Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 7 NFL Picks
With the 2020 NFL regular season 36 percent complete, underdogs are 49-42 against the spread, and road underdogs are 35-27 ATS. Throw in that home teams are just 47-43-1 overall and there's an indication home-field advantage is pretty limited as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact crowd sizes throughout the league.
All are in possession of winning records picking games against the spread.
Here are the details:
T-1. Davenport: 51-38-2 (8-6 last week)
T-1. Sobleski: 51-38-2 (7-7 last week)
3. Gagnon: 50-39-2 (6-8 last week)
4. Miller: 47-38-2 (5-6 last week)
5. Kahler: 48-39-2 (4-10 last week)
6. Tesfatsion: 47-41-2 (9-4 last week)
Consensus picks: 46-31-1 (6-6 last week)
And here are 14 fresh selections for Week 7.
New York Giants (1-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-4-1)
DraftKings Line: Philadelphia -4.5
NFC East games are almost always tough to nail down, but that's especially the case this season. Throw in that the Week 7 matchup between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles is being played on a Thursday night in a sparsely filled stadium, and we wouldn't fault you for sitting this one out as both a viewer and a bettor.
Still, with only 4.5 points on the line, nearly all of our writers are siding with an Eagles team that is at home and has shown off a lot more resiliency than New York in recent years.
"This is absolutely the most Thursday night game so far this season: a one-win Eagles team ravaged by injuries against a one-win New York team that has been ravaged by being the Giants," Davenport joked. "After losing Miles Sanders and Zach Ertz last week, Carson Wentz is literally the only skill-position starter on offense the Eagles have left, and I still trust them to move the ball exponentially more than the G-Men."
But Gagnon is lone-wolfing the Giants, partly because he doesn't believe the Eagles can handle all of the injuries.
"I don't feel good about this," he cautioned. "But the New York defense has actually performed better than expected this season, and Philly has practically nobody left to support the struggling Wentz. I just can't see the Eagles pulling away. They haven't done so all season, while the Giants have hung with the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears. I'm gambling that this will be a field-goal game."
Gagnon: New York
Consensus: Philadelphia -4.5
Score Prediction: Eagles 26, Giants 17
Green Bay Packers (4-1) at Houston Texans (1-5)
DraftKings Line: Green Bay -3.5
One of only two split votes this week comes in Sunday's matchup between the potentially shellshocked Green Bay Packers and the suddenly feisty Houston Texans. Green Bay is clearly the better team on paper, but the Packers are laying a field goal plus a hook on the road, and there might be some trepidation about the Pack considering they surrendered 38 unanswered points in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week.
Gagnon on the Texans: "Ever since firing head coach Bill O'Brien, Houston has outscored its opponents 66-56 with no losses in regulation. The Texans might be let down by their overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans last week, but Deshaun Watson is on top of his game again, and they're getting more than a field goal at home from a team that looked lost last week and might not get left tackle David Bakhtiari back from injury just yet. I'll take the points and run."
Kahler on the Packers: "You saw Deshaun Watson's reaction last week when he lost the coin toss at the start of overtime. He knew he'd never be getting the ball back. Houston's defense is not good enough to stump Aaron Rodgers the way the Bucs did last week."
Both arguments make sense, and nobody wants to mess with an inspired Rodgers. But he can send a message and still win by a field goal against a team with fight in its home stadium, and that amounts to an L against the spread. In other words, tread carefully.
Kahler: Green Bay
Miller: Green Bay
Tesfatsion: Green Bay
Score Prediction: Packers 28, Texans 24
Carolina Panthers (3-3) at New Orleans Saints (3-2)
DraftKings Line: New Orleans -7.5
Only once in six games have the Carolina Panthers fallen by more than seven points. And Carolina's Week 7 opponent, the New Orleans Saints, hasn't defeated anybody by more than a touchdown since Week 1. With that in mind, the majority of our experts feel oddsmakers have gone too far installing New Orleans as a 7.5-point fave for Sunday's NFC South tilt.
"Christian McCaffrey isn't set to return yet, and the Panthers do have three games in 10 days," Miller said. "But Matt Rhule's team has proved to be tough to beat each week since losing the NFL's best running back to injury. While picking the Panthers to win straight up would be a risky play, picking them to simply cover against a Saints team that has been horribly inconsistent is a fun bet."
