Week 7 viewer's guide


Around The NFL's Kevin Patra fills you in on the key storylines for each matchup. Here's your guide as you settle into your couch for all the NFL action.

The Falcons have been a completely one-sided team this season, ranking first in yards per play on offense (6.41) and last in yards per play on defense (6.22). Matt Ryan will need to pray his offensive line magically gets better for those big plays to materialize against Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and the rest of the Ravens' third-ranked scoring defense.

The Baltimore running game should be jaunty once again against a punchless Falcons run D. Justin Forsett has six rushes of 20 or more yards, tied for the most in the NFL (DeMarco Murray). In the three years prior to this season, Forsett had just four rushes of 20 or more yards. Now the Ravens' lead back, Forsett is in for another big week.

Pregame reading material
Julio Jones: I'm supposed to catch everything
Arthur Blank confident in Mike Smith, Thomas Dimitroff
Week 7 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Defenses
Week 7 Start 'Em, Sit' Em: Justin Forsett

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Ravens.

The Vikings have allowed 22 quarterback sacks this season, second most in the NFL (Jacksonville, 27). Minnesota's suspect line faces one of the NFL's best units again this week (after giving up eight sacks in Week 6). Norv Turner might want to consider adding more rollouts and quick passes to try to protect Teddy Bridgewater from taking another pounding.

If C.J. Spiller doesn't burst out in this game, we can quit wondering if he will this season. The Vikings have allowed 100-plus rushing yards in five straight games and struggled to cover a shifty rusher out of the backfield last week in Theo Riddick. Spiller has lost carries to veteran Fred Jackson and even Anthony Dixon. The trio should combine for a big day, but we want to see if Doug Marrone keeps Spiller on a short leash once again.

Pregame reading material
C.J. Spiller rebuffs trade talk despite fewer snaps
Doug Marrone not happy with Mike Williams' trade request
Mike Zimmer: Cordarrelle Patterson must get open
Adrian Peterson pleads not guilty to charge of injury to child

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Bills.

The Dolphins' defensive front, led by Cameron Wake, has dominated at times this season and will need to get to Jay Cutler often to short-circuit the Bears' high-powered offense. After getting gashed by running backs in the passing game against Kansas City, it will be worth watching how Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle approaches covering Matt Forte, who leads the NFL in receptions (46).

Quietly the Chicago Bears' run defense has tightened. The Bears have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season (after allowing 11 players breach the mark last year) and are 10th in the NFL in run defense, allowing 103.7 total rushing yards per game. The unit will need to slow Lamar Miller -- who will get the bulk of the carries with Knowshon Moreno out -- and force Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins' offense to become one-dimensional.

Pregame reading material
Knowshon Moreno placed on IR list
Week 7 Start 'Em, Sit' Em: Tight ends
Joe Philbin felt queasy after failed pass attempt
QB Index: Where does Tannehill fall?

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Bears.

Mark Ingram is ready to return, which should give the Saints more punch against the NFL's second-rated run defense. Drew Brees' offensive line must keep Ndamukong Suh and Co. at bay in order to allow the quarterback time to make big plays. The Lions' defense hasn't allowed many long, drawn-out drives, so hopefully the Saints recaptured their explosiveness during their bye week.

Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi faces his mentor, Sean Payton, this week. Unfortunately for Lombardi, things haven't gone swimmingly in Detroit. Matthew Stafford has thrown for 300-plus yards once in his past 10 games, and the Lions' offensive line can't block anyone. Expect a lot of Joique Bell and Reggie Bush (also returning to face his former team) against a middling Saints run defense that has had its share of tackling troubles.

Pregame reading material
Mark Ingram is '100 percent, full tilt' for Week 7
Jimmy Graham expected to miss 2-3 weeks after bye
Calvin Johnson could sit until Week 10
Nick Fairley says Lions can be best defense ever

Who will win? Three of five Around The NFL writers pick the Lions.

The dynamic Cam Newton we knew and loved returned last week when he dashed for 107 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries (to go along with 284 yards and two TDs passing). Green Bay's defense has gotten caught many times on zone-read plays this season (e.g., Ryan Tannehill's 40-yard run last week). Clay Matthews has struggled this season and will need a big day against Newton.

