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NFL Week 7 Predictions: Our Picks Against the Spread

The N.F.L. somehow got through a rash of facility closings last week without having to delay any games, which was a hopeful sign that the league had found a way to chug along despite the ongoing concerns about the coronavirus. Of course, the potential for a serious outbreak means the calendar will remain up in the air on a week-to-week basis for the foreseeable future.

Provided the schedule stays reasonably stable, here is a look at N.F.L. Week 7, with all picks made against the spread.

Last week’s record: 4-10

Overall record: 47-43-1

A look ahead at Week 7:

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m., Fox

Line: Seahawks -3.5 | Total: 56.5

For as dominant as the Seahawks’ (5-0) offense has been this season, Seattle is not exactly running away with games. The team’s average margin of victory is 6.8 points and all of their opponents have scored at least 23 points. Currently the 3-3 Miami Dolphins (+47) have a better point differential than the 5-0 Seahawks (+34). The same is true for eight other teams, multiple of which have two losses.

Having your defense allow games to be that close is a terrible idea against Kyler Murray and the Cardinals (4-2), who are never more than a single pass or a run away from scoring. Murray is starting to live up to his hype, rushing for six touchdowns and leading the N.F.L. with 7.3 yards per carry while improving his passing statistics across the board from last season. Proving how explosive he can be, Murray beat the Cowboys last week with a truly odd performance in which he completed just nine of his 24 attempts, but still managed 188 yards passing and two touchdowns.

Both teams can clearly score. Arizona, surprisingly enough, has shown much more ability to defend. So playing at home, it seems odd that the Cardinals are an underdog. Pick: Cardinals +3.5

Credit…Associated Press
Credit…Charles Leclaire/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Steelers -2 | Total: 52.5

It might be hard to pinpoint what year this game is being played. The Steelers (5-0) and their throwback uniforms, their throwback quarterback, their throwback defense and their throwback roster construction will take their tried-and-true approach to Tennessee to face the Titans (5-0), a team powered by an in-your-face running game centered on a single bell cow back.

If you squint just enough you might think you’re watching Earl Campbell and the Oilers take on Terry Bradshaw and the Steelers.

Campbell’s teams — mostly in Houston and once with New Orleans — went 5-7 in the regular season against the Steel Curtain Steelers, and he broke 100 yards rushing against them just once. Derrick Henry, for all of his power and size, may not fare much better. Pittsburgh, which boasts the most efficient run defense in the N.F.L., has not allowed an opposing running back to top 100 yards rushing in a game this season, and has allowed such a game just three times total over the last three years.

Never rule out a big performance from Henry, who is known for pushing his way through hard contact with ease. But Pittsburgh is a far more complete team than Tennessee and is a worthy favorite on the road. Pick: Steelers -2

Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Packers -3.5 | Total: 57

Coming off what was arguably the second-worst start of his career, Aaron Rodgers is likely very angry. He was under constant pressure from Tampa Bay’s defense, was sacked more times in that game (four) than he had been in the previous four games combined (three). He threw multiple interceptions for just the 16th time in his career.

For an idea of how unusual that was for Rodgers, the two interceptions equaled his total from the entire 2018 season and raised his interception rate this year to 1.15 percent, which is still the fourth lowest rate among players who have attempted 100 or more passes.

The Texans (1-5) have allowed 13 passing touchdowns this season (tied for 28th in the N.F.L.) and have just one interception (tied for 32nd). If the Packers (4-1) can cobble together a way to keep J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus away from Rodgers, he should be able to pick apart Houston’s defense with ease. But that is suddenly a large if. Pick: Packers -3.5

ImageTampa Bay wanted Tom Brady to complement its terrific defense, not the other way around. On Sunday, Rakeem Nunez-Roches and the Buccaneers defense showed why in a blowout of Green Bay.
Credit…Mark Lomoglio/Associated Press

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Las Vegas Raiders, 8:20 p.m., NBC

Line: Buccaneers -3 | Total: 53.5

The Buccaneers (4-2) did not sign Tom Brady thinking they were getting the record-setter from 2007. They signed him because he rarely makes mistakes (1.4 percent interception rate since 2009), he has shown steady leadership, and he can still stretch a field, even at 43, when he needs to — he just doesn’t do it very often. Tampa Bay knows its youthful defense is its future, and the team’s plan showed its potential in last week’s dismantling of Green Bay. The question now is if the Buccaneers will fall prey to the trap of underestimating the Raiders (3-2) like Kansas City did two weeks ago. Tampa Bay was uneven enough in its first five games that it shouldn’t be anointed a contender just yet, but a prime time win on the road against a scrappy team might get them there. Pick: Buccaneers -3

