NFL Week 7: Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sun. Oct. 23, 2011 1 p.m. EST

The NFC South division has become increasingly more competitive over the last few years with emergence of teams like the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There is no question that Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints are the team to beat in the NFC South every single season, but things have gotten much tougher within the division as of late with the Falcons becoming a legitimate Super Bowl title contender and the Bucs being much better than anyone anticipated up to this point in the Josh Freeman era.

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Before last week’s win over the New Orleans Saints, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked like they were in serious danger of losing control of their season. With a devastating loss to the up-and-coming San Francisco 49ers in Week 5 (48-3), the Bucs looked lost on both sides of the football and saw running back LeGerette Blount go down with an injury that might keep him out the rest of the season.

Cheerleader in 2006 costume

Tampa Bay Cheerleader

Without Blount coming out of the backfield and the passing game not being sharp as it was last season, the Tampa Bay Bucs seemed like a team that had lost its mojo, but then came out last week and put on a show against the division-leading Saints. With a win over the Saints, the Bucs are right back in the hunt for the NFC South division title which makes every game from here on out a must-win situation for Josh Freeman and company.

In Week 7, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have their work cut out for them for a third consecutive as they will be defending their home field against the Chicago Bears. Even though the Bears have struggled at times this season, especially on the offensive line, the boys from the Windy City are still a solid football team on both sides of the ball and always a tough team for any opponent.

Now that the NFC North division is being dominated by the undefeated Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers (6-0) and the up-and-coming Detroit Lions (5-1), the Chicago Bears best chance of making their way back into the postseason this time around is to clinch a playoff berth in the NFC Wild Card. With that being said, this game could be extremely important for Jay Cutler and company as they might be going head-to-head against the Bucs in the near future for the Wild Card.

As of right now, the Chicago Bears have been given the edge in this Week 7 matchup with a -1 point spread. Despite being on the road and still struggling to protect Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler, the Bears are the favorites; which leaves me scratching my head.

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This game has the potential to be one of the best of the week, but in the end I believe the Bucs will get a second straight win at home.

Take the Bucs at +1.

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Oakland Raiders Jason Campbell to miss up to six weeks

There is no question after Week 6 that the Oakland Raiders are the real deal this season as they have now won four games in the first six weeks and already have half as many wins as they did last season. With the running game firing on all cylinders with Pro Bowler Darren McFadden leading the way and the defense playing much better than anticipated, the Raiders seem to be destined to compete for a playoff spot in the AFC Conference this season. Not only might they get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2002, but they have a great chance of competing for the AFC West division title with only the San Diego Chargers standing in their way.

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In Week 6, the Oakland Raiders were able to make easy work of another up-and-coming team in the Cleveland Browns, but it came at a cost as they have now lost starting quarterback Jason Campbell to a broken collarbone. The injury has not ruled Campbell out for the season, but he could miss about six weeks since the injury will require surgery.

With no real viable backup in Oakland since the Raiders have no faith in Kyle Boller or rookie Terrelle Pryor, the storied franchise has already started looking elsewhere for a short-term and possibly long-term replacement for Jason Campbell.

SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 05:  Quarterback Jason Ca...

Jason Campbell

Before this NFL regular season began, the Oakland Raiders were considering making a move to bring in another quarterback since big-name like Kevin Kolb (Arizona Cardinals), Donovan McNabb (Minnesota Vikings), Alex Smith (San Francisco 49ers) and Carson Palmer (Cincinnati Bengals) were reportedly up for grabs. Obviously, three out of these four either found new teams or stayed where they were, but Carson Palmer was the exception.

Reportedly, the Oakland Raiders have shown interest in three veteran quarterbacks thus far. The first quarterback the Raiders were courting was former Jacksonville Jaguars longtime gunslinger David Garrard who has been looking for the right place to land since being released before the season began.

Unfortunately, Garrard just had surgery to repair a herniated disk and will be unavailable to sign. It is a shame that the timing didn’t work out because Garrard might have been the perfect fit in Oakland. Now that Garrard is off the table, the Raiders have reached out to free agent Josh McCown and have gone after Carson Palmer.

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The best option now for the Oakland Raiders is Carson Palmer since the Cincinnati Bengals seem content with rookie quarterback Andy Dalton who has played much better than anticipated in his first year in the NFL, but the Bengals still seem reluctant to let Palmer go up to this point. With Bengals owner Mike Brown still standing firm about not trading Carson Palmer since he did live up to his end of the bargain, the Raiders acquiring the former Heisman trophy winner and California boy might be a longshot, but now it is a reality.

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NFL Week 6: Dallas Cowboys @ New England Patriots

No team in the NFL has been more criticized over the last two seasons than the Dallas Cowboys. With arguably one of the most talented squads on both sides of the football, the Cowboys have been under tremendous pressure to produce a winning football team and contend for a Super Bowl title, but they just haven’t been able to live up to their high expectations.

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Despite being in third place in the NFC East division standings coming into Week 6, the Dallas Cowboys do have a shot at redemption this week as they will face off against a very good New England Patriots offense. If the Cowboys can pull off a win in Week 6, the pressure will be lifted for at least one week as they will have proven they can contend and beat one of the best teams in the NFL.

As it always seems to these days, all the pressure will be on quarterback Tony Romo to get this team going in Week 6. With all the blame being directed at Romo for the Cowboys slow start, the veteran gunslinger will have to have a good performance in Week 6 in order to quite his critics and get his team back on track.

