Time for the NFL Week 7 picks. We looked back at Week 6, and previewed this week's best matchups on the podcast. Sam and KAM typically give their picks away on the podcast so if you want them in advance (and who doesn’t?), then check it out! On to this week's games:
***These are Wednesday lines for Week 7. If you pick later in the week and need help with adjusted lines just find me on twitter, and I'll help you out. That's what friends are for!***
***Looking for our College Football Picks?! No problem! Click here!***
Kansas City (-3.0) @ Oakland:
***Editor's Note: The NFL's Thursday Night Football initiative is having some success this year. I've been slow to jump on board (in recent years) but I have to admit I'm really enjoying TNF in 2017. For those of you that follow our college football picks, you know there's a nice Memphis/Houston game going on at the same time. This sets us up for an awesome Thursday. College football is the last thing that ESPN is any good at airing, and the NFL Network games on Thursdays with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo have been great. Channel flipping between the two makes for a fun night. If you've got picks pools or survivor pools going that involve these games, even better. So here's to Thursdays. As for the Chiefs/Raiders game, let's have our resident Chiefs expert, Jeremy DeBottis tell us what to expect.***
Whether it's coincidence or luck of the draw so far this year, I'm not sure, but the Chiefs have been more in control of the games they've played on the road than at home. They've also played well in prime time games. This Thursday night game satisfies both of those criteria, and thus presents an excellent bounce back opportunity. I've highlighted the Chiefs shortcomings from the Steelers game in my column this week. Much of this can be overcome in Oakland. Chiefs to cover the three:
New Orleans (-5.5) @ Green Bay:
***Editor's Note: Kimberly Ann Maley reported that she's okay on the podcast this week, despite the devastating injury to Aaron Rodgers. Now she's here to fill you in on what you need to know before the Packers kickoff against the Saints.***
Regardless of what you may have heard or read this year, Green Bay has built a fairly talented and competitive roster on both sides of the ball. Allow me to introduce to some of them... On offense the Packers have one of the better pairs of tackles in the league, Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari. Center Corey Linsley isn't just a decent player, but he's really smart, a critical trait for playing that position. He's been Aaron Rodgers's "co-conspirator" when it comes to being so effective at getting the 12 Men on the Field penalty. Rodgers gets all the credit and that's normal, but Linsley has had a big part in that. Jordy Nelson is an elite receiver and he's joined by emerging downfield threat Davante Adams. Remember, it was Adams that made the call to go back to the same route on the game-winning touchdown in Dallas. Randall Cobb is perfect in the slot and rookie Aaron Jones was potentially a draft steal in the fifth round. And then of course, the most loyal teammate in the league, Marty Bennett is on their side.
Defensively, the Packers are led by Mike Daniels, Nick Perry, Clay Matthews, and one of the best tacklers in the NFL, Blake Martinez. Ahmad Brooks is hugely talented, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has been a solid contributor from day one, and newbie Kevin King has provided an immediate (and much needed) spark in the secondary. For whatever reason, having King on the roster has brought out better play from Damarious Randall as well.