The counter from Davenport and Gagnon could be that the Panthers don't have the run defense to handle early-season Offensive Player of the Year candidate Alvin Kamara out of the New Orleans backfield, and the Saints are arguably due for a blowout win over a familiar opponent. They certainly should be well-prepared coming off a bye, and it looks as though they'll get star receiver Michael Thomas back as well.
That's why it's probably appropriate that the Panthers won this vote by the slimmest possible margin. Still, Carolina lost by just a field goal in a strong effort in the Superdome last year, and now it won't have to contend with as much noise with a limited capacity in New Orleans. So watch for the Panthers to hang in.
Davenport: New Orleans
Gagnon: New Orleans
Consensus: Carolina +7.5
Score Prediction: Saints 27, Panthers 24
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-0) at Tennessee Titans (5-0)
DraftKings Line: Tennessee -1
This line actually shifted across zero soon before these picks were set to be published. Prior to that, the Pittsburgh Steelers were laying a point or two, depending on where you looked, but now the Tennessee Titans are the slight favorite.
But let's be real: It was close to a pick'em regardless. Few were picking the Titans to cover but lose by a single point. That said, the majority of our gang won't complain about backing the Steelers with an extra couple of points in their back pocket.
"A titanic battle of steely competitors will ensue Sunday for midseason AFC supremacy," Sobleski said, confirming that our crew is in a pun-filled mood this week. "While both the Steelers and Titans remain undefeated, one of the two squads is much better suited to escape with a victory.
"Pittsburgh's defense is akin to a force of nature with Tennessee dealing with a major blow to its offensive front after left tackle Taylor Lewan suffered a season-ending torn ACL. The Steelers' defensive front, edge-rushers and pressure packages can stymy running back Derrick Henry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill since the group should consistently win at the point of attack."
It would only be fair to mention that Pittsburgh is also down a key starter after linebacker Devin Bush suffered a torn ACL in Week 6, but it's frankly a little easier to make up for the loss of an off-ball linebacker than a left tackle. Don't forget that Tennessee was already getting acclimated to life without Lewan's bookend partner, Jack Conklin, who left in free agency this past offseason.
Throw in that the Steelers might at least have a chance to get standout guard David DeCastro back from an abdominal injury and the Steelers seem like the better bet with points hardly factoring in and home-field advantage likely to play a very limited role for Tennessee.
Consensus: Pittsburgh +1
Score Prediction: Steelers 27, Titans 23
Cleveland Browns (4-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-4-1)
DraftKings Line: Cleveland -3.5
Split vote No. 2 comes in another divisional game that is also tough to get a feel for considering the roller-coaster rides we've seen thus far from the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.
Tesfatsion on the Browns: "You might think less of the Browns after that blowout loss to the Steelers. They're still a good team. It's just the Steelers are a great team. Thankfully, Cleveland is facing a bad team that blew a 21-point lead to the Colts. Cincinnati is getting better, and actually watchable this year with guys like Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins, but it is going to have a difficult time stopping Cleveland's pass rush. The Browns should be able to dominate this game in the trenches and cover as a road favorite."
Gagnon on the Bengals: "I dunno, I expected the Indianapolis Colts' stacked defensive front to exploit Cincinnati's poor pass-protection unit last week, and that didn't really happen. Myles Garrett is on another level, but it's not as though the Browns have a lot of high-quality pass-rushing options beyond that. I could see the Bengals making some adjustments based on a five-point Week 2 loss in Cleveland and keeping this within a field goal at home."
Throw in that injuries to Baker Mayfield (ribs) and Nick Chubb (knee) could make it tougher for the Browns to take advantage of a mediocre Cincy defense and that's a fair argument.
Still, 3.5 points isn't much considering the damage the Browns have done against inferior opponents this season. They've been outscored 76-13 by the Steelers and Ravens, but they've outscored everybody else by an average of nearly 10 points per game.
So yeah, maybe sit this one out.
Score Prediction: Browns 26, Bengals 23
Detroit Lions (2-3) at Atlanta Falcons (1-5)
DraftKings Line: Atlanta -2.5
"This is yet another Week 7 game that features a pair of lousy teams," Davenport said, exciting the crowd. "But this one at least has the potential to be entertaining. The Lions played arguably their best game of the season last week in Jacksonville, while the Falcons definitely played their best game of 2020 in throttling the reeling Minnesota Vikings.
