Week 7 of the 2023 NFL season is underway, and the only stunning element of the Jaguars winning their fourth game in a row in a 31-24 triumph over the Saints is that the New Orleans made it a game after trailing 24-9 in the second half. Jacksonville is now three games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2017 season when it reached the AFC Championship Game.
Since just about anything can happen when it comes to the NFL, what's next, you ask? Well, here are five bold predictions for this weekend's Week 7 slate.
The Los Angeles Chargers visiting the Kansas City Chiefs is one of the league's most intriguing, spotlight showdowns of the week despite the one-sided nature of this AFC West rivalry. The Chiefs have won 15 of the last 18 against the Chargers going back to the 2014 season. One of those Chiefs losses came in Week 17 of the 2020 season, when both MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes and All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce were rested.
However, each of those three Chargers wins have come at Arrowhead Stadium, the location of this week's contest. Los Angeles has won two of its last three games in Kansas City, a surprising fact. For years, the Chiefs offense has been the breadwinning unit on their team, but through six weeks in 2023, that distinction belongs to their defense. The Kansas City defense is the only one in the league to allow 21 or fewer points in every game this season, as they rank second in the NFL in scoring defense (14.7 points per game allowed, trailing only the San Francisco 49ers' 14.5 points per game allowed).
It's a remarkable shift from a season ago, because they allowed 21 points or fewer in seven games ALL OF LAST SEASON. What has made them so successful is that they are keeping offenses in front of them and restrict the big play. The Chiefs have allowed 14 plays of 20+ yards this season, tied for the fewest in the NFL. The curious part of this success is that they are achieving that result while maintaining a longtime component of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's scheme: the blitz. Kansas City blitzes opposing quarterbacks on 38.2% of their dropbacks this season, the fifth-highest rate in the NFL.
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That's where Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert thrives and why Los Angeles can score over 21 points against the Chiefs on Sunday afternoon. Herbert leads the NFL in completion percentage against the blitz (74.7%) entering Week 7, and his seven passing touchdowns against the blitz are the second-most in the NFL this season behind only Kirk Cousins' eight. His 115.9 passer rating against the blitz is also the fifth-highest in the NFL through the first six weeks of the season. Herbert is playing some solid, efficient football right now overall. He has thrown for multiple touchdowns in three of his past four games, and his 9-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio ranks as the third-best in the NFL while his 101.7 passer rating ranks as the fifth-best in the league entering Week 7.
Plus, these matchups involving Herbert versus Mahomes almost always turn into high-scoring affairs. The two have combined to throw 25 passing touchdowns in their first five meetings, tied for the third-most by for a single quarterback matchup in their first five meetings since at least 1950.
Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes head-to-head
Plenty of points will be scored come Sunday, snapping the Chiefs' streak of limiting opponents to no more than 21 points.
Jordan Love snaps out of funk following bye week against Broncos
There have been plenty of parallels to the start of Aaron Rodgers' and Jordan Love's tenures as the Packers starting quarterback. However, what happened to Love in Green Bay's 17-13 loss on "Monday Night Football" against the Raiders in Week 5 never happened to Rodgers. The 24-year-old threw for no touchdowns and three interceptions, something Rodgers has never done in a game during his 19-season NFL career.
Love's last three games against the Saints, Lions and Raiders -- two touchdowns and six interceptions -- have been a stark contrast to his strong start in the Packers' first two games of the season at the Bears and the Falcons, when he threw for six touchdowns while playing interception-free football.
Jordan Love's 2023 stats so far
|First Two Games
|Last Three Games
What has been consistent for Love is being just a bit off on his deep shots this season. He leads the NFL in air yards per pass attempt, averaging 9.9 this season. However, his 55.6% completion ranks last among 33 qualified quarterbacks this season. Fortunately for Love, he gets to face a defense Broncos defense that is allowing opposing passers to complete 76.4% of their passes, the highest rate allowed by any team through six games since at least 1940.
Completion percentage this season
* Worst by any team through 6 games since at least 1940
Denver, not so coincidentally, is also the NFL's worst scoring defense, allowing a league-high 33.3 points per game this season. Sure, that average is inflated a touch by allowing 70 against the Dolphins earlier in the year, but they have allowed 28 or more points in four of their six games. Something has to give in this matchup of struggles, and the first-time starting quarterback will take full advantage with Love lighting up the Broncos for a much-needed, bounce-back victory.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is one of the most successful active head coaches of all-time. His 166 wins are 16th-most by a head coach in NFL history; only Bill Belichick (299) and Andy Reid (252) have more victories among active head coaches. A chunk of that success has come after the Steelers' bye weeks. Their 12-4 record following a bye since 2007, Tomlin's first year as head coach in Pittsburgh, is tied for the best such record in the NFL over that span.
NFL's best records off a bye week since 2007
* 2007 was Tomlin's first season as Steelers head coach
However, that success post bye-week won't happen in 2023 against the Rams in Los Angeles in Week 7. No amount of rest and adjustments can fix what ails the Steelers. They are averaging 15.8 points per game, the third-fewest in the NFL. That would rank as their worst in a season since 1969. Despite their 3-2 record, Pittsburgh is the only team this season with a winning record and a negative point-differential (-31). Second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett has thrown for multiple touchdowns just once in his career -- the same amount Bailey Zappe, Jarrett Stidham, Sam Ehlinger and Joe Flacco have had since the start of last season, when Pickett's NFL career began.
