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Week 7 NFL Picks: Bengals and Steelers to Battle in Prime Time

Are the Steelers going to continue to fall in the AFC North, or will they get back into the race with a division win over the Bengals?
Are the Steelers going to continue to fall in the AFC North, or will they get back into the race with a division win over the Bengals?
Gregory Shamus

I still haven't quite been able to get a good grasp of which teams are the favorites in the 2012 NFL season. I was 5-9 in my picks last week, dropping my season record to 47-44. In previous seasons, I would strive for 65-70%. This year, I'm just trying to stay above the .500 mark. Maybe the fact that the Browns finally won last week will help me break out of my slump for my Week 7 picks.

Week 7 Games Explanation Pick
vs. Early Clash for the NFC West Title: I think 49ers fans should be a little concerned right now. I still like the makeup of their team. When they face opponents who are far less superior to them, they deliver in impressive fashion like they did against the Jets and the Bills. Against tougher competition, they have kind of wilted. Their two losses on the season came against the Vikings and the Giants, two teams I would consider to have stingy defenses. I would put the Seahawks in a similar boat as those two teams. Their defense has been incredible, and the offense seems to have the knack for making big plays down bat. Seattle's victories against tough opponents, the Packers and the Patriots, both came at home. This is a close enough matchup to where I will use the 49ers' home-field advantage as the deciding factor. 49ers 20, Seahawks 17
vs. Titans Are Dead on the Road: The Bills were headed into a tailspin downwards after getting blown out by the Patriots and the 49ers in back-to-back weeks, but their defense hung tough and picked up a road win against the Cardinals last week. The Bills finally showed off the type of pass rush I expected from them, and those guys have a chance to go off again this week with how bad Chris Johnson is on the ground. The Titans aren't expected to get Jake Locker back until next week, and they've been awful on the road. In their three road losses, they've lost by 28, 24, and 23 points. Ouch. Bills 34, Titans 17
vs. Still Competitive, But Not In This Type of Game: We'll see how the Ravens respond to some adversity this week against the Texans. One thing to remember: even though they have lost Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb for the season, they are going to get Terrell Suggs back this week. Lewis had been declining anyway, so getting some fresh blood in their may help. The Ravens also have a high-octane offense, so it's not like they will crumble. In a game like this, though, they aren't going to be able to fix their issues against the run. The Texans were just taken to task by the Packers, but that was the first time that's happened all season. I think they respond big against Baltimore. Texans 31, Ravens 20
vs. Rodgers Ready to Roll: Look out: the Green Bay Packers might have just found their groove. Coming off of a six-touchdown performance against the Texans, Aaron Rodgers now takes on a Jeff Fisher team that has been competitive in all of their games en route to a .500 record. Three years into his career, I would be pretty disappointed with the lack of a "wow" factor being displayed by Sam Bradford, though. Personally, I am more intrigued by what the five rookie quarterbacks in this year's class have done in just five-six games than what Bradford has done in three years. Packers 28, Rams 16
vs. Let the Comeback Begin: At 6-0, the Atlanta Falcons don't have to worry about teams like the New Orleans Saints or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chasing them down for a division title. With that said, I would be fascinated in watching the Saints rally back this season and be competing for a wildcard spot heading into the final week of the season. I like the fact that the Buccaneers are starting to phase LaGarrette Blount into their running back rotation again. They have relied a bit too much on the "big play" to score this season, though. While that typically works against the Saints, I'd be more comfortable in the Bucs if I felt they could eat up some clock to keep the ball away from Drew Brees and company. Saints 34, Buccaneers 27
vs. Cam's Struggles to Continue: The Panthers need to regroup...and fast. In a year in which the Saints got off to a terrible start, the Panthers have failed to capitalize within the division, in large part due to poor play from quarterback Cam Newton. The bye week came at the right time for Carolina -- they have a chance to hit the reset button with their quarterback with a more refined game plan. Unfortunately, it'll have to come against a tough Cowboys secondary. DeMarco Murray is out with a foot injury this week, but Felix Jones looked good in his place a week ago and Carolina struggles against the run. I'll go with the Cowboys to win and keep the Panthers sinking. Cowboys 20, Panthers 14