Credit…Brad Penner/Associated Press

Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:20 p.m., Fox, NFL Network and Prime Video

Line: Eagles -4 | Total: 43.5

After watching how poorly Dallas played on Monday night, the Eagles (1-4-1) have to believe that the N.F.C. East is 100 percent winnable despite Philadelphia having just one win through six weeks. The Eagles have a quarterback capable of making great plays, a defense capable of forcing errors, and even with running back Miles Sanders out with a knee injury, Philadelphia can likely beat the Giants (1-5) by pounding the ball with Boston Scott and waiting for Daniel Jones to make a few mistakes.

With a win, the Eagles would be set up to potentially take control of their division in a Week 8 matchup with the Cowboys. They just have to stay focused in this game and not let a lesser team beat them at home. Pick: Eagles -4

Credit…Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m., CBS

Line: Chiefs -9.5 | Total: 48

In Week 6, Drew Lock of the Broncos (2-3) joined Colin Kaepernick as the only first- or second-year quarterbacks to win a regular season game on the road in Foxborough, Mass., since 2001. All other starters — a group that includes Patrick Mahomes — went 0-40.

It’s a fun statistic to type, but it belies the fact that Lock’s passer rating in the win was 34.9 and all of Denver’s points came on field goals. That will not work against Mahomes and the Chiefs (5-1). But the Broncos are 4-1 against the spread, and could get to 5-1 if they can lull Kansas City into a quiet victory rather than a loud one.

As for running back Le’Veon Bell, the level of attention he has received since joining the Chiefs is at least a little curious. Coach Andy Reid said Bell is not necessarily going to be active for this game. Once he’s activated, he will likely be beneath Clyde Edwards-Helaire on the team’s depth chart, and the dynamic offensive threat that his new teammates have been raving about for two weeks was last seen in peak form on an N.F.L. field in Week 14 of the 2017 season. Could his career be reborn in Kansas City? Anything is possible with Mahomes and Reid. But it is not a given. Pick: Broncos +9.5

San Francisco 49ers at New England Patriots, 4:25 p.m., CBS

Line: Patriots -2.5 | Total: 44.5

The 49ers (3-3) desperately want last week to be an indication of their quality, and the Patriots (2-3) are hoping the opposite is true for them. San Francisco opened a big early lead and cruised to a win over the Rams. New England lost at home to Denver despite Cam Newton being given several easy chances to push his team ahead. The truth for both teams is probably somewhere in the middle. The 49ers’ offense needs more from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and its defense is missing too many important players. The Patriots may not be a top contender, but they’re not “scoring just 12 points against Denver” level bad.

If running back Raheem Mostert were available, this game would have upset potential. But with San Francisco starting a third-string running back, and Newton having shaken off some rust, New England should take care of business at home. Pick: Patriots -2.5

Buffalo Bills at Jets, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Bills -13 | Total: 46

People have stopped talking about Josh Allen as a candidate for the N.F.L.’s Most Valuable Player Award. His outrageous four-game start to the season has given way to consecutive disappointing games, and a pair of losses for the Bills (4-2). To be fair, losing to Kansas City and Tennessee is not exactly an indictment of Allen or his teammates, and the offensive machine of the first four weeks should return in earnest against the Jets (0-6). Picking a team to win by two touchdowns is always an enormous risk — a few meaningless scores in garbage time can turn a blowout into a margin of 10 or fewer — but Gang Green has no one capable of slowing down wide receivers Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley, and Buffalo may want to work out some of its recent frustration on the worst team in the N.F.L. Pick: Bills -13

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Saints -7.5 | Total: 51

Alvin Kamara may want to stretch his legs before this game. The Panthers (3-3) “only” allow 121.3 yards rushing a game — 18th-best in the N.F.L. — but in terms of efficiency they are far worse. They allow an average of 4.9 yards a carry (27th) and have conceded nine rushing touchdowns (tied for 29th), leaving them rated as the 26th most efficient run defense by Football Outsiders. So if the Saints (3-2) want to rest their passing game for a week, Kamara could exploit those weaknesses and carry the team to a slightly narrower win than oddsmakers have predicted. Pick: Panthers +7.5

Credit…Brett Duke/Associated Press

Jacksonville Jaguars at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m., CBS

Line: Chargers -7.5 | Total: 49

This is a matchup of very different one-win teams. The Jaguars (1-5) have lost five straight, have cooled off on offense after a strongish start and have the worst defense in the N.F.L. There is some reason for optimism in the distant future considering the potential of running back James Robinson and the wide receivers D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault Jr. But that optimism turning into anything meaningful would involve replacing Gardner Minshew at quarterback and just about every player on the team’s defense.