Eddie Lacy could be in position for a big day against a Panthers defense allowing 140.2 yards on the ground per game (27th). However, he's been stymied by poor blocking this season and will meet Luke Kuechly many times in the hole. Won't those collisions be fun?!

Pregame reading material
Clay Matthews must improve against Cam Newton's read-option
Injury roundup: Kelvin Benjamin (concussion) practices
Mike McCarthy's big decision pays off in Green Bay
Jonathan Stewart: I will start for Panthers vs. Packers

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Packers.

Andy Dalton will again be without all-world receiver A.J. Green. Dalton will have difficulty going deep against an Indy defense allowing just 17.9 percent of passes thrown 20-plus air yards to be completed, the lowest in the NFL. Mohamed Sanu has shown ability to make plays down the field, but he'll have his work cut out for him against the Colts' physical cornerbacks.

T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne have 1,023 receiving yards combined, the most in the NFL for any receiving duo. They will make life difficult for Cincy's defense that is ranked 22nd against the pass and giving up 398.8 total yards per game.

Pregame reading material
Bengals place Marvin Jones on season-ending IR, sign Greg Little
Vontaze Burfict fined $25,000 for ankle-twisting incidents
Andrew Luck tops list of cornerstones
Marvin Lewis: Concussions seem to 'linger longer' now

Who will win? Four of five Around The NFL writers pick the Colts.

Brian Hoyer has made plays when called upon in the Browns' run-centric offense. The quarterback has a completion percentage of 55.8 on passes of 15-plus air yards, the highest in the NFL among QBs with at least 20 such pass attempts. He has a beneficial matchup against a Jags' defense allowing 22 completions of 20-plus air yards, the most in the NFL.

Blake Bortles has given Jacksonville fans something to cling to as they watch the rookie post studly performances, but his backbreaking interceptions have been brutal. He has a good matchup against a Cleveland secondary that has been torched this season. But can Bortles lead his team to its first victory of the season in front of the home crowd?

Pregame reading material
Mike Pettine: I would not have drafted Blake Bortles at No. 4
Brian Hoyer refutes report he wouldn't re-sign with Johnny Manziel on Browns
Gus Bradley accepts blame for Jags' missed field goal
Mike Pettine won't rule out Alex Mack returning in 2014

Who will win? Four of five Around The NFL writers pick the Browns.

Russell Wilson is 8-1 following a loss in the NFL (his only back-to-back losses coming in Week 7-8 of 2012). The Seahawks' signal caller hasn't been able to get much going this year, throwing for fewer than 250 passing yards in four of his five outings this season. After offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell admitted to needing to get Marshawn Lynch the ball more, expect Beast Mode to get a lion's share of the touches this week.

Austin Davis has been fun to watch, but Brian Schottenheimer's offense has waned far too much. Against a Seahawks defense motivated after getting gashed last week, it will be tough sledding once again. We liked the early use of Tavon Austin last week, and the hope is Schotty can figure out how to get the shifty player the ball more moving forward.

Pregame reading material
Michael Bennett: 'It's a lot different' as Super Bowl champs
Greg Robinson makes first start
Darrell Bevell: I have to get Marshawn Lynch the ball
Russell Wilson tops NFL jersey sales

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Seahawks.

The stats tell us to expect a lot of punts: The Redskins' 32.4 conversion percent on 3rd down ranks 31st in the NFL. Only the Titans are worse (31.9 percent). When Washington isn't punting, Kirk Cousins has struggled with interceptions, especially in the second half (leads the NFL with eight INTs). He faces a Titans defense that has seven interceptions on the season. The Redskins have more overall talent, but if Cousins can't protect the ball it could be another brutal outing.

Jake Locker will likely be a game-time call, but it could be a good situation for the quarterback to return. The Redskins' defense has allowed 11 passing touchdowns with only one interception the past four games. Whichever quarterback takes the snaps, he will need better blocking from his line than the group provided last week. Specifically watch Redskins' Ryan Kerrigan, who is having a beastly season.

Pregame reading material
Jay Gruden: DJax wants to block; he's just too little
Gruden: Titans never offered me the job
RGIII will be starter when he's ready, per Gruden
Brian Orakpo: I feel like I lost the game against the Cardinals

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Redskins.

Twice in this young season Chiefs coach Andy Reid has admitted he needs to get running back Jamaal Charles the ball more. The dearth of carries late in the game has been particularly troubling as the starting back has just four fourth quarter totes. Kansas City will need to lean on Charles and backup Knile Davis against the third-ranked Chargers defense.

