Thursday, October 18, 2012

Week 7: NFL Divisional Matchups - Part I

There are six division match-ups scheduled for Week 7. A week sure to be full of excitement as some long-standing and bitter rivals meet head-to-head. Part I will feature an analysis of three of these division matchups.

Seahawks (4-2) at 49ers (4-2)  Thurs. Oct. 18, 8:20pm EST NFL Network
Two power defenses go head-to-head in their first divisional matchup. Though the Seahawks have shown they can upset offensive juggernauts like the Patriots and Packers, facing the #1 overall ranked defense will present a different challenge. Offensively, the 49ers have the statistical edge. In passing yards per game they average 210 to Seattle's 169; rushing yards 176 to 131; and points per game 25.3 to 18.3. The 49ers rely heavily on the run game with backs Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter and they will attempt to establish the run game early. This will be critical but not easy as the Seahawks are only allowing 70 rushing yards per game. It is also critical to establish a run game early because their passing game is mediocre at best with No. 1 receiver Michael Crabtree.

Defensively, they're a closer matchup with each allowing 15 points per game average. And the 49ers have only allowed five rushing touchdowns since 2011, though the Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was one of them. This matchup will come down to which defense shows up. Both teams will be facing a short week. The Niners are looking to rebound after an embarrassing 26-3 loss to the Giants in Week 6. But the Seahawks have youth and energy, and of course, a stout defense. And under the tutelage of Pete Carroll, they are just young enough to believe they can beat anyone. Expect a low scoring game and possibly more snaps for wide receiver Randy Moss as the 49ers attempt to boost their passing game.

Prediction: 49ers 19 Seahawks 14
Saints (1-4) at Buccaneers (2-3): Sunday October 21, 1:00pm EST Fox
Even without suspended coach Sean Payton, very few people would have predicted that the Saints would be 1-4 and sitting in last place in their division. They are also ranked last in overall defense, allowing 283 passing yards per game and 172 rushing. Look for the Bucs to exploit the Saints defensive weaknesses. Fresh off a 38-10 drubbing of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bucs receiving tandem of Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams seems to be finally clicking. There is also opportunities for backs Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount to be very real threats out of the backfield. But the Bucs, whose defense ranks 25th overall, allowing 312 yards passing per game, will struggle to contain the Saints potent passing offense. The Saints will need wide receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jimmy Graham to continue to play at their 2011 levels. The Saints are coming off a bye week in which they hope to build on the success they had in Week 5 against the Chargers. This will be a battle of offenses and no one puts up big numbers better than Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Prediction: Saints 31 Bucs 22

Redskins (3-3) at Giants (4-2): Sunday October 21, 1:00pm EST Fox
With Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora providing some bulletin board material for the Redskins in the offseason, the stage is set for the first meeting between these two division rivals. Umenyiora said that rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is nicknamed RGIII, hasn't yet earned the right to a 'cool' nickname and referred to him as 'Bob Griffin.'  With bulletin board material aside, the Redskins will go into MetLife Stadium to face a team fresh off an impressive 26-3 win over one of the league's best teams, the San Francisco 49ers. In that game, the Giants defense, including LB Mathias Kiwanuka, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, and DT Linval Joseph, continually harassed 49ers QB Alex Smith, particularly in the 4th quarter, and prevented the 49ers from establishing the run game. The Redskins can expect more of the same.

For the Giants, they will be facing a quarterback in RGIII who has captivated us since his surprising Week 1 win over the Saints right up to his 76-yard run last week against the Vikings. His mobility, accuracy and drive will keep the Redskins in this game. Also rookie running back Alfred Morris has proved an effective every down back that will definitely garner attention. It appears that star receiver Pierre Garcon will continue to be out with a foot injury. Can wide receivers Santana Moss and Leonard Hankerson, along with tight end Fred Davis take up the slack? In the end, the Giants receiving corps, including Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Domenic Hixon, will prove too much for the Redskins weak secondary who have allowed the most yards to opposing receivers. Along with running back Ahmad Bradshaw who has 100+ rushing yards in his last two games, the edge goes to the Giants.

Prediction: Redskins 24 Giants 28

Stay tuned for Part II, featuring Sunday's NYJ/NE, CIN/PIT match-ups and Monday night's Lions/Bears showdown.

Note: statistics quoted (exc. pts per game) are rounded off for clarity

Photo credit
Frank Gore: Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

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