"Atlanta seems to be playing much more inspired football since showing Dan Quinn the door, so I'll give the Falcons the edge. Although given my track record picking Falcons games, that means there's a 97 percent chance it will be 52-3 Detroit six minutes into the game. I'm pretty sure Atlanta does it on purpose to make me look bad."
We all do, Gary. We all do.
But the majority of the panel is siding with untrustworthy Atlanta over untrustworthy Detroit, mainly because it's a spot in which you oughta keep it simple and the Falcons are giving up less than a field goal at home. Have the Lions given anyone much of a reason to back them with so few points on their side on the road?
While it's entirely possible Matthew Stafford and Kenny Golladay will throw a points party against a vulnerable pass defense, Stafford hasn't taken off this year, and now the Lions are dealing with fresh injuries to key players Trey Flowers, Marvin Jones Jr., Frank Ragnow and Desmond Trufant.
This might not be one worthy of more than pocket change, but the Falcons do appear to be the play.
Consensus: Atlanta -2.5
Score Prediction: Falcons 30, Lions 26
Buffalo Bills (4-2) at New York Jets (0-6)
DraftKings Line: Buffalo -13.5
Look, a 13.5-point spread in a divisional game is admittedly terrifying. And that's certainly the case considering the Buffalo Bills have lost back-to-back games. Plus, oddsmakers have surely juiced this line as a result of the New York Jets being 0-6 against the spread this season.
But the Jets have lost all six of their games by at least nine points this season. They look defeated, depleted, downtrodden and any other unfavorable adjective that starts with "D." It's been nearly 30 years since the Bills last laid this many points on the road, but you really have little choice but to take Buffalo.
"What is there to say here really?" Kahler said. "Josh Allen will rebound from two subpar games, and the Jets will continue on their path to the No. 1 pick."
Sometimes, simple is best. We'd recommend remaining on the sidelines if you feel you're being taken advantage of by this gargantuan line, but the Jets don't deserve your backing right now. And there's frankly no reason to believe that horrendous pass defense can slow down Allen, Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley.
Consensus: Buffalo -13.5
Score Prediction: Bills 34, Jets 13
Dallas Cowboys (2-4) at Washington Football Team (1-5)
DraftKings Line: Washington -1
Somebody has to win the abysmal NFC East, and somebody has to win these abysmal NFC East matchups. A 4-2 vote in favor of the Washington Football Team over the Dallas Cowboys is hardly a strong endorsement of Washington with a near-pick'em spread at FedEx Field, but at least Gagnon is confident in his majority opinion.
"This is a nightmare scenario for Dallas," he said. "Chase Young is getting healthier, Montez Sweat is coming on and Jonathan Allen is playing well for a terrifying Washington defensive front which will get to tee off on an offensive line in utter shambles, a backup quarterback and a running back who suddenly has a severe fumbling issue. Throw in that the depleted Dallas defense still can't stop anybody and this feels like a potential WFT blowout."
Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Washington just lost 20-19 to the Giants and isn't exactly loaded with offensive weapons. But at home with only a one-point spread? That still seems like a pretty easy bet to make with Zack Martin's status in doubt because of a concussion and Tyron Smith and La'el Collins already long gone along the Dallas offensive line.
Still, can anyone blame Davenport and Tesfatsion for playing devil's advocate? Andy Dalton might still be better than Kyle Allen, he certainly has more weapons than Allen, and Ezekiel Elliott could look to send a message against a beatable run defense on behalf of a desperate Dallas team.
That's not where the consensus is leaning, but this isn't an easy call. They never are in this damn division.
Consensus: Washington -1
Score Prediction: Washington 26, Dallas 23
San Francisco 49ers (3-3) at New England Patriots (2-3)
DraftKings Line: New England -1.5
It's a miracle the San Francisco 49ers are 3-3 despite all of their injuries, but they just won't go away. Meanwhile, it's beginning to feel as though the New England Patriots dynasty is finally doing exactly that. If the Pats can't hang at home with the gutted Denver Broncos, and the depleted 49ers can somehow hang with the contending Los Angeles Rams, how can anyone back New England with just 1.5 points in its back pocket Sunday at Gillette Stadium?
"The 49ers are depleted because of injuries, and everything says this team should just pack it in and try to recover later in the season," Sobleski said. "Yet the group rebounded nicely against a good Los Angeles Rams squad after San Francisco's embarrassing loss to the Miami Dolphins. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will have his team prepared, and the Patriots offense doesn't exactly inspire confidence to make this anything more than a one-score contest in either direction."
