In the NFL, the offense may sell tickets, but it’s often the defense that wins the close games. As we enter Week 7 of the NFL season, we’ve already seen numerous nail-biting contests that remind us of the league’s unpredictable nature. Close games, often decided by eight points or less, have become a regular occurrence in the NFL, and timely defensive performances can make all the difference in the late-season standings. This article’ll look closely at key matchups and storylines heading into Week 7.
The Importance of Close Games
Close games are the hallmark of the modern NFL, and they test the mettle of every team. Quarterback Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys, after a 20-17 win, stressed the significance of believing in themselves during these one-score, field-goal, and touchdown games. He credited their defense for delivering crucial plays in the final moments, highlighting how defense often becomes deciding in such situations.
Cleveland’s Strong Defensive Start
The Cleveland Browns, with a 3-2 record, are a prime example of a team that has excelled in close contests. They’ve allowed only 1,002 yards in their first five games, the third-fewest by a team in its first five games since the 1970 merger. Their ability to win tight games has kept them firmly in the AFC North race.
Minnesota vs. San Francisco – Clash of Defense and Offense
The Minnesota Vikings, known for their knack for close games this season, will host the San Francisco 49ers, who boast the league’s best defense regarding points allowed per game and opponent passer rating. It’s a clash of the Vikings’ explosive offense, ranking second in the NFL in touchdown passes and third in passing yards per game, against the 49ers’ formidable defense. This matchup promises to be a thrilling battle of strengths.
Jacksonville’s Defensive Dominance
The Jacksonville Jaguars, with a 4-2 record, have a tough road test against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football. Led by their opportunistic defense, the Jaguars lead the NFL with 15 takeaways. A win would mark a significant milestone for Jacksonville, as they could improve to three games above .500 for the first time since the 2017 season.
New York Jets’ Defensive Resurgence
Despite injuries to key players, the New York Jets have seen a resurgence on the defensive side of the ball. Their ability to create turnovers and stymie some of the league’s best quarterbacks has kept them in contention, making them just two games out of first place in the AFC East.
Defense in Tight Games
As close games continue to define the NFL landscape, defenses will play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of matches. Teams like the Browns, 49ers, Jaguars, and Jets are showcasing the importance of strong defensive units when margins are tight.
Key Matchups in Week 7
- Miami Dolphins vs. Philadelphia Eagles – Two first-place teams collide in a Sunday Night Football showdown, with both teams needing a win to maintain their division leads.
- Stefon Diggs’ 100-Yard Receiving Streak – Buffalo Bills’ receiver Stefon Diggs has been on fire with five 100-yard receiving games this season, setting a franchise record with four consecutive such games.
- Tight End University Showdown – Two productive tight ends from the University of Iowa, George Kittle and T.J. Hockenson, will go head-to-head on Monday Night Football.
- Herbert vs. Mahomes – Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes, two of the NFL’s most promising young quarterbacks, face off in a highly anticipated matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers.
- Pittsburgh Steelers’ Post-Bye Success – The Pittsburgh Steelers, coming off a bye week, look to continue their winning streak after bye weeks when they take on the Los Angeles Rams.
- Christian McCaffrey’s Scoring Streak – San Francisco running back Christian McCaffrey aims to continue his remarkable scoring streak in 15 consecutive games, matching legendary NFL figures.
- NFL Schedule Quirk – Week 7 features one of two weeks in the 2023 schedule with six teams on bye, showcasing the league’s emphasis on quality matchups.
- Jacksonville’s Winning Streak – The Jacksonville Jaguars are on a winning streak, and quarterback Trevor Lawrence faces a familiar foe in the Caesars Superdome, where he suffered two of his only college losses.
- Saquon Barkley’s Impact – The New York Giants have succeeded against the Washington Commanders when Saquon Barkley rushes for a touchdown, while Washington’s Sam Howell looks to build on his recent strong performance.
- New York Jets’ Speed – The New York Jets recorded the highest average speed by a team in Week 6, showcasing their athleticism and speed on the field.
- Detroit vs. Baltimore – First-place teams Detroit and Baltimore face off in another thrilling matchup, with both teams boasting impressive records and strong defenses.