NFL Picks and Predictions Week 7: The Ultimate Bettor's Guide
Last week was a pretty odd week for the NFL. The most watched game of the week was Indianapolis vs. New England, a game in which the Patriots were seven-point road favorites, an extremely high number. How did it end? In a seven-point Patriots victory after linebacker Jamie Collins blocked an extra-point attempt.
If there was ever a "Vegas knows" moment, it was that game on a national stage.
We went 5-6-2, taking a slight loss overall. Unfortunately, of the six losses I picked last weekend, three of them were in my five Locks of the Week. The Pats pushed, and Cincinnati mauled the Buffalo Bills; however, Coach Muscle of the Dolphins stomped on the Titans, the Jaguars had a mental breakdown in crucial moments of a close game, and the New York Giants looked stale as could be on Monday Night Football.
In our non-Locks non-wins, Denver missed a push by a half point when it kicked a field goal in overtime to win. Chicago pushed against the Lions in Detroit. Arizona somehow managed to lose against a third-string quarterback after being given great field position early on, and Colin Kaepernick tested the Baltimore Ravens' secondary to a five-point win.
Other than that, we were perfect...
It's time to get our mojo back this week. I'm trying to call 13 games correctly, but I will settle for at least eight, if four can come in our five Locks this week. I hope you're listening, Gambling Gods. We need you.
All picks ATS: 45-37-3 (.547)
Locks of the Week ATS: 17-13-1 (.565)
Thursday Night Football: Seattle @ San Francisco
Seattle Seahawks 20, San Francisco 49ers 3
They are who we thought they were!
The San Francisco 49ers once again showed their true colors as they fell victim to the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch put up 122 yards, looking like his old self. Quarterback Russell Wilson was brought down on five sacks and threw two interceptions, but 49ers passer Colin Kaepernick was sacked six times and threw for a completion percentage about 20 points less than Wilson's.
Both teams need work, but it appears as though the Seahawks can still manage success, even on short weeks, while San Francisco is a disaster waiting to happen every time. The 49ers did a good job of holding Seattle to just two touchdowns, but if Kaepernick is only going to get it going against the Baltimore Ravens secondary, the team is going to struggle all season long.
Though it's early in the season, 3-4 and 2-5 feel so different. Being one game from .500 and being only game from having to win out to finish with 10 victories is a drastic change of mentality. We might look back at this cover by the Seahawks as the moment that propelled them into the playoffs and pushed San Francisco into the Blaine Gabbert era.
Buffalo vs. Jacksonville (London)
Opening line: Buffalo @ Jacksonville (+3.5)
Current line: Buffalo @ Jacksonville (+4)
I'm just tired of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Every season we convince ourselves they've been building that roster the right way and may end up being a halfway decent football team, which in the AFC South means they're a potential playoff team.
I get that Gus Bradley banked on having Dante Fowler, the team's recent third overall pick, and that he's going to miss his entire rookie season due to a knee injury, but I can't trust Blake Bortles. I started to talk myself into the passer down the stretch of this season, but he's self-destructive in the worst moments.
Entering the fourth quarter of the Texans game last week, the Jaguars actually had the lead. In about a seven-minute span, though, Houston got the ball into the end zone twice with DeAndre Hopkins.
How did Bortles respond? He went "gamer" and tried to do too much, resulting in a pick-six. A 14-10 lead can turn into a 31-14 deficit on the drop of a hat with this team.
On the other hand, the Buffalo Bills beat down bad teams and consistently lose to good teams. That's their identity this year. They're like the eighth-grade bullies who are heading into their freshman year of high school.
Against the Colts, Dolphins and Titans, the Bills outscored their opponents 82-41 in three wins. Against the Patriots, Giants and Bengals, a 98-63 combined score haunted them through three losses. Many of their 32 points against New England were also in garbage time.
This line opened up with the Bills favored by 3.5 points on the mythical neutral field. So if this were in Jacksonville, the Jaguars would only be dogs by a half point? I don't get this one. Rex Ryan is going to send plenty of pressure Bortles' way this week, and the only receiver who can consistently get open is Allen Robinson. He also got an X-ray after the Houston game for a leg issue, but the results came back negative.
He still got an X-ray. Bortles still has to throw to him. I still feel horrible every time I lose money on this team. We're over.
If the Bills' plan is anything other than "make Jacksonville's one gimpy star beat us," then we deserve to lose this bet, and we'll just fade Buffalo for the rest of the season. The writing is on the wall here.
