Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (3-3) at Cleveland Browns (0-6)

The Browns rank dead last in the NFL with a -9 turnover margin. Usually I like to bet on teams with bad turnover margins because turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, but the Browns’ quarterback situation is so bad that I can’t bet them unless we’re getting a lot of line value. On the season, they’ve thrown 14 interceptions (9 by Kizer and 5 by Hogan), while no other team has thrown more than 8, and that is the single biggest factor in their turnover margin.

I thought we were getting a lot of value last week with the Browns when they were 10-point underdogs against the Texans, who were missing JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus, but Kevin Hogan played so bad in his first career start that the Browns didn’t have a chance to compete in that game. The Browns will go back to DeShone Kizer this week, which is probably an upgrade by default, but Kizer has had his own problems turning the ball over and we’re not getting the same value with the Browns that we were getting last week, as they are 6 point home underdogs against the Titans. I have this line calculated at -5.5.

The Browns are also in a tough spot with a trip to London on deck. Teams are just 14-24 ATS all-time before a trip over to London and the Browns have a tough game waiting for them there, as the early line has them as 7.5 point underdogs on the neutral field against the Vikings. Teams are just 52-85 ATS since 2008 as 6+ point underdogs before being 6+ point underdogs again, as it’s very tough for inferior teams to keep it close with a superior team when they have another tough game on deck. I can’t bet on the Titans because of the uncertainty with Marcus Mariota’s injury, but, if he’s close to 100% in his 2nd game back from the hamstring injury, the Titans should win this easily.

Tennessee Titans 24 Cleveland Browns 16

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -6

Confidence: Low

Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (3-2) at New England Patriots (4-2)

The Falcons are skidding a little after a 3-0 start, losing back-to-back home games as big favorites, first against the Bills and then against the Dolphins last week. However, both games were close and they still rank 2nd in first down rate differential at +4.50%. Their record isn’t overly impressive, but it’s impressive that they’ve managed to go 3-2 despite having a -4 turnover margin on the season (6th worst in the NFL). Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so the Falcons should be better going forward, especially now that they are fully healthy, with edge rusher Vic Beasley, right tackle Ryan Schraeder, and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu back from their injuries. At full strength, the Falcons still rank 2nd in my roster rankings behind Philadelphia.

The Falcons’ loss last week at home to the Dolphins was easily their worst performance of the year, but they were up 17-0 in the 3rd quarter and had a chance to at least kick a field goal to send it to overtime at the end of the game before a turnover. The Falcons were likely just distracted with this huge game on deck. With only a trip to New York to face the Jets on deck, the Falcons should be fully focused for New England this week and could play their best game of the season as a result.

Given that, I like the Falcons a lot this week as 3.5 point underdogs. About 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less and this game figures to be a close one, but the Falcons also have a decent shot to win this game straight up. New England is 4-2, but their wins over the Texans, Buccaneers, and the NY Jets were close games that could have gone either way and they rank just 18th in first down rate differential. They still rank 4th in my roster rankings, but the Falcons are arguably the best team they’ve faced all season.

By far their biggest problem area this season for New England has been defense, as they have had the worst defense in the league thus far this season (41.21% first down rate allowed). For comparison, that rate is higher than any offense in the league, so their defense statistically has been worse than the best offense has been good. If that continues, the Falcons could easily win a shootout. With New England struggling to get any pass rush and missing their #2 – #4 cornerbacks with injury (Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, and Cyrus Jones), that could easily continue this week. The only reason this isn’t a bigger play is because I’m worried that Bill Belichick will have found a way to get his defense to perform at a passable level for this important matchup, but we’re getting too many points with Atlanta to pass on.

