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Here we are again this year, back for more NFL picks. It is with great pleasure that I begin my third season writing this column. As someone who has won and lost their fair share of money on the NFL (and many other sports), this is bound to be a fun and unpredictable ride. Join me, won’t you?
As with the format in previous years, this article will help those of you who compete in confidence pools and in ranking selections, which may come in handy on those Las Vegas trips. Games are rated based on preference for both the point spread and other angles (such as totals or over/unders) with 1-3 “Stars”, which basically highlight the best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars are not preferred one way or the other, but will still be covered, discussed and a winner will be predicted for those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools.
Note that the over/unders are taken from VegasInsider.com
(Thursday Night) DENVER at CLEVELAND (-1.5) (Over/Under 43)
Both the Broncos and Browns will face a short week, both coming off a defeat. It is the Browns, however, that have the bigger hill to climb after a laundry list of injuries, including to key player Kareem Hunt and star defensive rookie Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah. Baker Mayfield will sit this week, giving way to Case Keenum, and Odell Beckham Jr may also face time on the sidelines. Head coach Kevin Stefanski’s reputation as a whizz kid coach will be tested, in other words.
The Broncos were embarrassed in front of their home fans on Sunday, with the deep passing plays given up a serious concern. Not only that, but their run defense looked suspect, with Josh Jacobs ripping them to shreds at times. Teddy Bridgewater may not be playing his best football, but he has every chance to succeed against an undermanned Browns defense. With both teams nursing their wounds, the smart play here is to grab the points.
CINCINNATI at BALTIMORE (-6.5) (Over/Under 47.5)
The 4-2 Bengals going to the 5-1 Ravens sounds to me like a tasty early affair to get our hearts pumping on Sunday. There was not much to take from Cincinnati’s trouncing of the Lions other than, perhaps, the fact that they did what they were supposed to: beat a bad team senseless. The Bengals defense continues to be a feisty unit, while Jamarr Chase adds to his Rookie of the Year chops every passing week. He may not have such luck against Baltimore’s defense this time around, though.
The Ravens have gotten into their full stride and look every bit one of the most dangerous teams in the league. Lamar Jackson barely broke a sweat on Sunday, routinely finding the right connection at the right time. Of course, he had a little help from his friends, especially in the backfield. The aging group of backs may be up there in years, but they can still get it done behind this offensive line. The Ravens could bully the Bengals here and really assert themselves in the AFC North.
CAROLINA (-3) at NY GIANTS (Over/Under 43.5)
Sam Darnold needs to play better, says Panthers head coach Matt Rhule. He hastened to add that everyone on offense needs to raise their game. In all, Pro Football Focus had the Panthers' receivers down for seven drops on Sunday, a number that is unacceptable in modern football. Despite their three-game skid, Carolina is laying points as a road team, a tempting situation for those who still have faith in the corpse of the New York Giants.
While the G-Men held strong for a little while against the Rams, eventually the talent gap told. Daniel Jones’ old turnover-prone ways came back to haunt him in a horrendous game script. One thing you can say for the Giants is that, in games against opponents at a similar talent level, they don’t disgrace themselves. Their defense has the players to cause problems for Darnold, who can’t afford any more errors.
Pick: New York
WASHINGTON at GREEN BAY (-9.5) (Over/Under 49)
For the Football Team, the script is not going as planned. The loss to the Chiefs drops them to a somewhat anonymous 2-4 record in the NFC East, putting Ron Rivera’s team up against it in terms of remaining relevant. With the Cowboys on a bye, the Football Team might fall further behind this week as they face a tough test in Lambeau Field.
Aaron Rodgers’ declaration of "I own you" to the Bears crowd was a peek into the overall confidence and psyche of the Packers after getting out to a 5-1 start. They are firing on all cylinders, with a fearsome backfield tandem and a solid enough defense to cause problems. Matt LaFleur’s men are deserving of their heavy favorites tag here. The only question is whether Rivera’s team can summon up an effort to keep it close. Our survey says no.
