New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

New York Giants (1-5) at Atlanta Falcons (2-4)

When this line opened at Atlanta -6 earlier this week, I was considering a bet on the Giants. The Giants were blown out on national television last week on Thursday Night Football against the Eagles, which is probably why the line opened so high, but playing a good team like the Eagles on a short week is very tough, so I didn’t hold that against them too much. On top of that, the rest of the Giants’ losses have been close and the Falcons shouldn’t be favored by 6 points against anyone other than the Bills, given that their injury plagued defense can’t stop anyone.

Unfortunately, the line has since shifted all the way down to 4, so we’ve lost a lot of line value. The Falcons also are expected to get talented defensive tackle Grady Jarrett back from a two game absence, which gives their defense a boost. I’m still taking the Giants because I expect this to be a close game and I expect a much better effort from the Giants with extra time to rest and prepare, but this is a no confidence pick.

Atlanta Falcons 30 New York Giants 27

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +4

Confidence: None

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (3-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3)

The Jaguars got off to a great start to the season, building on an AFC Championship appearance last year with a 2-0 start, including an impressive win over the Patriots, who eliminated them in the post-season last year. However, since that win the Jaguars have sputtered, losing 3 of 4 games, including their last 2 by a combined 49 points. Losing on the road in Kansas City wasn’t exactly a surprise, but the Jaguars were then dominated by a middle of the road Cowboys team last week.

Many point to the absence of running back Leonard Fournette, who has had just 20 carries in 2 games this season, while dealing with lingering hamstring injuries, but the Jaguars’ offense didn’t miss much of a beat without Fournette went he was hurt last season and the running game hasn’t really been the problem for the Jaguars this season, as backup running back TJ Yeldon has averaged 4.46 yards per carry on 67 carries. The Jaguars were also without Fournette in their game against New England, although that Patriots team was less than 100% with several key absences.

The bigger issue has been the declining play of quarterback Blake Bortles, who remains a highly inconsistent starting quarterback. Bortles has a 99.8 QB rating in the Jaguars 3 wins, but a 63.2 QB rating in their 3 losses and has struggled mightily in recent weeks after a hot start. The “real” Blake Bortles is probably somewhere right in the middle of what he’s been in their wins and what he’s been in their losses this season, but he’s a very frustrating quarterback to predict on a week-to-week basis. Assuming an average Bortles performance this week, I have this line calculated at Jacksonville -4, which is right about where this line is anyway, so I have no desire to bet either side in this one. For pick ‘em purposes, I would take the Texans, who have played a lot of close games this year (all 6 decided by 7 points or fewer), but this is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 Houston Texans 16

Pick against the spread: Houston +4.5

Confidence: None

Minnesota Vikings at New York Jets: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (3-2-1) at New York Jets (3-3)

The Jets have gotten off to a surprising 3-3 start, but they’ve faced a relatively easy schedule. Their wins have come over the Lions, Broncos, and Colts and even the teams they’ve lost to are not that impressive, losing to the Dolphins, Browns, and Jaguars. They’re also a bottom-4 team in first down rate differential at -4.56% and have the worst red zone touchdown percentage in the league, scoring a touchdown on just 30% of their red zone opportunities, with most of their scores coming on longer plays from outside the 20.

Making matters worse, the Jets come into this game pretty banged up. They will be without 2 of their top-3 cornerbacks again this week, with Trumaine Johnson and Buster Skrine still injured, and they will also be without top receiver Quincy Enunwa and the receiver who likely would have replaced Enunwa in the lineup, Terrelle Pryor. On top of that, top running back Isaiah Crowell is at less than 100% with a foot injury.