The pick: Buffalo (-3.5)
Atlanta @ Tennessee
Opening line: Atlanta @ Tennessee (+3)
Closing line: Atlanta @ Tennessee (+5)
Short and sweet: I forgot how bad Ken Whisenhunt is at head coaching in the NFL. Let's go over their season so far.
In Week 1, the Titans blasted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who apparently never thought it was a possibility that Marcus Mariota would run a run-pass option at the NFL level. Lovie Smith was stuck in his Cover 2 ways and was torched 42-14. Since then, the Titans are 0-4.
They lost to the Cleveland Browns by two scores, which can be put on Mariota's sack-fumble issues, but if they didn't have Jeremiah Poutasi—who might have been the worst starting right tackle in the league earlier in the season—playing as a bookend instead of guard where he rightfully belongs, that wouldn't have happened, either.
The next two losses are the frustrating ones. If you watch the Indianapolis and Buffalo games, there are times when you can convince yourself that Tennessee locked up both of those games. The refusal to run the ball against the Colts and the refusal to show any testicular fortitude and go for it on 4th-and-short against the Bills eventually came back to bite Whisenhunt in the rear, resulting in two home losses by a combined three points.
Last week, the Miami Dolphins, fresh off vomit-inducing Oklahoma drills under their new head coach Dan Campbell, turned them into a statement, beating them 38-10 in Nashville.
I don't know how the Titans managed to get four home games in a row, but playing at home hasn't helped them at all this season. In fact, it hasn't helped Whisenhunt in his entire tenure as the head coach of Tennessee. He has one win in 11 attempts at home: a two-point victory against the eventual 3-13 Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014.
A field-goal victory gives Atlanta a push in this game? We would have been begging for this before the New Orleans game, which was heavily influenced by a blocked punt. Now Atlanta has extra rest after a Thursday night game to plan for Zach Mettenberger, as Mariota looks to be out with an MCL issue.
Quietly, the Titans have good cornerbacks, so it may not be the Julio Jones show this week, but Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman can run against the Tennessee defensive line, which lacks any real threat outside of Jurrell Casey.
The pick: Atlanta (-3)
Houston @ Miami
Opening line: Houston @ Miami (-3.5)
Closing line: Houston @ Miami (-4.5)
Well, now that Joe Philbin is gone, the Miami Dolphins are playing like we projected them to. Coming into the season, many tabbed Miami as a sleeper playoff team that could have taken advantage of a possible four-game Tom Brady suspension. A lot has changed since August.
Both the Dolphins and Texans have looked horrible for stretches this season, but if Miami looks like half of the team it was against the Titans, when the entire defense took a step up and the offense magically developed a running game, it will be enough to put down the Texans.
Is a Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett-led team a half point better than anyone in the NFL right now? The Jacksonville Jaguars had to shoot themselves in the foot a couple of times for Houston to pull out that win last week.
Side note: Where in the world is J.J. Watt? He's still great, don't get me wrong, but he isn't looking like the player who went toe-to-toe with Aaron Rodgers in MVP consideration last season. Jadeveon Clowney just keeps getting hurt too.
The hot team takes advantage of the cold one here.
If Dan Campbell wants to take off the "interim" label from his title, he's going to need this game. After the Texans, Miami plays in New England, in Buffalo, in Philadelphia, against Dallas, in New York versus the Jets, against Baltimore, against the Giants, in San Diego, against Indianapolis and against New England. This very well could be his last chance to get a win this season.
Let's ride this horrible ride while we still can, Dantallica.
The pick: Miami (-3.5)
Cleveland @ St. Louis
Opening line: Cleveland @ St. Louis (-4.5)
Closing line: Cleveland @ St. Louis (-6.5)
I get that St. Louis is coming off a bye week, but this line is broken. In what world are the St. Louis Rams better than the Cleveland Browns? I'm not one to buy the hype on the team, but the Browns stick around in games.
On the flip side, the Rams have absolute embarrassment potential. The Browns are 2-3, but they have only lost by five or more points once this season, in Week 1 against the New York Jets when Josh McCown was injured. But other than that, they've been respectable. Maybe not good but respectable.
I do not trust Rams quarterback Nick Foles in a shootout. Period. This is a team that has scored 10 or fewer points in three of its last four games. Todd Gurley is a fine rookie running back, but Jeff Fisher is already making him the feature player of the offense, a tough task for a back who has only played a handful of games in the past season-and-a-half due to suspension and injury.
These gimmick Tavon Austin end-around plays off a Gurley run need to stop. Sure, you might hit on some, but the team is refusing to adapt in intelligent ways. For as much flak as we give the Seattle Seahawks for running a rudimentary high school offense, the Rams haven't been much better in 2015.