The Chargers (1-4), meanwhile, have lost four in a row, but have an extremely bright future with quarterback Justin Herbert, who has kept each of those four games within a touchdown, twice going to overtime. Coming out of a bye week, Los Angeles has several winnable games lined up over the next five weeks, and the team could theoretically go from a basement-dweller to a fringe playoff contender should Herbert and his solid group of targets (Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry) stay healthy.

Spotting a team with a few key injuries on defense nearly eight points, however, may be too bold. A narrower victory is more likely. Pick: Jaguars +7.5

Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Browns -3 | Total: 53.5

No one throws cold water on enthusiasm quite like the Browns (4-2). Cleveland got off to its best five-game start since 1994 and proceeded to get demolished so brutally by Pittsburgh in Week 6 that Case Keenum, the team’s backup quarterback, had his name trending on Twitter by halftime. Was that an overreaction? It will probably feel like one on Sunday, as Cleveland’s offense should feast on the Bengals (1-4-1), whom they beat by 35-30 in Week 2. But with four games of 32 or more points, and two games of 7 or fewer, it would be fair to label Cleveland as an exciting team that isn’t ready for true contender status. Pick: Browns -3

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Football Team, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Off | Total: Off

The N.F.C. East is so bad that even after last week’s humiliation at the hands of the Cardinals, the Cowboys (2-4) stayed in first place. And they can cement themselves there by beating the lowly Footballers (1-5) on the road.

Dalton is not what he once was, but he is probably not as bad as he looked on Monday. Elliott has declined over the last few seasons, but he is not typically a liability. And Dallas, should the team be able to sort out some of those issues, still has an absurd collection of pass-catchers. If that isn’t enough to beat the Footballers, who according to Football Outsiders have the third-worst offense in the N.F.L., then this division will be even more chaotic — and even more pointless — for the rest of the season. Pick: Cowboys

Detroit Lions at Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Falcons -2.5 | Total: 57

Teams often get a boost from firing a struggling coach. But to say Raheem Morris taking over for Dan Quinn was the key to the Falcons (1-5) getting their first win of the season would be to ignore the return of receiver Julio Jones to the team’s lineup, and the fact that Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins appeared to confuse Atlanta’s defensive backs with his own wide receivers. But regardless of whom should receive credit, the Falcons have a chance for a second win when they host the Lions (2-3).

Detroit has a more interesting offense than it has had in recent seasons because of the emergence of running back D’Andre Swift and the veteran presence of Adrian Peterson. And the team has won two of its last three games, so it’s not surprising that the point spread is fairly close. But with Jones and Calvin Ridley wreaking havoc on the Lions’ secondary, Atlanta should be able to win even if Detroit’s defense repeats last week’s success in slowing down the run. Pick: Falcons -2.5

Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams, 8:15 p.m., ESPN

Line: Rams -5.5 | Total: 45.5

Are the Bears (5-1) better than anyone thought? Or are they benefiting from an outrageous spurt of good luck that has powered their start to the season? Your answer probably depends on your rooting interests and/or your proximity to Chicago. Nothing about the team’s offense indicates that future opponents have anything to fear, but the Bears’ defense is legitimate enough that you can’t completely write off their success. And almost regardless of how real the start is, the fact remains that over the last 10 seasons, 24 of 29 teams that started 5-1 went on to make the playoffs. (And this year’s postseason is expanded.)

Going on the road to face the Rams (4-2) should be a good test for Chicago. Los Angeles has several ways to beat a team offensively, and with Aaron Donald — arguably the game’s most dominant player — likely smarting from his disappointing performance in last week’s loss to San Francisco, it could be a very long day for Chicago’s Nick Foles. Pick: Rams -5.5

A quick primer for those who are not familiar with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that represents how many points they must win by to cover the spread. Seahawks -3.5, for example, means that Seattle must beat Arizona by at least 4 points for its backers to win their bet. Gamblers can also bet on the total score, or whether the teams’ combined score in the game is over or under a preselected number of points.

Bye weeks: Indianapolis, Miami, Minnesota, Baltimore

All times are Eastern

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