Fortunately, they’re facing an equally banged up Minnesota team. Projected by many to be a top contender in the NFC, the Vikings have been underwhelming in large part due to injury and rank just 22nd in first down rate differential. Defensive end Everson Griffen and running back Dalvin Cook have missed extended periods of time and continue to be out, while left tackle Riley Reiff and safety Andrew Sendejo will miss their second straight game this week, after missing last week’s underwhelming home performance at home against the Cardinals. Even with those players out, I still have this line calculated at Minnesota -4, but there’s not nearly enough here to bet this game.

Update: Linval Joseph was unexpectedly ruled out for the Vikings Sunday morning, but this line has not moved to compensate. I’m changing my pick to the Jets, but this remains a no confidence pick.

Minnesota Vikings 20 New York Jets 17

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +3.5

Confidence: None

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-1)

The Chiefs suffered their first loss of the season last week in New England, losing 43-40 in an epic shootout. It was a close game, but it easily could have been a wider margin, as the Chiefs trailed by 15 at halftime, but were able to catch up thanks to a second half strip sack, a long kickoff return, and a busted coverage on a 75-yard passing touchdown. The Patriots won the first down rate battle by 5.16%, totaling 31 first downs and 4 offensive touchdowns on 75 offensive snaps, as opposed to 18 first downs and 4 offensive touchdowns on 53 offensive snaps for the Chiefs.

The Chiefs obviously have an incredible offense and Pat Mahomes’ performance last week on the road in New England was arguably his best of the year, despite the end result of the game, but their defense remains a major problem, allowing opponents to pick up first downs or touchdowns on 44.86% of defensive snaps, 3rd worst in the NFL. They could turn into a serviceable stop unit by season’s end when they get safety Eric Berry and top edge rusher Justin Houston back from injury, which would make them a scary team in the AFC, but both remain out, so the Chiefs should continue having trouble stopping people in this one.

Given that, this line is too high at Kansas City -6. The Bengals lost in disappointing fashion at home to the Steelers last week, but remain one of the better teams in the AFC and should be able to keep this one close in a shootout. Even last week’s loss could have turned out differently if they had managed to hold on to one of the first half interceptions they dropped. I wouldn’t bet a lot on Cincinnati this week because this could easily end up being a touchdown win by Kansas City, but I have this line calculated at -3.5, so we’re getting enough line value with the Bengals at +6 for them to be worth a bet.

Kansas City Chiefs 30 Cincinnati Bengals 27

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +6

Confidence: Medium

Tennessee Titans vs. Los Angeles Chargers: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (3-3) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (4-2) in London

Typically, I love going against significant week-to-week line movement, as it tends to be an overreaction to a single week of play. This line moved the most of any of the lines this week, going from Chargers -3 to Chargers -6.5 in this neutral site game in London. It’s not hard to figure out why, as the Chargers won 38-14 in Cleveland last week, while the Titans were shutout at home by the Ravens in a 21-0 loss.

I still think it’s a little bit of an overreaction though. The Chargers could wind up being a contender in the AFC, but their defense isn’t the same without Joey Bosa, who continues to be out. The Titans, meanwhile, have not played well in the past couple of weeks, but they still have a strong defense and won games against the Eagles and Jaguars earlier this season, so I have a hard time figuring out how the Chargers are 6.5 points better than them as currently constructed. I have this line calculated at -3.5, so we’re getting significant line value with the underdog.

There are two reasons this isn’t a bigger play though. For one, the Chargers always tend to play well away from home, which makes sense, as they have next to no homefield advantage. They are 31-19-3 ATS on the road since 2012, including 6-3-2 ATS since moving to Los Angeles last season. The second reason is that big favorites tend to cover in neutral site games, as they tend to be better prepared and have the crowd on their side. Favorites of 4+ are 13-1 ATS all-time in neutral site games. There could easily be more Chargers fans at this game than a typical game in Los Angeles, though you can definitely argue the Chargers don’t deserve to be favorites of 4+. It’s not a big bet on Tennessee, but we’re getting too much line value to pass on here.