I'm admittedly biased, but it's pretty obvious that this team has talent outside of the quarterback position. That doesn't mean that quarterback isn't the most important position on the field - it is. Losing your quarterback is especially crippling when he's the best player in the league. (Sorry Alex Smith, you're no Aaron Rodgers. Not even close...) With Rodgers out, the Packers face a daunting challenge. Green Bay would have been favored in their game with New Orleans if Rodgers was playing, but his absence means the Saints are now heavy favorites, even at Lambeau Field. That's how much respect there is for Aaron. The Saints have been playing well anyway and they've also been good against Green Bay in recent years, even when Aaron's been in the lineup: The Saints have covered four of their last five games against the Packers. Drew Brees is having another good season and the Saints wisely traded Adrian Peterson last week, which allows the rest of the offensive players to contribute without distractions. It's hard to be sure that Brett Hundley will be totally prepared and ready for his first NFL start. If the Packers turn the ball over, like they did last week, it will give the Saints opportunities to score and get a lead early. The Packers have enough talent around Hundley to be competitive. But unfortunately it may take a couple games to get there. They'll play better than expected this week. I'm just not confident they can cover in their first game without Aaron, so take the Saints, but expect the Packers to rally and play well in the weeks to come:
Tampa Bay (+3) @ Buffalo:
Earlier this week on the podcast I actually said this is the NFL game that I'm most looking forward to. The 2-3 Bucs come to Buffalo to play the 3-2 Bills, and here's my take: The winner has plenty of momentum going forward. The loser (and the loser's fan base) is stuck in the "same old Bucs" or "same old Bills" mindset. Both teams find themselves in unpredictable division races, so every game counts. For the Bucs, the NFC South is anyone's guess. Atlanta, Carolina, and New Orleans have all had impressive wins and disappointing losses this year. It may be the most confusing division in football. The Bills trail the Patriots (as usual) in the AFC East, but New England is not the infallible team that we're used to seeing. Meanwhile, the Dolphins and the Jets are hanging around, but they play each other this weekend. One of them has to lose, so Buffalo needs to gain a game on the loser and keep pace with the winner there.
The Bills have been good at home this year; they're yet to lose in Orchard Park. The Bucs have been bad on the road; they're yet to win away from Tampa. The Bills have been good on defense, whether home or away. They're giving up less than 15 points per game (PPG), which is tops in the NFL. They're almost two points better than anyone else when it comes to scoring defense. Tampa quarterback Jameis Winston left the Bucs loss in Phoenix last week with an injury to his throwing shoulder. His status is questionable for this game, but if he does play then Buffalo will need to pressure him. For all of their defensive prowess, the Bills haven't gotten to the quarterback much - only 12 sacks on the year, which is middle of the pack for NFL defenses. The Bills have, however, forced turnovers in the passing game. Their eight interceptions are fourth best in the NFL. Going back to his days at Florida State, Winston has shown a propensity to throw picks. If the Bills can bring pressure up front then the secondary should cash in. And should Winston be unable to play, the Bucs will go with Ryan Fitzpatrick. That's a nice twist for this game, and let's just say Bills fans will be happy with that outcome. Regardless of the quarterback, bringing pressure and forcing turnovers is important since the Bills can't win unless they give their offense shorter fields to work with. The Bills have produced less than 300 yards per game (YPG) in total offense. Their troubles start on first down, when they average only 4.4 yards per play (YPP). This YPP number ranks 28th in the league. They must be better and it's reasonable to think that they can do better this week. Tampa is ranked 30th in total defense this year, and they're 31st in pass defense. Tyrod Taylor has to exploit these weaknesses on first down. If, and I'll say when, the Bills defense gives Taylor a short field, he needs to cash in on first down with big plays. It can be through the air, or even on the ground if he doesn't have open receivers. He hasn't gained yards on the ground this year like he did the previous two seasons. Against a porous Tampa defense on Sunday, now is the time to start. Bills defense to come through again, and the offense does enough to cover a field goal at home:
New York (+3.5) @ Miami:
***Editor's note: Greg Armstrong wasn't happy with the officiating in last week's Jets loss to the Patriots. But if you've been following his weekly Jets previews, you should be happy. Greg is an unbelievable 6-0 picking Jets games ATS this year! The contributor from TurnOnTheJets.com is back this week to tell us why New York is another solid play in this AFC East rivalry game.***
These teams are coming off drastically different games last week: Miami had an impressive comeback win in Atlanta, while New York suffered a controversial loss to New England. Now the Jets go to Miami as 3.5 point underdogs. A big key here is how the Jets respond to that tough loss last week. In recent years, the Jets have often experienced a letdown the week following the New England game. But with the way the team has been coached this year, I don't think that will happen. I expect Todd Bowles to have his team prepared and ready to battle, just like they have every week this season.
