Bleacher Report's Expert Week 7 NFL Picks
For the first time in history, according to figures released by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and reported by Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, Atlantic City casinos and race tracks took in more than $1 billion in bets in September alone.
That, of course, has a lot to do with the NFL and its recent embrace of the sports betting realm.
Appropriately, the league also recently launched a responsible betting public awareness campaign that includes a $6.2 million, three-year partnership with the National Council on Problem Gambling, according to ESPN.com's David Purdum.
We hope that if you decided to put down some cash during the first portion of the 2021 NFL season, you made some green back. And if that wasn't the case because—let's face it—betting on sports ain't easy, we hope you're taking it in stride and will continue to be responsible moving forward. Placing a legal bet on a game can be a lot of fun, but there are also outlets available to bettors to help ensure that those wagers don't get out of control (we list many of those outlets at the bottom of this piece every week).
Anyway, whether you're just looking for guidance on your office pool selections or you're trying to keep a hot rally going with the books, Bleacher Report national NFL writers Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski, B/R Gridiron editors Ian Kenyon and Wes O'Donnell, and B/R Betting host Connor Rogers are here to (try to) help.
Here are their ATS picks for every game on the Week 7 slate.
Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) at Baltimore Ravens (5-1)
DraftKings Line: Baltimore -6.5
Speaking of being fired up, the Cincinnati Bengals have a chance to move into first place in the AFC North by shocking the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, and veteran defensive back Vonn Bell claims his team's surprising defense is "oozing with confidence" entering that contest.
Still, the Ravens are understandably laying nearly a touchdown. They're one of the hottest teams in football right now, and they destroyed the Bengals by a combined margin of 65-6 in their two meetings last season.
The group is deadlocked.
Gagnon on the Bengals: "Cincinnati was a mess against Baltimore last year and the Ravens are good at stomping on bad opponents. But the Bengals are no longer bad. Both of these teams are well above average in terms of DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average at Football Outsiders), and Cincy has nothing to lose against a Ravens team that is playing great but barely beat the Indianapolis Colts at home two weeks ago. This is a field-goal game."
O'Donnell on the Ravens: "This is one of the toughest games of the week. Cincy is coming into its own even while battling some injuries and should probably only have one loss this season. But Lamar Jackson has proven that the NFL hasn't figured him out even with a revolving door in his backfield. Jackson vs. Joe Burrow will be one of the best division rivalries in the league for years to come, but the Bengals aren't fully there yet. I'll back the better overall team at home to cover."
Score Prediction: Ravens 27, Bengals 20
Washington Football Team (2-4) at Green Bay Packers (5-1)
DraftKings Line: Green Bay -8
Ever since the New Orleans Saints shocked them in Week 1, the Green Bay Packers have gone 5-0 both straight-up and against the spread. At home against a Washington Football Team that looks as though it might not have the juice to compete this season, a slim majority of the panel is laying eight points with Aaron Rodgers and Co.
"A choice in the Packers' favor over the WFT even with a touchdown-plus spread is relatively simple," Sobleski said. "Washington has the league's worst pass defense by allowing a whopping 309.5 yards per game. Patrick Mahomes was the first quarterback in the past month not to throw for four touchdowns against Washington and he still carved up the nameless ones for 397 yards. What do you think Aaron Rodgers is going to do?"
Rodgers has been close to perfect on paper since that New Orleans game, and Washington's defense shockingly ranks 29th in DVOA. They just don't seem to have it this year, and it doesn't help that the offense has been hit hard by injuries while quarterback Taylor Heinicke has faded.
That said, Washington has a lot of talent up front on defense and Ron Rivera's team could be desperate here. Considering that the Packers are prone to have the odd dud and that they have just one win this season by more than 10 points, it's not surprising that Davenport and Gagnon are going against the grain.
Kenyon: Green Bay
O'Donnell: Green Bay
Rogers: Green Bay
Sobleski: Green Bay
Score Prediction: Packers 30, Washington 20
Atlanta Falcons (2-3) at Miami Dolphins (1-5)
DraftKings Line: Atlanta -2.5
It's hard to feel comfortable backing the Miami Dolphins in their current shape, but most of our pickers still couldn't talk themselves into laying points with a less talented and constantly unreliable Atlanta Falcons team on the road when Miami hosts Atlanta as a 2.5-point underdog Sunday.
