Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday 22nd October, 9:25pm (UK time)
|Steelers v Bengals||
The Steelers have had a very up-and-down season thus far, and they haven’t looked like the dominant franchise fans are used to watching. They barely survived the Browns in Week 1, and they suffered losses to underdogs, the Bears and the Jaguars. Still, you can’t discount the fact that their offence still boasts the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and LeVeon Bell. Rookie T.J. Watt and veteran James Harrison anchor their defence, giving them energy and a strong linebacking core. A 26-9 thrashing of the Ravens on the road in Week 4 proved that this team still has what it takes to win their division, and they'll look to prove that in Week 7.
The Cincinnati Bengals’ entire season could rest on the outcome of this Week 7 game. If they win, they would pull to 3-3 and possibly the division lead. If they lose, they'd fall to 2-4 and likely out of play-off contention. They started off the 2017-18 season with three consecutive losses, but have since won two in a row. The Bengals also had a bye in Week 6, so they've had time to prepare for this season-defining game. Tight end Tyler Kroft has stepped up following Tyler Eifert’s serious injury, and rookie Joe Mixon has continued to shine in his first year with the team. However, the team’s success depends on the arm of quarterback Andy Dalton and whether or not he can utilise his biggest weapon in A.J. Green. If he can limit his turnovers and get Green involved, the Bengals could be in for a resurgence.
Despite the Bengals' improved play, the Steelers are hungry for a dominant divisional victory. Cincinnati has a more well-rounded and hard-hitting defence, but Pittsburgh’s front seven should easily be able to bully the Bengals’ offensive line and give Dalton some trouble in the pocket. This game could be low-scoring, but expect the Steelers to emerge with a victory and to remain atop the division standings.
Chicago Bears vs. Carolina Panthers
Sunday 22nd October, 6pm (UK time)
|Bears v Panthers||
The Bears haven’t experienced much success thus far this season, but that was expected before they even played their first game. With Mike Glennon at quarterback, Cameron Meredith out for the season, and Victory Cruz cut from the team, their outlook wasn’t the best prior to Week 1. Despite their shortcomings, Chicago actually took down the Steelers in Week 3 and gave the Vikings a run for their money in Week 5. Their schedule has been brutal, as they've faced the Falcons, Steelers, and Packers already. What the Bears lack in talent they make up for in creativity and heart, and that could be the difference in many of their games this season.
The Carolina Panthers have to be one of the most confusing teams in the NFL right now. They've beaten the Patriots and the Lions on the road, but they've also lost to the Saints and Eagles at home. Their defence is no doubt the strongest part of the team, but they've won and lost based on the play of quarterback Cam Newton. Newton has had great games where his passes are on point and he finds the end zone multiple times, and he’s put up duds in which he throws three interceptions and can’t seem to complete two passes in a row. Rookie Christian McCaffrey gives Carolina’s offence some versatility, with his shifty running and good hands, and Kelvin Benjamin has become almost unguardable on downfield throws. If Newton can overcome the loss of tight end Greg Olsen and make the right decisions against the Bears, the Panthers should be just fine.
Though the Bears have proven they won’t lose without putting up a fight, the Panthers need to score a convincing win in Chicago after an embarrassing loss at home to Philadelphia. Newton should pick apart the Bears' defence with the help of Benjamin and McCaffrey, and it would be surprising if Chicago score more than nine or ten points on this Panthers’ defence. All signs point to this one being a blowout in Carolina’s favour.