Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers: Week 7 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) at San Francisco 49ers (1-5)

The 49ers are one of the worst teams in the league and there are very few teams I’d predict them to defeat, but I think the Buccaneers might be one. The Buccaneers enter in 28th in first down percentage differential and are very banged up. They’re missing their top-2 running backs, Doug Martin and Charles Sims, starting wide receiver Vincent Jackson, starting left guard JR Sweezy, starting defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, and top pass rusher Robert Ayers. With those players, this is one of the 5 least talented teams in the league.

That being said, the 49ers are probably still an inferior team (25th in first down percentage differential despite an easy schedule), so we’re not getting great a value with this even line. The 49ers get top cornerback Jimmie Ward back from injury this week, but lose starting running back Carlos Hyde on the offensive side of the ball. He’s been by far their most effective offensive weapon this season. I couldn’t be confident in the 49ers, but I am picking them to win their 2nd game of the season here at home against a banged up Tampa Bay team.

San Francisco 49ers 17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16

Pick against the spread: San Francisco PK

Confidence: None

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New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2016 Week 7 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (5-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)

The Patriots really lucked out by getting the Steelers at a time in which they’re incredibly banged up. The biggest injury is the one that has Ben Roethlisberger out for at least this week and likely several weeks. Instead, backup Landry Jones will start in his absence. The dropoff from Roethlisberger to Jones is as big as any starter to backup dropoff in the NFL. It’s not just Roethlisberger though, as the Steelers are also missing defensive end Cameron Heyward, their top defensive player, and starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert. This line moved from even on the early line last week to 7.5 in favor of the visiting New England Patriots this week, primarily as a result of the Roethlisberger injury, but also as a result of how poorly their defense played in Miami last week without Heyward. That might be a little bit too much of a line movement, so I’m taking the Steelers, but I’m not confident at all.

New England Patriots 27 Pitsburgh Steelers 20

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh +7.5

Confidence: None

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San Diego Chargers at Atlanta Falcons: 2016 Week 7 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (2-4) at Atlanta Falcons (4-2)

I’m torn on this one. On one hand, the Chargers are in a tough spot. Because of a weird scheduling quirk, this road game against the Falcons is wedged between two meetings in a three week period with division rival Denver on San Diego’s schedule. The Chargers won last week at home in upset fashion and then have to travel to Denver next week after this game, where the early line has them as 7 point road underdogs. That puts San Diego in a couple of bad spots. For one, teams are 53-76 ATS off of a win as home underdogs, as teams tend to be overconfident and/or overvalued off of a victory like that. Two, underdogs of 6 or more are 47-74 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6 or more again, as the Chargers likely will be next week. The Falcons are a quality opponent and the Chargers could easily not be as focused as they need to be to keep this one close, given how bad of a spot this is for them.

On the other hand, the Chargers almost never get blown out. I know this line is only 6 and a 7+ point win isn’t necessarily a blowout, but the Chargers have lost just 3 games by more than 8 points in the last two seasons combined and just 8 games by more than 6 points. They’ve been especially good on the road, where they’re 8-3 ATS in the past 2 seasons and haven’t lost been more than 7 points in any of their previous 9 road games. The Chargers enter this game incredibly banged up, with key guys like Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, and Jason Verrett out for the season, but they’re still playing pretty well. Despite their 2-4 record, they rank 7th in first down percentage differential and haven’t lost by more than 6 points all season. That’s actually one spot better than the 4-2 Falcons, who rank 8th in that metric. I’m taking the Chargers, but I’m not confident in them at all because they’re in a terrible spot.

Atlanta Falcons 31 San Diego Chargers 27

Pick against the spread: San Diego +6

Confidence: None

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Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals: 2016 Week 7 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (4-1) at Arizona Cardinals (3-3)

The Seahawks have a better record than the Cardinals, but the Cardinals have a first down percentage differential of 7.67% (best in the NFL) and a point differential of +49 (6th best in the NFL), while the Seahawks have a first down percentage differential of 3.47% (4th best in the NFL) and a point differential of +27 (10th best in the NFL). That’s despite the fact that the Seahawks have had arguably the easiest schedule in the league thus far. They’ve played the 49ers, Rams, Jets, and Dolphins, 4 of the worst teams in the NFL, and won by just 2 last week at home against the Falcons, easily their toughest opponent of the season. Arizona is even tougher and this time the game is on the road.