vs. Skelton Back in the Saddle: The Cardinals scored at least 20 points in their first four games (all wins) of the season. In their past two losses, they've scored a combined 19 points. Now, they will have John Skelton back in the saddle after an injury to Kevin Kolb. While I still like Arizona's defense, this team is poised to continue sinking in the NFC West over the next few weeks. Although the Vikings' defense was eaten alive by Robert Griffin III last week, they fared much better in previous weeks and can hold the Cardinals' offense in check. Vikings 17, Cardinals 13
vs. Game of the Week: I can't wait to see this game. The Redskins' defense might be trash, but Robert Griffin III is doing some pretty big things in Washington. This will be Griffin's first division game of the season, and he'll be going up against a Giants defensive front that finally came to life last week against the 49ers. Jason Pierre-Paul already issued a warning to Griffin: "Don't bring it to my side. Go the other way." The Giants are expected to get more production from Hakeem Nicks this week, and with their running game clicking too, Eli Manning will have too easy of a time against the Redskins' defense. Giants 42, Redskins 28
vs. Turn-the-TV-Off-As-Fast-As-You-Can of the Week: I've made it quite clear the level of disdain I have for how bad the Jacksonville Jaguars are. The Oakland Raiders have been more competitive than the Jaguars, as demonstrated by their close game against the Falcons last week, but I still wouldn't rank them very far ahead of the Jaguars either. The Jaguars average 13 points per game, and the Raiders average just a shade over 17 points per game. I'll take the Raiders to win since they aren't the team traveling from coast-to-coast this week. Raiders 21, Jaguars 13
vs. Restoring Balance in the NFL: I'm amazed that the Jets are 3-3 right now, and I have no idea where to rank them this year. I'm amazed that any Mark Sanchez-led team can be .500 at this point, especially with Darrelle Revis out. I'm amazed that the Patriots have not been able to finish games this year, something that has been a staple in Bill Belichick's tenure with the team. These two teams are fighting for the top spot in the division, as are the Bills and the Dolphins. There's no way I can pick the Patriots to lose, but I'd like this to be a close game to keep the rivalry at a high. Patriots 27, Jets 21
vs. Sunday Night AFC North Action: I really hope the Browns are able to win this Sunday, because it will make watching the AFC North game on Sunday night even more entertaining; the Browns would gain a game of ground on at least one of the teams. The Steelers haven't been good defensively; they've lost to the Titans and the Raiders, two teams I consider among the worst in football offensively. As much as the Bengals' defense might be struggling, when they face an opposing team with some protection issues, they can rush the passer. They will get some hits on Ben Roethlisberger, and A.J. Green will have a big day en route to a Bengals win. Bengals 24, Steelers 17
vs. Bears' Defense Thriving: There are a lot of intriguing games this week, and it gets capped off with a big division game between the Lions and the Bears on Monday Night. The Lions rallied to beat the Eagles last week, but their offense continues to scuffle compared to what is expected of them. The Bears' defense is playing at an elite level this season, and I don't expect the Lions to magically be on top of their game offensively. Detroit's only hope, which is very possible, is that Jay Cutler and that Bears offensive line have another terrible day. When it comes down to it, the Bears are just the better team in 2012. Bears 24, Lions 19
vs. Battle of the Rookie QB's: We get the second rookie quarterback faceoff of the season when Brandon Weeden takes on Andrew Luck. Before the season, I thought the Browns would be a better team than the Colts. Although Indianapolis has one more win than Cleveland, I'm not sold on the fact that they are better. They still have a lot of depth issues, while the Browns may finally be pulling everything together to go from being a competitive team to a winning team. I'll have my full game preview and prediction for this contest on Dawgs By Nature this Saturday.
Teams on the Bye Week

Survivor Pick:
I am 3-3 in survivor, with a three-game winning streak. During my streak, I've used HOU, CHI, and ATL. This week, I'll take the Bills over the Titans.