The Jets will look at game tape from their last meeting with the Dolphins, a 20-6 home win in Week 3. Most of that game plan should be executed again. Defensively, the Jets got a lot of pressure on Jay Cutler. They'll look to do that again, and they'll also need to keep receivers Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry in check. Like last week, they can't afford to give up big passing plays, so the Jets secondary needs to keep everything in front of them. Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi has been gaining steam in recent weeks so they can't let him get off to a good start on Sunday. They need to gang tackle and control the line of scrimmage, just like they did in Week 3.
When the Jets have the ball, they have to get their own running game going. They haven't done a very good job running the ball the past two weeks, but they are the only team that's managed to rush for over 100 yards on the Dolphins this year. Replicating that effort is critical. If they can do it, it obviously opens up the passing game. That's where they can take advantage of downfield shots with Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a versatile player that can be effective on deep routes as well. Seferian-Jenkins may be the single biggest key to the Jets offensive success. He's come on strong recently, as the Jets are finding ways to use him and get him the ball. If they can do this on Sunday, they can force Miami into doubling him, and that benefits the rest of the passing game with Anderson and Kearse. If those two get single coverage, they can make the Dolphins defenders pay.
My prediction is the Jets have a break-out game, offensively, on Sunday in Miami. The running game will put Josh McCown in a good position to limit turnovers, make better decisions, make easier reads, and score touchdowns. The Jets will go for almost 30 points here. Jets to win outright, 28-17:
Dallas (-6.0) @ San Francisco:
***Editor's note: Rick York was none too happy after the way that Dallas lost to Green Bay a couple weeks ago. The Cowboys had a bye following that game, and Rick understandably took a bye as well. He left the country for a couple weeks. But don't worry. Via modern communications technology, Rick is weighing in on the Cowboys-49ers game from parts unknown. Next week Rick will be back in the US-of-A, and in the Syracuse Technologies Studio for the podcast. We'll be discussing the somewhat tumultuous first two months of the Cowboys season. For now, enjoy Rick's preview for this weekend.***
Fresh off their bye, Dallas travels to San Francisco this week. The 49ers are a joke, but as a Cowboys fan, I'm always ready for the next big letdown. San Francisco is terrible in just about every meaningful offensive and defensive statistic. They're bad at scoring points, and they're bad at preventing their opponents from scoring. They've allowed points on over 42% of their defensive possessions! That ranks them 30th in the league in that category. Awful, right? Well, Dallas comes in ranked 31st, allowing opponents to score on over 43% of their defensive possessions! That's no surprise to Dallas fans that have watched every Cowboys game this year. That means this may actually be an entertaining offensive game, thanks to these two defenses that don't actually defend anything.
The good news for Dallas is that their offense should be able to out-score San Fran by quite a bit. Ezekiel Elliott's on-again, off-again suspension is officially off-again. So the Cowboys will have Zeke for at least two more games. Hopefully Dallas will use him well, control the clock on offense, and keep the defense off the field as much as possible. This should be easy for them against 0-6 San Francisco, but Dallas likes to make things harder on themselves. The over/under for this game is 47 points and I'd feel pretty comfortable taking the OVER. San Fran will score some, and Dallas should score a lot. Dallas to win on Sunday, get some confidence back, rattle off a ten game win streak, dominate the Playoffs, and win the Super Bowl. Or not; it's the Cowboys. Safe cover this week though:
Seattle (-5.5) @ New York:
New York finally won a game in Denver last Sunday night, and while I'm not as thrilled as Justin Pugh was in the post-game interview, it was good to see someone on the team cared. And Pugh played a great game at tackle, the position he was originally drafted to play. The Giants offensive line has been nothing short of a disaster for almost five years now, and I've been complaining about it the entire time. When they actually play well, they deserve credit, and they played very well on Sunday night. Does it excuse Jerry Reese's incompetence building that line? No, but I was happy for Pugh and the rest of the team.
