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NFL Week 7: 5 Games to Watch

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Baltimore Ravens battle Houston Texans


The 2012 NFL season is in full swing. Going into week seven there is only one undefeated team, the Atlanta Falcons, and everyone has won a game. The AFC has only two teams with winning records, the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans. They meet Sunday in a game that could decide home field advantage in the playoffs.

The NFC is doing a little better with six teams above .500. The defending world champion New York Giants sit atop the East at 4-2. They will face the 3-3 Washington Redskins this week. Atlanta has a bye. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Seattle Seahawks Thursday night. The Chicago Bears are tied with the Minnesota Vikings in the North.

With 11 weeks left the games begin to become more important. This week we have four important divisional games and the Ravens-Texans match up. Each game involves teams that are in the playoff hunt. It is too early to call them make or break games, but all of them will go a long way towards deciding who plays in January.

If the first 10 weeks of the NFL season are about positioning then week seven is what they call in bowling a position round. The top teams will be meeting head to head. Each one involved will know their position in the standings when the dust settles.

Let's look at five pivotal match ups. In the AFC they are the Ravens-Texans, New York Jets at New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals. In the NFC we will look at Washington-New York Giants and the Detroit Lions at Minnesota.

The NFC games will be covered first, then the AFC.

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Washington Redskins vs New York Giants

Debby Wong- US Presswire

There are a lot of story lines in this one. First place is on the line. Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III will duel with the Giants Eli Manning for the first time. Washington has beaten New York in their last two meetings.

However, the big story is how will Griffin III fare against the Giants defense? The man known as RG3 has raised eyebrows with his play so far. In leading the Redskins to a 3-3 record Griffin III has ran and passed his team to over 20 points per game. The Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor University has shown the poise of a ten year veteran in the pocket.

Sunday will be the ultimate test for Griffin III. The Giants defense is built on their front four. The unit led by Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora get to the passer better than anyone in the game. New York's front four has the speed to keep up with Griffin III and will try to make him stay in the pocket.

If they do RG3 will have to be smart with the ball. So far, he has been. Griffin III has only thrown two interceptions. This is unheard of for a rookie.

The funny thing about Redskins-Giants is that Washington has had success against Manning. He has had some of his worst games against them. The Redskins secondary is not very good right now, but will be confident going into Sunday.

They had better be, because Griffin III will need all of the help he can get.

Without it he and Washington will have no chance.

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Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears

Dennis Wierzbicki- US PRESSWIRE

These teams have been battling it out since the 1930's. They are charter members of the old 'black and blue' division.

On Sunday, the Bears will be trying to create some breathing room between themselves and Detroit. Chicago has one loss while the Lions stand at 2-3.

For most Detroit fans 2012 has been a disappointment. After making the playoffs last season the Lions have gotten off to a slow start. They were five minutes away from being 1-4 last week before rallying to beat the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is a matchup of defensive lines and quarterbacks. The Bears Julius Peppers will get after Detroit's Matthew Stafford. The Lions Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch will chase down Chicago's Jay Cutler.

Neither team has much of a running game at the moment so protecting the passer will be crucial. Neither Stafford nor Cutler are the most mobile signal callers so the pass rushers will know where they are.

Whichever defense can knock the opponent's quarterback down the most will win.

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Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cincinnati Bengals

Frank Victores- US PRESSWIRE

The annual rivalry continues with both teams trying to stay within shouting distance of Baltimore. Pittsburgh has not won a game on the road this season. Cincinnati is coming off of back to back losses to the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns.

The Steelers are banged up as usual. The offensive line is in tatters. The defense will be without safety Troy Polamalu for the fourth time this season. Linebacker Lamar Woodley may not play either.

Cincinnati got off to a 3-1 start before their two losses. The loss to Cleveland left them 1-2 within the division. The Bengals can not afford to lose to Pittsburgh, because 1-3 in the North would cost them almost all tie breakers.

No one knows what to expect from either of these teams. When the Bengals play mistake free football they beat Pittsburgh. When they give the ball to the Steelers they lose.

There is no reason to believe that this will change Sunday. If Cincinnati holds on to the ball they will win. It's that simple.

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New York Jets vs New England Patriots

Debby Wong- US Presswire

With all of the talk about how bad the Jets are and how good New England is both teams stand at 3-3. If Bill Parcells is right when he says you are what your record is then the Jets and Patriots are the same. This would be average.

New York has had success against New England since Rex Ryan arrived in 2009. They eliminated the Patriots from the playoffs in 2010. That was then. This is Sunday.

The Jets offense will have to win this one. The defense may be banged up, but Ryan will find a way to slow down New England quarterback Tom Brady and his receivers. The Patriots will score, but they won't push New York around.

The Jets offense will have to do it, because New England's defense is vulnerable. The Patriots have blown leads in defeats to Baltimore and the Seattle Seahawks. Though both of those games were on the road, New England's defense did not get it done.

New York quarterback Mark Sanchez will have to keep the Jets in the game by not turning the ball over. If he can do this New York will have a chance to win it in the fourth.

The New York Times and Post will be quick to let us know how Sanchez and the Jets did.

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Baltimore Ravens vs Houston Texans

Andrew Weber- US PRESSWIRE

This is the marquee matchup of week seven. Both teams lead their divisions at 5-1. Houston was undefeated until suffering a loss to the Green Bay Packers last week. Baltimore's only loss was by one point. The Ravens defeated the Texans 20-13 in last year's playoffs.

Both teams are missing key personnel. Houston will be without linebacker Brian Cushing. Baltimore won't have linebacker Ray Lewis and cornerback Lardarius Webb. The good news for the Ravens is that linebacker Terrell Suggs may play Sunday. If he is healthy it will strengthen a Baltimore defense that has been gashed for over 200 yards on the ground in consecutive weeks.

The Texans have to be smarting after their loss to Green Bay. They were totally outplayed. With a chance for redemption, Houston should be raring to go.

Baltimore knows that their reputation as one of the best defensively is on the line. They will face Texans running back Arian Foster and one of the best offensive lines in football.

With each team having something to prove, this should be a good game. Not only will the Ravens and Texans be playing for a win Sunday, but maybe home field advantage in January. That is incentive enough to play their best.

Baltimore does not play as well on the road as they do at home.

This might be enough to give Houston the edge.