"There's no way around it, the Dolphins have been one of the most disappointing teams in football this year," Rogers admitted. "Despite the constant criticism, Tua Tagovailoa was not the issue against Jacksonville. I think he can build off that performance against a weak Falcons defense. Miami is a desperate team right now. It should cover in a game that goes right down to the wire."
Of course, at 1-5, it's possible the Dolphins have made the transition from desperate to resigned, and they're dealing with a veteran team on extra rest in this spot.
"The Falcons aren't a good enough team to beat some of the league's top teams, but they have been good enough to beat some of the NFL's bottom-feeders," Kenyon said on behalf of himself and Sobleski, both of whom have Atlanta covering. "Atlanta has two wins over two bad teams (the Giants and Jets) and faces another bad team in the Dolphins this week. The Dolphins ride a five-game losing streak coming off a loss to the lowly Jaguars and showed little reason for optimism. Meanwhile, the Falcons seemed to find some rhythm on offense with the emergence of Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Pitts over the past month. Freshly rested coming off a bye week, expect the Falcons to win on the road."
Bettor beware here.
Score Prediction: Dolphins 24, Falcons 23
New York Jets (1-4) at New England Patriots (2-4)
DraftKings Line: New England -7
It's hard to believe Bill Belichick's New England Patriots are 0-4 this season at home, but our panel feels strongly that'll change with an emphatic New England victory over the lowly New York Jets on Sunday in Foxborough.
"It's a Week 2 rematch already," Kenyon said. "The Patriots faced the Jets a month ago, easily covering a six-point spread with a 25-6 victory on the road. New England is only 2-4 against the spread through six weeks, but it faces a terrible Jets team that is 1-4 ATS despite being the underdog in every game this year. The only game the Jets covered was a surprise home overtime win over the Tennessee Titans. With New York on the road, expect Belichick to win this game by at least one touchdown."
That victory over the Titans does seem like quite an aberration for the Jets, although they've been blown out on only two occasions this season and they've had two weeks to prepare for this rematch. This might not be a walk in the park for New England, but a seven-point spread seems oddly low.
The public agrees. More than 90 percent of their bets have come in on the Pats. Usually, that's a red flag. This time, it's pretty hard to fade that trend.
Davenport: New England
Gagnon: New England
Kenyon: New England
O'Donnell: New England
Rogers: New England
Sobleski: New England
Score Prediction: Patriots 31, Jets 13
Carolina Panthers (3-3) at New York Giants (1-5)
DraftKings Line: Carolina -3
While the Patriots are the biggest public fave in the AFC this week, the Carolina Panthers have that distinction among NFC teams, with nearly 75 percent of public bettors backing them as a three-point road favorite against the injury-crushed New York Giants.
Meanwhile, 60 percent of our panel is also leaning Carolina's way.
"Laying points on the road with the Panthers does not fill one with confidence," Davenport said. "But it beats the notion of picking the Giants to stay within a field goal of any semi-competent NFL team. Daniel Jones remembered he was Daniel Jones last week, New York's wideout corps is an injury-ravaged mess, and the Giants offensive line is terrible. It's that last one that is the real dealbreaker—Carolina's pass rush should have little trouble harassing Danny Dimes on Sunday. Give me the fighting Sam Darnolds."
It has to be pointed out that Darnold has come back to earth just as Jones has and that Carolina is coming off back-to-back home losses to mediocre teams (Minnesota and Philadelphia). Still, the Giants are 0-3 ATS at home and they're in extremely rough shape with Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, Kadarius Toney and Andrew Thomas all dealing with injuries.
Kenyon: New York
Score Prediction: Panthers 26, Giants 17
Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) at Tennessee Titans (4-2)
DraftKings Line: Kansas City -5.5
It's been nearly a year since the Kansas City Chiefs last covered the spread in consecutive games. So although it sure did look as though they finally found a groove with a strong second half on the road against Washington last week, a slim majority of the panel is backing the Tennessee Titans as a 5.5-point home favorite against K.C. on Sunday.
"The unstoppable force will meet the entirely moveable object when Derrick Henry and the Titans host the Chiefs and their awful run defense," Sobleski said. "Anything short of Henry running wild all over the Chiefs will be considered a disappointment. At the very least, the Titans' ground game should keep the contest close, if not claim an outright victory. And Henry will continue to make his case for league MVP."
But Gagnon and Kenyon can't get behind the Titans, who have lacked consistency this season and could struggle to maintain the intensity that was required to beat the Buffalo Bills on Monday night.
