NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 7: Key matchups and storylines for all 13 games

Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) runs off the line during the second quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Week 7 NFL slate has its fair share of games that aren't expected to be all that close. The Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals enter their matchups against the Detroit Lions and Houston Texans, respectively, as over two-touchdown favorites. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are close to joining that group in their contest with the Chicago Bears.

There are several games, such as AFC clashes between Baltimore and Cincinnati and Kansas City and Tennessee, that are intriguing, however. These are the notable matchups and storylines to monitor in every Week 7 game.

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DEN @ CLE | NYJ @ NE | KC @ TEN | CAR @ NYG | ATL @ MIAWFT @ GB | CIN @ BAL | DET @ LAR | PHI @ LV | HOU @ ARZ |
CHI @ TB | IND @ SF | NO @ SEA

Denver BroncosCleveland Browns (-2.5)

Matchup to watch: WR Courtland Sutton vs. CB Denzel Ward

Sutton has been the primary downfield threat for first-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, with his targets coming 17.4 yards downfield on average (fourth-highest among wide receivers) this season. He has continued to push his drop issues further into the past in that role. Sutton has dropped just four of his 172 targets since 2019 after amassing nine on 79 targets as a rookie.

He'll have a tough matchup against Ward in this Thursday night game, even if Ward is on pace to earn a coverage grade below 70.0 for the first time in his NFL career this season. The former first-round pick has allowed a league-best 35% completion percentage in single coverage since entering the NFL.

Biggest storyline: Can Cleveland overcome the barrage of injuries on offense?

This is an inopportune time for the Browns to have a short week, given that the statuses of their top two wide receivers (Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry) and starting tackles (Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin) are under question. Cleveland will also be without Baker Mayfield and the best running back tandem in the NFL, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

Those injuries put an offense that already enters this game with a bottom-five passing unit by EPA per play (28th) in a tough spot.

The Over/Under for this game is currently 41.5. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

New York JetsNew England Patriots (-7)

Matchup to watch: QB Zach Wilson vs. Patriots' defense, Part II

Wilson's first go-around against New England's defense had to have left a bitter taste in his mouth. The No. 2 overall pick earned a season-low 49.8 PFF passing grade and posted a  37.0 passer rating against the Patriots with zero touchdown passes and four interceptions. It was the low point of what has been a disappointing start to his career.

The Patriots' pass defense has looked vulnerable in recent weeks, however. New England has allowed 8.9 yards per pass play (31st) in its past two games against Houston and Dallas. Wilson will be looking to continue that trend in Week 7.

Biggest storyline: Patriots hoping Mac Jones can repeat downfield success from Week 6

Jones has been the steadiest performer of any rookie quarterback this season, but that isn't exactly a high bar to clear. He has struggled to generate any big plays downfield for much of the season.

Across his first five games, Jones completed just 4-of-19 passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield for 97 yards and two interceptions. He matched that completion number last week against Dallas, completing all four of his deep targets for 144 yards and two touchdowns. New England could use more of that on offense moving forward.

The Over/Under for this game is currently 42.5. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Tennessee Titans (+5.5)

Matchup to watch: TE Travis Kelce vs. S Kevin Byard

Defending Kelce in the passing game won't be a one-man job for Tennessee, but no player has been targeted more as the primary coverage defender on a tight end this season than Byard. And that's probably the way Tennessee wants it. Byard has allowed just three of those six targets to be completed for 26 yards, picking up an interception and a forced incompletion in the process.

Byard is PFF's highest-graded safety through six weeks, and we have an opportunity here to see him pitted against the most valuable tight end in the NFL, according to PFF's Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric.

Biggest storyline: Derrick Henry continues to break all the rules

There's so much about Henry that doesn't make sense. He's a 250-pound running back who also happens to be one of the fastest players in the league once he gets a full head of steam in the open field. He continues to have success despite a league-high 83 carries against heavy boxes with eight or more defenders. Contact just doesn't seem to faze him, as evidenced by his 587 rushing yards after contact (more than 11 teams have in total rushing yards this season).

All signs point to another big game for Henry against a Chiefs run defense allowing five yards per run play this year — second-highest in the NFL through six weeks.

The Over/Under for this game is currently 57.5. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Carolina Panthers @ New York Giants (+3)

Matchup to watch: ED Haason Reddick vs. Giants' tackles

The Giants are a big reason why Reddick received the contract that he did from Carolina in free agency. He had a field day against Andrew Thomas, Cameron Fleming and company in Arizona's Week 14 contest with New York last season. He finished the game with seven pressures, including five sacks, on just 22 pass-rushing snaps.

