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In the week leading up to the start of the 2021-22 NFL regular season, no team had a more disastrous seven days than the Baltimore Ravens. Just days before their first game, the Ravens lost both their starting running back, Gus Edwards, and star cornerback, Marcus Peters, for the season in the same practice - apparently just minutes apart.
The injury to Edwards came after Baltimore had already lost two ball carriers for the season, as J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill were also gone due to season-ending injuries in the weeks prior.
Many left the Ravens for dead.
But fast forward six weeks into the season, you would be hard-pressed to find a team playing better football than Baltimore - and a quarterback more dangerous than Lamar Jackson.
In Week 7, the Ravens face another stiff test, going up against an upstart divisional foe who is trying to prove they belong in the upper echelon of the league.
Here is everything you need to know about the most intriguing games of Week 7:
Denver Broncos vs. Cleveland Browns
Thursday, Oct. 21 at 8:20PM ET | Live Stream
Spread: Browns -3.5
Over/Under Total: 42.5
Moneyline: Broncos (+145), Browns (-170)
This week's edition of Thursday Night Football features two teams who are both trending in the wrong direction and are desperate for a win.
After three weeks of the season, the Denver Broncos were undefeated, atop the AFC West and feeling good about their new quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater.
The only problem? Their three wins came against the New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets - three teams with a combined 3-14 record through six weeks.
Now on a three-game losing streak, the Broncos find themselves with a .500 record, and looking at Thursday as a chance to jumpstart their season.
Unfortunately, their opponents are looking to do the exact same thing.
The Browns are also 3-3, and much of the hype surrounding the team is waning, especially when you take into account the recent injury bug that has struck the team.
Star running back Nick Chubb missed their Week 6 loss against the Arizona Cardinals, and now his backfield partner Kareem Hunt is expected to miss significant time with a calf injury.
Then when you add the cherry on top of quarterback Baker Mayfield injuring his shoulder, things are starting to look bleak for the dog pound.
#Browns QB Baker Mayfield said he thinks he’ll be able to play through shoulder injury. He said it dislocated again. His left arm is in a sling. “It feels like s***,” he said.
— Nate Ulrich (@ByNateUlrich) October 17, 2021
Mayfield says he expects to be able to play through his injury, and the Browns still have the defence to stay in every game. So do the Broncos.
However, the clock is ticking for both teams, and a loss Thursday could send the season spiralling in the wrong direction.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, Oct. 24 at 1:00PM ET | Live Stream
Spread: Ravens -6.5
Over/Under Total: 47.5
Moneyline: Bengals (+230), Ravens (-280)
There is just something about the AFC North football that adds a little extra edge to things.
Especially when it is between two teams with winning records, and that is exactly what we will get come Sunday.
Even with their injury woes to begin the season, the Ravens were still thought to be in the battle for the AFC North title. The Bengals, on the other hand, well, let's just say their betting odds were a little higher.
But Cincinnati, winner of three of the last four, has put its division on notice - it is no longer a bottom feeder.
A major part of the Bengals' success can be attributed to the emergence of receiver Ja'Marr Chase. The rookie out of LSU has already proved to be a top deep threat in the league. Not only is he currently sitting fourth in the league in yards with 553, he also is averaging the third-most yards per reception, racking up 20.5 yards per catch.
He has clearly become second-year quarterback Joe Burrow's favourite target - it's almost as if they've done this together before...
Bengals WR Ja'Marr Chase now has 553 receiving yards through first six games, the second-most by any rookie in the Super Bowl era.
Incredibly impressive for a man who learned how to catch in late August.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) October 18, 2021
Burrow and Chase will need to bring their A-game this weekend if they are going to have any success against the Ravens' defence.
In what was supposed to be a high-scoring affair last week, Baltimore completely stifled Justin Herbert and the Chargers' offence, holding them to just six points - their lowest output of the season by far. By most measures, Herbert had the worst game of his young career as the Ravens' defence held him to just 195 yards passing on just 22-of-39 completions, including one interception.
Burrow will have to hope he fares better than his draft-class compadre, because if he doesn't, the Bengals' defence, while improved, surely won't be able to hold Jackson down for long.
Either the Bengals make a league-wide statement that they are for real, or the Ravens take a stranglehold on the AFC North - find out which on Sunday.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tennessee Titans
Sunday, Oct. 24 at 1:00PM ET | Live Stream
Spread: Chiefs -4.0
Over/Under Total: 56.5
Moneyline: Chiefs (-200), Titans (+170)
After their win on Sunday over the Washington Football Team, Kansas City Chiefs fans were able to put the lid back on the panic button - for now.
But it still didn't come easy. A first half that was filled with uncharacteristic Patrick Mahomes blunders, as well as dropped passes from his receivers, had the Chiefs trailing 13-10 at halftime. His two first-half interceptions now give him eight total on the season, trailing only Zach Wilson for most in the league. His eight through six games also surpasses the total amount he had in the entirety of his last two seasons.
Unfortunately for the Football Team, they got MVP Mahomes in the second half, as the Texas Tech product reminded the league just how good he can be when he's on. Mahomes completed 19 of his 24 passes in the second half for 175 yards and two touchdowns, and most importantly, didn't turn the ball over.
Oh yeah, he also made throws like this one...
Why is everyone so obsessed with Mahomes … pic.twitter.com/ctYXDuP6Ov
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) October 18, 2021
Concerns still surround the Chiefs, though, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Kansas City is currently giving up the fifth-most points per game in the entire league.
And they better strap up their helmets tight when they head to Nashville this weekend, because waiting for them is Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans, who are coming off an extremely impressive win on Monday night against the Buffalo Bills.
Henry was a big reason why. The former Heisman Trophy winner has been on an absolute tear over his past two seasons and has shown no signs of slowing down through the first six games of 2021. After winning the rushing title in both of the previous two campaigns, Henry is currently on pace for his most dominant season yet.
The towering back has run for 783 yards through his first six games, while the next closest has just 523. In the win over the Bills, he also set the mark for fastest speed measure by a runner in the season thus far. Did we mention he is six-foot-three and weighs nearly 250 pounds?
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the Titans' aerial attack have yet to really find their groove, but if there is one unit that might be able to help them find it, it might be the Chiefs defence.
Tennesse will look to feed the Chiefs a heavy dose of their big bruising back, keeping the ball out of the ever-dangerous Mahomes's hands, and look to put together two statement wins against top-flight AFC contenders, while simultaneously taking control of the AFC South.
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