"The Titans are this year's roller coaster," admitted Rogers, who is still siding with Tennessee. "They have a loss to the Jets and a win over the Bills. What we do know is that Henry is unstoppable and he'll see a laughable Chiefs defense this weekend. I think Mahomes scores at will in this one, but the Titans will counterpunch over and over again. That will lead to a ton of points in what should be a great game."
Gagnon: Kansas City
Kenyon: Kansas City
Score Prediction: Chiefs 30, Titans 27
Detroit Lions (0-6) at Los Angeles Rams (5-1)
DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -14.5
The Detroit Lions have been blown out in just two of their six games this season, but their embarrassing Week 6 home defeat at the hands of the Bengals might have been a sign that the ship is sinking for a still-winless Detroit team.
So while nobody feels overly comfortable laying more than two touchdowns, it's difficult to back Detroit on the road against a Los Angeles Rams team that already has four multi-score victories under its belt.
"Laying this many points is always scary," O'Donnell said. "And while there are 21 other players on the field who can impact things on any given play, this game unfortunately boils down to one player: Jared Goff. The former Rams No. 1 pick returns to L.A. on the heels of his coach calling him out for basically doing nothing during the Lions' 0-6 start to the season. Could he rise to the occasion? Sure. Am I willing to bet on it? Absolutely not. It wouldn't be surprising to see him contribute more points for his former team than his current team in this one."
Still, we're far from unanimity here. Gagnon and Sobleski are fading the public with the Lions, who could still have some fight in them for their new head coach. Throw in the backdoor possibilities, and this one is far from the safest bet of the week.
Davenport: Los Angeles
Kenyon: Los Angeles
O'Donnell: Los Angeles
Rogers: Los Angeles
Score Prediction: Rams 34, Lions 17
Philadelphia Eagles (2-4) at Las Vegas Raiders (4-2)
DraftKings Line: Las Vegas -3
We're here to announce the the most likely result of Sunday's battle between the Philadelphia Eagles and Las Vegas Raiders is a three-point Las Vegas victory at home.
Fittingly, the gang is deadlocked with the Raiders laying a field goal. You're welcome to scroll to the next game, but let's at least share arguments from both sides of the aisle.
Kenyon on the Raiders: "The Jalen Hurts experiment is going downhill fast. It doesn't show any signs of slowing down coming off a game in which Hurts completed only 46 percent of his passes and the Eagles offense mustered a mere 213 yards at home against the Buccaneers. This week, they travel across three time zones to face the 4-2 Raiders. Derek Carr looks back to being the quarterback who started to get some MVP buzz prior to suffering a broken fibula in 2016. Raiders cover at home."
Gagnon on the Eagles: "I don't believe in either team, but I do feel the Raiders' coaching mess will eventually catch up to them even though it didn't in Week 6. Even with Jon Gruden, the Raiders laid a complete egg against the Bears in their last home game, and the Eagles will have stalwart right tackle Lane Johnson back for this one. Plus, it isn't as though the Eagles were humiliated by a dominant Bucs team last week, and they're on extra rest for this one. It's a toss-up, so I'll take the three points."
Davenport: Las Vegas
Kenyon: Las Vegas
Rogers: Las Vegas
Score Prediction: Raiders 27, Eagles 24
Houston Texans (1-5) at Arizona Cardinals (6-0)
DraftKings Line: Arizona -17.5
For the first time in NFL history, the Arizona Cardinals are favored to win a game by more than two scores.
Is a 17.5-point line for a home matchup with the Houston Texans overkill? Davenport believes so, but the rest of the panel is laying all of those points with the league's last remaining undefeated team.
"The Vegas oddsmakers are daring all of us to pick the Texans based on the enormous spread," Sobleski said. "Nope, we're not going to fall for it. The Cardinals just decimated a talented (albeit injury-riddled), Browns squad without their head coach/play-caller Kliff Kingsbury, quarterbacks coach Cameron Turner, outside linebacker Chandler Jones, nose tackle Corey Peters, defensive end Zach Allen and center Rodney Hudson. Arizona is the league's best team. Meanwhile, the Texans are just trying to survive the season."
All of those coaches and players missed the game because of a COVID-19 outbreak, but that is likely to change this week. Meanwhile, the Texans waved another white flag on 2021 by releasing veteran defender Whitney Mercilus following a horrendous loss to the Colts.
The Texans have hung with some teams this year, but they've also suffered four double-digit losses and will throw rookie Davis Mills to the wolves again Sunday. It's unlikely to end well.
