December 1, 2023

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NFL Week 7 expert roundtable: After McCaffrey trade, who’s next? Can Jets, Giants stay hot?

The Cardinals topped the Saints on Thursday night in a game laden with big plays and even bigger emotions. Late in the second quarter, Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury were seen screaming at each other on the sideline during a timeout in an apparent disagreement over how slowly the offense was lining up.

Whatever they said seemed to help. The Cardinals scored on that drive — then added two pick sixes in just over a minute to go from 14-6 down to up 28-14 at the half. Arizona went on to win 42-34.



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The game was overshadowed a bit, however, by the late-breaking news that talented Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey had been traded to the 49ers. In his latest story, columnist Tim Kawakami explains why San Francisco decided it had to get the 26-year-old star.

Despite the early fireworks, there’s much more to Week 7 still to come. Can the Niners stop Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs? Who will be the next big-name player to be traded? Which disappointing superstar quarterback has the best chance of turning things around? The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia, Mike Jones and Mike Sando dish on what they’ll be watching Sunday and Monday.

The Bills, Rams, Vikings and Eagles — all idle this week — are a combined 19-5 this season. All four are coming off wins. Which team probably wishes its open date came later?

Buscaglia: I’ll say the Vikings. Of the early-season success stories, their case appears to be the most hollow of those atop the standings, and they’ve been mostly healthy. They’ve allowed teams to get back into games and have been quite fortunate with the timing of games against some backup quarterbacks. The Vikings are likely to go through much more adversity later in the year than they’ve seen thus far, and that’s usually a great time to hit the reset button with a bye week.

Jones: I know that the Bills have a few injuries, but they’re coming off a really big win at Kansas City. They would probably like to build on that momentum and save that bye for a point later in the season when they really need to gear up for the stretch run.

Sando: The Eagles are my choice because they are relatively healthy and also playing well. Buffalo is banged up. The Rams have some injuries and are struggling. The Vikings are healthy but not necessarily playing as well as their 5-1 record indicates, so a break could help.



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Following the Robbie Anderson trade to Arizona and Christian McCaffrey’s move to San Francisco, who’s the biggest name you see getting dealt ahead of the trade deadline on Nov. 1?

Buscaglia: Now that we got another Von Miller type of splash with McCaffrey heading to the 49ers, I’ll go with some change-of-scenery early-round guys like Rams running back Cam Akers or Giants receiver Kadarius Toney. Knowing Giants general manager Joe Schoen, he’ll be motivated to add picks even amid an unexpectedly outstanding start to 2022.

Jones: Patriots offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn seems like a prime trade candidate, and there’s no team more desperate for offensive line help than the Rams. Wynn was a first-round pick in 2018 but has found himself in and out of New England’s starting lineup, and it’s not exactly clear why things haven’t worked out between these two. But the Rams just lost left tackle Joe Noteboom for the season, and Matthew Stafford has been sacked 22 times (second most in the NFL). The Rams have other needs along their offensive line as well, but Wynn would be a good place to start.

Sando: I think that’s a guessing game. For me, it’s more about what trades would make sense. The Rams, Packers and Buccaneers are three teams with Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, high expectations and acute needs. I would expect them to be in the mix before the deadline. We haven’t heard anything about Laremy Tunsil possibly being available, but he has a low base salary and would sure help the Rams. I think Green Bay makes a move for a receiver under pressure from Aaron Rodgers, and Tampa Bay needs interior OL help in a big way or else Brady could have a rough time. That’s where I’m most interested in seeing what happens.



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After the Panthers traded Christian McCaffrey to the 49ers late Thursday, could the Rams’ Cam Akers be the next running back on the move? (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today)

The two New York teams have each won three straight, and both have winnable games on the road this week: The Giants (5-1) travel to Jacksonville, while the Jets (4-2) take off for Denver. Which has the better chance of staying hot and winning away from home?

Buscaglia: I’ll take the Jets. They have taken a step forward defensively, and if Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson has to miss the game, that gives them an outstanding chance to get to 5-2. They have just enough firepower on offense, as rookie runner Breece Hall is beginning to show why he was such a highly regarded draft prospect. The Jets look like a team capable of remaining in the hunt all season.

Jones: Is both an option? I feel like both the Giants and the Jets have a good chance to win again and continue their momentum. But, to follow the instructions and pick just one, I’ll go with the Giants. Their defense has given some high-profile quarterbacks fits of late — first Aaron Rodgers, then Lamar Jackson. Their chances of derailing the up-and-down Trevor Lawrence seem good.