His offensive line allows a pressure rate of 43.1%, the third-highest in the league while the Rams' 36.6% quarterback pressure rate is the 12th-best in the NFL. Three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is still getting after opposing passers at 32-years-old, as his 30 pressures this season ranked as the sixth-highest in the league entering Week 6. The Rams also have the eighth-best red zone defense in the league, allowing opponents to convert red zone drives into touchdowns 47.4% of the time. The Steelers are the NFL's worst red-zone offense, scoring a touchdown on 28.6% of drives inside the 20 in 2023.
That defense and Matthew Stafford marching the Rams' offense up and down the field at SoFi Stadium while connecting with Cooper Kupp, who has consecutive games with 100 or more receiving yards since returning from a hamstring injury in Week 5, and rookie Puka Nacua, who is tied for the NFL lead in catches this season with 50 alongside Bengals wideout Ja'Marr Chase, should be enough to top Tomlin's squad coming off a bye.
Commanders finally beat Daniel Jones* at MetLife Stadium
Football is a game of matchups, and for whatever reason, Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has mostly owned one of New York's NFC East rivals, the Washington Commanders. New York is 5-1-1 in his seven starts against Washington while the G-Men are 17-30 against all other NFL teams with Jones under center, including 3-9 combined against the Cowboys and Eagles. (*The asterisk on Jones' name is because it's still unclear if he will return to the lineup following a neck injury, or if the Giants will again go with Tyrod Taylor).
Daniel Jones' career vs. Washington
* 3-9 vs rest of division
However, the Commanders will get the better of Jones in this matchup. The Giants quarterback is in the midst of having career-worsts in passing yards per attempt (5.9), touchdown-to-interception ratio (2-6) and sacks taken per game (5.6). His six interceptions in 2023 have already topped the five he threw in 2022. Jones' 1.4 turnover per game are the third-most in the league just a year after he averaged 0.5 turnovers per game, the fewest in the NFL.
The upcoming game against Washington won't help those numbers. The Commanders hauled in three interceptions against Desmond Ridder and the Atlanta Falcons a week ago in a 24-16 victory, and they also have one of the most imposing defensive fronts in the NFL. That's a big issue for a Giants offensive line that is allowing a quarterback pressure percentage of 47.3%, the second-highest in the NFL ahead of only the Chicago Bears (48.4%). Defensive end Chase Young's 31 quarterback pressures this season are the fifth-most in the NFL , and he has the second-most pressures per game (6.2) in NFL this season, trailing only the Raiders' Maxx Crosby, who is averaging 6.3 pressures per game. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Daron Payne has the most tackles for loss by a defensive tackle (23) since 2022 while defensive end Montez Sweat actually leads the team in sacks (4.5), quarterback hits (9) and tackles for loss (6) this season.
Even though Jones has had their number, the Commanders will get the better of him on Sunday -- provided he plays after missing Week 6. Jones has been a limited practice participant on both Thursday and Friday.
Colts' run game comes back to life as Browns' top-ranked defense struggles with 49ers fatigue
The Colts surprisingly have one of the best running back tandems in the NFL this season. Fifth-year running back Zack Moss, a career backup entering 2023, ranks second in the NFL in rushing yards (466) behind only Christian McCaffrey's 553. His 93.2 rushing yards per game lead the NFL and Moss ranks tied for third in the league in 2023 for the most rushing first downs (26) and runs of 10 or more yards (13). That production has come in place of 2021 rushing champion Jonathan Taylor, who returned to action two weeks ago after signing a .
Despite that production, the Colts running game has been a roller coaster the last two weeks.
Colts rushing stats in their last 2 games
On paper, it would appear their Week 7 matchup against the Browns wouldn't be the one where they should look for a rebound performance. The Browns are the league's No. 1 total defense, averaging 200.4 total yards per game allowed, which is the best through five games since the 1971 Colts, and their 3.8 yards per play allowed is the best through five games since the 2008 Super Bowl champion Steelers defense led by Pro Football Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu.
Here's a look at three of the Browns' most notable defensive performances this season:
Week 1 vs. Bengals
- Cincinnati held to 6 first downs (fewest since 2009 vs. Jets)
- Joe Burrow: career-worsts in comp percentage (45%) and pass yards (82)
Week 3 vs. Titans
- Titans held to 94 yards (Franchise's fewest since 1974 vs. Cowboys and Tom Landry)
- Derrick Henry: 20 rush yards (fewest since 2017)
Week 6 vs. 49ers
- 49ers held to 17 points (San Francisco had scored 30+ points in first 5 games)
- Niners held to 215 yards (Fewest for San Fran under Kyle Shanahan)
However, many teams aren't the same the week after playing the physical bully that is 49ers. Since the start of 2022, teams are 2-18 in the week after playing San Francisco, including an 0-15 record from last season. Following the week they face the 49ers (since last season), teams have allowed 25.4 points per game, 10 more than what the Browns' fourth-ranked scoring defense allows this season (15.4). Most notably in this conversation, teams who just faced San Francisco are allowing 118 rushing yards per game the next week, 39 more rushing yards per game than the Browns' 79.0 they allow this season, the third-fewest in the NFL.
Cleveland earned a hard-fought win against the 49ers a week ago in a 19-17 triumph. They may even win against the Gardner Minshew-led Colts on Sunday, but either way, they will allow at least 120 rushing yards against Indianapolis thanks to the caliber of Indy's running backs and being emotionally and physically worn down.