Shapiro's Week 7 NFL picks: Patriots D will pave way to victory
There was no Thursday night game last week and there was a Monday doubleheader, but things felt much more normal in Week 6 in the NFL, even if it was a disaster for yours truly.
On Sunday afternoon, the Jacksonville Jaguars fell behind 17-3 and were not even competitive in their home game with the Lions. I probably deserved better fate in the Ravens-Eagles game, where the Under appeared to be a home run most of the day, but a less-than-ideal series of events led to a big Philadelphia comeback and an unfortunate loss.
The week concluded with a pitiful performance from “America’s Team." The Cowboys turned the ball over four times and were manhandled by Kyler Murray, Budda Baker, and the Arizona Cardinals.
On to Week 7!
San Francisco 49ers vs. New England Patriots
Sun, October 25 2020, 8:25 PM
New England Patriots
San Francisco 49ers
There's no doubt it was ugly for New England in its 18-12 home loss to the Broncos on Sunday, but I am willing to give the Patriots a pass.
Not only was it the team’s first game since Oct. 5, but it was quarterback Cam Newton’s first time on the field since he was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list. The lack of practice time was evident.
The Patriots may not be the team we have come to expect, given the lack of offensive playmakers on the outside and some key defensive opt outs, but they are much better than their Week 6 performance.
Like is often the case with teams that have lost in the Super Bowl, it has been a rough go in 2020 for the 49ers. Some of the regression was expected, especially on defense, but much of it has been awful injury luck.
Their dominant defensive line has been decimated and their secondary is down Richard Sherman, Jaquiski Tartt, and K’Waun Williams.
They could also potentially be without offensive linemen Trent Williams and Ben Garland in Week 7, as well as starting running back Raheem Mostert, so a team with all sorts of issues is heading cross-country off a monster divisional win.
The Patriots have not been under .500 after five games since 2001. They'll encounter a quarterback that head coach Bill Belichick drafted and groomed before a trade to San Francisco. History tells me the best defensive mind in NFL history is likely to make things very difficult for Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners offense.
It may not be a work of art, but New England will control the game on defense, get enough plays from Newton, and find a way Sunday in Massachusetts.
Chicago Bears vs. Los Angeles Rams
Tue, October 27 2020, 12:15 AM
Los Angeles Rams
The Bears defense is nowhere near as dominant as it was in 2018, when it gave up a league-low 283 points and went 12-4 in head coach Matt Nagy’s first season, but it is still very good.
Unlike most teams, Chicago has been able to get pressure on the opposing quarterback by rushing just four and has one of the better cornerbacks in the league, Kyle Fuller. The Bears head into their Week 7 contest with the Rams with the best red-zone defense in the NFL and a record of 5-1.
No one is mistaking this squad for the championship group from 1985, but the Bears have made life difficult for Sean McVay’s offense in their last two meetings and should be able to do so again Monday night.
The Rams were not at their best, especially on defense, in the first half in their game Sunday night in San Francisco. They tackled poorly and made things far too easy for a quarterback who was benched the previous week against Miami.
But the group led by Aaron Donald is back Southern California for a bounce-back spot against an offense with limited weaponry. Donald and the Los Angeles front seven are likely to control the line of scrimmage against a subpar Bears offensive line, while Jalen Ramsey will limit the output of the Bears only serious playmaker, Allen Robinson.
I would be surprised if Chicago gets in the end zone more than once.
Barring scores on defense or turnovers in the opposition's red zone, this looks like a game where both teams will commit to the run and the short and intermediate passing game. The clock should move quickly and the score should remain in the 30s.
Detroit Lions vs. Atlanta Falcons
Sun, October 25 2020, 5:00 PM
The Falcons got off to another slow start to the season and this time it cost Dan Quinn his job. With new head coach Raheem Morris at the helm, Atlanta went into U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 6 and earned their first victory of the season against the Vikings.
Perhaps much of the credit can go to a fresh start under Morris, but I would argue a healthy Julio Jones was the difference. The Future Hall of Famer was not himself through much of the first five games, but he posted 137 yards and two touchdowns against the porous Vikings pass defense.
The Falcons are a tough offense to stop with Jones in the lineup and below average without him.
With Jones back to nearly full strength, the Falcons offense has far too many weapons for Detroit to deal with. Matthew Stafford and the Lions will score points in Georgia, but not enough to prevent Morris from his second consecutive victory.