That said, all it takes is a two-point victory for New England to cover, and we're all understandably skittish about delivering New England's eulogy. We're never supposed to count out Bill Belichick, right? And in this case, he's laying just a point-and-a-half at home against a team that has been gutted by injuries.
That's why it isn't surprising this wasn't a clean sweep and was far from it before Gagnon made an eleventh-hour move to San Francisco.
"I wouldn't touch this game with a 49-foot pole if I had a choice," he cautioned. "But even though I fear the Belichick mystique with the pressure on in Foxborough, the 49ers are getting healthier, they're also extremely well-coached, and at this point I trust the rebounding Jimmy Garoppolo more than the seemingly fading Cam Newton."
Davenport: San Francisco
Gagnon: San Francisco
Kahler: San Francisco
Miller: San Francisco
Sobleski: San Francisco
Tesfatsion: New England
Consensus: San Francisco +1.5
Score Prediction: 49ers 23, Patriots 20
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) at Los Angeles Chargers (1-4)
DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -7.5
This might just be a week of uncomfortable situations, because few likely felt comfortable laying more than a touchdown with the injury-plagued, unreliable Los Angeles Chargers and their rookie quarterback. But our gang had to choose the lesser of two evils in this case, and—even with that 7.5-point line—the Jacksonville Jaguars are a lot less enticing following four consecutive eight-plus-point losses."
"Boy, they sure let me comment on some titanic struggles in Week 7—I'm not sure I like what that says about how I'm regarded around here," Davenport said. "In any event, the Jags looked bad in losing to a mediocre (at best) Lions team last week, while the Chargers had a week off to get healthy ahead of this one. Look for Justin Herbert to take advantage of a suspect Jaguars secondary, for the Los Angeles pass rush to have success pressuring Gardner Mustache, and for the Bolts to win this one by double digits at home."
Four of his five colleagues agree. Yet Tesfatsion was given a chance to issue a dissenting opinion.
"There are two teams I hate gambling on: the Jaguars and the Chargers," he said. "I've had some games where I thought Jacksonville would be competitive enough to cover, and it was over in the first quarter (see: last year's London game against the Texans). And I've had some games where I thought the Chargers had it in the bag and blew it late (see: every Chargers loss ever). This is my worst nightmare game to gamble on. I'm going to take the points and will likely regret it by halftime."
Not to sound like a broken record, but don't spend your hard-earned cash on Jacksonville or the Bolts. But if you've got no choice in an office pool or something along those lines, our crew recommends rolling with Herbert's sensational arm and solid arsenal of weapons against the league's last-ranked pass defense in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) at Football Outsiders.
Davenport: Los Angeles
Gagnon: Los Angeles
Kahler: Los Angeles
Miller: Los Angeles
Sobleski: Los Angeles
Consensus: Los Angeles -7.5
Score Prediction: Chargers 31, Jaguars 17
Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) at Denver Broncos (2-3)
DraftKings Line: Kansas City -9.5
On paper and otherwise, it isn't hard to envision the Kansas City Chiefs pounding the inferior Denver Broncos on Sunday. But the majority of our pickers are actually backing Denver because they believe a 9.5-point line in favor of K.C. is a tad too generous.
"No way am I willing to lay that many points," Gagnon said. "The Chiefs are 0-2 against the spread with a negative point differential in divisional games this season, and the Broncos are 4-1 ATS overall. Denver is getting healthier and putting up fights. The Broncos just clearly outplayed the Patriots on the road. Now, they're at home against a Chiefs team working on short rest. I don't think we're looking at an upset here, but I think they hang around, and I'll hope for a backdoor cover if not."
This also isn't a bad matchup for Denver right now. The Chiefs defense has generally struggled on the ground this year (they rank 27th in DVOA against the run), while Denver remains a run-oriented team. While it's far from ideal that the Broncos pass defense has been problematic, they may get veteran cornerback A.J. Bouye back from a shoulder injury this week.
Still, that might not happen, and the blowout potential is always there considering the Chiefs hammered the Broncos twice in 2019. So it's not surprising that a strong minority of our predictors are willing to lay the points.
Again, this ain't a great week for certainty.
