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Jets-Patriots, Ravens-Texans, Redskins-Giants highlight Week 7

It is the rivalry that gave us Rex Ryan's assertion that he wasn't being hired to kiss Bill Belichick's rings. (Later, the New England Patriots coach admitted no one had actually ever done that.)

It brought Revis Island to the national stage, thanks to New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis shutting down Randy Moss. It spawned Gang Green linebacker Bart Scott's catch phrase "Can't wait!," while also introducing us to a Pats defense that couldn't stop a nosebleed.

It was the backdrop to Wes Welker's sly jokes about "foot soldiers," and cornerback Antonio Cromartie's name-calling of a certain title-winning quarterback.

There might be better on-field showdowns (Steelers-Ravens comes to mind). There might be more heated rivalries (perhaps Giants-Eagles). But for pure drama? For the week of buildup? For a game I can't wait to watch?

I'll take Jets-Patriots every single time. And the next installment kicks off Sunday in Gillette Stadium at 4:25 p.m. ET.

Here is your Week 7 primer, with games ranked by intrigue, from 1 to 13:

    • New York at New England

      Sun 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 1:

      No teams ignite midweek coverage like the Patriots and Jets, and one could only guess what topics will be discussed in the papers as the week transpires. It should make for some must-read material. But if there is one thing that's evident, it's how damning this matchup can be. Last year, a depleted Patriots team drummed the Jets 37-16 in Week 10, alerting us to the run they were about to go on. Back in 2010, the Jets shook off a 42-point shellacking in Week 13 and stunned the top-seeded Patriots in the playoffs. When these teams play, it matters. These Jets were built with the Patriots in mind, and the Pats thought so highly of Jets players last year that they stocked their team with them. The emotion should be palpable Sunday.
    • What to watch:

      A few weeks ago, as the Jets were losing their two best players (Revis and Santonio Holmes), it seemed like this would be a romp. It seemed like the cruise-control Patriots would dominate their way up to the game, then slide on by with minimal resistance. Nope. In a stunning dose of reality, both teams are 3-3. And with the Jets waxing the Colts last week and the Patriots exiting Seattle humbled, the fact is, this will be a battle. The Jets have kept Tim Tebow under wraps most of the season, except on special teams. Is this the game they bust out their bag of tricks? The Patriots get to face the Jets without Revis, but how will they exploit Gang Green cornerbacks not named Cromartie? Can Ryan's schematic mastery bail out an undermanned team? Will the Patriots' offense finish this one out? Intrigue abounds. #NYJvsNE
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Seattle at San Francisco

      Thur 8:20 p.m. ET, NFL NETWORK Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 3:

      This one did not jump off the schedule in the preseason. Based on popular opinion, the San Francisco 49ers looked fully equipped to overwhelm the lowly Seattle Seahawks. Not the case in mid-October. Instead, this game is an old-school cage match, featuring two of the NFL's most hard-hitting and intense defenses. Can any pair of linebackers hit like Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman? (No.) Can any secondary abuse receivers like the Seahawks' group? (No.) And it only makes it better that both squads have in-your-face running attacks, with Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore each leading a group of backs we wouldn't want to meet in an alley. This should be fun.
    • What to watch:

      While I'm a noted NFL Network homer, my eyes lit up when I saw this was on Thursday night; meaning I get to watch it without any other games clogging my eyesight. Good. There will be plenty to dissect. The 49ers looked like the NFL's best team early on, but losing their dignity to the Giants last week sent them back to the grease board. They must rebound on both sides of the ball. And for the Seahawks, all they do is arrive in San Francisco high off a dramatic win over the Patriots -- one that saw Russell Wilson out-duel Tom Brady. Can they maintain focus? #SEAvsSF
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Washington at New York

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 4:

