Last week I seemed to be the only person on the planet who wasn’t freaking out about the NFL’s declining TV ratings. In fact, I used the intro of my weekly picks column to hype up the week 6 slate. As someone who watches every single minute of NFL action over the course of the week, it doesn’t bother me if the Primetime games are duds just as long as there are some great matchups at some point during the weekend. And I identified seven truly compelling games last week.
Unfortunately, we will not be having a repeat in week 7.
I feel like once a year, usually in October, I say to my readers, “If you had to pick a Sunday where you don’t park yourself in front of the TV all day and instead do something that your significant other wants to do, this would be the week for that.”
This is that week.
We’re unlikely to see a worse set of games this year than what week 7 is giving us. The best game was going to be New England at Pittsburgh, but obviously the intrigue is gone with Ben Roethlisberger sitting this one out.
The other “best games” this week? Umm…maybe Vikings/Eagles? Saints/Chiefs? Seahawks/Cardinals? That’s honestly the best I can come up with.
But hey, at least there’s that early morning London game on Sunday. So if you’re proceeding with a normal day of football watching, at least the shittiness is extended by three hours beyond the normal time commitment. Thanks, NFL!
Before we get into the week 7 picks, one quick note for you gamblers. Even though I always put the season-long stats at the end of this column, I felt it was important to highlight that favorites are now only 35-54-3 against the spread through six weeks (that’s a 39% cover rate). Even though you might think I’m telling you this so you know to go heavy on the underdogs, I’m actually warning you about the opposite. Some time soon, this is going to snap back and the favorites are going to rattle off a 12-3 type of week. I’m not sure when it’ll happen, but the key is to keep evaluating matchups like you normally do and not fall into the trap of thinking the underdogs are going to keep covering at this rate. Got it?
Here are the week 7 picks.
Teams on Bye: Carolina, Dallas
Chicago at Green Bay (-8) | over/under 46
The Pick: Chicago
The Score: Green Bay 23, Chicago 20
The Bets: Chicago (+8) / Chicago (+18) in a 3-way tease
Is it really as simple as betting against the Packers because basically their entire running back corps and secondary are out for this game?
Yes, yes it is.
Please don’t waste your time putting much thought into this game. Grab the Bears with the points and thank me on Friday. Even before all these injuries were announced, I didn’t feel like the Packers could beat anyone by more than a touchdown. This isn’t a favorite pick of mine just because it would be so like the Bears to find a way to lose to this Packers team by 10 or more, but there’s no logic to picking Green Bay until they prove they’re a capable NFL team.
NY Giants (-3) vs Los Angeles | over/under 43.5 (in London)
The Pick: Los Angeles
The Score: NY Giants 23, Los Angeles 21
The Bets: None
Oh cool, we get to be annoyed & embarrassed by Odell Beckham’s antics at 6:30 in the morning on Sunday! Can’t wait!
Listen, these are two crappy teams playing in London so it’s kind of hard to get a good read on this game. I’m passing on making any bet recommendations, but I will be rooting hard against my new least-favorite team in the NFL, the Giants.
New Orleans at Kansas City (-6.5) | over/under 50.5
The Pick: Kansas City
The Score: Kansas City 26, New Orleans 19
The Bets: Kansas City (-0.5) in a 2-way tease / Under (60.5) in a 3-way tease
The Chiefs have been really tough to nail down. They’ve beat two teams in blowouts, lost once in a blowout, won a close game and lost a close game. I have no idea what their identity is through six weeks.
I don’t see how the Saints are going to win in Arrowhead, but I’m even more confident in teasing the under in this game. If you can get the under to 60.5, I’d consider that a lock. Even though the Chiefs and Chargers combined for 60 points in week 1, that was a very fluky game. Prior to that, the last time a Chiefs game went over 60.5 points was in week 15 of the 2013 season. Andy Reid doesn’t do shootouts, and with a fully healthy stable of running backs now, I’m certain Kansas City will do everything they can to keep the Saints offense on the sidelines.
Indianapolis at Tennessee (-3) | over/under 48.5
The Pick: Indianapolis
The Score: Tennessee 23, Indianapolis 22
The Bets: None
Games featuring two AFC South teams are turning into an automatic stayaway for me. When you’ve got such shitty, unreliable teams facing each other, how can you confidently predict how the game will play out? I think the Titans will win, but I have no idea if it’ll be low-scoring or high-scoring. The Colts haven’t played in a single game where the total ended up under 48 this year, and the Titans have only been in one game where the total was 48 or more. So good luck figuring this one out.
All I know is a third divisional loss for the Colts in less than a month will hopefully thrust Chuck Pagano back to the top of the “first coach fired” rankings…which I have a monetary interest in.