The Giants' tackles are arguably in a worse spot now than they were in that game last season, as Thomas is now on injured reserve with an ankle injury. Nate Solder has struggled, in particular. His 21 pressures allowed this season are the fifth-most among tackles.

Biggest storyline: Sam Darnold‘s fast start has taken a turn for the worse

The story of Darnold's season can be told in two parts. He looked like a new man free from the confines of the Jets' facility during Carolina's 3-0 start to the season. Darnold's 81.0 PFF grade ranked 11th at the quarterback position through three weeks, but that has since fallen to 49.1 (last) during the Panthers' three-game skid to .500. His league-high eight turnover-worthy plays across the past three weeks were the main driver in his drop in PFF grade.

With the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL, Carolina needs Darnold to get back to his level of play early in the season if the team has any hope of making the playoffs.

The Over/Under for this game is currently 43. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Atlanta FalconsMiami Dolphins (+2.5)

Matchup to watch: RG Chris Lindstrom vs. DI Christian Wilkins

The Falcons' offensive line, and offense in general, has largely been a disappointment. But Lindstrom is a bright spot at right guard for Atlanta. His 83.2 run-blocking grade ranks second among all qualifying right guards, behind only Zack Martin, and he has yet to allow a sack this season on 218 pass-blocking snaps.

Lindstrom should see a fair bit of Wilkins in this game, and he generally lines up over the right side of the offensive line. Wilkins has improved his PFF grade each year so far and is on pace for a career-best 80.4 PFF grade in 2021.

Biggest storyline: the Dolphins are in a tough spot

Miami is coming off its fifth straight loss — a defeat to the previously winless Jacksonville Jaguars, at that. To make matters worse, the Dolphins don't have their own first-round pick to look forward to as a prize if this skid continues. They traded that to Philadelphia in their move to jump to the No. 6 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to select Jaylen Waddle

Miami's offensive line remains a barrier to any success on offense, ranking 30th in PFF grade — ahead of only the Giants and Raiders. And the team's defense hasn't been able to pick up the slack (25th in EPA allowed per play). It's not an ideal spot to be in for Brian Flores and company.

PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline and over/under.

The Over/Under for this game is currently 47.5. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Washington Football Team @ Green Bay Packers (-9.5)

Matchup to watch: WR Davante Adams vs. CB William Jackson III

Adams enters this week with the second-best matchup of any wide receiver, according to PFF's WR/CB matchup chart. It would appear that there isn't a matchup in the league where Adams wouldn't have the upper hand. He's dominating week in and week out, averaging 3.7 receiving yards per route run when lined up outside this season. No other wide receiver with at least 100 routes run on the outside is above 2.9.

The Packers will move him around, but Jackson may be a matchup they look to exploit with Adams rather than avoid. Jackson's 46.5 coverage grade through six weeks is on pace to be the lowest of his career, and his six penalties in coverage are already tied for the most he has had in a single season.

Biggest storyline: Green Bay's secondary has survived without Jaire Alexander

Alexander's injury was expected to be a big blow to the Packers' secondary, but they've managed to overcome it the past two weeks to secure victories against the Bengals and Bears. The collection of Eric Stokes, Chandon Sullivan, Kevin King and Rasul Douglas (in King's absence last week) have combined for top-10 marks in PFF coverage grade (65.3) and passer rating allowed (83.1) since Week 5.

Green Bay will be hoping that it can continue to weather the storm until Alexander returns from his shoulder injury.

The Over/Under for this game is currently 49. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens (-6)

Matchup to watch: WR Tee Higgins vs. CB Marlon Humphrey

All of the attention has been on Ja'Marr Chase at wide receiver for Cincinnati, and rightfully so. Chase ranks inside the top five among wide receivers in receiving yards as a rookie after opting out of his 2020 season at LSU. However, it's been Higgins — not Chase — who leads the Bengals in targets (28) in the four weeks that he has been healthy.

Humphrey is expected to line up across from Higgins on more snaps than any of Cincinnati's other wide receivers this week, per PFF's WR/CB Matchup Chart. Humphrey has been stingy in coverage the past four weeks, allowing just six receptions on 15 targets.