Getting Philip Rivers off the field on third down has been especially difficult for defenses. The signal caller has the most passing TDs (10) and the NFL's highest passer rating (136.0) this season on third down. Against a Chiefs defense with play-making pass rushers, Rivers (who has been pressured a league-high 80 times, per Pro Football Focus) will need his quick-pass skills once again.

Pregame reading material
Ryan Mathews not yet at running portion of rehab
Mind-blowing stats for Week 6 of the 2014 season
Chiefs among the needy for Week 7
Week 7 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Philip Rivers

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Chargers.

How good has DeMarco Murray been this season? The Cowboys' back has more rushing yards on first down (594) than any other player in the NFL has total rushing yards this season, on all downs. The Cowboys continue to talk about lessening Murray's load, but with an important division game against a rival we'd be surprised if this were the game to see that happen.

Eli Manning was pummeled last week, but faces a Cowboys defense that has only six sacks on the season (27th). If he gets time he should be able to get back to the precision passing game of the three weeks prior. Doing it without Victor Cruz will be difficult, but we are excited to see what rookie Odell Beckham can do with a bigger load on his shoulders.

Pregame reading material
How has Jason Garrett turned things around in Dallas?
Jerry Jones has the Cowboys thinking Super Bowl
Rashad Jennings is out for the Cowboys game
Tom Coughlin tells his team to to can the trash talk

Who will win? Four of five Around The NFL writers pick the Cowboys.

Derek Carr threw several gorgeous deep balls last week. We expect more of the same against this Cardinals defense. Arizona's cornerbacks have been beaten frequently as of late. Patrick Peterson has given up an opposing passer rating of 132.4 when targeted this season (12th highest among all CBs), including four TDs in coverage (T-3rd most), while Antonio Cromartie has given up an opposing passer rating of 103.2 when targeted this season.

With Carson Palmer under center last week we saw Larry Fitzgerald bust out with a big game. The offense under Palmer seemed to connect more on vertical passes -- something Bruce Arians loves to do. Against a defense that has just five sacks this season, Palmer should have time to allow his playmakers to get deep Sunday.

Pregame reading material
Tony Sparano succeeds by limiting Raiders' playbook
Larry Fitzgerald appreciates the team's breast cancer campaign
The top 50 fantasy scorers of Week 6
Mayock's slant: Derek Carr's efficiency

Who will win? Four of five Around The NFL writers pick the Cardinals.

Julius Thomas and his nine receiving touchdowns will face a banged up San Francisco 49ers back seven. Thomas is a nightmare for teams that are healthy. With Patrick Willis out the Niners will be without another star starter. Safety Jimmie Ward (quad) also got injured last week and missed practice, possibly taking away another potential threat to Thomas' domination down the middle. Peyton Manning is gunning for Brett Favre's career touchdown record (508) and you can bet Thomas will play a role if he gets there.

Colin Kaepernick tallied his third career 300-plus yard passing game last week and made some fantastic throws along the way. The 49ers' estranged relationship with the running game has been well-documented this season. If Greg Roman calls a high number of pass plays for Kap again this week he'll be on the run often with the NFL's best edge rushing duo, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, barreling down on him.

Pregame reading material
Patrick Willis is likely out for the game
Julius Thomas clarifies his "It's so easy" exclamation
Peyton Manning not fixated on the all-time TD pass record
Colin Kaepernick throws for 300 in win over Rams

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Broncos.

Arian Foster has looked fantastic when healthy this season (513 yards, but missed one game and had eight carries in another). The Texans' workhorse should be in for another big day against a toothless and gummy Steelers defense that has been gashed on the ground.

Similarly, I expect the Steelers to once again rely on Le'Veon Bell early, but that's not the matchup to focus on here. I want to see Ben Roethlisberger and his elusive magic meet the all-corralling J.J. Watt. Whoever wins that battle more will put his team in a position to emerge Monday with a key AFC victory.

Pregame reading material
Jadeveon Clowney has a 50-50 shot to play
Clowney: I want to hit somebody
Bill Cowher thinks the Steelers are soft on defense
Brett Keisel: 'We're an average team right now'

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Steelers.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews every Week 7 game and recaps the Patriots' win over the Jets. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.