Minnesota (-3) at Philadelphia | over/under 40
The Pick: Minnesota
The Score: Minnesota 21, Philadelphia 17
The Bets: Under (50) in a 3-way tease
SuperContest: Yes with Minnesota (-3)
The Vikings have given up 12.6 points per game during their 5-0 start. Four of those games were against teams ranging from 10th to 18th in FootballOutsiders’ offensive efficiency rankings (the 5th game was against Houston, the 32nd ranked offense).
The Eagles come into this game ranked 16th in the offensive category. So I ask you, dear reader, how the hell is Philly going to put up more than two touchdowns on Sunday?
With the Eagles rolling out a top five defense themselves, doesn’t it feel like we should be betting the under even if it’s ridiculously low already?
If you’re interested in teasing this, good job by you. Neither team has played in a game yet where the total went over 50. That’s probably a pretty easy bet.
Cleveland at Cincinnati (-10) | over/under 45.5
The Pick: Cleveland
The Score: Cincinnati 27, Cleveland 20
The Bets: None
Similar to the Bears/Packers game, it might be easiest just to grab the points and move on. After all, in what world should a 2-4 team be laying 10 points? That’s crazytown stuff right there.
The only concern I have is that we could see a monster A.J. Green performance against the Browns’ 30th ranked passing defense. And it’s starting to sound like Tyler Eifert could make his 2016 debut this week. I still have to grab the points in this scenario just because the Bengals have looked so bad and the Browns have played tight games against most of their opponents. But don’t be surprised if this is a “get right” game for Cincy and they win by 20.
Washington at Detroit (-1) | over/under 50
The Pick: Detroit
The Score: Detroit 25, Washington 23
The Bets: None
Something doesn’t smell right with this game. Either we put our faith in Washington and expect that we’re about to have two 5-win teams in the NFC East (Washington would move to 5-2 and Dallas is 5-1). Or we think the Lions are about to be 4-3 and could be in 2nd place in the NFC North by the end of the weekend. I hate both options.
I’m suspicious of the Skins on the road even though they’re 2-0 away from FedEx Field this year. I hate this game all together from a betting standpoint, but I’m thinking the Lions can give us a mini-surprise of winning this game by a couple points.
Oakland at Jacksonville (-1) | over/under 47
The Pick: Oakland
The Score: Oakland 19, Jacksonville 16
The Bets: Oakland (+1) / Oakland (+11) in a 3-way tease
SuperContest: Yes with Oakland (+1)
This will be Oakland’s fourth Eastern Time Zone game in seven weeks, and they’ve already won the first three. That’s an accomplishment as good as any for a West Coast team. Also keep in mind that they went toe-to-toe with the Falcons before ultimately losing by a touchdown to them in week 2. That loss doesn’t look very bad at this point. I point all this out because people have been very quick to say that the Raiders have gotten lucky all year while dismissing their accomplishments.
Sure, the Raiders are playing with fire when every game is close. But against really crappy teams, we can still expect them to win. And the Jaguars are a perfectly crappy team to help Oakland get back on track.
Buffalo (-3) at Miami | over/under 44
The Pick: Miami
The Score: Miami 20, Buffalo 16
The Bets: Miami (+13) in a 3-way tease / Under (54) in a 3-way tease
SuperContest: Yes with Miami (+3)
Nope. Not falling for this trap whatsoever. The Bills are 4-2, they’ve got the best point differential in the NFL, and they’ve won four in a row, including wins over Arizona and New England. They’re also facing the 2-4 Dolphins who many people consider to be one of the worst teams in the league.
But none of that matters this week. The Dolphins are going to win this game outright. First of all, the Bills are probably going to be without LeSean McCoy, and he’s their entire offense at this point. Secondly, the Bills simply aren’t good enough to be a 5-2 team after this week, and the Dolphins aren’t bad enough to be a 2-5 team. Both teams are due to come back towards a more average level of play.
And the Dolphins are finally healthy along the offensive line so they should be able to move the ball like they did last week in their big win against the Steelers.
And of course, the Bills have a HUGE game against the Patriots looming in week 8. You think there’s a team out there more prone to looking ahead and assuming they’ve got a win in their pocket than the Bills led by Rex Ryan? No chance.
Baltimore at NY Jets (-2) | over/under 40.5
The Pick: NY Jets
The Score: NY Jets 12, Baltimore 7
The Bets: None
You want a bad football game? Try a Ryan Mallett vs Geno Smith matchup on for size. That’s what we’re looking at if Joe Flacco’s shoulder injury keeps him out on Sunday. The Vegas books initially had the Ravens favored by one point earlier this week, but with the Flacco news, the line has swung and made the Jets a favorite.
Geno Smith favored by two points against an actual NFL team? You bet.
If we find out on Friday or Saturday that Flacco is playing and is close to 100%, then go ahead and bet the Ravens (as long as the line doesn’t jump up to Baltimore -3 or higher). The Jets are a truly bad team so as long as there’s a warm body at QB for Baltimore, they should be the winner.
