The NFL’s last two unbeaten teams — the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles — both fell from their lofty perches last Sunday, and now comes a Week 7 slate that features five 5-1 squads, three 4-2 teams and a cluster of others hovering around .500.
Several games on this week’s schedule are potential playoff previews, including the Miami Dolphins versus the Eagles, both of whom may be Super Bowl contenders.
Meanwhile, life doesn’t get any easier for a number of struggling teams. The Las Vegas Raiders, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns and New York Giants’ starting quarterbacks are nursing injuries that will or could force them to sit out in Week 7. Jimmy Garoppolo and Justin Fields have already been ruled out, and Anthony Richardson is done for the season. Daniel Jones and Deshaun Watson were both questionable heading into Sunday.
Who has edge in Dolphins-Eagles? Which 3-3 teams are trustworthy? Our NFL writers discuss
Two of the league’s better teams — one from the NFC and one from the AFC — square off at M&T Bank Stadium. The Detroit Lions (5-1) aim to extend their win streak to five games and build on the early lead they have taken in the NFC North. But they have a stiff challenge in Baltimore against the Ravens.
Detroit’s offense ranks among the best in the NFL, trailing only Miami and Buffalo in points scored. But Baltimore boasts the second-best defense in the league, so things may not come as easily for Jared Goff and his offense. Or will they? Last week, facing a very good Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, Goff passed for a season-high 353 yards and two touchdowns. Amon-Ra St. Brown had 12 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. With a win Sunday, the Lions would match the best start in franchise history, which occurred in 1956.
Meanwhile, the Ravens are coming off a win at Tennessee and want to build momentum after an up-and-down start to the season, which included blown opportunities and losses in very winnable games against the Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers. Can Lamar Jackson and his talented but streaky receivers keep pace with the Lions? (Lions at Ravens, 1 p.m. ET Sunday.)
Vic’s Picks, Week 7: Aidan Hutchinson, Lions keep it rolling
2. Continued domination for Chiefs?
The Chiefs have churned out five straight victories after losing their season opener to the Lions, and they still haven’t fully kicked things into high gear while averaging 30 fewer yards and 5 fewer points per game than last season. Sunday, the Chiefs welcome the Chargers, who have stumbled to a 2-3 start. Something is missing with the Chargers, who are coming off a narrow Monday night loss to the Dallas Cowboys after a Justin Herbert interception with 90 seconds left killed their hopes for a comeback victory.
Brandon Staley needs to start turning things around, but the Chargers have lost their last three meetings with the Chiefs and six of their last eight. Kansas City also hasn’t faced much competition for the division crown recently: It has won the AFC West seven straight seasons.
Sunday’s game has the potential to be a highly entertaining shootout between two of the league’s top quarterbacks in Herbert and Patrick Mahomes. But it’s never clear which Chargers team will show up. (Chargers at Chiefs, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday.)
3. Dolphins-Eagles: Best vs. best?
The 5-1 Eagles welcome the electrifying 5-1 Dolphins to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night. Given the talent level of these teams, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if this could be a Super Bowl preview.
Philadelphia’s unbeaten streak ended with a disappointing last-minute loss to the New York Jets last week. To rebound, it will have to find a way to slow the Dolphins, whose offense is off to a blistering pace (2,992 total yards, the second most in NFL history through six games). The Eagles’ defense does rank among the league leaders, and that unit pairs with an offense that trails only the Dolphins (498.7) in yards per game (395.0).
Both teams are led by young, charismatic and highly creative head coaches. Both feature two of the most talented young quarterbacks in the game in Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, former teammates together at Alabama. And both offenses boast dynamic wide receiver duos: Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle for Miami, and A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith for Philadelphia.
Another intriguing figure in this matchup is Miami defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who was a consultant for the Eagles leading up to their Super Bowl 57 appearance. Fangio knows the Eagles well, but his new unit in Miami has yet to fully jell. Also, the Eagles coaches have a good understanding of Fangio’s philosophies. Who has the edge in this chess match? (Dolphins at Eagles, 8:20 p.m. ET Sunday.)
4. Deterioration of Patriots’ empire
For two decades, Bill Belichick’s Patriots ruled the AFC East. Now, to call them a shell of themselves may be generous.
This rendition of the Patriots — 1-5, and losers of three straight — is basically unrecognizable. Bill Belichick once ranked among the most untouchable coaches in the league, and now he’s facing questions about job security. The Patriots need a turnaround in the worst way. But a win against Buffalo feels like mission impossible.
The Bills are flying high and rank among the league leaders on both sides of the ball. Meanwhile, the Patriots are offensively anemic and sorely lacking defensive difference-makers. Buffalo has won the last four meetings with New England, including a January 2022 playoff matchup. The Patriots last beat the Bills in a low-scoring affair (14-10) in Buffalo in December 2021. It appears unlikely, but can Belichick rediscover some wizardry and cook up a recipe adequate enough to contain Josh Allen and company this time? (Bills at Patriots, 1 p.m. ET Sunday.)
5. Brock Purdy on the spot
Purdy suffered his first defeat as a starting quarterback (11 games) as the 49ers limped and stumbled through a 19-17 loss to the Browns. His 49ers also had their perfect 2023 record spoiled. Now, how will they respond?
Up next is a Monday night date with the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis, where the 49ers haven’t won since 1992. Look for Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores to dial up a steady stream of blitzes in an attempt to disrupt the young Purdy.
His effectiveness could hinge on the availability of running back Christian McCaffrey, who is questionable. But without wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who was ruled out for at least the next two games Saturday, Purdy will have to shoulder a heavier load than he’s accustomed to. This could be one of the biggest tests of his young career, and an opportunity to prove whether he can carry a team rather than serve as a facilitator.
If he doesn’t have his full supporting cast, Purdy will have to shoulder a heavier load than he’s accustomed to. This could be one of the biggest tests of his young career. (49ers at Vikings, 8:15 p.m. ET Monday.)
(Top photos of A.J. Brown, Bill Belichick, Lamar Jackson: Al Bello, Chris Unger, Justin K. Aller / Getty Images)
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