Unfortunately, it won't get any easier with Seattle coming to town this week. The Seahawks will bring with them their typically excellent defense. Is it as good as the last time these teams met at New Giants Stadium? That was a dominant 23-0 shutout win for the Seahawks in 2013 on their way to their only Super Bowl championship. The Seahawks were great and the Giants were awful. Both statements have generally been true over the last five years. So why give the Giants a chance this time around? Because almost every one competes with Seattle thanks to their very pedestrian offense. The Seahawks are only 2-3 ATS for the year and with one exception (a blowout win over Indy who's VERY bad), every game they've played has been close.
New York didn't just play a close game with Denver last week, but they beat the Broncos in large part thanks to their newfound running game. With their diva receivers out, the Giants had no choice but to try and establish some semblance of a run game. They called 32 runs to only 22 passes, and earned a win the old-fashioned way. (Remember when the Giants used to consistently win games this way?!) Also, New York's defense finally came to life last week. At times in that Denver game they looked like the unit that was one of the NFL's very best last season. It's too late for the defense to carry the Giants to the Playoffs like they did last year, but it's not too late to make their games competitive. And maybe even break Giants fans' hearts on a weekly basis. Seahawks to win but Giants to cover:
Cincinnati (+5.5) @ Pittsburgh:
What we saw from Pittsburgh last week is really what I've been expecting all season. So as discussed on the pod this week, are the Steelers back? Or was this just their latest victory in a string of wins over the Chiefs? Or are they just up and down and totally inconsistent? You can make an argument for any of those possibilities. Sunday's game with Cincinnati should help us figure them out a little more. Since Pittsburgh has the bad losses to Chicago and Jacksonville, Cincinnati is actually only one game back in the loss column. The Bengals are on a two game win streak and quarterback Andy Dalton is playing significantly better since Cincinnati made a coaching change at offensive coordinator. Cincinnati will need Dalton to play well here but it's a tall task: Pittsburgh is leading the NFL in pass defense. But guess who's ranked second in the league? Cincinnati. Neither team is as good defending the run, at least not statistically. Both teams are middle of the pack in that category. But Pittsburgh is getting better, and the Steelers were great last week. They held Kareem Hunt and the Chiefs to a total of 28 rushing yards on the day. They held the Chiefs to 251 total yards, only 12 first down, and a mere 13 points in that win. The Pittsburgh defense went to Arrowhead and absolutely dominated the lien of scrimmage in that win over the Chiefs. Can they do that again this week? I believe so, but it's also a divisional game between two teams that don't like each other much. It could get ugly and it could be close for most of the day. If Pittsburgh runs LeVeon Bell the way they did last week (and why the hell wouldn't they), then they should be able to control the game and wear Cincinnati down. Steelers to cover late in an otherwise close game:
Atlanta (+3.5) @ New England:
Finally, the Super Bowl rematch is here! Wouldn't this be a much bigger game if Atlanta hadn't blown another lead last week?! I say yes. But regardless, we don't always get Super Bowl rematches since the divisions of the previous years participants aren't guaranteed to be playing cross-conference the next year. This year we lucked out with the schedule having the AFC East play the NFC South. Hence, a rematch of the biggest blown lead in Super Bowl history. But neither team is where they were last year at Playoff time. Atlanta got off to a nice 3-0 start, but they haven't won since. New England lost on opening night and despite a decent 4-2 record, they've struggled defensively in a way that we've never seen them struggle before. The Patriots rank dead last in the league in yards allowed. New England allows opponents to rack up 440 YPG. That's 30 yards worse than the 31st ranked team, Indianapolis. Indianapolis awful and New England has no business being in that type of discussion. Not only are the Patriots' opponents moving the ball but they score too: New England gives up 26.5 PPG, third worst in the NFL. Can Atlanta capitalize? The Falcons aren't yet the