New England Patriots 31 Atlanta Falcons 30

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +3.5

Confidence: Medium

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

New York Jets (3-3) at Miami Dolphins (3-2)

These two teams both have decent records, but neither one is good. The Jets’ wins have come over the Dolphins, the Browns, and the Jaguars, with the latter two victories coming by just a field goal. They rank just 29th in first down rate differential at -5.04% and still rank dead last in my roster rankings. The Dolphins, meanwhile, have wins over the Chargers, Titans, and Falcons, but their win over the Chargers was only because the Chargers missed two makeable field goals and their win over the Titans was because of a return touchdown and because Matt Cassel was starting. Their victory in Atlanta was impressive, but they still lost the first down battle and they rank dead last on the season in first down rate differential at -6.44%. They also rank near the bottom in my roster rankings, though their defense has been a lot better since linebacker Lawrence Timmons returned to the team.

Timmons played a big role in the Dolphins’ victory in Atlanta last week, by far the Dolphins’ best team performance of the season. You’d expect a victory like that to shift this line in Miami’s favor, especially with the Jets losing at home to the Patriots, but this line has actually moved from -4.5 in favor of Miami to -3 in the past week, pretty significant line movement. Neither one of these teams is good, but the Dolphins are about 2 points better, so we’re getting some line value with the host at -3. This line suggests these two teams are about even, which isn’t quite accurate.

The Dolphins are in a tough spot with a Thursday night game against the Ravens on deck, as favorites are 59-92 ATS before Thursday Night Football since 2008, but the Jets aren’t in an easy spot either, as they host the Falcons next week. The early line has them as 7 point home underdogs and teams are 30-70 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 6 or more, as it’s tough for teams to be completely focused throughout the week when there’s a tough home game on deck the following week. The Dolphins should be the right pick here, but there’s not enough to bet on them confidently here unless this line drops below 3.

Miami Dolphins 17 New York Jets 13

Pick against the spread: Miami -3

Confidence: Low

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Buffalo Bills: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) at Buffalo Bills (3-2)

I was hoping that Jameis Winston would be ruled out this week with his shoulder injury so I could get more points with the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay +6 with Ryan Fitzpatrick would have been a great value. Tampa Bay +3 would be a good value if Winston were 100%, but it’s unlikely he is, just one week after suffering a sprain to his throwing shoulder. Winston missed practice Wednesday and Thursday before returning for Friday and will give it a go. It’s a gutsy move, but it’s very tough to be confident in the Buccaneers given the uncertainty of his shoulder.

This line at -3 in favor of the hometown Bills suggests these two teams are about even, which would not be true if Winston was healthy. The Bills are 3-2 and the Buccaneers are just 2-3, but the Buccaneers would have beaten the Patriots if they could make field goals and they came back to make it close against the Cardinals even after Winston was knocked out of the game. They’re also as healthy as they’ve been all season on defense right now. Defensive tackle Chris Baker, cornerback Brent Grimes, safety TJ Ward, outside linebacker Lavonte David, and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander have all missed time this season, but all 5 players should be in uniform for this one, for the first time since their first game of the season. Of course, the Buccaneers now have new injury concerns with Winston, but at least their defense is healthy.

The Buccaneers are also in a good spot because they’re in their second of two road games. Teams are 248-265 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.95 points per game, as opposed to 364-499 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.92 points per game, a difference of about 2 points. It especially helps that the Buccaneers are underdogs off a loss, as road underdogs in their 2nd of two road games are 115-77 ATS off of a road loss. I’d need 3.5 to put money on the Buccaneers, but they should be the right side at 3 as well.

Buffalo Bills 17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +3

Confidence: Low

Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (4-2) at Chicago Bears (2-4)

This line was -4.5 in favor of the Panthers in Chicago last week on the early line, but, in the past week, the Bears won in Baltimore in a game in which they didn’t allow an offensive touchdown and the Panthers lost at home to the Eagles and lost All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly with a concussion. The Panthers are expected to get center Ryan Kalil back for the first time since week 1, but fill-in Tyler Larsen was playing pretty well, so he won’t be a huge upgrade and Kuechly is irreplaceable on this defense.