Davenport: Kansas City
Miller: Kansas City
Consensus: Denver +9.5
Score Prediction: Kansas City 27, Denver 21
Seattle Seahawks (5-0) at Arizona Cardinals (4-2)
DraftKings Line: Seattle -3.5
NFC West battles between the Seattle Seahawks and the seemingly inferior Arizona Cardinals can be tricky. More on that in a moment, but let's just say that trickiness isn't pushing many of our experts to side with the Cards with just 3.5 points in their back pocket for a short-rest home game against their well-rested, undefeated division rival.
"We're in a golden era of pass-rushers, and just about every team has a dynamic edge-rusher, except the Seahawks," Tesfatsion said. "They rank near the bottom of the league in adjusted sack rate, but Seattle is 11th in team pass rush win rate, per ESPN analytics. That's pretty remarkable. Their defensive line will have a difficult challenge trying to contain Kyler Murray, who made the Cowboys defense look like Pearland High (Texas forever). It would be an added boost to get Jamal Adams back following the bye week to help stop Murray, but I think Seattle has a better chance slowing him down than the Cardinals do of trying to slow down future MVP Russell Wilson."
Beyond that, Murray is at his best with his legs. And while Seattle's pass defense has been a problem this year, there's no questioning their ability to counter the run with Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Jarran Reed in the front seven.
Still, Adams might not play (he's still missing practice time because of a groin injury). And after going against the grain with Arizona, Sobleski was given an opportunity to defend his decision to buck a unanimous consensus.
"Arizona just posted back-to-back victories while scoring 30 or more points in each of those contests," he said. "Granted, those wins came at the expense of the woeful Jets and injury-riddled Cowboys. Even so, the Seahawks shouldn't be treated like the boogeyman. Yes, Wilson and Co. remain undefeated. But Seattle's defense isn't good by any stretch of the imagination. Expect a shootout and take the points."
In Sobleski's defense, it's also worth noting that the Seahawks have covered the spread just once in their past seven meetings with Arizona. So again, tricky!
Consensus: Seattle -3.5
Score Prediction: Seattle 31, Arizona 23
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2) at Las Vegas Raiders (3-2)
DraftKings Line: Tampa Bay -4
It's been an up-and-down season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the majority of our writers are feeling well enough about a recent high note to back Tampa on Sunday night against a Las Vegas Raiders team that could have trouble dealing with an overwhelming Bucs defensive front.
"Last week, it was the defense and run game that led the way," Miller said. "But this week, the Bucs are an on-paper winner over a Raiders team that had all five starting offensive linemen sent home because of COVID-19 contact."
Now, this line moved 1.5 points after news broke that the Raiders were sending their offensive line home because of COVID-19 concerns. Most of our gang was on board at Tampa Bay -2.5 with an available Las Vegas offensive line, so none were deterred by the movement.
This is a good matchup for the Buccaneers, who have a dominant run defense which should limit Josh Jacobs and put all of the pressure on Derek Carr behind that aforementioned concerning offensive line. Las Vegas is also ranked 31st in DVOA against the run, which isn't ideal considering strong recent performances from Ronald Jones II in the Tampa Bay backfield.
Maybe the offensive line will be OK after all and the Raiders will take advantage of that line movement at home after a bye, but that might not be worth the risk right now.
Davenport: Tampa Bay
Gagnon: Tampa Bay
Kahler: Tampa Bay
Miller: Tampa Bay
Sobleski: Las Vegas
Tesfatsion: Las Vegas
Consensus: Tampa Bay -4
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 30, Raiders 23
Chicago Bears (5-1) at Los Angeles Rams (4-2)
DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -6
"It's not as though I don't believe in the Los Angeles Rams' strong start," Gagnon said. "But six points is ridiculous all things considered.
"L.A. has a limited home-field advantage without fans, the Rams have come out flat in three of their last four games, and the defensively strong Bears are 5-1. Chicago has given up just 19.3 points per game, but people are willing to bet the Bears lose by a full touchdown to a team that barely beat the Giants and lost to the Bills and banged-up 49ers? I just don't see it."
Neither do most of his colleagues. Although, because this is such an odd week, Miller and Tesfatsion are still standing firm in opposition to the majority. They might believe Nick Foles and Co. will finally bring the Bears back to earth against Aaron Donald and Co., which is fair, because that offense isn't pretty.
But neither is the Rams run defense, which ranks in the bottom 12 in DVOA and could take the pressure off Foles and that problematic passing game Monday evening.
Miller: Los Angeles
Tesfatsion: Los Angeles
Consensus: Chicago +6
Score Prediction: Rams 24, Bears 21
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