Tony Romo #9 quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo #9

With a 2-2 record and coming off a much-needed bye week in order to get players like Miles Austin and Dez Bryant back to 100%, the Dallas Cowboys will have no excuses on Sunday as they will have to go into a hostile territory and get the best one of the best quarterbacks in the league. With Tom Brady having another MVP caliber season under center for the Patriots, New England has been nearly impossible to stop on offense this season as the three-time Super Bowl champion has been surgical the way he has torched opposing defenses.

Despite the defenses for both teams needing to step up in this matchup in order to cool off the potent offenses, the attention will be on the offensive side of the football in what could potentially be the highest scoring game of the week. This will no doubt be a game in which the defense takes a backseat and the offenses reign supreme.

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The return of Pro Bowl wide receiver Miles Austin should be a much-needed boost for Tony Romo and company, but I’m not sure it will be enough to lead them to victory over a New England Patriots team that has only truly been challenged once this season (loss to Buffalo Bills). It will be all about the fourth quarter for the Dallas Cowboys in this game with the football in Tony Romo’s hands. If Romo can play up to his potential in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys have a great chance of pulling off the slight upset.

As of right now, the New England Patriots are favored to come out on top in this matchup with a -7 point spread. Even though I believe the Dallas Cowboys could win this game, the Patriots are a safe bet with this spread.

Take the Patriots -7.

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Terrelle Pryor has five-game ban lifted heading into Week 6

Terrelle Pryor has 5 game ban lifted and is ready for week 6

The Oakland Raiders have gotten off to a good start once again this season with three wins in their first five games. Not only are the Raiders a much improved team on the offensive side of the football with running back Darren McFadden not missing a beat and quarterback Jason Campbell playing much better than anticipated under center, but the Raiders defense seems to be for real this season despite losing arguably their best player in cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (Philadelphia Eagles).

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With the offense firing on all cylinders and the defense holding leads against potent offenses, the Oakland Raiders could be headed for their first playoff appearance since 2002 when they made it all the way to the Super Bowl. Now that the Raiders have become a force to be reckoned with in the AFC West division and the AFC Conference for that matter, this team seems to be on the rise in the NFL, but they did suffer a major loss last week when longtime owner and NFL innovator Al Davis died at the age of 82.

Terrelle Pryor has 5 game ban lifted.

Terrelle Pryor

Regardless of how people may feel about Al Davis personally, the controversial owner played a big part in the NFL being what it is today and will be sorely missed. With the loss of Davis fresh in the players’ minds, the Raiders will almost certainly come out in Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns full of emotion and ready to give their fans in the Bay Area another win on the season.

As if the death of Al Davis wasn’t enough of a storyline heading into this showdown with Colt McCoy and company in Week 6, the Oakland Raiders will also get rookie quarterback Terrelle Pryor back from his five-game ban. There is no telling how head coach Hue Jackson expects to use him at this point, but the addition of an athlete like Terrelle Pryor is definitely a boost for an offense that has really come on strong this season.

At this point in time, the Raiders seem pretty content with quarterback Jason Campbell as the starter under center, but with Terrelle Pryor coming into the fold the quarterback controversy in the Bay Area might be brewing if the veteran gunslinger starts to struggle this week. Like many young quarterbacks in the league today like Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers) and Tim Tebow (Denver Broncos), Terrelle Pryor is a constant threat with his legs and could be very useful for the Raiders in the near future.

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As I said before, the Oakland Raiders are playing pretty well right now and Jason Campbell has been impressive thus far or at least better than expected (1,118 yards, 6 TDs and 4 INTs), but the pressure will be on the veteran to continue to play well or he could get pulled just like Kyle Orton did last week in favor of the younger and more mobile Tim Tebow.

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NFL Week 5: Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons

Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons Sun. Oct. 9, 2011 8:20 p.m. EST

Throughout the first four weeks of the NFL regular season, the league has been dominated by offense with teams lighting up the scoreboards at a record-setting pace. With defense taking a backseat to potent offenses, teams around the league have had to adjust and one team that hasn’t missed a hitch has been the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.

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Last season the Green Bay Packers were a very good football team because they had a high-scoring offense led by reigning Super Bowl MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a lockdown defense with up-and-comer Clay Matthews leading the way. This season the defense in Green Bay has taken a backseat to the Packers seemingly unstoppable offense, but so far that hasn’t posed much of a problem with Mike McCarthy’s squad being just one of two (Detroit Lions being the other) undefeated teams left in the NFL this season.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan Atlanta Falcons

In Week 5, the Green Bay Packers will put their undefeated record on the line against quite possibly one of their toughest opponents yet in the Atlanta Falcons. Even though the Falcons haven’t really lived up to expectations this season with a disappointing 2-2 record thus far and a third place standing in the NFC South division, Matt Ryan and company are still a very talented football team on both sides of the ball and should give the Packers are run for their money this weekend at the Georgia Dome.

Last week the Atlanta Falcons were able to bounce back from their loss to the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers (16-13) in Week 3 with a win over the Seattle Seahawks, 30-28. Despite getting back on track with their second win of the season, the Falcons were by no means impressive in the win over the Seahawks. Not only did Atlanta barely survive to come out on top against Seattle, but this Falcons squad looks like they might have some problems to fix on both sides of the football in order to compete with the best of the best once again this season.

The only advantage the Atlanta Falcons coming into Week 5 against the defending Super Bowl champions is that they will be playing at home at the George Dome. Even though the Falcons have struggled on the road this season with a 1-2 record thus far, Atlanta is one of the best teams in the league when playing on their home field, especially with Matt Ryan under center.

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As of right now, the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers have been given the edge in this matchup with a -6 point spread. The Atlanta Falcons may still be a playoff contender and might be able to bounce back in the NFC South division to win their second straight division title, Matt Ryan and company won’t be able to compete with a Packers team that is firing on all cylinders right now.

Take the Packers at -6.

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