On top of all this, St. Louis hasn't had much of a home crowd this year. Now some of that may have to do with the speculation surrounding a Los Angeles move, but when the crowd is loudest during pregame turf burnings, it's not a great sign.
I just have a tad more confidence in the Browns not making fools of themselves Sunday. That's how bad it has gotten for the Rams.
The pick: Cleveland (+6.5)
New York Jets @ New England
Opening line: New York Jets @ New England (-9.5)
Current line: New York Jets @ New England (-8)
The New England Patriots opened up against the Indianapolis Colts as seven-point road favorites, which means they'd be about 10-point favorites at home, according to that line, which featured some bonus points swung New England's way due to the entire Deflategate narrative. I was fine with that line, which eventually was ruled a push when Jamie Collins saved the day with a blocked extra point at the end of the fourth quarter last Sunday night.
What I'm not OK with is this week's line. Are you kidding me? The Jets have won four of their five games by double digits this season, including beating the Colts by 13 points in Indianapolis.
I'm just not following here. Maybe those who run books think that Brady is going to do well against Todd Bowles' often blitzing, man-coverage defense? The Pats did so against the Buffalo Bills, who when simplified to that extent, are similar in defensive scheme.
New England is also in a battle of attrition on the offensive line. You'd be surprised how many young players and reserve players have seen time for the team this season. Rob Gronkowski is a generational tight end, but even the Pats aren't unstoppable outside of the red zone. They struggled against the Cowboys for a quarter, have beaten the Jaguars and kept it close against a bad Colts team since they faced off against the Bills.
Give me New England to win outright, but 9.5 is a whole lot of points against a divisional rival who has seen a lot of early success this season. Basically, to me, what the Arizona Cardinals are to offensive football this season, the New York Jets are to defensive football, but since the public loves points, Bowles' squad is going into Week 7 relatively quietly.
The pick: New York Jets (+9.5)
New Orleans @ Indianapolis
Opening line: New Orleans @ Indianapolis (-4)
Current line: New Orleans @ Indianapolis (-4)
Indianapolis just lost their Super Bowl of 2015 coming off a bye week. As much as we liked to tab it as a Patriots revenge moment, it was just as much of an opportunity for the Colts to strike back against New England after Tom Brady and his minions beat Andrew Luck and his mildly competent group of athletes to the tune of 45-7 last season.
It's just this simple: The Colts aren't very good. There's no real young talent on this team. Let's look at Indy's top-100 picks since Luck was taken first overall in 2012, something we shouldn't give general manager Ryan Grigson credit for, as a pet monkey could have turned in that card.
In 2012, after taking Luck, the team took two tight ends, Cody Fleener and Dwayne Allen, plus it traded three picks to move up for a receiver named T.Y. Hilton. The combo of Fleener, who played with Luck at Stanford, and Allen combine for one competent tight end. Not a great tight end but a starter.
Hilton is probably the team's biggest hit, but since signing a $65 million extension, he's only caught one touchdown in six starts. Not a great look for the receiver. It's not like the Colts had many assets to use from the jump, so getting that type of production from heavy investments is a big red flag.
In 2013, the Colt's first-round pick was Bjoern Werner, a pass-rusher from Florida State. He is in his third year in the league now, with 6.5 sacks as his career total. He's since been moved to the bench after starting as a sophomore.
They traded their second-round pick that year for Vontae Davis, a quality cornerback, but trading for veterans means trading the opportunity to acquire and pay veterans like veterans. He's slated to make $36 million on his current contract.
What's different between the Seahawks and Colts is that Seattle struck when the iron was hot, realizing that taking advantage of rookie contracts is how you win in today's NFL. Indianapolis has gone the opposite route, instead taking in older players. The Redskins way.
The team's third-round pick in 2013 was Hugh Thornton, who is a most-of-the-time starting guard.
2014's draft was OK once we get over the fact they traded their first overall pick for Trent Richardson, who isn't even on the team anymore. (Hint: We are never going to get over it. Nor should we.) That pick got burned quicker than any I can remember in recent history. They also took Jack Mewhort, an adequate guard, and Donte Moncrief, an emerging receiver, in that class.
The 2015 class has made some impact but not enough to cover up the stench of previous ones. Phillip Dorsett, another receiver, hasn't done much after being drafted in the first round. The team didn't have a second-round pick, instead drafting twice in the third and taking D'Joun Smith and Henry Anderson. Smith is a cornerback on injured reserve, and Anderson is a flashy defensive end who is up-and-down on a play-to-play basis.
So in four draft classes, outside of Luck, how many impactful top-100 picks have the Colts used on players still in their rookie deals? Moncrief? Is that it?