Pick: Green Bay
KANSAS CITY (-5.5) at TENNESSEE (Over/Under 56)
The public sentiment has swung on the Chiefs just a tad; enough to take advantage, perhaps, of spots like this. Given the Titans produced one of their best performances of the young season on Monday night, and the fact they are facing a short week of preparation, the advantage is very much with Kansas City. The standings have the Chiefs bottom of their division – technically – and they need this game more than the Titans do.
The desperate team in these situations tends to rise to the occasion. Patrick Mahomes II produced some un-Mahomes-like moments last week but overall put in a typically solid performance. The opportunities will be there to attack the Titans secondary, so we have to wonder if Andy Reid will move away from the run and let Mahomes, ahem, cook. Ryan Tannehill will provide plenty of resistance against a lackluster Chiefs defense, however, so take the points.
ATLANTA (-2.5) at MIAMI (Over/Under 47.5)
Atlanta comes off the bye with some pep in their step, although they shouldn’t be too excited about a win over the lowly Jets. Another AFC East opponent awaits this week, and Arthur Smith will be determined to build on the momentum. Kyle Pitts enjoyed a breakout game last time out; Miami’s defense will not be a scary proposition for the former Gator.
The Dolphins are in a tailspin at 1-5 and, having just dropped a winnable game to the Jaguars, should be asking tough questions. After all, this was supposed to be the year they took the leap forward under Brian Flores. Instead, they have been uninspired, lacking in energy and often listless on the field. The return of Tua Tagovailoa was a welcome sight, but how long will it be before the franchise has seen enough and pulls the plug. Uncertainty does not lend itself to success.
NY JETS at NEW ENGLAND (-7) (Over/Under 43)
The bye week came at the right time for the Jets, who flew home from London with their tails between their legs despite an encouraging score on paper. Zach Wilson has a lot of work to do to settle in as an NFL starter, and his previous game against the Patriots did not go so well, with multiple interceptions and an overall lacking display.
The Patriots, meanwhile, will be only too delighted to welcome the Jets to town after just falling short against the Cowboys. The difference in quality will allow Bill Belichick to rely on what he does best: defense and ground game magic. Opportunities will be plentiful for Mac Jones to show off his wares as he continues his solid rookie campaign.
Pick: New England
DETROIT at LA RAMS (-15.5) (Over/Under 50)
The first game of the late afternoon window is not exactly a barnburner, as the winless Lions travel to Los Angeles. When you watch Detroit, you are at times encouraged by their grit and fighting spirit, but inevitably you remember that the talent just isn’t there. Jared Goff was criticized by his head coach this past week, with comments that he had to do more for the team. With Goff returning to play his former team this week, there may just be a little extra fuel on the fire.
Ready to douse that flame will be the Rams defense, a unit that has grown in confidence and swagger in recent weeks. The Giants proved to be a straightforward task; the Lions will be much the same. Cooper Kupp’s electric season looks to continue, while Matthew Stafford seems to have found a perfect groove with the offense. The line is too big to lay the points, though.
PHILADELPHIA at LAS VEGAS (-3) (Over/Under 48)
The Eagles are on the outside looking in in the NFC East race. At 2-4 they, like the Football Team and the Giants, must claw their way back up to Dallas’ level. That mammoth task starts this week for the Eagles in Las Vegas. Jalen Hurts put in an encouraging if uneven performance against the Panthers a couple of weeks ago. One wonders if the bye week will have allowed them to implement some new concepts to make Hurts more at ease.
For the Raiders, the message will be to keep up the pace and perhaps even take the outright lead in the AFC West. The battling win over the Broncos was impressive in many respects; the next step will be following that up. This is a game the Raiders are expected to win – though even Vegas sharps don’t have them as anything more than three-point favorites – but that can sometimes be a trap. Watch out for Philadelphia’s match-up advantage in the trenches.
CHICAGO at TAMPA BAY (-13.5) (Over/Under 47.5)
Another game, another large spread in the late afternoon window. The Bucs are 5-1 and are fully deserving of their status as 13.5-point favorites against the Bears. Justin Fields will have a hard time getting into a rhythm against this front seven, with his propensity to hold on to the ball likely to cost him. Is it possible Fields could thrive in the perfect game plan? Yes, but how likely is that to materialize?
