Week 7 Picks

Posted: 10/23/2016 by levcohen in Football

This is the last relatively full slate of games for about a month, as 20 teams go on hiatus over the next four weeks (six in Weeks 8 and 9, four in 10 and 11). We were robbed of what seemed set to be one of the best games of the regular season when Ben Roethlisberger hurt his knee. What would have been a marquee game with the Steelers favored by a couple of points is now predicted to be a blowout, as the visiting Patriots are favored by a touchdown. There are still some other games I’m excited about, though. I think San Diego-Atlanta is primed to be exciting and high scoring, with the 2-4 Chargers playing better than their record indicates and Philip Rivers always seeming to succeed against the Pete Carroll-style 4-3 defense. And we might finally get a (gulp) well-played primetime game, as Seattle travels to Arizona to face the improving Cardinals. The eight early games don’t promise as much intrigue, but there are eight of them, so at least there’ll always be something to watch.

BYE teams: Dallas (5-1), Carolina (1-5)
*= upset pick

New Orleans Saints (2-3, 3-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-2, 2-3):
Spread: Chiefs favored by 6.5
Over/under: 51.5
My prediction: On the surface, this seems like a game the Chiefs should easily win. Drew Brees is bad on the road, after all, and the Chiefs’ explosive run game should have no trouble running it down the throats of New Orleans’s #30 DVOA run defense. But while it’s entirely possible that this game goes like last week’s KC-Oakland game, when the Chiefs took an early lead and never looked back, I think the Saints’ offense and the weather (the game in Oakland was played in a torrential downpour) will keep that from happening. The Saints are 2-0 against the spread on the road this year, and they could succeed with a balanced offense that exploits KC’s #23 run defense. I think the Chiefs will win the game in the end, but they don’t have the explosive passing offense to tear apart the Saints’ defense in the same way that, say, the Falcons did. Chiefs win 24-20.
Saints cover
Under

Minnesota Vikings (5-0, 5-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-2, 3-2):*
Spread: Vikings favored by 3
Over/under: 39
My prediction: Call me a homer, but this is shaping up to be a pretty decent matchup for the Eagles. Their defense might not be as good as it played in the first three games of the season, but it definitely isn’t as bad as it was last week, when it was shredded by Washington’s mediocre run game. This week, they’ll be able to key in on Minnesota’s rushing attack and leave the Vikings in third-and-long situations. Then, they can unleash their Fletcher Cox-led pass rush against a team that’s lost both starting tackles. The Vikings have looked great recently, but it’s easy to forget that they almost lost in Tennessee in Week 1 and have played just one road game since. Let’s see how their offense does in Philadelphia. On the other side of the ball, don’t expect a bundle of points from the Eagles, but they should get just enough to win. Eagles win 17-13.
Eagles cover
Under

Indianapolis Colts (2-4, 2-3-1) at Tennessee Titans (3-3, 2-4):
Spread: Titans favored by 3.5
Over/under: 48
My prediction: It’s another marquee matchup between two great AFC South teams! In all seriousness, neither of these teams is any good, but the Titans are clearly better. Again, they’re still bad (0-3 against the spread at home, 26 points allowed to the Browns), but DeMarco Murray and Co. will have a lot of success against Indy’s defense. The Titans are also pretty good at getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which is bad news for Andrew Luck, who has been sacked four more times than any other QB. Luck’s going to be without a lot of his top passing game options (Donte Moncrief, Dwayne Allen, Phillip Dorsett), leaving T.Y. Hilton to do pretty much everything by himself. Titans win 27-23.
Titans cover
Over

Cleveland Browns (0-6, 3-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-4, 1-5):- Lock
Spread: Bengals favored by 11
Over/under: 47
My prediction: I expect the Bengals to break out in a big way this week in this plum matchup. I still think they’re a solid team, as their four losses have come against New England, Dallas, Denver, and Pittsburgh. Cleveland is, well, not in the same class as those other teams. Bengals win 31-13.
Bengals cover
Under

Washington Redskins (4-2, 4-2) at Detroit Lions (3-3, 3-2-1):*
Spread: Redskins favored by 1
Over/under: 50
My prediction: I’ve been pretty high on the Lions for most of the season, and I don’t see any reason to change that now. Yes, their defense stinks, but Washington’s isn’t great either, and I trust Matthew Stafford more than I do Kirk Cousins to make big, difficult throws, especially with Jordan Reed still out. Lions win 31-24.
Lions cover
Over

Oakland Raiders (4-2, 3-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3, 3-2):
Spread: Jaguars favored by 2
Over/under: 47.5
My prediction: This is an intriguing game because these were two of the biggest preseason darlings. The Raiders in particular were oft-mentioned Super Bowl darkhorse candidates, while the Jaguars were discussed as potential AFC South champs. I think it’s fair to say that neither team has really met those elevated expectations. Yes, the Raiders are 4-2, but their -11 point differential is more indicative of the way they’ve played this season. And the Jaguars have failed to seize on the opportunity their lackluster division has afforded them, sitting in third place and posting the worst point differential in the division. This is a tough spot for the Raiders, who had to travel across the country to play an early game, and the Jags have actually been good on the defensive side of the ball recently. The matchup to watch will come when the Raiders have the ball, because neither Jacksonville’s offense nor Oakland’s defense has been good all season. Jaguars win 23-17.
Jaguars cover
Under

