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ProCanes NFL Preview: Week Seven

No rest for the weary as the NFL calendar approaches the halfway mark.

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Miami Dolphins v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes may be coming off a bye week, but the ProCanes continue to endure the gauntlet of the NFL season.

Game Previews

Tennessee Titans (3-3) vs Los Angeles Chargers (4-2) 9:30 AM EDT (at Wembley Stadium)

Cleveland Browns v Los Angeles Charger
After staying in Cleveland before heading over the pond to England, the Chargers look to end their road trip with a W on foreign soil.
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

“Oy, are you going to check this one out on BBC One or BBC Two?”

Okay, that was a horrible impression of the Queen’s English, yet for ProCanes S Rayshawn Jenkins, K Michael Badgley and LB Denzel Perryman, the week of bangers and mash will have to do until Sunday. The Chargers return to London for their second ever game in the city, having last played under the watchful London Eye in a 2008 loss to the New Orleans Saints. It will be the first time the Titans have been featured in the International Series.

Regarding the game that will be decided on the field — or is it the pitch? — the Chargers are trying to keep pace with the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West standings. The lightning bolts take on a Titans team that has no personality to build upon. The numbers for Tennessee QB Marcus Mariota are mediocre at best — 63.6 completion percentage, two touchdowns, four interceptions and 793 passing yards. The Titans’ defense ranks in the top 10 statistically in terms of 337.8 yardage allowed. The unit is pressed each week to make up for the lack of consistency on the offensive side of the ball.

The Chargers dismantled the Cleveland Browns last weekend, and will now look to take out a struggling Titans offense that gave up 11 — yes, 11 — sacks to the Baltimore Ravens last weekend. Considering that Denzel Perryman’s last sack came in 2016 against the Cleveland Browns, perhaps a change of scenery could inspire that elusive stat for one of the promising defenders on the Chargers’ defense.

Detroit Lions (2-3) vs Miami Dolphins (4-2) 1 PM EDT

While we can’t fathom Frank Gore peddling some elixir for one of those youth restoration placebos, but the man who sits fourth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list is illustrating that age is only a number. Through the past six weeks, the 35-year-old back leads the Phins with 62 rush attempts, 303 rushing yards, and 4.9 yards-per-carry. Gore has done it all, except for one thing: He hasn’t found the endzone. In fact, the last time that the ProCane RB rushed for a TD was in week 11 as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.

The Lions have allowed just three rushing touchdowns in their three losses to date. Detroit has allowed an average of 180 rushing yards-per-game. Take nothing for granted. Frank has been a tank against the Lions in their previous six meetings, averaging 5.28 YPC and accounting for 10 total touchdowns — five rushing and five receiving against the Leos. The Ageless One is also coming off of his first 100-yard game since week 13’s snowmageddon against Buffalo when he was a member of the Colts. For a Dolphins squad looking to keep pace in the AFC East, an explosive performance from Gore would be gladly accepted.

Cleveland Browns (2-3-1) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) 1 PM EDT

From winless in 2017 to reality TV fame and now to credible playoff contenders! Is this really the life of the Cleveland Browns? It certainly appears so, as the plucky doormat of football has become one of the hottest teams in the league. Credit to general manager John Dorsey for overhauling the franchise into an early season marvel. Sporting one of the best defenses in the NFL, the Browns don’t win pretty, yet they manage to scrape their way into nail-biting finishes. Seeing as this is a ProCane preview, you know that there are plenty of Hurricane alums who have figured into the team’s transformation. One man who doesn’t get much of the credit is co-vice president of player personnel, Alonzo Highsmith. The former Canes’ back made the move with peer and current Browns’ assistant GM Eliot Wolf to Cleveland to undertake the renovation of the roster.

In regards to the players, most of the young Canes have been making noise for themselves, with a couple exceptions. After missing most of training camp with a nagging injury, Thomas is still acclimating to the pass of the pro game. The rookie DE was inactive two week ago in the Browns’ overtime win against the Ravens. Last week, Thomas was inactive for the second week in a row. Nothing comes easy, even if you come from the U. In a crowded defensive end room, Thomas has should be able to glean knowledge from Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah.

Houston Texans (3-3) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3) 1 PM EDT

Buffalo Bills v Houston Texans
Lamar Miller looks to break free from a skidding Jacksonville team in a AFC South showdown.
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Will the real Lamar Miller please stand up? The Houston Texans’ running game has been looking for you. Actually, the team has been looking for some semblance of a running game all season, with QB DeShaun Watson carrying a brunt of the load. Miller leads the Texans’ rushing attack with 271 yards on the season, but it’s been a struggle for the ProCane back to break a run open for a big gain. After six weeks, Miller has just six carries of 10 or more yards. Fortunately for the Texans, the Jags have been susceptible on the ground. The question entering this contest is whether the Texans will be able to take advantage of any run game this season.

The mighty Jaguars are starting to look more like mere mortals these days. Jacksonville is a team that is led by their defense… or at least they were supposed to be. The Jags surrendered major points in back-to-back weeks — 30 and 40, respectively. Although ProCane DE Calais Campbell picked up his fourth sack of the season to go along with five tackles, it still wasn’t enough to stop the Cowboys from digging their spurs into the fur of the defense. As below average as the defense has been, the offense remains a tire fire to predict.

The absence of RB Leonard Fournette has changed the complexion of the unit, along with a multitude of injuries across the roster. LT Cam Robinson is one of those players who have been lost for the season with an ACL injury and, as we reported last week, the team signed former Giants’ T Ereck Flowers to compete for a starting tackle spot. If Flowers wins the job, he’ll be reunited with fellow ProCane center, Brandon Linder.