offensive juggernaut that they were last year. They score just over 24 PPG. That number's not bad, but it's middle of the pack by NFL standards this year. We didn't know how much Atlanta would miss their offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, from a year ago, as he's off coaching in San Francisco now. It appears the transition hasn't been as seamless as they'd hoped. So here we are now with the Atlanta offense against the New England defense and it's not strength versus strength, but mediocrity versus under-achievement. Despite the Patriots offensive prowess, I think the defensive weaknesses may catch up to them here. The Patriots give up an astonishing 325 YPG passing! They even allowed the Jets to get a 300+ yards passing game last week. If Matt Ryan is looking to justify his MVP from a year ago and get the Falcons offense going again, this is the week to do it. Also, before you think New England is a no-brainer pick in a prime time home game, keep in mind that the Patriots are only 2-2 in such games since the start of last season. Combine that with the fact that Atlanta is actually 9-2 ATS in their last 11 road games. I'm not normally one for "revenge" games but I think this game means more to Atlanta than New England. The NFC South is competitive and unpredictable; if the Falcons want to win it this year, they need to get over the Super Bowl disappointment and get focused on this season. Falcons to cover and win outright in Foxborough:
Washington (+4.5) @ Philadelphia:
I'm feeling pretty good about my Philly pick for the NFC East right about now. They've been impressive all year, but perhaps most impressive their last time out, in their road win at Carolina. Carson Wentz has been even better than expected. The second year quarterback is averaging 264 YPG passing, a little more than 2 touchdowns, and 0.5 interceptions per game. His 4.33:1 TD-to-pick ratio is fantastic. The NFL's all-time leader in this statistical category is (surprise, surprise) Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers for his career has a staggering 4.13:1 ratio. Wentz's 4.33 through six games in 2017 is hardly a body of work to justify enshrinement in Canton. But it is indicative of what he's capable of doing this year. His Eagles already beat the Skins in Maryland back in Week 1, and now they get to host the rematch. But you know who else is playing pretty well at quarterback? Kirk Cousins. Cousins is throwing touchdowns and avoiding turnovers as well. His TD-to-pick ratio is 4.5 in 2017. Cousins's passer rating (106.4) is third best in the NFL this year.
With two good quarterbacks going at it here, which defense will do the better job? I wouldn't categorize either defense as "elite." The Skins give up less YPG but the Eagles are the better scoring defense by about 2 PPG. I believe the defenses are comparable, and the teams are pretty evenly matched overall. Philly is a little better but I don't know if they're 4.5 points better. The Skins have actually won 5 of the last 6 meetings, and they've covered 6 of the last 7 in this series. I'll stick with that trend and take the Skins getting the points here:
Did you like our NFL picks this week? Hate the picks? Want to play along and teach us how to pick? Let our experts know what you think:
|Sam finally had a decent season in 2016 and hit a 55% success rate on his NFL picks. So your best bet is to fade his picks this year. It won't hurt his feelings.|
|The voice of thefootballpod.com, KAM's so good that she's been known to pick both NFL and college games. She'll share her picks as long as you don't trash talk her Packers.|
|Need power picks and the power sweep, both? Then look no further than Kevin's picks. This Western Pennsylvania football product knows the game as well as anyone.|
|She's not only the best bartender in town, but #PaytonsPicks set the pace in 2016, to the tune of a 56% success rate! Catch her if you can. Or just wisely follow her picks.|
|He's our resident Cowboys expert, so you'll hear from Rick a lot this year. As for his picks, #RicksLocks are as money as Dallas playing as the one seed in the NFC Playoffs.|
|Founder of theredbeat.com, and a contributor at turnonthejets.com, Greg is the newest member of the team. He's the biggest Jets fan we know (and willing to admit it...)|
|After making the rounds on the podcast circuit for years, we finally have our Kansas City Chiefs expert weighing in, writing columns, and picking games. So pay attention!|
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