Despite that, this line only moved from 4.5 to 3.5. I thought we were getting good line value at 4.5 on the early line, but the value is even better at 3.5 given the Kuechly injury. Without Kuechly, I only have the Panthers about 2.5 points better than the Bears in my rankings, so we’re getting serious line value with the hometown Bears, especially considering 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. The Bears are just 2-4, but they came close to beating both the Falcons and the Vikings. They have an above average defense, they run the ball well, and rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky gives their offense a higher ceiling, even if his receiving corps are a major problem. They should be able to keep this close at home against a banged up Carolina team they and have a decent chance to pull the upset straight up.

Chicago Bears 17 Carolina Panthers 16 Upset Pick +150

Pick against the spread: Chicago +3.5

Confidence: High

Baltimore Ravens at Minnesota Vikings: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (3-3) at Minnesota Vikings (4-2)

I wish I had locked the Vikings in at -3 last week on the early line. After the Ravens’ embarrassing home loss to the Bears last week (in which they failed to score on offensive touchdown), this line shifted from -3 to -5.5. That’s too many points to confidently lay with a team quarterbacked by Case Keenum, even against a Baltimore team that I’ve thought all season is overrated. I have this line right at -5.5, given that the Vikings will be without top wide receiver Stefon Diggs and that the Ravens will get defensive lineman Brandon Williams back from injury, so we’re not getting any line value either way.

The Vikings are in a tough spot with their London game on deck, as teams are understandably 14-24 ATS before going to London, but the Ravens have to face the Dolphins on a short week after this one, so it kind of evens out. On top of that, the Vikings are going to London to face the Browns, so it’s not like they have a tough upcoming game. Given that, I’m going to take the Vikings here, but this is a no confidence pick as we’ve lost all line value after Baltimore’s terrible performance last week.

Minnesota Vikings 19 Baltimore Ravens 13

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -5.5

Confidence: None

Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (2-3) at San Francisco 49ers (0-6)

The 49ers are 0-6, but their last 5 losses have all come by 3 points or fewer, so they could easily have a couple victories. The Cowboys, meanwhile, were not playing well before the bye, losing at home to the Rams and Packers. However, I do like the Cowboys here as 6 point road favorites for a few reasons. The biggest reason is that they are healthy. Linebacker Sean Lee, arguably their best defensive player, missed the losses to the Rams and Packers, but will return for this one, a huge re-addition. On top of that, left tackle Tyron Smith, who was playing through an injured back, should be better after the bye week.

Speaking of the bye week, the Cowboys are in a great spot coming out of the bye, not just because they’re healthy, but because road favorites of 3+ are an incredible 41-13 ATS since 2002 after a bye. The 49ers, meanwhile, are in a tough spot because they have to turn around and play in Philadelphia next week, a game in which they will likely be double digit underdogs (+10.5 on the early line). Teams are 46-73 ATS since 2012 before being double digit underdogs and underdogs of 6 or more are 52-85 ATS before underdogs of 6 or more again the following week, over that same time period. It’s very tough for inferior teams to keep it close against a superior opponent when they have another tough opponent on deck.

Six is a fair amount of points to with Dallas, but I have this line calculated right at -6, given that the Cowboys are healthy, that the 49ers are not (now missing defensive end Arik Armstead), and that the Cowboys have a national fanbase and are a strong road team (29-21 ATS on the road since 2011). There isn’t enough here for me to bet on the Cowboys because the 49ers could end up keeping this one close again, especially if rookie quarterback CJ Beathard surprises in his first career NFL start or gets a backdoor cover, but the Cowboys should be the right side.

Dallas Cowboys 28 San Francisco 49ers 20

Pick against the spread: Dallas -6

Confidence: Low

Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (3-2) at New York Giants (1-5)

The Seahawks are 3-2 and in a great spot here coming out of their bye week. On the road in The Meadowlands against the Giants, the Seahawks are 4 point road favorites. Road favorites of 3 or more have an incredible track record coming out of the bye, going 41-13 ATS since 2002. However, I can’t be confident in the Seahawks this week because I’m not sure they deserve to be favored by 4 points here, especially considering about 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer. Despite their solid record, this has not been the same Seattle team we’ve seen in recent years.