At kick-off, the Bucs will have had 10 days off to prepare for this clash, more than enough to concoct a game plan to barrel over the Bears. Tom Brady should be able to connect with his targets at will as he carries on an outstanding season. Business as usual for the Bucs.
Pick: Tampa Bay
HOUSTON at ARIZONA (-17) (Over/Under 47.5)
Tyrod Taylor is making progress, but this game has come a little bit too soon for him. What it means is that Texans fans will have to watch Davis Mills for at least one more week. While Mills has produced some moments of encouragement, for the most part, he has looked exactly like what he is: a rookie in way over his head. The Texans are a sad outfit to behold at the moment, with a reset coming down the line whether they like it or not.
One interesting subplot here is Houston going up against franchise legend J.J. Watt in an Arizona uniform. Knowing Watt, he is in for a big game. Kyler Murray’s team is the lone undefeated side in the league and will be keen not to slip up against an inferior opponent. If Arizona wants to secure the number one seed, they should be waltzing to victory in games like this.
(Sunday Night) INDIANAPOLIS at SAN FRANCISCO (-4) (Over/Under 45)
The Colts are far from dead in the AFC South, even after Tennessee’s win on Monday night shook things up. Frank Reich’s team may be 2-4, but they are only two games back on the division-leading Titans and have a soft schedule over the coming weeks. The trip to San Francisco is not one of their easier games on paper, but Carson Wentz has been playing well and should be able to find opportunities downfield. Giving the rock to Jonathan Taylor has also been a sound strategy for the Colts as of late.
The 49ers are coming off a bye and will likely go back to Jimmy Garoppolo as the starter. Trey Lance showed some promise last time out, so expect Kyle Shanahan to continue peppering him into the line-up. The primetime setting should suit the 49ers, especially after the rest. Still, there is a lot to like about Indy’s fortitude through tough spots.
(Monday Night) NEW ORLEANS (-4.5) at SEATTLE (Over/Under 43.5)
The Saints are off a bye week and should fancy their chances to get a road victory against the Russell Wilson-less Seahawks. Firmly in the hunt for a wild card spot, Sean Payton’s team will like their chances of shutting down the potentially potent Seahawks passing attack.
For Geno Smith and Seattle, this game will come down to protecting the ball better and remaining balanced. Defensively, the effort against Pittsburgh was solid, but they will need more to stay close to New Orleans. The fever pitch atmosphere at home will help Seattle, but not enough to make a telling difference.
Pick: New Orleans
Once again this year this article will give out not only the Best Bets but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 Star scale. The more stars, the bigger the emphasis on that side of the game.
This week, we will focus our bets around the following lines:
- 1 BALTIMORE (-6.5) vs. CINCINNATI
- 2 NEW YORK (+3) vs. CAROLINA
- 3 INDIANAPOLIS (+4) at SAN FRANCISCO
- 4 PHILADELPHIA (+3) at LAS VEGAS
With these likes in mind, here are the Week 7 selections:
* ONE STAR GAMES *
- 2-TEAM ATS UNDERDOG DOUBLE (2.61-1 ODDS)
- PHILADELPHIA (+3)
- INDIANAPOLIS (+4)
** TWO STAR GAMES **
- 2-TEAM ATS DOUBLE (2.42-1 ODDS):
- BALTIMORE (-6.5)
- NEW YORK (+3)
*** THREE STAR GAMES ***
- 4-TEAM LONG SHOT MONEY LINE (12.4-1 ODDS)
- ATLANTA - FOR THE WIN
- NEW ENGLAND – FOR THE WIN
- NEW YORK GIANTS – FOR THE WIN
- INDIANAPOLIS – FOR THE WIN
PICK(S) OF THE WEEK: Baltimore, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Indianapolis
Last Week / Season
- LAST WEEK: 5-8
- SEASON OVERALL: 38-54-1
- BEST BETS: 9-15
- PICK OF THE WEEK: 9-20
Good luck this weekend!
Questions, suggestions, and comments are always welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org