Buffalo Bills (4-2, 4-2) at Miami Dolphins (2-4, 2-4):*
Spread: Bills favored by 2.5
Over/under: 46
My prediction: Can the Bills win their fifth game in a row for the first time since 2004? I’d be much more confident if LeSean McCoy were fully healthy. But McCoy, the key to Buffalo’s offense and an MVP candidate through six weeks, has an injured hamstring. He’s active, but he’s less than 100%, which will put all of the pressure on Tyrod Taylor to carry the offense against a solid Miami defense. It’s true that the Dolphins just lost their best defensive player (Reshad Jones), but I still think they have the ability on defense to slow down Taylor. And while I’m not a fan of their offense, I think it’ll do enough to pull off a mild upset (think Philly-Minnesota). Dolphins win 20-17.
Dolphins cover
Under

Baltimore Ravens (3-3, 1-5) at New York Jets (1-5, 2-4):*
Spread: Jets favored by 2
Over/under: 40
My prediction: I know the Ravens aren’t very good. In fact, I knew it even when they were 3-0 and people were touting them as a possible AFC North champ. But I can’t believe Geno Smith is a favorite in his first start since 2014, when he went 3-10 as the starter. I’m going to pick the Ravens here, but it’s much more about my lack of trust in New York’s offense than it is anything else. Ravens win 23-20.
Ravens cover
Over

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3, 2-3) at San Francisco 49ers (1-5, 1-5):
Spread: Niners favored by 1
Over/under: 45.5
My prediction: Since their bizarre, blowout win over the Rams in the first game of the season, the Niners have been atrocious. They’ve lost their last five games by a combined 86 points. The Buccaneers are also not a great team, especially without Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson, but on a neutral field they’ve obviously the better team. But what about in San Francisco? The Bucs are actually 2-1 on the road this season, while the Niners have looked hapless at home since that shocker against the Rams. But I just have a gut feeling that the Niners are going to pull this one out at home, even without top running back Carlos Hyde. Niners win 23-20.
Niners cover
Under

San Diego Chargers (2-4, 4-2) at Atlanta Falcons (4-2, 5-1):
Spread: Falcons favored by 5.5
Over/under: 53.5
My prediction: I know I just said that I finally believed in the Falcons, at least as a playoff team. But this is a tough matchup for them, simply because Philip Rivers has decimated Pete Carroll defenses. In four games since 2013 against Carroll’s Seahawks and Gus Bradley’s Jaguars, Rivers is 4-0 and has a passer rating above 110 each time. Now, he faces another Carroll disciple, Dan Quinn. I expect him to have another big, efficient game, but this time in a losing effort. The Falcons’ offense is just too good for San Diego’s shorthanded (top corner Jason Verrett is out) defense to control. Falcons win 31-27.
Chargers cover
Over

New England Patriots (5-1, 5-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2, 4-2):
Spread: Patriots favored by 7
Over/under: 49
My prediction: Tom Brady has destroyed the Steelers. Landry Jones is starting for the Steelers. Not a great setup for the Steelers. I’ve picked the Patriots to win but not cover twice in a row. I’ll pick them to cover this one, although I recognize that it could well be a close game. Patriots win 27-17.
Patriots cover
Under

Seattle Seahawks (4-1, 2-3) at Arizona Cardinals (3-3, 3-3):*
Spread: Cardinals favored by 1
Over/under: 43.5
My prediction: The Cardinals have won twice in a row by double-digits. But those wins have come against the Jets and 49ers, two of the worst teams in football. Seattle’s a different story, and the Cardinals still haven’t sorted out their passing game struggles and will likely be without #2 receiver John Brown. Seahawks win 21-17.
Seahawks cover
Under

Houston Texans (4-2, 3-2-1) at Denver Broncos (4-2, 4-2):
Spread: Broncos favored by 8.5
Over/under: 39
My prediction: It’s Brock Osweiler’s return to Denver! In his first season with Houston, Osweiler has morphed into an MVP candidate, leading the Texans to a 4-2 record and validating the huge money Houston shelled out for him… er… The 4-2 part is accurate. The rest? Not so much. Osweiler’s been one of the worst quarterbacks in football, and now he travels to Denver to play one of the two best defenses in football (now that the Vikings D is amazing). The Broncos will win, and they’ll win big. Broncos win 27-14.
Broncos cover
Over

Upset picks:
Seahawks over Cardinals
Ravens over Jets
Dolphins over Bills
Lions over Redskins
Eagles over Vikings

Lock:
Bengals over Browns

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