The Cardinals are without wide receiver John Brown, while quarterback Carson Palmer is reportedly less than 100% with a hamstring injury, but the Seahawks are missing safety Kam Chancellor, easily the biggest absence in this game. Despite that, this line is even. Considering the Cardinals are at least as good as the Seahawks, if not better, this line should be at least 3 in favor of the home team Arizona Cardinals. We’re getting great line value with the Cardinals, who have arguably the best defense in the NFL.

The Cardinals are also in a great spot coming off of a Monday Night Football 28-3 blowout victory over the Jets, as teams are 35-16 ATS since 2002 off of a Monday Night Football win by 21 or more. The Seahawks are in a good spot too though, with an easy road game in New Orleans on deck, while the Cardinals next travel to Carolina for an NFC Championship rematch from a year ago. The early line has the Seahawks as 5.5 point road favorites in New Orleans and teams are 81-57 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites of 4 or more. Still, the Cardinals are the pick here as long as the line stays under a field goal.

Arizona Cardinals 20 Seattle Seahawks 16

Pick against the spread: Arizona PK

Confidence: Medium

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Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans: 2016 Week 7 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (2-4) at Tennessee Titans (3-3)

The Titans may be just 3-3, but they actually rank 2nd in the NFL in first down percentage differential. They’ve been competitive in every game and have a -7 point differential on the season, despite being -4 in return touchdown differential. Aside from those 4 plays, they have a +20 point differential and have quietly played very solid football this season. They’ve allowed just 9 touchdowns all season on 63 drives and have 19 more first downs than their opponents. That doesn’t mean the Titans are the 2nd best team in the NFL or anything, but they’re better than their record suggests. Much healthier and more talented than they were in 2015, the Titans run the ball well, have a great offensive line, and play strong defense.

The Colts, meanwhile, have one of the weakest rosters in the NFL outside of the quarterback position. They enter this game 30th in first down percentage differential, only ahead of the Browns and Jets, thanks to a defense that has allowed a league worst 143 first downs. They also enter this game incredible banged up. They’ll be without #2 and #3 wide receiver Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett, starting tight end Dwayne Allen, top offensive lineman Jack Mewhort, and top defensive lineman Henry Anderson. The Titans, meanwhile, are completely healthy. The Colts have the obvious advantage at quarterback, but the Titans have the advantage at every other position. This line is way too low at 3 because this line suggests that these two teams are even and that is not the case.

The Titans are in a bad spot though, as they have to play again in 4 days on Thursday Night Football. Favorites are just 50-77 ATS before Thursday Night Football since 2008. The Colts are coming off of a road overtime loss, which normally is a bad spot, but they’re lucky because they’re in their second of two road games here. Teams are 132-100 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 104-68 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games and 6-2 ATS in their 2nd of 2 road games off of an overtime loss. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 222-236 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.87 points per game, as opposed to 322-448 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.03 points per game. That being said, even though the Colts are in a better spot, I’m still confident enough in Tennessee at 3 to put money on them.

Tennessee Titans 27 Indianapolis Colts 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -3

Confidence: Medium

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Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals: 2016 Week 7 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (0-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-4)

Despite being just 2-4, the Bengals are favored by double digits this week. That’s even rarer than you’d think, as just 4 other teams since 1993 have been favored by double digits despite having a winning percentage of .333 or worse in week 6 or later. Teams are 3-4-1 ATS in that spot since 1989, so the Bengals’ record doesn’t neccessary mean they will fail to cover as favorites of this many points, but whether or not they deserve to be favored by 10 points here at home against the Browns is a major question.

