NFL Week 7 Preview: Super Bowl rematch doesn’t have a real super look

By Barry Wilner - AP Pro Football Writer | October 22nd, 2017 7:10 am

The rematch of the Super Bowl with a historic finish doesn’t have much of a super look right now.

The Patriots are 4-2 and have not cruised in any game, mainly because of a leaky defense. The Falcons are 3-2 and easily could have one win.

Still, NBC must be salivating to have Tom Brady vs. Matt Ryan, particularly with both teams vulnerable when they don’t have the ball.

And, of course, each side has memories — joyful and painful — of New England’s rally from a 25-point second-half hole to win the championship in February.

“Well, I mean those games, they live with you the rest of your life — the wins and the losses,” Brady says. “I mean, I think there’s obviously 18 years for me. … There’s probably some games early in my career in the middle of October that I don’t really remember that well, but I would say the Super Bowl ones you always remember pretty well.

“I mean, there was a lot on the line. You know, it’s just the reality of it. As players, you hope you’re in that position. You’d rather be in that game than not be in that game, win or lose. It’s great to win and it stinks to lose, but that’s playing sports.”

Atlanta comes off blowing a 17-point lead and losing at home to Miami. New England was down 14-0 at the Jets before rallying to win.

“We obviously haven’t played as well as we’re capable of through five games,” Ryan says. “But we’re certainly close. We’ve done a lot of really good things at times.”

The weekend began with the Oakland Raiders’ 31-30 comeback victory over the visiting Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.

Derek Carr threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree on the final play after the game was extended by two straight defensive holding calls.

With their season on the line following the recent slump, Carr led an 85-yard touchdown drive in the final 2:25 to give the Raiders (3-4) the thrilling comeback win that snapped a four-game losing streak.

Off this week are Houston and Detroit, both 3-3.

Washington (3-2) at Philadelphia (5-1), Monday night

The Eagles have been a revelation this season, with the best record in the NFC. They already have a win at Washington and bring the top-ranked rush defense into this prime-timer.

But, coincidentally, the Redskins have more road wins (42) vs. the Eagles than any other opponent. They are getting strong performances from QB Kirk Cousins and an underrated defense led by Ryan Kerrigan.

Philly already is 2-0 in the division and can take solid control with a win.

Denver (3-2) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-4)

After four losses, most of them in close decisions, the Chargers have won two straight. With the Dodgers still playing, it’s unlikely many Angelenos will notice if the Bolts win again.

Denver, which beat LA in the opener, has the NFL’s top-ranked defense. The Broncos have won 11 of the past 13 meetings with the Chargers.

Arizona (3-3) vs. Los Angeles Rams (4-2) at London

Cheers, Adrian. Welcome back to London.

Adrian Peterson made this journey with the Saints on Oct. 1. Then he was dealt to Arizona, which lost its star running back, David Johnson, in the opener. So now the Cardinals play across the pond, though in Twickenham rather than Wembley.

“It’s definitely different,” Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer says of having Peterson behind him.

“Adrian is one of one. There’s nobody in the league like him right now, that runs the ball the way he does. Any time you add somebody who’s that special or that unique, it changes things.”

New Orleans (3-2) at Green Bay (4-2)

No Drew Brees-Aaron Rodgers matchup here, with A-Rod out with a collarbone injury.

Brees is up to old tricks with his accuracy and finding the end zone, and he excels vs. Green Bay. New Orleans has won three straight.

It won’t help the Packers that their secondary is banged up — why does this team always seem to have so many injuries? — or that Brett Hundley makes his first career start behind center.

Baltimore (3-3) at Minnesota (4-2)

Minnesota has to be thinking big thoughts with Rodgers down in Green Bay. The first step for the Vikings is to not stumble against the inconsistent Ravens.

Joe Flacco is having a miserable time and ranks 31st in passer ratings. Baltimore’s offense doesn’t make enough big plays, and the Vikings’ defense leads the NFL in third downs, surrendering 18 of 72 conversions for a league-low 25 percent.

