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NFL Week 7 game picks: Patriots top 49ers; Bucs best Raiders

Gregg Rosenthal went 8-6 on his predictions for Week 6 of the 2020 NFL season, bringing his total record to 56-34-1. How will he fare in Week 7? His picks are below.


Pittsburgh Steelers 28, Tennessee Titans 24

It is disarming to realize Ryan Tannehill is the better quarterback in this matchup, because Ryan Tannehill is the better quarterback in almost every matchup. While he's kept up his insane efficiency on play-action and in the red zone, Tannehill's ability to avoid sacks, throw against pressure and be productive on straight dropbacks has improved from 2019. That ability to thrive just before being hit will be tested against a Steelers front with too many players worthy of double-teams, like Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward. Big Ben might not be what he once was, but he needs to do a lot less than Tannehill to win these days.

Washington Football Team 22, Dallas Cowboys 20

Kyle Allen giveth, and Kyle Allen taketh away. His fumble produced the Giants' go-ahead touchdown last week, then he led an impressive TD drive to get within a point, only to hesitate on a failed two-point conversion attempt that cost the team a win. Overall, the Washington offense looked better with him at the controls, and its defense has performed like a top-10 unit all season. I don't want to overreact to the Cowboys' Monday night meltdown, but their injury problems and league-worst turnovers and takeaways are year-long trends.

Buffalo Bills 33, New York Jets 10

I'm not that worried about Josh Allen. He's played better than the numbers show the last two weeks, with his QB20 ranking from Pro Football Focus in those games sounding about right. I am that worried about the Bills' defense, which is soft up front and tentative in the back, like a nightmare mullet. To be clear: I'm not they could struggle with the Jets worried, because I've watched every Jets snap this season, just so you don't have to.

New Orleans Saints 30, Carolina Panthers 24

Whether Michael Thomas returns or not this week, the Saints showed promising signs before their bye week. Their defensive line is healthier and more disruptive than it's been all season after the return of Marcus Davenport. Emmanuel Sanders has emerged as an every-week threat out wide. I'm curious to see how former New Orleans assistant Joe Brady, now running Carolina's offense, attacks Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, who can get in his own way when trying to make his presence felt. When a team like the Panthers needs to win with scheme and coaching because their players aren't as talented, it's hard to pick them to win.

UPDATE: Thomas was ruled out on Friday with ankle and hamstring injuries. Earlier in the day, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported the Saints are placing Sanders on the reserve/COVID-19 list and he will not play on Sunday.

Green Bay Packers 38, Houston Texans 33

Which defense do you trust more? Despite superior depth on the defensive line, the Packers are ranked 30th in defensive DVOA, three spots behind the struggling Texans. Packers pass rusher Preston Smith is not making much of an impact this year, safety Adrian Amos is being exposed in coverage and coordinator Mike Pettine's group is struggling against the run, as usual. That sets up beautifully for Deshaun Watson, who has played terrific the last three weeks and has a deeper group of pass catchers than Green Bay has assembled for Aaron Rodgers. I expect Rodgers to bounce back strong in a similarly favorable matchup, but there should be a lot of fireworks along the way.

Cleveland Browns 27, Cincinnati Bengals 25

It's an open question as to which quarterback is better in this game, despite their records. It's an open question as to which defense is better, too. The Browns have the edge when it comes to their offensive line, running game and coaching staff, but I wouldn't blame Cleveland fans for approaching this meeting with a mix of caution and dread.