Los Angeles Rams (6-0) vs San Francisco 49ers (1-5) 4:25 PM EDT

After getting shellacked as the starting right cornerback, Sam Shields has settled into his role with the Rams. The secondary is still dealing with the loss of veteran CB Aqib Talib. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips split the reps at the position between Shields and Bradley Robey-Coleman. The Rams’ defense continues to be involved in shootouts, but the blessing is that the offense has been able to put one more through the uprights or in the endzone than their opponents.

For the Niners, the season went off the rails rather quickly. Losing Jimmy Garoppolo sunk any momentum the team may have had, yet the team is fighting hard for head coach Kyle Shanahan. The team’s efforts are being rewarded with victory. For second year safety Adrian Colbert, his sophomore season has been one of many lessons through the early stages. Four touchdowns have been credited against Colbert’s responsibility in coverage, according to PFF. This week will be sink or swim against one of the NFL’s best passing attacks that should have it’s full complement of receiving threats. The growing pains can be turned into great experience moving forward, but if Colbert is not on the field, none of that snap count and experience will matter.

Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) vs Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) 8:20 PM EDT

We all want to see Mark Walton show off the razzle dazzle that Canes fans grew accustomed to during his seasons at The U. for the rookie RB to get the chance to do so, he’ll have to improve in the passing game, specifically pass protection. In fact, both Walton and starting RB Joe Mixon are dead last in blocking efficiency on the team — which in most cases is expected, but being a liability as a blocker is a trait that could see the rookie standing on the sideline instead of lined up in the backfield should it keep up.

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots
Allen Bailey and an opportunistic Chiefs defense hope to capitalize on any gifts that the Bengals are willing to serve up on Sunday Night Football.
Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Against the hottest team in the NFL, you simply can’t have too many slip ups. Not only will Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes capitalize on the many receiving targets in the KC passing game, but the Chiefs’ defense has started to stiffen up in recent weeks. Allowing an average of 468 yards and 28 scores in the past couple weeks, the strength of the Chiefs remains their offense. Their defense, however, is more than capable of winning games. DE Allen Bailey is in the midst of one of the best runs in his career. The 3-4 DE is not known for his pass rushing, yet has amassed a sack in four of his six games. Bailey won’t forget not bringing Tom Brady down for a sack last week, but there’s no time to live in last weeks regrets. Using a bullrush to overwhelm blockers, Bailey serves as a bulldozer on the defensive line. Against a Bengals’ offense that has protected QB Andy Dalton fairly well, it’ll be fascinating to see which side of the line of scrimmage is able to overwhelm the other for a majority of the afternoon.

New York Giants (1-5) vs Atlanta Falcons (2-4) 8:15 PM EDT

And Canes fans used to think they had it hard with Malik Rosier at QB. Well, try being a Giants fan. The Big Apple is fed up with the play of the QB who has delivered two Lombardi trophies to the franchise and is in a frenzy to push the last Manning left out of the league. While Eli shoulders the brunt of the criticism, the Giants’ secondary was just as culpable in the loss over a week ago to the Philadelphia Eagles.

One person New Yorkers can’t blame is Olivier Vernon. Appearing to be at full health after missing the first five games of 2018, the defensive end got the best of Eagles’ T Jason Peters before he exited with an injury. Vernon corralled Wentz for a sack and forcing four QB hurries in a game, yet the G-men still failed to make the game a contest.

*Looks for Spiderman Meme*

There, you don’t have to worry about watching the coin toss now. If not for the Giants, the Falcons would be getting crucified in NFL circles for their season so far. Atlanta, however, has suffered injuries to key players in the secondary and linebacker spots. That said, the offense has been firing, but the Dirty Birds continue to fall short in a competitive AFC South division. This game serves as a moral victory to whoever leaves Mercedes Benz Stadium with the win. Call it a bandage game to help stop the bleeding and outpouring of discontent for the winning side.

ProCanes Fantasy Player of the Week

David Njoku

Los Angeles Chargers v Cleveland Browns
Elvating over the defender to make the TD grab, TE David Njoku has the potential for stellar day against the Bucs dense.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Bucs’ defense has struggled to stop anybody this season, meaning that TE David Njoku is a must start in all formats. With his targets steadily rising since the Browns made the switch to Baker Mayfield at QB, the second-year TE’s production has elevated with more consistency.

News and Notes

Jon Feliciano has been starting at guard for the Oakland Raiders in the absence of the starting guard Kelechi Osemele.

North Carolina v Miami
Badgley has been money for the Chargers in his NFL debut. The audition continues for Miami’s all-time scorer with K Caleb Sturgis out for another week.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Michael Badgley has been named the interim starter at kicker for the Los Angeles Chargers. Badgley made all five of his extra points as well as a 44-yard field goal in a blowout win last weekend. With K Caleb Sturgis working his way back from injury, Badgley should make his second start in good ‘ol England early Sunday morning.

The Indianapolis Colts waived DE Al-Quadin Muhammad two weeks ago. After clearing waivers, the Colts placed AQM on the team’s practice roster. In week six, AQM was moved to the active roster after injuries along the defensive line. The second-year DE registered two tackles in a 42-34 loss to the Jets last weekend.

On Friday the Browns traded RB Carlos Hyde to the Jaguars, who have been marred by injuries at running back since the beginning of the year. With Hyde no longer on the roster, could this possibly be the opportunity for Duke Johnson to be more of a factor in Cleveland’s offense?