NFL Week 7 Preview: 5 Games to Avoid If You're a Gambler
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This has hardly been a safe season for gambling in the NFL.
With the impact of the replacement officials in the first three weeks and surprising early results from teams like the Vikings and Seahawks, this season has been anything but predictable after six weeks.
No team yet has emerged as the odds-on favorite.
Preseason-favorites New England and Green Bay are both 3-3 so far, while three of the four teams in the NFC West—which was almost clinched before Thanksgiving last season—are tied at 4-2. Even the Atlanta Falcons—the league’s only remaining undefeated team—have had to pull out late-game heroics in each of their last three games.
Because of this mounting uncertainty and competitive parity in the NFL, here are five games I would save my money on in Week 7.
Green Bay Def. St. Louis
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Spread: 5.5 pts.
Location: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, MO
At first glance, this game looks like a gimme for the Green Bay Packers over the Rams. However, both go into Sunday sporting a 3-3 record on the year.
Green Bay, who is visiting St. Louis, has just a 1-2 record on the road this season. Many fans around the NFL would probably like to see an asterisk next to that record and that is fair, but even if the Packers had beaten the Seattle Seahawks, it would have been by a score of 12-7, still just a five-point differential. As it stands, the Packers two road losses have been by a field goal or less in each.
Contrastingly, the host Rams are undefeated in three games at home.
Although it seems that the Packers may have turned a corner this week, winning on the road in Houston by scoring 42 points against the previously-unbeaten Texans, Green Bay has allowed an average of 22.5 points-against this season, while St. Louis has averaged just 18.5 points-against this year, a statistic I’m not ready to challenge.
New England Def. New York Jets
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Spread: 10.5 pts.
Location: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
Certainly it is likely that the Patriots’ NFL-leading scoring offense can beat the Jets by more than ten points at home this week, but it will not be surprising if the Jets do keep the score close on Sunday.
New England is sixth in rush defense and will look to shut down Shonn Greene, ultimately forcing New York to the air. However, the Patriots’ 28th-ranked pass defense figures to be a liability on Sunday, allowing an average 288.8 yards per game through the air.
The high spread in this game allows a bit too much room for error. In Mark Sanchez’ four starts at Gillette Stadium, three have been decided by ten points or less, while the fourth—a 45-3 loss in 2010—is likely an anomaly.
If the Jets can maximize Sanchez' potential, it is likely that the Jets will cover, if not win outright.
Minnesota Def. Arizona
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Spread: 6 pts.
Location: Mall of America Field, Minneapolis, MN
These two teams have been two of the most surprising early on in 2012.
A six point spread seems tailor-made for an Arizona team that has only played one game that was decided by more than four points—a 17-3 Week 5 loss to St. Louis—and they are coming off a three-point overtime loss to Buffalo in Week 6.
In that same game, the Cardinals lost starting quarterback Kevin Kolb, who will be replaced by the opening day starter, John Skelton. Skelton came out of the preseason having won the starting job, but Kolb has been serviceable through the first six weeks, so whether the offense is better for the change remains to be seen.
The Vikings have had their share of big, albeit close, victories this season, most notably against San Francisco in Week 3. However, although they were able to blow out Tennessee by a score of 30-7, Minnesota is coming off a loss of their own to the Redskins, 38-26, so what their threshold for success is against good competition has yet to be determined.
Buffalo Def. Tennessee
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Spread: 3 pts.
Location: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, NY
It’s a battle of the bottom in upstate New York this weekend as the 32nd-ranked rush defense—Buffalo—squares off against the 32nd-ranked rush offense—Tennessee. The difference for Tennessee, however, is that they have all the potential of Chris Johnson in their backfield.
If Johnson—who is once again underperforming with just 301 yards rushing through the first six games of the season—can turn the corner on 2012 this week, the results could be fatal for the Bills.
Tennessee has competed in just two games that ended with a three-point differential; both were in Nashville and both were won by the Titans.
My thought is that this spread is more of a sexy pick for Vegas, where both the Titans and Bills are coming off of three-point victories in Week 6; Tennessee on Thursday night against Pittsburgh and Buffalo in overtime in Arizona.
Pittsburgh Def Cincinnati
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Spread: 1.5 pts.
Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
If anything, this would be my upset pick for the weekend: Bengals over Steelers in a Sunday night AFC North battle.
With such a low margin, it’s likely that Cincinnati would have to win outright if they are going to overcome the spread and try to win this pivotal division game. Fortunately for the Bengals, Pittsburgh is 1-2 in their last three games, which have all been decided by three points or less.
Pitt versus Cincy is a matchup of the seventh and eighth best passing offenses, respectively, and while the Bengals may be at a disadvantage going against the fourth-best passing defense, injuries could be the key to this game.
The combination of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green will be going against a Pittsburgh defense that is without Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu. On the other side of the ball, the Bengal defense, which has 20 sacks on the season, faces a Pittsburgh offense that could be missing dominant center Maurkice Pouncey, who is questionable with an MCL injury.
Perhaps it won’t have the most overwhelming impact Sunday, but injuries present a variable that could put Cincinnati in position for an upset on national television.