There’s good argument to be made that they do, despite their record. The Browns are one of the worst teams in the league, arguably the worst with all of the injuries they’re dealing with right now. They lost talented left guard Joel Bitonio for the season last week and will be without top cornerback Joe Haden again this week. Meanwhile, top receiver Terrelle Pryor could miss this week’s game, meaning the Browns would be without both week 1 starting wide receivers (Corey Coleman has been out since week 2). The Browns enter this game 31st in first down percentage differential, only ahead of the Jets, and they’re even less talented than the Jets are.

The Bengals, meanwhile, rank just 26th in first down percentage, but they’ve been significantly better than the Browns in that measure, especially given how tough their schedule has been. They’re 2-4 in large part because they’ve played Dallas, New England, Pittsburgh, and Denver, all of whom are division leaders. It’s concerning that they’ve been unable to beat these teams, but I don’t think it’s out of the question that they could beat the Browns by double digits. However, I am going with the Browns, as they’re in a better spot than the Bengals.

The Bengals have a London game on deck and teams understandably struggle before playing an international game, going 8-19 ATS all-time. The Browns, meanwhile, are in their 2nd of two road games, which historically has been an advantage for teams. Teams are 132-100 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 104-68 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 222-236 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.87 points per game, as opposed to 322-448 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.03 points per game. There’s not quite enough here for me to put money on the Browns, but they should be the right side.

Cincinnati Bengals 27 Cleveland Browns 20

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +10

Confidence: Low

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Houston Texans at Denver Broncos: 2016 Week 7 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (4-2) at Denver Broncos (4-2)

I’m torn on this one. On one hand, this line has for some reason gotten higher in favor of Denver in the past week, climbing from 6.5 to 9, even though the Texans won at home against the Colts and the Broncos lost on the road to the Chargers. Nine points is a lot of points to give with a team like Denver whose offense has disappeared in the past 2 weeks, causing the Broncos to drop back-to-back games after an impressive 4-0 start.

Ordinarily, 2 bad games after 4 good ones wouldn’t be a reason for concern, especially considering one of those games was started by a backup quarterback, but the Broncos struggled mightily on offense all last season and needed to pull off a lot of close victories to not just win the Super Bowl, but even get into the playoffs. They won just 3 regular season games by more than 7 points all last season. They’ve already won 3 games by more than 7 points this this season, but their recent offensive skid is cause for concern. Trevor Siemian is an underwhelming talent and inexperienced starter at quarterback and the league may be figuring him out. Their issues go beyond the quarterback position, as their running game and offensive line have really struggled in the past 2 weeks and they lack a capable 3rd receiver in the passing game.

On the other hand, it’s hard to argue that the Broncos are not still a tough opponent, particularly at home, given how good their defense is. The Texans are not as good as their 4-2 record suggests as their 4 wins have come at home by a combined 26 points against the likes of Tennessee, Kansas City, Indianapolis, and Chicago and they’ve gotten crushed in their two road games against tough opponents, losing by 27 in New England (who was playing a 3rd string quarterback) and 18 in Minnesota. They rank just 18th in first down percentage differential and are even less talented than that suggests because they’re without top defender JJ Watt for the season. I’m taking the Texans, but I can’t be confident at all.

Denver Broncos 17 Houston Texans 9

Pick against the spread: Houston +9

Confidence: None

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Los Angeles Rams vs. New York Giants: 2016 Week 7 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (3-3) vs. New York Giants (3-3) at London

The Rams have fallen back to earth in the last 2 weeks, losing back-to-back games after a surprising 3-1 start. They’re healthier now than they’ve been for a couple weeks, getting defensive ends Robert Quinn and William Hayes back from injury, but they’re still without defensive tackle Michael Brockers and cornerback Trumaine Johnson. They’ll be better defensively with their top-2 pass rushers back, but they’re far from good even with Quinn and Hayes. On the season, they rank 29th in first down percentage differential. Even when they started the season 3-1, they lost the first down percentage battle in all 3 games. Their 3 wins have come by a combined 15 points, but their losses have come by a combined 42, giving them a point differential of -27, 7th worst in the NFL.

