-0 straight up in its last five contests after scoring 30 points.
San Diego at Philadelphia (-3.5)
Since Andy Reid took over in 1999, Philly is 9-0 in games following a bye week (6-0 in the regular season and 3-0 in the playoffs). Donovan McNabb has had two weeks to recover from his myriad of injuries (chest, leg, sports hernia).
The Eagles have thrown the ball on 72 percent of their offensive plays thus far, so they're looking for more balance. Since 2002, the Eagles are 36-9 versus the NFC but just 8-7 against the AFC. However, they've already squeezed out wins over two AFC West teams in 2005 - Oakland (23-20) and Kansas City (37-31). The Eagles are 4-1 ATS in their last five home games.
San Diego is an outstanding 15-3-2 ATS in its last 20 games, but just 9-10 SU in road games since the start of the 2003 season. The Chargers have the NFL's No. 2 scoring offense (29.3 ppg) but are just 3-7 OU in their last 10 road games.
Denver at N.Y. Giants (-2)
The last time these two clubs met was on Sept. 10, 2001 - the night before 9/11.
The Giants are averaging 37.7 points a game in the Meadowlands, and are 4-1 ATS in their last five at home. New York needs to find some touches for Tiki Barber, who already has had three games with less than 15 carries. He had only two such games in 2004. The Giants are 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight, and 4-2-1 SU in their last seven meetings with Denver.
Denver is riding a five-game winning streak. They carried a 13-game winning streak into the Meadowlands the last time they visited New York, but were downed 20-16. Tatum Bell is leading the league's third-best rushing attack with his 6.8 yards per carry average. Despite their gaudy record, Denver's defense is just 22nd in the league.
Without further ado, here are my Week 7 Power Rankings:
1) Indianapolis (6-0) - For all that's been made of their offensive "struggles" this season, they're sixth in the NFL in scoring with 25.2 points per game.
2) Denver (5-1) - The Broncos small corners and 26th-rated pass defense could have a long day against Eli and the G-Men.
3) Cincinnati (5-1) - I think their front seven is soft. They have a chance to prove me wrong by holding up against Pitt's running game.
4) Jacksonville (4-2) - I'd be concerned about that 25th-rated offense. But then I'd feel better about that No. 4 defense.
5) Tampa Bay (5-1) - Tim Rattay was a real nice pickup for this club. They're going to need him sooner rather than later.
6) Pittsburgh (3-2) - I hope Big Ben isn't coming back too quickly.
7) Atlanta (4-2) - I didn't think Edge Hartwell had done much for the Falcons this season, but in the two games since he's been gone they've surrendered 352 rush yards.
8) Philadelphia (3-2) - From the week after their bye to the end of the season, the Eagles are 41-10 under Reid. They went 9-3 in 2004 following the off week.
9) Carolina (4-2) - Their offense is ranked just 23rd and the defense is committing 10 penalties a game. Sloppy.
10) New England (3-3) - Since Rodney Harrison went down the Pats are 1-2, have yielded 1,263 yards (421 per game), and have been outscored 97-68.
11) Seattle (4-2) - Like Dallas, Houston employed a 3-4 defense and the Seahawks ran over it for 320 yards.
12) Dallas (4-2) - Adams had started 106 consecutive games for the Boys. A team losing its starting, Pro Bowl left tackle is not something to be taken lightly.
13) Kansas City (3-2) - This game is needed if the Chiefs want to make a run in the West. Their seventh-ranked rush offense will face the 13th-ranked rush defense.
14) San Diego (3-3) - When they meet Philly, the Chargers will have faced three teams in seven weeks that have had a bye the previous Sunday.
15) Washington (3-2) - Clinton Portis has a sore shin and hamstring, but will play. The Redskins are one of just two teams with a winning record and a negative turnover differential.
16) New York Giants (3-2) - Teams are converting an absurd 52% of third downs against the G-Men. However, their defense has forced 17 turnovers in just five games.
17) Buffalo (3-3) - The Bills have only 13 second-half points so far, but find themselves tied for first place in the East.
18) Baltimore (2-3) - This game in The Windy City is critical if the Ravens want to get back into the AFC North race. Baltimore is 4-1 in its last five against the NFC.
19) Chicago (2-3) - Teams have converted only one of 12 opportunities in the red zone into a touchdown against the Bears defense. Also, their D is holding teams to a 28.8% conversion rate on third down.
20) Tennessee (2-4) - The Titans are just 4-8 ATS in their last 12 games, and 2-4 ATS on the road.
21) Miami (2-3) - The Dolphins have won four in a row at home. In two career meetings, Miami has held Priest Holmes to 77 total rushing yards."
22) Detroit (2-3) - Jeff Garcia split first-team reps with Joey Harrington this week and could earn start against Browns, the team he played for in 2004.
23) New York Jets (2-4) - Losing Kevin Mawae may have been the deathblow to their season.
24) Cleveland (2-3) - The Browns are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games. Who knew?
25) St. Louis (2-4) - You don't really think that Jamie Martin pickup is going to save your fantasy team, do you?
26) New Orleans (2-4) - Now that the season is rapidly going downhill, the focus is starting to shift towards whether the Saints will stay in New Orleans. Could be another loss for The Big Easy.
27) Oakland (1-4) - The Raiders are the second-worst rushing team in the league with 71 yards per game.
28) Green Bay (1-4) - DC Jim Bates is doing a decent job with a terrible defense. They're 10th in total defense and 14th in scoring defense. Not great, but an improvement from their 25 and 23 rankings, respectively, last year.
29) Arizona (1-4) - Despite a weak rushing attack, the Cards are No. 3 in the NFL in time of possession with 33 minutes per game.
30) Minnesota (1-4) - Remember, between 25 to 35 percent of the "experts" picked this team to win the NFC.
31) San Francisco (1-4) - The 49ers have won three straight outright in Washington, but haven't played there since 1998.
32) Houston (0-5) - Average score of their games is 28-11.
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