Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-2) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-4)

This is the toughest call of the week. Both of these teams enter this game pretty banged up. The Chargers got first round pick wide receiver Mike Williams back from injury last week, but could be without top wide receiver Keenan Allen and above average starting defensive tackle Corey Liuget, who both missed practice late in the week this week. The Chargers were already without starting cornerback Jason Verrett and middle linebacker Denzel Perryman, both big losses on this defense.

Meanwhile, the Broncos’ injury problems have been primarily in the receiving corps. Already missing 3rd round rookie Carlos Henderson for the season and valuable depth receiver Cody Latimer, the Broncos lost 5th round rookie Isaiah McKenzie and starting wideout Emmanuel Sanders last week, leaving only Bennie Fowler and Jordan Taylor behind Demaryius Thomas on the depth chart and Thomas is dealing with his own injury issues. He’s still expected to play, but might not be 100% after being knocked out on a couple occasions with leg injuries in last week’s loss to the Giants.

I have the Broncos about 1.5 points better than the Chargers, but the Chargers have next to no homefield advantage since they attract primarily road fans, so they shouldn’t be getting more than a point for homefield advantage, if anything. I expect most of the fans at this game to be supporting the Broncos. This line is even, which is right around where I’d calculate it, so this game is basically a coin flip. I’m taking the Chargers only because Allen and Liuget have the potential to play, while the Broncos’ injured receivers do not.

Los Angeles Chargers 20 Denver Broncos 19

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers PK

Confidence: None

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3) at Indianapolis Colts (2-4)

The Jaguars are just 3-3, but they’re still tied for the league lead in point differential at +46. They’ve had an easy schedule and they have the league’s best turnover margin at +10, which they won’t always be able to rely on, but they still rank 4th in first down rate differential and their schedule doesn’t get any harder this week when they go to Indianapolis to face the Colts, who are one of the worst teams in the league. The Colts rank 31st in first down rate differential, dead last in point differential (-76), and are a bottom-5 team in my roster rankings.

That being said, it’s tough to be confident in the Jaguars as field goal road favorites, considering their injury situation. Already without top wide receiver Allen Robinson and starting center Brandon Linder, two of their best offensive players, the Jaguars could be without breakout rookie running back Leonard Fournette, who didn’t practice all week because of an ankle injury. At the very least, he won’t be at 100% and could split carries with backup Chris Ivory. Without him at full strength, this offense should have some trouble moving the ball, even against the Colts’ weak defense. The Jaguars obviously have the advantage on defense, but this is just a no confidence pick at -3.

Jacksonville Jaguars 17 Indianapolis Colts 13

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -3

Confidence: None

Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (3-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-1)

This is the most confusing line of the week. The Eagles were 6.5 point home favorites on the early line last week, but now this line is -4.5, despite the fact that the Eagles won in Carolina and the Redskins nearly lost at home to the 49ers. These two teams are also going in different directions injury wise. The Redskins lost promising rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Allen for an extended period of time last week, adding to an injured list that includes top cornerback Josh Norman and stud left tackle Trent Williams, who were both injured in week 4 before the Redskins’ bye. Williams played through the injury last week in the Redskins’ first game after the bye, despite not practicing much, and will probably do that again this week, but he’s clearly not 100%, while Norman remains at least another week away.

The Eagles, meanwhile, are as healthy as they’ve been since the start of the season. Their 5-1 record is even more impressive when you consider they’ve dealt with injuries to defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and right tackle Lane Johnson, two of the better linemen in the NFL. They will still likely be without top cornerback Ronald Darby this week, but he has a chance to suit up after returning to practice this week for the first time since week 1 and he should be back next week. Even without him, the Eagles top my roster rankings, so it’s tough to understand why they are mere 4.5 point favorites against a banged up Washington team.

I have these two teams about 6 points apart, so I have this line calculated at -9. We’re getting good line value with the hometown Eagles, who remains underrated despite a strong start to the season. The Eagles are also in a much better spot as they only have to face the 49ers next week, while the Redskins have another tough divisional game against the Cowboys, so I really don’t understand why this line is so low. The Eagles are easily my favorite pick of the week.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 Washington Redskins 17

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -4.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Arizona Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Rams: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (3-3) vs. Los Angeles Rams (4-2) in London

The Rams are 4-2, but their 4 wins have come against the Colts, 49ers, Jaguars, and the Cowboys without Sean Lee, so I’m not as sold on them as the general public seems to be. The Cardinals have their own issues, but they ran the ball much better last week in Adrian Peterson’s first game with the team and I only have the Rams about 1.5 points better than them, so we’re getting some line value with the Cardinals at +3 on this neutral field in London. It’s not enough for me to bet them confidently, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Los Angeles Rams 19 Arizona Cardinals 17

Pick against the spread: Arizona +3

Confidence: Low

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