Tampa Bay (-1) at San Francisco | over/under 46.5
The Pick: San Francisco
The Score: San Francisco 23, Tampa Bay 16
The Bets: None
Well this is an absolute coin flip. Yes, the Bucs seem like the better team, but they’re missing Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson on offense. They’ve also been pretty unimpressive regardless of injuries this season. They’ve been able to win two divisional games, but in between those, they lost three in a row by a combined 58 points.
This might sound crazy but the 49ers actually have a better defense, running game and coaching than the Bucs right now. So I’ll grab the Niners and hope for the best.
San Diego at Atlanta (-6.5) | over/under 54
The Pick: San Diego
The Score: Atlanta 30, San Diego 24
The Bets: Over (44) in a 3-way tease
Who cares about betting the spread in this game when you can lock yourself into the over? In terms of the teased over of 44, keep in mind that in the 12 combined games these two teams have played in 2016, the final score has been less than 44 total points just twice—when each team faced the Broncos. So this feels as much of a lock as any bet out there this week.
And if you’re not into teasing, these teams have gone over that 54 threshold in seven of 12 games this year (throw out the two Denver games because of that awesome defense and you’ve got teams that play in games where the total goes into the mid-fifties 70% of the time).
New England (-7.5) at Pittsburgh | over/under 47
The Pick: New England
The Score: New England 30, Pittsburgh 17
The Bets: New England (-1.5 or +2.5) in a 2-way or 3-way tease
SuperContest: Yes with New England (-7.5)
As a Patriots fan I certainly don’t mind a much easier matchup with Roethlisberger out, but it definitely doesn’t help us get a feel for how they truly stack up with other Super Bowl contenders. Looks like we’ll have to wait until week 10 against Seattle for that test.
The Steelers already had some ugly losses when Roethlisberger was healthy, and now with Landry Jones taking over at quarterback, this game should be a slam dunk for New England. But the half part of “7.5” is really bothering me right now. The Steelers have a ton of talent on offense so isn’t there a possibility they keep the game relatively close? At least close enough for the backdoor cover if they’re down 14 points with just a couple minutes to go?
Can the Patriots really bring their streak to three straight games of demolishing an AFC North team? Actually, yeah I think they can. I understand if you’re staying away from the spread here, but I’m going to side with the Patriots and then tease them down to either -1.5 or +2.5.
Seattle at Arizona (-2) | over/under 43.5
The Pick: Arizona
The Score: Arizona 20, Seattle 17
The Bets: None
Picking this game gave me a headache. It was one of the toughest games to figure out in week 7. If you look at the way each team’s season has started, you’d obviously pick Seattle to win. But I’m not so sure the Seahawks are that much better when giving it a closer look. Arizona and Seattle have faced three common opponents this year and the results have been incredibly similar.
Seattle lost to the Rams in LA by six points while the Cardinals lost to the Rams at home by four points. Seattle then beat the 49ers at home by 19 points while the Cardinals beat the Niners by 12 points in San Francisco. And finally, Seattle went to New York and handled the Jets by 10 points while Arizona destroyed those same Jets at home by 25 points on Monday Night Football this past week.
Call me crazy, but those appear to be two very similar teams so I’ll go ahead and take Arizona since they’re giving less than a field goal at home, on a Sunday night, with a raucous crowd knowing that a win and their team would only be a half game out of 1st place in the NFC West.
Houston at Denver (-9) | over/under 41
The Pick: Denver
The Score: Denver 24, Houston 10
The Bets: Denver (-3 or +1) in a 2-way or 3-way tease / Under (51) in a 3-way tease
SuperContest: Yes with Denver (-9)
I haven’t been this excited about a pick since….well, since I recommended Pittsburgh over Philly in week 3. And that turned out to be a disaster. Lightning doesn’t strike twice, right?
When I looked at the lines on Monday, the Broncos were -7.5 and they were immediately my favorite pick of the week. Obviously they are a lot of other people’s favorite pick too since this line has jumped by 1.5 points.
But I’m undeterred by the line movement. The Texans might be the worst 4-2 team in NFL history. They’ve had to squeak out home wins against the Bears, Titans and Colts. They’ve been embarrassed on the road by the Patriots (with Jacoby Brissett as New England’s QB) and the Vikings.
They have the 32nd ranked offense in the league and they’re going up against the #4 defense. Their expensive QB, Brock Osweiler, is rated just a tiny bit above Ryan Tannehill and Ryan Fitzpatrick and a few spots below Pro Bowlers like Blaine Gabbert and Blake Bortles.
And the Broncos are playing this game on extra rest, on a two-game losing streak, and knowing they could be in 3rd place in their division with a loss. I don’t think they’re going to fuck around with this Texans team.
Here are the season-long stats I’m tracking:
- Favorites are 35-54-3 against the spread (including a 4-9-2 record in week 6)
- The point total has landed on Over 49 times, Under 41 times, and Pushed 2 times
- I’m 48-42-3 against the spread
Enjoy week 7.