Atlanta Falcons 30, Detroit Lions 27

Good luck figuring either of these teams out, and good luck to the squad that enters the fourth quarter with a lead on Sunday. Both the Lions and Falcons were their best selves in blowout wins last week, a reminder for Atlanta that availability matters. It turns out that getting Julio Jones reinserted into the lineup helps. Detroit played swarming defense coming out of its bye week, but the surprisingly consistent meh play from quarterback Matthew Stafford has me spooked. Raheem Morris only needs to win this one and then nine more to guarantee his Coach of the Year award and Atlanta legacy.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31, Las Vegas Raiders 24

This is a matchup between two improved teams that should both make the playoffs. The Bucs' pass rush will be tested against the Raiders' excellent offensive line. Jon Gruden and Derek Carr's laudable aggression in Kansas City will be tested against a playmaking defense waiting to pounce on mistakes. One week after slowing Davante Adams, rising Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis gets an even faster test against Henry Ruggs III. I love the Raiders' offense, but I haven't seen enough out of their defense yet to trust it against a Bucs group improving slightly each week. The biggest mismatch here is Tampa Bay's offensive line against Las Vegas' defensive line, which should allow Tom Brady plenty of time to find open receivers.

Los Angeles Chargers 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 21

The best way for the Chargers to dodge their 3-13 record in one-score games since the start of last season would be to avoid them altogether, an attainable goal this week against the worst defense in football. The Bolts might get defensive starters Melvin Ingram and Justin Jones back from injured reserve. Keenan Allen and Joey Bosa had the bye week to get healthier. Yet, nothing is ever simple for this team, and I don't trust coach Anthony Lynn to stay aggressive with a lead, even when facing a Jaguars defense starting players signed off the street each week.

New England Patriots 22, San Francisco 49ers 20

If I don't trust a team's passing game, I don't trust that team at all in the year 2020. I don't trust either of these teams' passing games. Cam Newton was hesitant to throw to open receivers last week, while 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is hesitant to call plays that require Jimmy Garoppolo to throw beyond the line of scrimmage. In a battle of running games and defense, the slight edge goes to the team with the running quarterback, the superior secondary and Bill Belichick. But Kyle's dad often brought out the worst in Belichick, and a 2-4 start would be the worst in Foxborough since 2000, Belichick's first season there.

Kansas City Chiefs 30, Denver Broncos 27

This is a dangerous matchup for the Chiefs. Their most convincing wins this season have been followed by letdowns, and Vic Fangio's underrated defense will make it tougher for Patrick Mahomes to convert third-and-longs when Andy Reid's new run-run-pass approach hits a roadblock. Drew Lock played better than his numbers showed last week, and the Broncos might be adding Melvin Gordon, Noah Fant and KJ Hamler to a potent offensive stew. Picking against the Chiefs is foolish, but I feel great picking the Broncos to keep the game closer than expected.

Seattle Seahawks 34, Arizona Cardinals 27

The Cardinals have faced the fourth-easiest schedule in the league thus far, according to Football Outsiders. This week will begin to test their staying power. Their scheme has covered up talent shortcomings on the offensive line and with their pass rush, especially now that Chandler Jones is out. The Cardinals' rushing game figures to keep it going against Seattle because a Kyler Murray scramble is the most unstoppable play in football. But I worry about the Cardinals' outside cornerbacks holding up against DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in yet another Seahawks game that figures to be a shootout.


Los Angeles Rams 24, Chicago Bears 21

The Bears' offense isn't much better with Nick Foles behind center -- something coach Matt Nagy bemoans every week -- but it is different. Chicago went from extreme run tendencies with Mitchell Trubisky to a pass-heavy approach with Foles. That's a smart move overall, because Bears running back David Montgomery isn't explosive, but it's a tougher gambit this week against a deep Rams secondary that's better at stopping the pass. Chicago defenders Kyle Fuller, Eddie Jackson and Khalil Mack are all playing well enough to earn All-Pro honors, but I still lean toward an L.A. team with the superior precision passing attack in a coin-flip matchup.


New York Giants 20, Philadelphia Eagles 19

Carson Wentz has played well the last three weeks. The Eagles' defensive line still looks good on paper and solid in reality. So why am I picking the Giants when Daniel Jones has Baker Mayfield Year 2 disease, rolling right the minute his first read is taken away? Because cornerback James Bradberry is playing like an All-Pro, wideout Darius Slayton has improved and Leonard Williams is coming off perhaps his best game as a Giant. Because New York's defense and special teams have quietly both improved. Because a Giants win and divisionm title at 6-10 is the most chaotic result possible in this chaotic year. Because someone has to win.

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