Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1) at Miami Dolphins (3-2)
With both teams coming off impressive wins in Week 6 — Pittsburgh trounced Cleveland 28-10; Miami won a 23-20 overtime thriller in Green Bay — this one looks to be very important game in terms of AFC standings.
It will also be important in terms of player safety. In case you missed it, Week 6 was filled with controversial helmet-to-helmet hits, including a pair by Pittsburgh LB James Harrison. The following comes courtesy The Big Lead:
“The story of the day, though, is James Harrison. He knocked both Joshua Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi out of the game with head injuries, twice leading with his helmet on vicious hits.”
There’s video of both hits in the link if you’re so inclined to check it out. Harrison has developed a reputation as one of the NFL’s most devastating hitters, but his performance against Cleveland on Sunday bordered on vicious. On a day where Atlanta’s Dunta Robinson cold-cocked Philly’s DeSean Jackson and New England’s Brandon Merriweather helmet-speared Baltimore’s Todd Heap, it was a most unwelcome sight — the Massaquoi hit was especially bad as the Cleveland WR was in a prone/defenseless position and Harrison took full, if not illegal, advantage.
As for the game itself, it’ll likely be decided on the ground. Miami did a very nice job of running the ball against the Packers — Ronnie Brown carried 19 times for 73 yards, Ricky Williams carried 13 times for 64 — and that seems to be the key to the Miami offense. The ability to run puts less pressure on Chad Henne and really opens things up for star WR Brandon Marshall — on Sunday, the two combined for 10 receptions for 127 yards. They’ll need to be at their best against a Steeler defense that has been ripping teams apart in recent weeks.
Arizona Cardinals (3-2) at Seattle Seahawks (3-2)
A huge game for both teams as they look to take top spot in the NFC West. The Seahawks rolled out their new-look ground game against Chicago on Sunday and it was effective — Justin Forsett and the newly-acquired Marshawn Lynch combined for 111 yards and two TDs — helping Seattle to a 23-20 upset win at Soldier Field.
The Cardinals had a bye in Week 6, but they’re still riding high from Week 5’s upset victory over New Orleans. In that game, undrafted rookie QB Max Hall played well in his first professional start — 17 of 27 passing for 168 yards — and seemed to provide the confidence that former QB Matt Leinart and ex-starter Derek Anderson never did.
Hall could be in for a tough game in Seattle, however. The notorious Qwest Field “12th Man” is a loud and intimidating presence and can throw off even the most experience QBs when it comes to timing and snap counts. Plus, Seattle’s pass-rush continues to get better every week; against Chicago the Seahawks had six sacks, their most in any game in more than two years.