The NFL’s last two undefeated teams — the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles — fell from their lofty perches last Sunday, and now comes a Week 7 slate that includes five 5-1 teams, three 4-2 teams and a host of other teams hovering around . 500.
Several games on this week’s schedule are potential premieres, including the Miami Dolphins versus Eagles, both of which could be Super Bowl contenders.
Meanwhile, life isn’t getting any easier for a number of struggling teams. The quarterbacks for the Las Vegas Raiders, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns and New York Giants have injuries that will or may force them to sit out Week 7. Jimmy Garoppolo, Justin Fields and Anthony Richardson have already been ruled out for the season. Both Daniel Jones and Deshaun Watson were questionable heading into Sunday.
Here are five of the most interesting storylines to follow across the league. (Find the NFL Week 7 schedule here.)
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1. The heavyweight confrontation between the Lions and the Crows
Two of the league’s best teams — one from the NFC and one from the AFC — face off at M&T Bank Stadium. The Detroit Lions (5-1) aim to extend their winning streak to five games and build on their early lead in the NFC North. But they have a tough challenge in Baltimore against the Ravens.
Detroit’s offense ranks among the best in the NFL, trailing only Miami and Buffalo in points scored. But Baltimore boasts the second-best defense in the league, so things may not come easy for Jared Goff and his offense. Or will they? Last week, against a very good Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, Goff passed for a season-high 353 yards and two touchdowns. Amon-Ra St. Brown had 12 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. With a win on Sunday, the Lions will have the best start in franchise history, which occurred in 1956.
Meanwhile, the Ravens are coming off a win at Tennessee and want to build momentum after an up-and-down start to the season, which included missed opportunities and losses in very winnable games against the Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers. Can Lamar Jackson and his talented but scrappy receivers keep up with the Lions? (Lions at Ravens, 1 p.m. ET Sunday.)
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2. Continued dominance over leaders?
The Chiefs are on a five-game winning streak after losing their season opener to the Lions, and they still haven’t quite kicked things up a gear while averaging 30 fewer yards and 5 fewer points per game compared to last season. Sunday, the Chiefs welcome the Chargers, who stumbled to a 2-3 start. There’s something missing with the Chargers, who are coming off a narrow loss Monday night to the Dallas Cowboys after a Justin Herbert interception with 90 seconds left killed their hopes of pulling off a comeback victory.
Brandon Staley needs to start turning things around, but the Chargers have lost the last three meetings with the Chiefs and six of the last eight. Kansas City also hasn’t faced much division title competition recently: it has won the AFC West seven straight seasons.
Sunday’s game has the potential to be a very entertaining shootout between two of the best quarterbacks in the league in Herbert and Patrick Mahomes. But it’s never clear which Chargers team will emerge. (Chargers at Chiefs, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday.)
3. Dolphins-Eagles: Best or best?
The 5-1 Eagles welcome the exciting 5-1 Dolphins to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night. Given the talent level of these teams, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if this could be a Super Bowl preview.
Philadelphia’s unbeaten streak ended with a disappointing last-minute loss to the New York Jets last week. To rebound, he’ll have to find a way to slow down the Dolphins, whose offense is on a dizzying pace (2,992 total yards, second-most in NFL history through six games). The Eagles’ defense ranks among the league leaders, and this unit is paired with an offense that trails only the Dolphins (498.7) in yards per game (395.0).
Both teams are led by young, charismatic and highly creative coaches. Both feature two of the most talented young quarterbacks in the game, Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, who are former teammates together at Alabama. And both offenses feature a dynamic wide receiver duo: Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle for Miami, and AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith for Philadelphia.
Another interesting figure in this matchup is Miami defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who was an advisor to the Eagles prior to their appearance in Super Bowl 57. Fangio knows the Eagles well, but his new unit in Miami is far from complete. The Eagles’ coaches also have a good understanding of Fangio’s philosophies. Who has the advantage in this chess match? (Dolphins at Eagles, 8:20 p.m. ET Sunday.)
4. Decline of the Patriots’ empire
For two decades, Bill Belichick’s Patriots ruled the AFC East. Now, it might be too generous to call them their own shell.
This version of the Patriots — 1-5, losing three in a row — is basically unrecognizable. Bill Belichick was once among the most untouchable coaches in the league, and now he faces questions about job security. The Patriots need a turnaround in the worst way. But beating Buffalo seems like an impossible task.
The Bills are flying high and rank among the league leaders on both sides of the ball. Meanwhile, the Patriots are offensively anemic and sorely lacking in defensive difference-makers. Buffalo has won the last four meetings with New England, including a playoff matchup in January 2022. The Patriots last beat the Bills in a low-scoring game (14-10) in Buffalo in December 2021. It seems unlikely, but can Belichick bring back Discover some magic and prepare a recipe strong enough to contain Josh Allen and company this time? (Bills at Patriots, 1 p.m. ET Sunday.)
Purdy suffered his first defeat as a starting quarterback (11 games) as the 49ers faltered and faltered during a 19-17 loss to the Browns. His perfect 2023 record from the 49ers was also spoiled. Now how will they respond?
Next up is a Monday night date with the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis, where the 49ers haven’t won since 1992. Look for Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores to order a steady stream of blitzes in an attempt to disrupt the young Purdy.
His effectiveness could depend on Christian McCaffrey’s availability, which is questionable. But without wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who was ruled out for at least the next two games Saturday, Purdy will have to shoulder a heavier load than he’s accustomed to. This could be one of the biggest tests of his young career, and a chance to prove whether he can lead a team rather than act as a facilitator.
If he doesn’t have the full support staff, Purdy will have to shoulder a heavier load than he’s accustomed to. This could be one of the biggest tests of his young career. (49ers at Vikings, 8:15 p.m. ET Monday.)
(Best photos by AJ Brown, Bill Belichick, Lamar Jackson: Al Bellow, Chris Anger, Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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