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Judge: NFL Peeks of Week 7

The SportsXchange

THIS WEEKEND'S BEST GAME

N.Y. Jets at Cincinnati

The time: 4:05 p.m., ET

The line: Bengals by 6-1/2

The story: The Jets have won the past four meetings and nine of the last 10. The Bengals have won their last four at home. Something has to give, and make the Jets the favorite to give. The reason: They haven't won two straight with Geno Smith as quarterback. More important, Smith has one touchdown, seven interceptions and a 51.59 passer rating in games following victories.

In short, he has stunk.

That's why it is hard to trust him or the Jets here. New York's defense will keep it competitive, but Smith commits too many turnovers ... just like another quarterback in the New York area. Yes, he looked good vs. New England. But he looked just as bad the week before against Pittsburgh, and that's how it goes with him.

One week up; the next down.

Smith catches a break with the absence of Cincinnati cornerback Leon Hall, lost for the season with an Achilles injury, but he'll need more than that to overcome a Bengals team that has won four of its last five, including defeats of Green Bay, New England and Detroit, clubs with a combined record of 13-7.

Something to consider: Cincinnati's Andy Dalton spreads the ball around so effectively that the Bengals have six receivers on pace to finish with 500 or more yards each. That has happened only once before in NFL history (the 2011 New Orleans Saints).

THREE OTHER GAMES YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT

Dallas at Detroit

The time: 1 p.m., ET

The line: Lions by 3

The story: Talk about mirror images of each other. Detroit's Matt Stafford is the top-ranked quarterback in the NFC. Dallas' Tony Romo is second. Demarco Murray leads Dallas with 428 yards rushing; Reggie Bush leads the Lions with 426. Dez Bryant's six touchdown passes are tied for first in the NFC ... with Detroit's Calvin Johnson. The Cowboys surrender an average of 394 yards per game; the Lions give up an average of 397. Dallas is plus-five in the takeaway/turnover ratio, tied with -- who else? -- Detroit.

I think you get the idea.

There should be a lot of scoring, and there should be a close game -- decided perhaps by a field goal. But you knew that. What you may not know is that Dallas has cornerback Brandon Carr on Johnson, and it's a matchup that could determine the outcome. It's also a test that is nothing new for Carr. The previous three weeks he was glued to Denver's Demaryius Thomas, Washington's Pierre Garcon and Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson.

None had more than 69 yards in receptions.

Something to consider: Bryant has three touchdowns in two games vs. the Lions.

Miami @ New England

The time: 1 p.m., ET

The line: Patriots by 6-1/2

The story: Yes, the Patriots are hurting, but they had wide receiver Danny Amendola and cornerback Aqib Talib back at practice this week, and talk about perfect timing. They're coming off a bad loss to the Jets, their division lead is down to one and they have been off their game for three weeks.

The proof? Tom Brady has one touchdown pass in that time, and that only came in the last 10 seconds vs. New Orleans. Tight end Rob Gronkowski returned last week, and Amendola is likely to reappear Sunday. Just a hunch, but the Patriots bounce back. They don't lose often at home, and they rarely lose there following a loss.

Plus, there's this: Miami is a mess. The Dolphins are on a three-game bender, their quarterback has a sore shoulder, the pass protection (OK, Ryan Clabo) has been a disaster and critics are beginning to hammer the coaching staff. In short, the Dolphins aren't what they were supposed to be, with another loss making them look like AFC East also-rans all over again.

Something to consider: Since 2003, the Patriots are 21-1 at home in October and won their last 13 division games there. They also have four straight defeats of Miami at Gillette Stadium.

Washington at Denver

The time: 4:25 p.m. ET

The line: Broncos by 12-1/2

The story: Neither of these teams plays defense, which means this could be another one of those 45-41 games Washington won last week. Robert Griffin III looks like RG3 again, and Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning. Except ... except he wasn't himself after getting blind-sided by Robert Mathis last weekend, and he missed Wednesday's practice.

OK, so he returned to workouts Thursday and Friday, and coach John Fox said he looked fine. Nevertheless, missing a day tells you something could be wrong and that maybe, just maybe, Washington has a chance.

It's not just that Washington finally won a game; it's that the Redskins won it in the last 45 seconds and produced 209 yards rushing -- including a season-high 84 by Griffin. That was vintage RG3 from a year ago, and maybe it signals his return and the return of a team that last year won the NFC East.

The problem, of course, is that Denver is better, and Denver is home. Plus, Manning lost only once in 12 home games since signing with the Broncos. Then there's this: The Redskins' defense has more holes than the 14th St. Bridge, with Washington ranked in the bottom quarter of 11 defensive categories, including 29th in passing yards per play.

Uh-oh.

Something to consider: This is the eighth time a former Denver head coach will face his former team, and the fifth time one did it in Denver. The group is 2-5 vs. the Broncos and 1-3 in Denver.

MONDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

Seattle at St. Louis

The time: 8:40 p.m., ET

The line: Seahawks by 10-1/2

The story: With last week's loss at Carolina, the Rams' season went kaput. Not only did they lose to a perennial bottom feeder, they subtracted quarterback Sam Bradford for the season.

No, I'm not confident Kellen Clemens can get these guys out of their funk, and, apparently, the Rams aren't either. First, they discussed Tim Tebow. Then, they called Brett Favre this week.

"There's no way in hell," Favre told them.

Which is another way of characterizing the Rams' chances here. They haven't played well on either side of the ball, Clemens is under center and the Seahawks are beginning to look like what they were supposed to be -- a dominant ballclub and one that can win on the road.

The evidence? They're 3-1 away from home.

Something to consider: Seattle's Russell Wilson has won his last five vs. the NFC West, with 10 touchdowns, three interceptions and a passer rating of 113.7. When Wilson has a rating of 100 or better the Seahawks are 11-1.

CRUMMY GAME OF THE WEEK

San Francisco at Jacksonville (London)

The time: 1 p.m., ET

The line: 49ers by 16-1/2

The story: Check out that point spread. Las Vegas is telling you what you already know: This one's a dead-bolt cinch. The 49ers won their last four. The Jags haven't won, period. And nobody believes that moving the game to another continent changes anything.

Which means ... yep, the rout is on.

The good news for Jacksonville is that even though this is considered a home game it's thousands of miles away from Florida. The Jags this season have exactly 11 points at home, with their next touchdown there their first. Bad, huh? It gets worse. They're playing a team beginning to find itself -- a league heavyweight that has outscored opponents by an average of 20 points per during its four-game winning streak.

Bottom line: Prince George's baptism this week offered more suspense than this game.

Something to consider: Not only have the 49ers won four straight, they scored over 30 points in each of those games.

FIVE GUYS IT'S GOOD TO BE IN WEEK 8

1. Detroit defensive tackle Nick Fairley. In his past six games at home he has 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

2. Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles. He averages 122.7 yards rushing per game in three career starts vs. Cleveland.

3. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees. Since 2011, he's 15-4 at home with 64 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and a passer rating of 113.5.

4. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He has a 116.4 passer rating in his regular-season career vs. Minnesota, with 24 touchdown passes and four interceptions. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Rodgers' passer rating is the highest in NFL history for a quarterback vs. a single opponent (minimum 250 attempts). Rodgers has a passer rating of at least 130.0 in four of his last five starts vs. the Vikings and had ratings of 140 or better in three straight against them.

5. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. He's 11-1 at home, with 38 touchdowns, 4 interceptions and a 120.0 passer rating. Plus, he faces the NFL's worst-ranked defense.

BELIEVE IT ... OR DON'T

1. Since 1990, 32 teams had losing records through the first seven games, yet went on to reach the playoffs. In fact, Cincinnati and Washington did it last season.

2. The Pittsburgh Steelers have won nine of their last 10 in October.

3. Detroit is 4-0 this season when forcing at least one turnover.

4. The New Orleans Saints have won their last four games immediately following byes.

5. Green Bay is 20-6 in Sunday night games, the best winning percentage in the NFL. The Packers have won seven of their last nine Sunday -night games and are 8-4 on Sunday nights under coach Mike McCarthy.

6. Cincinnati's Andy Dalton is the most accurate active passer inside the red zone, with 40 career touchdowns and one interception. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers is second, with 118 touchdowns and three interceptions (a 39.3:1 ratio) and Tom Brady is third with 238 touchdowns and 12 pickoffs (a 19.8:1 ratio).

7. The Chiefs' Jamaal Charles has at least 100 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in each of his first seven games, joining Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson as the only NFL players to accomplish that feat.

8. Eleven teams average 25 or more points per game, on pace to be the most in NFL history.

9. With 30 points this weekend, Denver becomes the third team in NFL history to score at least that many in each of its first eight starts. The 2007 New England Patriots and 2000 St. Louis Rams are the others.

10. If Kansas City holds Cleveland to no more than 17 points, the Chiefs become the fourth team since 1970 to start the season by allowing no more than 17 in each of its first eight games. The 1977 Atlanta Falcons were the last to do it.

TEN NUMBERS THAT MAY MEAN SOMETHING

4-0 -- Andy Reid vs. Cleveland

6 -- Receiving tandems with two players are on pace to finish with 1,000 yards each

7 -- Games this season where Seattle has two or more takeaways

11-0 -- Dallas' record when DeMarco Murray has 18 or more rushing attempts

12-5 -- Colin Kaepernick's starting record

14-7 -- Green Bay in road divisional games under Mike McCarthy

18 -- Eli Manning touchdown passes in his last six games vs. Philadelphia

29-5 -- New England's record at home vs. the AFC East since 2002

35 -- Sacks by Kansas City, best in the league

75 -- San Francisco points off turnovers, tops in the NFL

-- Clark Judge, a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange, has covered pro football since 1982 and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selections Committee.
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