Tampa Bay (2-3) at Buffalo (3-2)

Only the second time the Bucs have played at Orchard Park. They come off what could have been one of their worst defeats until they set franchise records by scoring 33 points in the second half and 27 in the fourth quarter against Arizona despite losing.

The Bills must find a way to spring loose LeSean McCoy, and the Bucs are ranked 12th in rushing defense; they are only 31st against the pass.

Cincinnati (2-3) at Pittsburgh (4-2)

The Bungles have become Bengals again, winning two in a row after dropping their first three.

This, however, is a tough spot for Cincinnati: The Steelers have won seven of the past eight meetings between the AFC North rivals, including the past three. Pittsburgh has won all nine of the most recent October games against Cincinnati.

Since Bill Lazor was promoted to offensive coordinator for the third game of the season, Andy Dalton has come alive. In his past three outings, Dalton has seven TDs and two tipped interceptions for a passer rating of 116.2. But he’s also 3-9 against the Steelers with 13 TDs, 11 INTs and a 76.5 passer rating.

Pittsburgh marched into Kansas City and handed the Chiefs their first loss in a defensive showcase.

Carolina (4-2) at Chicago (2-4)

Bears coach John Fox once took the Panthers to the Super Bowl. Panthers coach Ron Rivera played nine seasons for the Bears and later worked as their defensive coordinator.

Both teams have shown some strength on defense, Carolina ranking fourth, Chicago sixth. Veteran DE Julius Peppers has 6½ sacks in six games since his return to Carolina; he is a former Bear.

Tennessee (3-3) at Cleveland (0-6)

It just gets uglier and uglier for the Browns, who return to rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer after benching him last week. The Browns are 1-21 under coach Hue Jackson, though they seem to have a gem in top overall draft pick Myles Garrett. The defensive end has three sacks in two games after being sidelined by an ankle injury.

Watching Titans QB Marcus Mariota have to stay in the pocket because of a balky hamstring figured to be painful for the team’s fans. But he looked strong, especially in the fourth quarter, when Tennessee scored 21 points to beat Indianapolis.

New York Jets (3-3) at Miami (2-3)

The Jets might have shown more in their close loss to New England that included a strange officiating call in the fourth quarter that damaged them, than in their real wins. A team seemingly headed for a forgettable season has energized its fan base with its enthusiasm and resilience.

Miami hasn’t done quite that, but last week’s rally from a 17-0 hole to win at Atlanta was sensational. It was the Dolphins’ biggest road comeback victory since 1994. Miami has 11 straight wins in games decided by seven points or fewer.

Jacksonville (3-3) at Indianapolis (2-4)

Might be lots of ground work here. The Jaguars lead the NFL in rushing, have the next-to-worst run defense and lead the league with 23 sacks. The Colts don’t do a whole lot through the air without injured Andrew Luck but do have still-impressive veteran RB Frank Gore.

Dallas (2-3) at San Francisco (0-6)

An all-time series tied 17-17-1, with some classics through the years.

This doesn’t have that look, with the Niners keeping every game close before losing, the Cowboys struggling to find their form. Dallas has equaled its loss total of 2016.

Seattle (3-2) at New York Giants (1-5)

Somehow, despite all their injuries and turmoil, the Giants won for the first time, at Denver no less. They have lost three in a row to Seattle, which has not truly hit its stride this season.

New England Patriots running back James White scores the winning touchdown during overtime of Super Bowl 51. The Super Bowl rematch has lost some of its luster this season, with both the Patriots and Falcons struggling at times this season.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/web1_Pats-GameWinner.jpgNew England Patriots running back James White scores the winning touchdown during overtime of Super Bowl 51. The Super Bowl rematch has lost some of its luster this season, with both the Patriots and Falcons struggling at times this season. Elise Amendola | AP file photo

By Barry Wilner

AP Pro Football Writer


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