Biggest storyline: The Ravens have entered the conversation for best team in the afc

Baltimore currently sits atop the AFC standings at 5-1, and it's closing ground on the top teams in the AFC in PFF's Power Rankings after a convincing win over the Los Angeles Chargers at home. PFF's simulations give the Ravens a 20% chance to make the Super Bowl entering Week 7, trailing only Buffalo in the AFC.

Team % chance to make Super Bowl in AFC
Buffalo Bills 26%
Baltimore Ravens 20%
Kansas City Chiefs 12%

A big part of the credit for their recent surge has to go to Lamar Jackson. The Ravens have been more efficient as a passing offense than a rushing offense through six weeks. Baltimore ranks third in average yards per pass play compared to 10th in average yards per run play this year.

The Over/Under for this game is currently 47. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

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Detroit Lions @ Los Angeles Rams (-15.5)

Matchup to watch: Lions' offensive line vs. rams' defensive line

Aaron Donald alone gives a defense a good shot at generating pressure at a top-five rate in the league, and that's where the Rams find themselves once again in 2021. Their 37% pressure rate this season ranks fifth among all defenses this season.

They'll face off against a Lions offensive line that was a presumed strength coming into the season. But Detroit's unit has gotten off to a slow start, specifically at tackle with Taylor Decker sidelined by injury. The 18.6% pressure rate allowed collectively by Penei Sewell and Matt Nelson ranks 30th in the league, ahead of only the Colts and Dolphins.

Biggest storyline: Rams' offense has taken a clear step forward after moving on from Jared Goff

The Rams made it a clear emphasis to get more explosive on offense, and their trade for Matthew Stafford was at the core of that effort. It's safe to say their offseason moves have paid off.

Los Angeles ranked 16th in the league in average yards per pass play (6.3) and percentage of passes gaining 15 or more yards (15%) in 2020. This year, they rank first in both categories, at 8.3 yards per pass play and 21% of passes gaining 15 or more yards. They don't seem to miss Goff, who will make his return to Los Angeles as a 15-point underdog.

The Over/Under for this game is currently 50.5. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Las Vegas Raiders (-3)

Matchup to watch: RT Lane Johnson vs. ED Maxx Crosby

Crosby has faced one of the softer slates of opposing right tackles in the league through the first six weeks of the season. His matchups have included Alejandro Villanueva in his first start on the right side, Chukwuma Okorafor, Liam Eichenberg, Storm Norton, Elijah Wilkinson, Germain Ifedi and Bobby Massie. And Crosby has dominated that competition en route to a league-high 41 pressures.

Johnson, assuming he plays after returning to the team this week, clearly represents Crosby's toughest test of the year. His 4.6% pressure rate allowed since 2016 ranks fourth among right tackles.

Biggest storyline: Linebackers and safeties have sunk Philadelphia in coverage

The Eagles have been one of the more stable teams in the league at cornerback. Darius Slay, Steven Nelson and Avonte Maddox are the only three cornerbacks to record a coverage snap on defense for Philadelphia, and they've earned the highest PFF coverage grade in the NFL (78.7) as a unit.

Yet, Philadelphia is still a below-average defense in terms of EPA allowed per pass play (17th) because of their linebackers and safeties (28th in PFF coverage grade collectively). Look for Las Vegas to look to attack the Eagles over the middle of the field Sunday.

The Over/Under for this game is currently 49. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Houston Texans @ Arizona Cardinals (-17.5)

Matchup to watch: TE Zach Ertz vs. Texans' linebackers

Tight ends played a very small role in Arizona's offense prior to Maxx Williams‘ injury and the team's trade for Ertz. The Cardinals had a tight end on the field for just 285 offensive snaps (31st) and targeted the position only 18 times (last). Ertz's arrival likely won't flip that on its head, but it will be interesting to see how Arizona utilizes him in his first game with the team.

Zach Cunningham has been in primary coverage on tight ends more than any other player on Houston's defense through six weeks, and it has been an exploitable matchup for opposing offenses thus far. However, his role has reduced in recent weeks with Christian Kirksey and Kamu Grugier-Hill handling most of the snaps.

Biggest storyline: Kyler Murray has established himself as an MVP favorite

A quarterback playing as well as Murray is on the only undefeated team in the NFL is always going to be in the MVP conversation. The most interesting part of Murray's 2021 play thus far is that very little of his success has come from his legs. Murray is PFF's fourth-highest graded passer while ranking just 10th in rushing yards at the quarterback position (116).