Their 3 wins have come against the 49ers, Colts, and Rams, who are not exactly a tough trio, and they rank just 21st in first down rate differential. While it feels like they could just turn it on mid-season like they normally do, this roster does have some serious problems, given their injury situation. They are without talented rookie running back Chris Carson and valuable edge rusher Cliff Avril for the season, while slot cornerback Jeremy Lane and starting left guard Luke Joeckel are out for an extended period of time. The Giants have plenty of injuries as well, particularly in the receiving corps, but they still have a strong defense and could keep this one close at home. The Seahawks are the pick for pick ‘em purposes, but this is a no confidence pick.

Seattle Seahawks 17 New York Giants 12

Pick against the spread: Seattle -4

Confidence: None

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)

The Bengals started the season by not scoring a touchdown in two home games, but they fired their offensive coordinator and have played a lot better since. They nearly won in Green Bay, albeit against a banged up Green Bay team, then they blew out the Browns in Cleveland, and then they beat a solid Bills team. Their offense is going to be inconsistent because their offensive line isn’t good, but they have one of the better defenses in the league and they’ve moved the ball a lot better in recent weeks. Their poor start to the season isn’t irrelevant, but they were playing a pair of tough defenses (Houston and Baltimore) and the players hated ex-offensive coordinator Ken Zampese’s play calling.

The Steelers, meanwhile, are coming off of a huge win in Kansas City, but the week before that they were blown out at home by the Jaguars. Their offense hasn’t been what we’re used to from them, but they still have a dangerous pair of offensive playmakers and a strong offensive line and their young defense has come of age this season. Unfortunately, they come into this game missing a pair of important players, missing right tackle Marcus Gilbert and defensive end Stephon Tuitt. We’re not getting a ton of points with the Bengals as 6 point underdogs, but, given the Steelers’ injury situation, we are getting some line value with Cincinnati.

Cincinnati should also be completely focused on this game, given that they’re coming off of a bye and only have the Colts on deck. The Bengals will likely be 6+ point favorites at home in that game and underdogs of 6 or more, like the Bengals are here, are 73-62 ATS since 2002 before being favorites of 6 or more. There’s not quite enough here for me to bet on the Bengals, but they should be the right pick at +6. Under 6, this should be a no confidence pick.

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Cincinnati Bengals 20

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +6

Confidence: Low

New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (3-2) at Green Bay Packers (4-2)

The Saints are only 3-2, but they’re one of the better teams in the NFC. Their 2 losses came against the Sam Bradford led Vikings and the New England Patriots, in the first 2 weeks of the season. Since then, they’ve defeated the Panthers, Dolphins, and Lions, all by 14 or more points. They finished last season 10th in first down rate differential (with a +9 offensive touchdown differential) and they seem to be even better this season. Their +29 point differential is 6th in the NFL and they’ve only played 5 games.

Drew Brees continues to lead an explosive offense and their defense has been significantly improved this season, led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Cameron Jordan and Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Marshon Lattimore. They still have issues on that side of the ball, but they might be good enough defensively to go on a run in the NFC if the offense continues to play at a high level. The Falcons rode a similar formula to the Super Bowl last season.

This game against the Packers could have been a NFC Championship preview, but Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone last week against the Vikings, putting his season and the Packers’ playoff chances in jeopardy. 2015 5th round pick Brett Hundley will make his first career start this week and he’s obviously a major downgrade at the quarterback position. The line has subsequently moved from GB -6.5 last week on the early line to NO -4 this week, a whopping 10.5 point line movement.

I would have been all over the Saints at +6.5 against a healthy Aaron Rodgers, but I still think there’s line value with New Orleans -4 against the led Hundley Packers, especially since the Packers will be without Morgan Burnett as well. Burnett has been easily the Packers’ best defensive back this season, so the Packers should have a very tough time stopping Brees and company, which is going to make life very tough for Hundley. The Saints, by contrast, are as healthy as they’ve been all season and they should be able to get an easy win here.

New Orleans Saints 28 Green Bay Packers 20

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -4

Confidence: Medium