Sando: I lean toward the Jets despite concerns about what their offense can accomplish against the Denver defense. The Broncos seem broken on offense. The Jets are playing with energy and having fun on defense. They’ll get after Russell Wilson if he’s available.



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Several quarterbacks appear likely to return from injuries this weekend, including Dak Prescott, Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones. Which of those three do you see making the biggest difference for his team in Week 7?

Buscaglia: Dak Prescott. The Cooper Rush story was fun while it lasted, but all he did was whet the appetite for what the Cowboys’ passing offense could be capable of with their franchise quarterback in the lineup. And Prescott will also play in a game with both CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. I expect an immediate impact from Prescott in a potential shootout against a seemingly healthier Lions offense capable of putting up a big point total. At the same time, the Lions defense has allowed a whopping 34 points per game this season. This game has maximum potential for fun.

Jones: Tua. The Cowboys and Patriots really haven’t struggled with their starters on the shelf. The Dolphins, however, haven’t won a game since they lost Tagovailoa to a concussion. His return should help reignite this team and help Mike McDaniel get the Miami offense back on track.

Sando: I’ll go with Prescott here because the Cowboys are facing the Lions’ struggling defense, which makes me fairly confident that Prescott will play well despite the layoff and his inconsistent recent play. Tagovailoa was my second choice here and also a consideration based on how the Dolphins offense has looked with and without him this season.



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The Dolphins haven’t won since they first lost quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to a concussion on Sept. 25 against the Bills. (Rich Storry / USA Today)

Speaking of quarterbacks, the Ravens, Bengals, Packers and Buccaneers and their superstar signal callers are all a disappointing 3-3. Which QB has the best chance of turning things around and making his team a serious title contender?

Buscaglia: I think it’s a toss-up between the Bengals and Buccaneers, but the tie goes to Tom Brady. As someone who has covered the Bills since 2010, I’ve seen a fair bit of Brady throughout the years, and there’s usually one commonality — he always finds a way to figure things out. The Buccaneers have a potentially explosive offense that can go toe-to-toe with plenty of the high-flying teams across the league. As the Buccaneers get a bit healthier, particularly in a division they should easily win, a midseason surge from the Brady-led Bucs feels inevitable.

Jones: Aaron Rodgers. He’s coming off back-to-back losses for the first time since 2018, and he’s facing a Washington defense that has underperformed for much of the season and has a way of bringing out the best in opponents.



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Sando: Brady gets my vote even though the Buccaneers offensive line, running game and overall offensive operation looked terrible against Pittsburgh last week. I’ll bet on Brady’s consistency, the Bucs’ defensive talent and the NFL’s third-easiest remaining schedule by opponent winning percentage. Baltimore plays the easiest remaining schedule, which also could be a consideration here.

Sporting arguably the league’s top defense when healthy, the banged-up 49ers flopped against the Falcons last week. Sunday, they welcome Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, who are coming off a frustrating home loss to the Bills. Does San Francisco stand a chance against the league’s top offense (in terms of yardage/game)?

Buscaglia: I’d favor the Chiefs in a get-right situation. The Chiefs just went up against another of the best defenses in the NFL last week with the Bills. The Bills completely flipped their philosophical tendencies to defend Mahomes, forcing them to develop a plan of attack on the fly, and the Chiefs still put up yards and points while leaving meat on the bone. It might not be an offensive explosion for Kansas City, but I like the Chiefs to go on the road and get a victory against the 49ers.

Jones: Zero chance. Mahomes and the Chiefs look to rebound from their frustrating loss against Buffalo, and they know that they now have to go on a tear to have a chance to overtake Buffalo for that No. 1 seed in the AFC. The 49ers are the walking wounded and ripe for a blowout loss.

Sando: The 49ers have a chance — because the league teaches us regularly that strange things can happen. Buffalo lost to the Urban Meyer-coached Jaguars last season. Just last week, Pittsburgh beat Tampa Bay, the Jets won at Green Bay, the Falcons beat the 49ers, etc. I did pick the Chiefs and give the three points in the latest Football GM Podcast. I’ve been impressed with the edge Kansas City has played with this season.

(Illustration: Sean Reilly / The Athletic; photos: Harry How, Mitchell Leff, Eric Espada / Getty Images)