Welcome back, Unwrapped fans. Last week was another surprising week where narratives were flipped upside down. Underdogs went 10-3 against the spread and we learned very little of what we will get in the coming weeks with the middle tier of the NFL. What we did learn is that Tampa Bay and Tennessee will need to find new quarterbacks in 2020. Jameis Winston turned the ball over six times on the weekend and now has a league-high 58 turnovers since he began his career in 2015. He has committed at least four turnovers in five games. No other player has had more than two such games. The end is near for Jameis, and rightfully so as the can’t miss prospect out of Florida State just isn’t playing at a level where he should be a starter in the NFL. As for his draft counterpart, the other can’t miss prospect, Marcus Mariota, his time is officially done (at least for this week) as Ryan Tannehill has been named the starter for Week 7. Mariota had a dismal Week 6 performance where he was 7-18 for 63 yards and two interceptions against Denver. Mariota has been wildly inconsistent since 2015 and never really grasped what Tennessee was trying to do on offense. He has never had a QBR above 59.4 and never thrown more than 26 touchdowns in a season. It looks like these two will bust out of the league and further perpetuates the narrative that we truly know nothing when it comes to the quarterback position and how to evaluate it. We have a handful of marquee matchups this week and it should be another great week of NFL action.
Baltimore Ravens vs Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson has been nothing short of phenomenal so far this season. The leading MVP candidate takes his 5-1 Seahawks to face the Baltimore Ravens, who have looked impressive versus bad competition. This is a huge test for Lamar Jackson, who is arguably the most fun player to watch this season. The Ravens, according to PFF, have 33 runs of 10 or more yards and have combined for 46 broken tackles. They have the most efficient rushing attack regarding Expected Points Average (EPA) per rush. The Ravens offense in DVOA is ranked 4th in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders, and could see a little bit of a shootout if the Seahawks can’t contain Jackson and this offense.
The good news for Seattle is their offense is 3rd in DVOA and they have Russell Wilson playing the best football of his career. Wilson is the highest-graded quarterback at 90.7, according to PFF. Wilson is killing it this year and the run game has been mediocre at best with their EPA at 29th in the league; so although the overall stats don’t look bad, the efficiency in their run game hasn’t been there. Look for Seattle to trust Wilson more in this one and air the ball out. The Ravens secondary gets an added boost with Marcus Peters coming over via trade and they need it. The Ravens defense is currently ranked 22nd in DVOA. The Seahawks aren’t much better at 18th, so look for both offenses to jump-start their teams in this potential shootout. The total in this one is sitting at 49. I like the over.
Houston Texans vs Indianapolis Colts
Both teams come into this inter-division tilt off of huge wins against the Chiefs. Both used similar strategies in that game, using the ground game to their advantage. Deshaun Watson has been a star so far this year. That has been bolstered by a running back core that is top 15, according to PFF’s rushing grade. Houston’s offense has been explosive and Will Fuller can be a difference-maker when he catches the ball. Hopkins has been the disappointment so far this year, as far as fantasy is concerned, and most of that comes down to the lack of targets and production in the end zone. He has only 1 target in the end zone this year. Hopkins will need to have a big game this week if the Texans expect to knock off the Colts on the road.
The Colts offense has been efficient. They have established the run and the offensive line ranks 2nd best in run blocking, according to PFF. Jacoby Brissett has played mostly game manager so far this year and has a conservative average depth of target at 7.2 yards. The Colts will be happy to get TY Hilton back this week and look for him to continue his dominance against this Texans team, which he has dominated throughout his time in Indy. The Houston defense will have to contain Mack, which is easier said than done; but they have a good defensive line and rank 11th in DVOA against the run. As for the Colts’ defense, they have historically done a good job against Hopkins, however this year’s defense is 22nd against the pass and 28th against the run in DVOA rankings. Look for the Texans to establish the run game here on the road and take some shots to Hopkins and Fuller. This game could end up being a shootout. I like the Texans on the road getting a point.
Minnesota Vikings vs Detroit Lions
Minnesota comes into this division game red hot after dismantling the Eagles last weekend. The Lions come in disgruntled after a game they could’ve easily won last week. The Vikings have put up two crazy performances as far as the passing game goes in Weeks 5 and 6, and Cousins finished in the top 10 in those weeks in PFF’s grades. The passing game is at its best when running play-action and ranks 3rd in passing grade in PFF’s rankings. Dalvin Cook has been everything Vikings fans have hoped for, and with all the drama surrounding the Vikings pass game at the beginning of the season, they have steadied the ship the last couple of weeks. According to Football Outsiders DAVE rankings, which combine preseason projection and performance so far this season, the Vikings rank 10th in the league in the passing game, and if they can keep the passing game going like they have the last couple of weeks, this offense will continue to climb the rankings in the NFL.
On the Lions side of the ball, the offense has done an about-face from their 2018 offense, as they have had Stafford throwing the ball down the field this year. Stafford has the highest average depth of target this season at 11.9 yards, according to PFF. PFF has also graded two of the Lions WRs in the top 20 as Kenny Golladay is sitting 8th and Marvin Jones Jr. comes in at 20th. Anyone who has watched Golladay play has been enamored by his big-play ability and they will need him in this game against Xavier Rhodes, who cannot run anymore. The matchup of these two defenses is where football geeks can get excited. Matt Patricia and the Lions’ defense has played well all season. The Vikings defense under Zimmer always comes to play and is currently ranked 6th in DVOA. The Lions run game has not been good this season and currently ranks 28th in DVOA, so this will come down to a Vikings secondary and if they can slow down the pass-catching options for the Lions. On the other side, look for the Lions and Patricia to use the script the Patriots used against the Vikings last season. They will look to use a lot of stunts to get pressure on Cousins. In the secondary, look for Detroit to double Thielen and have Darius Slay follow Diggs around. The game will come down to what defense plays better. I expect this game will be close, so give me the Lions and the 1.5 points at home.
After these Week 7 bouts, we will learn slightly more about what teams will emerge as the true contenders. We are close to the halfway point and have seen our fair share as NFL fans try to rally their 3-3 or 2-4 teams back to become a real threat in their conferences. However, the time is now and if teams haven’t worked out their identity by now, it may be too late to hammer out those creases.
Enjoy this week everyone and remember to check out unwrappedsports.com and also all the USN family at www.sportscastr.com. You can find my Week 7 picks against the spread and prop bets for this week as well as a lot of other content on Sportscastr at @semiproUSN.
Corey Easley is a Contributor for the Unwrapped Sports Network website. Follow him @Cmoney52 on Twitter.