Breaking down Week 7 of the NFL

Seahawks (2-3) at Browns (2-3)

1 p.m.

Browns by 3, 41

This one probably won't be a barn burner when it comes to television ratings, but it will get the winner back to .500. The Browns have played a respectable schedule, beating both of the sub-.500 teams they've played (Colts and Dolphins). Browns RB Peyton Hillis is nursing a hamstring injury, but Montario Hardesty, above, is a capable backup. Yes, the Seahawks won at the Giants two weeks ago, but we think that says more about the flaky Giants than anything else.

Browns 27, Seahawks 20

Falcons (3-3) at Lions (5-1)

1 p.m.

Lions by 3½, 47½

A big game for both clubs. A loss sends the Falcons sliding further behind the Bucs and Saints in the NFC South. The Lions, meanwhile, are trying to shake their first loss, a tooth-and-nail fight with the 49ers. The Falcons have proved this season they have issues up front, so expect the Lions to put some heat on QB Matt Ryan, above. RB Michael Turner, however, still looms. This game turns on the Falcons' ability (or inability) to stop the Lions' passing game and WR Calvin Johnson.

Lions 26, Falcons 21

Broncos (1-4) at Dolphins (0-5)

1 p.m.

Pick 'em, 42

You might never witness a more talked-about game featuring teams with a combined 1-9 record. The Broncos turn their offense over to QB Tim Tebow, above, as now even stubborn coach John Fox recognizes Kyle Orton is not the answer. The Broncos made this decision at the right time: before a bye. This gives Tebow a shot at an impressive day because Denver likely has spent two weeks tailoring a game plan to his strengths. Hey, it worked pretty well for the Gators.

Broncos 24, Dolphins 20

Redskins (3-2) at Panthers (1-5)

1 p.m.

Panthers by 2½, 43½

If you offered Redskins GM Bruce Allen a chance to trade both of his ineffective quarterbacks, Rex Grossman and John Beck, for Panthers rookie Cam Newton, above, how many seconds would it take him to yell, "Done!" Something tells us Newton will show why that deal would be a steal. The Redskins defense is sturdy, and Newton took a step back last week. But Washington's QB inconsistency is an issue. After Grossman's four picks against the Eagles, Beck will start. Yawn.

Panthers 21, Redskins 17

Chargers (4-1) at Jets (3-3)

1 p.m.

Jets by 1, 43½

The Jets are tricky. Are they Super Bowl contenders grossly underachieving? Or are they, you know, not very good? The Chargers look to be the real deal, winning three straight since a loss to the Patriots. They pose a much tougher challenge for the Jets offense than the lowly Dolphins last week. Look for the Chargers to frustrate Jets QB Mark Sanchez. San Diego's pass defense is second in the league, and when Sanchez inevitably makes a poor throw, S Eric Weddle, above, will be lurking.

Chargers 27, Jets 17

Texans (3-3) at Titans (3-2)

1 p.m.

Titans by 3, 44

These are the contenders for the Peyton Manning Trophy, a.k.a. AFC South title. The Texans need this game — badly. A loss puts them further behind, though they have a favorable schedule down the stretch. They will be without injured WR Andre Johnson, above, which makes them less intimidating to Tennessee (or at least to CB Cortland Finnegan, whom Johnson punched to a pulp last season). This could be the overdue breakout game for Titans RB Chris Johnson.

Titans 24, Texans 23

Steelers (4-2) at Cardinals (1-4)

4 p.m., Ch. 10

Steelers by 31/2, 431/2

The last time these teams played, it was a Super Bowl that left everyone in Raymond James Stadium breathless. We can't promise nearly that kind of drama in this afterthought of a game. The Steelers are making a long trip to play a desperate team coming off a bye. Something about this game feels like it could be tougher than it appears, but coach Mike Tomlin and the Steelers have the top-ranked defense in football. Chances are Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb, above, will find out why.

Steelers 23, Cardinals 17

Chiefs (2-3) at Raiders (4-2)

4 p.m.

Raiders by 3½, 41

The Raiders gave up an eye-popping ransom (possibly two first-rounders) for QB Carson Palmer, above, who has to fill the injured Jason Campbell's suddenly big shoes. You have to wonder how effective a guy can be after less than a week of work. But given the price they paid, it seems the Raiders figure they're going to get their money's worth and possibly start the former Bengal. Can Palmer do this? Yeah, if Darren McFadden runs wild. Though the Chiefs allow only 3.8 yards per carry.

Raiders 21, Chiefs 20

Rams (0-5) at Cowboys (2-3)

4:15 p.m.

Cowboys by 131/2, 43

After a tough loss to the Patriots, Dallas couldn't be happier to see St. Louis, especially with QB Sam Bradford out with an injury. The Cowboys alternate between frustrating and intriguing, but they remain very talented. QB Tony Romo, above, can't figure out how to close out games, but he presides over an offense that produces 409.6 yards per game. Watch LB DeMarcus Ware, whose seven sacks are tied for second in the NFL. The Rams have yielded an NFL-high 22 sacks.

Cowboys 29, Rams 17

Packers (6-0) at Vikings (1-5)

4:15 p.m., Ch. 13

Packers by 9, 47

Don't be surprised if former FSU quarterback and Vikings rookie Christian Ponder, above, makes some plays in his first start. The Packers defense is not impenetrable, so there are big plays in the passing game for the taking. But Ponder has two things working against him: The Packers and CB Charles Woodson lead the NFC in interceptions, and Ponder's defensive teammates have shown nothing to indicate they will slow QB Aaron Rodgers. These days, they have lots of company.

Packers 31, Vikings 13

Colts (0-6) at Saints (4-2)

8:20 p.m., Ch. 8

Saints by 13½, 48

Another rematch of a recent Super Bowl dandy that won't measure up. The Saints aren't about to lose two straight after a loss at Tampa Bay. And unless the Colts are going to force QB Drew Brees, above, into three interceptions, as the Bucs did, it's going to be a long night for Indy. New Orleans coach Sean Payton will work from a skybox now that he has had surgery for the torn ligament and broken leg he sustained on the sideline in Tampa. This result should ease the pain.

Saints 28, Colts 17

Ravens (4-1) at Jaguars (1-5)

8:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN

Ravens by 8, 391/2

This could turn into one of those proverbial trap games, one in which the superior team acts like it can sleepwalk to victory. But the Ravens don't come off like that kind of team. And they will smell blood in the water. The Jaguars are starting rookie QB Blaine Gabbert, and the Ravens feast on young quarterbacks. You'd like to believe Jags RB Maurice Jones-Drew, above, can help, but Baltimore, led by DT Haloti Ngata, allows just 3.3 yards per carry. That's second best in the NFL.

Ravens 29, Jaguars 16

Breaking down Week 7 of the NFL 10/22/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 22, 2011 8:42pm]

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