The Giants, meanwhile, are better on both sides of the ball and come into this game ranked 6th in first down percentage differential. They’re just 3-3, but that’s pretty impressive considering they’re -10 in turnover margin. Turnover margin tends to be very inconsistent from week-to-week and if the Giants have just an even turnover margin going forward it should be noticeable on the scoreboard. It also helps that the Rams are probably the worst team they’ve played all year, as the Giants have had the toughest strength of schedule of any team thus far this season. This team is better than their record and the schedule is easier moving forward, starting this week. Not only is 3 points is too few, but the favorite also usually covers in these London games, going 9-4 ATS in the last 13, as better teams tend to do a better job of handling a weird situation like this. I like the Giants at 3 and I like them a lot more than 2.5 if you can get it.

New York Giants 24 Los Angeles Rams 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants -3

Confidence: Medium

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Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins: 2016 Week 7 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (4-2) at Miami Dolphins (2-4)

One of my favorite things to do as a bettor is go against significant week-to-week line movements. Ordinarily, they’re the result of overreaction to a single week and they create line value in either direction. The line did only move a point from 2 on the early line last week to 3 this week, but, considering about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, that’s a significant movement. In this case, the Bills’ 45-16 trouncing of the lowly 49ers is likely the reason behind the line movement, but the Dolphins had arguably just as impressive, if not more impressive of a week, winning 30-15 at home against a good Steeler team.

The Bills are a better team than the Dolphins, coming into this game in 9th in first down percentage differential, while the Dolphins come in 21st, but I still think we’re getting good value with the Dolphins as field goal home underdogs. Homefield is usually about 3 points, so that suggests the Dolphins would be around 8 or 9 point underdogs in Buffalo, which is what San Francisco was last week. The Dolphins are significantly better than the 49ers. They’re without top safety Reshad Jones with a season ending injury, a huge loss for this secondary, but Buffalo is expected to be without running back LeSean McCoy and remain without top defensive lineman Marcell Dareus. In addition, Miami is going into only their 2nd game of the season with a fully healthy offensive line and it seemed to make a big difference last week.

The Bills are also in an obvious look-ahead situation with a huge divisional game against the Patriots next week. That game could potentially be for the division and would give the Bills their first season sweep of the Patriots in the Tom Brady era. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Bills seem less focused and play less than their best this week, especially given how much Rex Ryan is obsessed with trying to beating Bill Belichick. The early line has the Bills as 6 point home underdogs and road favorites are understandably just 16-30 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs. In addition, teams are just 37-85 ATS since 2012 before a home game in which they’ll be underdogs of at least 4.5 points. The only reason this isn’t my Pick of the Week is because the Dolphins are coming off of a home upset victory and teams are 53-76 ATS in that spot since 2012, but I’m still very confident in the Dolphins getting a field goal.

Miami Dolphins 20 Buffalo Bills 17 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Miami +3

Confidence: High

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New Orleans Saints at Kansas City Chiefs: 2016 Week 7 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (2-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-2)

The Saints pulled off a big upset win over the Panthers last week, winning 41-38 in a crazy shootout. That’s obviously a huge win, even if the Panthers aren’t what they were last year, but teams tend not to cover off of a big home upset victory, as teams are 53-76 ATS following a home upset victory since 2012. It makes sense that teams would be overconfident and/or overvalued off of a home upset victory. On top of that, the Saints have to turn around and hose the Seahawks next week, another huge home game. The early line has them as 5.5 point home underdogs and teams are just 37-85 ATS since 2012 before a home game in which they’ll be underdogs of at least 4.5 points, which also makes sense. Huge upcoming home games can be a distraction for teams.

The Chiefs are at least a solid opponent as well, ranking 12th in first down percentage differential, but it’s very possible the Saints won’t be focused this week or at least won’t be focused enough to keep it close here against a superior Chiefs team. We’re not really getting much line value with the Chiefs as 6 point favorites and there’s not quite enough for me to put money on this (though that might change if it drops to 5.5), but Kansas City should be the right side here.

Kansas City Chiefs 31 New Orleans Saints 23

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -6

Confidence: Low

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