Grigson should be the man to leave Indianapolis, not head coach Chuck Pagano. Unfortunately, after that special teams miscommunication that has since spread virally, fans and the media are going to want to go after the coach.
The Saints are coming off extended rest and showed signs of life against Atlanta this weekend. I'm not sure Indianapolis is a two-point favorite over New Orleans on a neutral field, but both teams have had their fair share of embarrassments this season. Give me the points.
The pick: New Orleans (+4)
Tampa Bay @ Washington
Opening line: Tampa Bay @ Washington (-4)
Current line: Tampa Bay @ Washington (-3.5)
It's going to be hard for me to trust the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in one-score games all season. Washington is only favored by 3.5 points this week, with the Buccaneers coming off a bye week. Tampa Bay as half-point dogs on a neutral field against the Redskins? I'm not sure another team, other than the Jacksonville Jaguars or now Marcus Mariota-less Tennessee Titans, should be favored by less than a point against the Bucs.
The Redskins somehow beat the St. Louis Rams by 14 points in one of the oddest games of the season, which was then followed by a short-week Thursday night game against the Giants, which Washington lost 32-21. Last weekend, the Redskins lost 34-20 to the Jets, but they have kept it close with the Dolphins, Eagles and Falcons, who have looked talented at different points of this year.
The Buccaneers aren't the Giants or Jets. No bye week is going to fix the trial-and-error nature of Jameis Winston. He's going to develop into one of the top passers in the league, but like Ben Roethlisberger, he's going to need time. Unfortunately, instead of being armed with a potential Super Bowl team like Roethlisberger was his rookie season, Winston is equipped with a poor defense and an offensive line that is stuck together with chewing gum.
Washington cornerback Bashaud Breeland has had two interceptions over the last two games, and he might add a third and fourth in this game.
The pick: Washington (-3.5)
Minnesota @ Detroit
Opening line: Minnesota @ Detroit (+2.5)
Current line: Minnesota @ Detroit (+3)
The Detroit Lions got their first win of the season last week, but I'm not convinced a one-game sample against the Chicago Bears, a team that at one point had the leading odds to earn the first overall pick, is how we should judge the squad from this point on.
On the defensive side of the passing game, the Detroit Lions struggle in underneath coverage. Teddy Bridgewater and the Minnesota Vikings absolutely love eating underneath. After the Kansas City Chiefs, the Vikings might be second in the league in the short passing game.
It's weird for a mid-level team to get 2.5 points as a road favorite in the NFL, but the Lions clearly aren't good, even if Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson can put the team on their backs for a game or two this year. The Vikings have won two games by multiple scores this season, while Detroit has lost three by two scores.
Adrian Peterson is an up-and-down running back at his age, but if he can get 70 yards in Ford Field, it's a wrap for Jim Caldwell's team, who may be playing for the coach's job.
The pick: Minnesota (-2.5)
Pittsburgh @ Kansas City
Opening line: Pittsburgh @ Kansas City (+2)
Current line: Pittsburgh @ Kansas City (+2)
A rock and a hard place. The Pittsburgh Steelers are going to be starting their third-string quarterback, Landry Jones, while the Kansas City Chiefs offense is built around their running back Jamaal Charles, who is hurt.
Despite Ben Roethlisberger missing multiple games, the Steelers are in the AFC playoff hunt. Michael Vick displayed some positives for Pittsburgh, flashing legs that Roethlisberger doesn't possess. I struggle to find how Landry Jones is better than Vick and Roethlisberger, though.
Jones will likely run the offense more efficiently than Vick did, but regression to the mean isn't exactly what you ask from your backup passer in limited stretches. Last week against the Arizona Cardinals, the Steelers pulled the upset due to their scrambler.
Still, if Jones can find Antonio Brown, who Vick couldn't, and hand the rock off to LeVeon Bell, the NFL's top young back, I like their chances against a struggling Kansas City offense. The Chiefs continue their unwarranted respect with this line, after going 1-5 against the spread this season.
Side note: Teams seem to struggle before going to London. Maybe it's getting their passports lined up and travel plans of that nature, but there appears to be an unreported edge there. With Kansas City set to play across the pond next week, this is the perfect opportunity to test the theory.
The pick: Pittsburgh (-2)
Oakland @ San Diego
Opening line: Oakland @ San Diego (-4)
Current line: Oakland @ San Diego (-4)
This week is full of odd lines. To me, the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers are about even. Neither has a real talented defense, but both teams have quarterbacks who can keep their offenses in games. I probably would give the Raiders offensive line and receivers unit the edge and the Chargers the nod in the running back category, but only when they play their best back, Danny Woodhead.