His improvement as a passer on throws 10 to 19 yards downfield is significant across his first three seasons. Murray has raised his passing grade at that depth from 53.4 as a rookie to 75.5 in 2019 to an elite mark of 93.7 through six weeks this year.

The Over/Under for this game is currently 47.5. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-12.5)

Matchup to watch: ED Khalil Mack vs. RT Tristan Wirfs

Wirfs held up well in several tough matchups as a rookie last season, but Mack may have tested him more than any other edge rusher. Wirfs' three pressures allowed to Mack across 21 pass-rushing snaps in their meeting last year were tied for the most he gave up in a single matchup all year, matched by only Joey Bosa.

These are two of the best players in the NFL at their respective positions. PFF's Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric has them as the most valuable players at right tackle and edge defender, respectively, since the start of the 2020 season. It should be one of the better matchups in the trenches that Week 7 has to offer.

Biggest storyline: The Buccaneers have built the perfect environment for Tom Brady to finish his career

The relationship between Brady and the offense that Tampa Bay has put in place around him is a mutual one. The Buccaneers' offensive line is allowing pressure at the lowest rate in the league this season (17.2%), and Tampa Bay has the best receiving corps in the NFL. Antonio Brown looks like he hasn't missed a beat since joining the roster, recording the fifth-highest PFF receiving grade at wide receiver since Week 9 of last season.

That shouldn't discount what Brady has been able to do as he pushes into his 40s. He is PFF's highest-graded quarterback (92.3 overall) in 2021, and he's been the most valuable quarterback in the NFL since joining Tampa Bay, per PFF WAR.

PFF's Player Props Tool leverages PFF's Fantasy Football Projections to reveal betting opportunities within player prop markets.

The Over/Under for this game is currently 47. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Indianapolis Colts @ San Francisco 49ers (-4)

Matchup to watch: LT Eric Fisher vs. ED Nick Bosa

The Chiefs came away with the victory in Super Bowl LIV, but Bosa consistently won his individual matchup with Fisher at left tackle. Bosa recorded seven pressures on 36 pass-rushing snaps — more pressures than Fisher has allowed to one player in a single game since the start of the 2019 season.

It's difficult to imagine that Bosa won't have the upper hand again Sunday night given the way that both players have started the year. Fisher was brought in to replace longtime left tackle Anthony Castonzo in Indianapolis, but Fisher has struggled in his return from injury. His 11.4% pressure rate allowed this season ranks second-worst among qualifying left tackles.

Biggest storyline: Jimmy G is making too many mistakes for his conservative approach

Jimmy Garoppolo is practicing early this week, meaning there is a good chance he returns to the starting lineup against Indianapolis. But San Francisco needs better play from him to justify starting him over rookie Trey Lance when both are healthy.

Garoppolo remains one of the most conservative quarterbacks in the NFL, with a league-low average depth of target 6.9 yards downfield. Don't mistake that conservative approach for a safe one, however. Through six weeks, Garoppolo has produced zero big-time throws compared to seven turnover-worthy plays.

The Over/Under for this game is currently 44. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks (+5)

Matchup to watch: RB Alvin Kamara vs. LB Bobby Wagner

A big chunk of Kamara's value comes from the threat he provides in the passing game. Kamara was targeted on 30% of his routes across the first four years of his career, forcing a league-high 79 missed tackles after the catch over that span. This year, he has been targeted on just 21% of his routes without a single missed tackle forced after the catch.

Wagner, one of the best all-around linebackers in the NFL, will look to continue that trend and contain Kamara both on the ground and through the air. Wagner's five coverage stops — tackles that are considered “wins” for the defense based on down and distance — in coverage on a running back this season are tied for the most in the NFL.

Biggest storyline: Saints' offensive line hasn't been as dominant as usual

Through a combination of injuries and individual decline from several players, the Saints' offensive line hasn't been nearly as impressive this season as in years past. Their 40% pressure rate allowed as a unit ranks last in the NFL through six weeks after posting top-10 marks in both 2019 and 2020.

Ryan Ramczyk has taken a big step back in pass protection. His 12.0% pressure rate allowed this year is the second-worst mark of any qualifying right tackle. It's a steep drop from allowing pressure on just 4.0% of his pass-blocking snaps across the first four seasons of his career (sixth-best).

The Over/Under for this game is currently 43. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.


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