Score Prediction: Cardinals 34, Texans 13
Chicago Bears (3-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-1)
DraftKings Line: Tampa Bay -12.5
The defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers have only one loss thus far in 2021, but they're a mere 2-4 against the spread. That's actually worse than their Week 7 opponent, the Chicago Bears, who have a 3-3 record both straight-up and ATS.
With that in mind, a slim majority of the panel is balking at a 12.5-point spread, even with Tampa Bay at home and on added rest following a Thursday game with the Eagles.
"The Bucs are coming off a long week, so there aren't many reasons to think they shouldn't cover in this game," O'Donnell said. "That is, unless the Bears finally unleash Justin Fields. He got his first taste of a legendary division rivalry last week, and now he gets to face off against Tom Brady. It's time for him to start airing it out, and the coaching staff needs to do more to help him succeed.
"The Bears have struggled with playing from behind, but I'll roll the dice this week and hope for a backdoor cover at the very least as Fields starts to figure things out."
The Bucs have not won in impressive fashion as often as they've cut it close. Maybe they get it right and make a statement this week, but the defense remains far from 100 percent healthy, and Fields has shown subtle signs of progress.
This is a tricky one, but the consensus is to take the points.
Kenyon: Tampa Bay
Rogers: Tampa Bay
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 28, Bears 20
Indianapolis Colts (2-4) at San Francisco 49ers (2-3)
DraftKings Line: San Francisco -4.5
The Indianapolis Colts got off to a horrible start this season, but they have life. If not for a wild Ravens comeback in Baltimore two weeks ago, they would be riding a three-game winning streak following their blowout Week 6 win against Houston.
Injuries remain a factor for them, but that's also the case with their Week 7 opponent. Even though the San Francisco 49ers are coming off their bye, the majority of the gang is unwilling to lay 4.5 points with them at home Sunday night.
"The Colts aren't a great team by any stretch," Davenport said. "But they have some positive momentum after taking the Ravens to overtime and drilling the Texans last week. The 49ers, on the other hand, appear headed toward starting Jimmy Garoppolo on Sunday night, because nothing says 'excitement' like James Richard Garoppolo. This has the makings of a close, low-scoring game. Given that, taking the points is the smart move, especially with the hook in play."
In fact, it's more than just a hook at this point. For a 49ers team that hasn't won in convincing fashion once all season, that's too much.
Kenyon: San Francisco
Sobleski: San Francisco
Score Prediction: 49ers 24, Colts 21
New Orleans Saints (3-2) at Seattle Seahawks (2-4)
DraftKings Line: New Orleans -4.5
It's a similar situation Monday night, with the inconsistent and semi-depleted New Orleans Saints also laying 4.5 points against a hurting Seattle Seahawks team. And while Russell Wilson's absence is much more critical than any other injury situation involving the Colts, 49ers, Saints or Seahawks, that number is too high for the majority of our pickers.
Seattle hung with the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road without Wilson. Why can't they do the same at home against a Saints squad that is still without Michael Thomas, Terron Armstead and Erik McCoy on offense?
"Although the overtime fumble decided Sunday's game against Pittsburgh, Geno Smith proved Seattle's offense won't roll over in Wilson's absence," Rogers said. "These are two extremely unpredictable teams, making a 4.5-point underdog an easy choice here."
Still, the Saints are much more rested than the Seahawks, and our pick leader (Sobleski) is laying the points along with Davenport.
Davenport: New Orleans
Sobleski: New Orleans
Score Prediction: Saints 23, Seahawks 20
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Denver Broncos (3-3) at Cleveland Browns (3-3)
Editor's Note: The Cleveland Browns defeated the Denver Broncos 17-14 on Thursday Night Football.
DraftKings Line: Cleveland -2
The Cleveland Browns will be without quarterback Baker Mayfield and star running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt on short rest Thursday night, while wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is dealing with a shoulder injury. As a result, a slumping, traveling Denver Broncos squad that once was getting more than a field goal is now only a two-point underdog in Ohio.
The vast majority of the panel doesn't believe that line has moved enough.
"The Broncos and Browns are both reeling coming off embarrassing losses at home," Davenport said. "But there's one major difference between the two teetering teams—injuries. My confidence level in D'Ernest Johnson and Case Keenum is…not high."
Indeed, Johnson and Keenum will be tasked with a lot against the league's fourth-ranked scoring defense. It might be hard to feel strongly that the Browns will lose at home to fall below .500, but Denver could be due and Von Miller sure seems fired up.
Score Prediction: Broncos 23, Browns 20