      If Jets-Patriots is off-the-field rivalry No. 1, Redskins-Giants is in the top five of on-field rivalries. And the fact that Robert Griffin III has joined the Washington Redskins only makes it more enjoyable. Forget for a second that this is an important game in the division for these two. It's also a glimpse into what the next 10 years will be like. The Giants are built on rushing the passer. And all the Redskins did was bring in one of the most coveted draft products in recent memory, a rare talent who can avoid a fierce rush. An enticing chess match for years to come.
    • What to watch:

      For us nerds, pass-rush strategy will be fascinating to watch. Despite coming off a six-sack performance, the Giants could be wary of really getting after RG3. If you rush him, he could take off. And 76 yards later, you could regret it. Perhaps Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Co. merely surround him and make the rookie throw from the pocket. The way the Giants played last week, blowing out the 49ers, they looked like one of the NFC's top two teams. All of which makes it more challenging for Washington -- with the potential reward greater, too. #WASvsNYG
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

      Sun 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 5:

      The dust is completely unsettled in the always-fiery AFC North, with so much we don't know. The Cincinnati Bengals have shown their inconsistency, raising hopes with three straight wins ... before crashing back to Earth by losing at home to the Miami Dolphins and then handing the Cleveland Browns their first victory. And the Pittsburgh Steelers, beset by injuries and a continuing search for their offensive identity, are under .500. Yet they've had a few extra days to lick their wounds after allowing the Tennessee Titans to steal a win last Thursday. This is actually Pittsburgh's first divisional game, so they still have plenty of time to make up ground. And the way the Baltimore Ravens have been hit by injuries on defense, a victory here would thrust the winner right back into the divisional mix.
    • What to watch:

      The Steelers have issues, and going 0-3 on the road thus far seems to be indicative of all of them. Age has caught up with this team, and the in-and-out status of elderly safety Troy Polamalu has led to major problems on the back end. Perhaps even more surprising is that the unit allows 4.1 yards per carry. All of which lends to big opportunities for Cincinnati. The Bengals have turned it over far too much, and big-ticket free-agent signing BenJarvus Green-Ellis has yet to really deliver. Facing a flawed Pittsburgh defense, The Law Firm should get plenty of burn. #PITvsCIN
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Dallas at Carolina

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 6:

      Things can go from zero to crazy in Dallas faster than anywhere else. All that optimism from the opening win over the Giants has dissipated, and even a strong showing and near-miss in Baltimore last week hasn't calmed nerves. There are no must-wins in Week 7, but a 2-4 record would surely send off alarm bells in Dallas. An injury to star runner DeMarco Murray doesn't help, but the Cowboys' other backs (headlined by Felix Jones) also ran wild on the Ravens last week. Against a Carolina Panthers unit ranked 23rd in total defense, Dallas should still put forth an efficient offensive effort.
    • What to watch:

      The Panthers certainly have had their issues during a 1-4 start, from Cam Newton's sophomore slump to tackling struggles to poor late-game execution. If the situation becomes tense late on Sunday, both teams will be worth watching. Have the Cowboys learned from last week's time-management problems? Has Newton found the necessary tools to remain calm when it all goes haywire at the end? It will be interesting to check out this injury-riddled Cowboys secondary against Newton, who can break down a defensive backfield with his legs. Are they disciplined enough to handle him? #DALvsCAR
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Detroit at Chicago

      Mon 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 7:

      In one of the NFL's most surprising divisions, the Chicago Bears have emerged as the best of the bunch thus far. Their opportunistic defense creates worry for any quarterback, and Jay Cutler and that offense are continuing to find cohesion. Yet Chicago's only loss came in the division at Green Bay, while the 4-2 Vikings will spend the season trying to prove they are real. What does that all mean? Nothing has been decided. At Soldier Field, with the country watching, this is a solid chance for the Bears to put away an NFC North foe.
    • What to watch:

      The problem with playing the Detroit Lions is that the game is never over. They are far from perfect -- quarterback Matthew Stafford has been far too inconsistent -- but playing them is never easy. As they showed against the Rams, the Titans (in a loss) and the Eagles last week, every game is within reach. If Chicago gets up early, maybe taking advantage of a Stafford miscue, you might want to keep watching. As Stafford told me early in the year, the Lions feel confident they are still in every game, no matter the score. Look out late, Bears. #DETvsCHI
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • New Orleans at Tampa Bay

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 8:

      Any time the New Orleans Saints play, it's worth watching. The come-from-behind win over the Chargers solidified that before last week's bye. Their record isn't good (1-4) and quarterback Drew Brees said, "Our expectation level was, is, always much higher than that." But is any team as capable of running off a few wins in a row like the Saints? Does anyone really think they are out of it just because of their record? I don't. Meanwhile, if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers want a wild-card spot, they'll be fighting against the Saints, making this one big.
    • What to watch:

      Even with an injury to Adrian Clayborn, the Bucs' defensive front has been brutal to block. Three sacks and 12 tackles don't tell the story on Gerald McCoy, who has bounced back nicely from two injury-riddled years. But it's the intensity of the entire defense that might be tough for the Saints, who will try once again to ignite a lagging running game. Complicating matters for Tampa Bay, though, is that they lost star cornerback Aqib Talib to a drug suspension, increasing the likelihood that Brees will find the weak link in that unit. #NOvsTB
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Arizona at Minnesota

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 9:

      A battle between two 4-2 teams, and it's the ninth-best game? Really? That speaks to the quality of games this week, especially with drama present in so many. Featuring two unsuspectingly good teams with surprisingly effective defenses and run-based offenses, this matchup simply doesn't have the star power of some of the other showdowns. Wait a year or so, though, because Christian Ponder has the potential to reach NFL stardom. He's led this insanely young team to stunning success so far this year.
    • What to watch:

      The Cardinals' 4-0 start, which had the entire NFL talking, is starting to look like fool's gold. But new (and old) starter John Skelton will try to prove that wrong. Losing to the Rams in a road Thursday night game is not crushing, but succumbing to the Bills at home might be. If Arizona doesn't turn Ponder over early, and if it can't stop power runner Adrian Peterson, it'll be a sure road loss that will make us wonder who that team was that started so hot. #ARIvsMIN
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Tennessee at Buffalo

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 11:

      The talent seems to be there for both teams, even with Matt Hasselbeck filling in for the injured Jake Locker again. It's the inconsistency that's confusing. The Tennessee Titans knocked off the Steelers last week, holding tough until the end. Was that the corner being turned? We might find out this week. And for the Buffalo Bills, how many times have we written them off? And yet, 3-3. Still in the mix.
    • What to watch:

      The most curious part of the Titans' win over Pittsburgh was the miscommunication between Hasselbeck and big-play receiver Kenny Britt. They'll need to get that ironed out, as Britt's ability to stretch the field could open up running back Chris Johnson's world. Speaking of Johnson, he's started showing flashes of his old self. The onus is on a well-paid Bills defensive line to cut off his front side and make him tip-toe. #TENvsBUF
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Cleveland at Indianapolis

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 13:

      New Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam impressed this week at the NFL Fall Meeting in Chicago, showing his passion and asserting his drive to win. He also said he'll be around to fix things, which is music to the ears of Clevelanders. Honestly, it's the most positive news the organization has heard in years. It also means, on the field, the race is on for these players and coaches to prove themselves to their new boss.
    • What to watch:

      Records aside, two major players in a stellar rookie quarterback class face off Sunday. Andrew Luck ... need we say more about what he's done? The Indianapolis Colts rookie has brought back Peyton Manning memories. But don't overlook the sudden intrigue of Browns rookie signal-caller Brandon Weeden, who has shown improvement after a disastrous start. Perhaps his learning curve is headed in the right direction. We'll know more Sunday. #CLEvsIND
    • Watch: Game Preview

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet

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