Each team has been punched in the mouth hard this season, with San Diego losing 31-14 to the Minnesota Vikings, and Oakland...losing 33-13 to the Cincinnati Bengals. It's weird how similar teams end up having similar results. The difference between them, though, is health. It's Philip Rivers versus everyone right now, and that's kept the Chargers in two emotional losses during the last two weeks. Oakland hasn't had to go through similar trials, as it is coming off a bye week this week.
If this line were three points in favor of San Diego, I'd be fine with it, even though it seems like there are consistently more opposing fans than Chargers fans at their home games. When a line is off by one point, it's usually not a big deal, but the difference between a possible point-and-a-half swing over a key number of three is interesting to me.
Whenever a field goal can win you a bet between two similar teams, you do it. If the home crowd is known to be weak, you do it. If the team you like isn't coming off two losing gut checks and is instead coming off a bye, you do it.
The pick: Oakland (+4)
Dallas @ New York Giants
Opening line: Dallas @ New York Giants (-5)
Current line: Dallas @ New York Giants (-3.5)
Matt Cassel can't be worse than Brandon Weeden. The Dallas Cowboys are coming off a bye week, and the New York Giants are playing on a short week after losing to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.
On defense, the Cowboys have the edge. On the offensive line, the Cowboys have the edge. If receiver Dez Bryant is ready to play Sunday, the Cowboys have the edge for offensive skill players.
It's not like the post-Tony Romo Cowboys have looked like they don't belong on the field, either. They sealed a win against the Eagles, led in the fourth quarter 28-25 against the Atlanta Falcons, took the New Orleans Saints into overtime and were in a stalemate with the New England Patriots until the last few minutes of the first half.
Every game came down to this: When Weeden needed to make a play, he couldn't. Dink-and-dunk efficiency only goes so far. Look at the 2014 Oakland Raiders under Derek Carr and the 2015 Kansas City Chiefs under Alex Smith. If Cassel can show any improvement over Weeden, the Cowboys are a team to look out for. Remember, this is a squad that was one "Dez caught it" away from facing the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game last winter.
The pick: Dallas (+5)
Sunday Night Football: Philadelphia @ Carolina
Opening line: Philadelphia @ Carolina (-3)
Current line: Philadelphia @ Carolina (-3)
Last week was a big week for both of these teams. On the surface, the Philadelphia Eagles looked like the team we expected them to be before the season, and the Carolina Panthers proved to be legitimate contenders in the NFC playoff race after facing their first quality opponent of the season.
Both teams have great defenses and have questions on the offensive side of the ball. The Eagles badly want the inside zone to work, though they don't really have interior offensive linemen to get it done. The Panthers are the same boat, but luckily quarterback Cam Newton is having an MVP-type season.
Vegas essentially punted this line. These teams are about even, and the only real feel I have involves the fact that the Eagles are on a slightly short week after playing the New York Giants on Monday night. Either team can win by double digits, so I'd stay away from this one.
The pick: Carolina (-3)
Monday Night Football: Baltimore @ Arizona
Opening line: Baltimore @ Arizona (-7)
Current line: Baltimore @ Arizona (-8)
Arizona had a weird game last week. It was in the red zone early twice and inches away from pushing for a safety too. It should have had 16 points from the jump but ended the game with just 13 in a loss.
Baltimore struggled too, making Colin Kaepernick look like a legitimate franchise quarterback. The Ravens have no pass rush and have some of the worst coverage in 2015. The combo of those two attributes makes them a quarterback's dream.
Usually, when a team is 1-5 but hasn't lost by more than a score, its record against the spread is pretty good. Not Baltimore. It is 0-5-1 against the spread this season.
The line is Arizona by a score, and Carson Palmer, Bruce Arians and Co. have won by more than that four times already this season. I just can't think of how the Ravens keep up in a shootout or stop all of the Cardinals' weapons simultaneously.
Baltimore is third in the league in allowed yards per pass attempt, sixth in the league in allowed passing touchdowns, fourth-to-last in forced interceptions, sixth-to-last in defensive quarterback rating and sixth-to-last in allowed yards per game. Start Palmer and his receivers on your fantasy teams this week. It's going to be a rout.
The pick: Arizona (-7)
Locks of the Week
- New York Jets (+9.5) @ New England
- Baltimore @ Arizona (-7)
- Dallas (+5) @ New York Giants
- Cleveland (+6.5) @ St. Louis
- Oakland (+4) @ San Diego
All lines courtesy of OddsShark.com.