Los Angeles Chargers 24 Tennessee Titans 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +6.5

Confidence: Medium

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (3-3) at Washington Redskins (3-2)

There has been a lot of talk about the Cowboys’ offensive struggles, but they showed last week that they can still be a tough opponent because of their strong defense, pulling an upset at home over the Jaguars in blowout fashion by a final score of 40-7. Former safety Byron Jones has thrived since moving back to cornerback. Their linebacking corps has played at a high level even without the injured Sean Lee, thanks to strong play by young linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. And their defensive line has been solid and will likely continue to get better with top interior pass rusher David Irving now in his 2nd game back after returning from suspension.

Their strong defense gets another boost this week, with Lee expected to return from a 3-game absence. Lee was not missed as much as he normally is, as the Cowboys are much better on that side of the ball than normal, but he’ll still be a welcome re-addition for this team. On the other side, the Redskins have some major injury problems with their offensive skill position talent. Their top-2 wide receivers Paul Richardson and Jamison Crowder are both out with injury, while passing down back Chris Thompson, who would likely pick up a lot of the slack with Richardson and Crowder out, is highly questionable after missing last week with injury and not getting in a full practice all week.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost all line value with the Cowboys, as this line has shifted from -3 on the early line to even this week. It’s only 3 points, but about 1 in 4 games are decided by 3 points or fewer, so it’s a significant line movement. I have this line calculated at Washington -1, so we’re actually getting a little bit of line value with the host, although not nearly enough to bet on it. The Cowboys have also been a strong road team in recent years, going 36-31 (38-29 ATS) on the road since 2010, as opposed to 35-34 at home, though they haven’t looked good yet on the road this year. I’m taking the Redskins for pick ‘em purposes, but this is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Washington Redskins 17 Dallas Cowboys 16

Pick against the spread: Washington PK

Confidence: None

New England Patriots at Chicago Bears: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (4-2) at Chicago Bears (3-2)

The Bears had a disappointing first game back from the bye last week, losing in overtime as 7-point favorites in Miami. Normally teams tend to do well out of the bye as big road favorites, but the Bears were in a tough spot where they didn’t find out they were facing backup quarterback Brock Osweiler until the morning of the game, while the Dolphins likely spent the whole weekend preparing for Osweiler to start, after regular starter Ryan Tannehill re-aggravated his shoulder injury in Friday’s practice. The Bears also might have been caught looking forward to this big game at home against New England as well.

Despite that loss, the Bears are still one of the better teams in the league, so we’re getting some line value with them as 3-point home underdogs against the Patriots. I didn’t expect to bet the Patriots as often as I have early in the season, but we started getting good value with them after they surprisingly lost back-to-back games on the road in week 2 and week 3. Now after 3 straight wins, we’re no longer getting good value with them and instead it is the Bears who are a little underrated.

That being said, we’re not getting quite enough line value to bet the Bears this week, as this line dropped from 3.5 early in the week down to 3, a significant line movement considering about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. Since their slow start, the Patriots have gotten top pass rusher Trey Flowers and valuable safety Patrick Chung back from injury on defense, wide receiver Julian Edelman has returned on offense, fellow wide receiver Josh Gordon was acquired from Cleveland and played close to every snap last season, and first round rookie Sony Michel has broken out as the lead running back. They could easily be a dominant team the rest of the way, so it’s not advisable to bet against them unless you’re getting great line value.

The Patriots are also in a good spot with only a trip to Buffalo on deck, one of their easier games of the season. Teams understandably tend to be completely focused and take care of business before easy games like that, as teams are 45-29 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites of 7+. The Bears should be completely focused too and are the pick for pick ‘em purposes, but I’d need at least 3.5 to put any money on them. This could easily be a push.

Update: Rob Gronkowski injured his back at practice on Friday and did not make the trip with the team. It’s an obvious downgrade for the Patriots, but the line dropped from 3 down to 2, which means the Bears basically have to win straight up to cover, so I’m keeping this as a low confidence pick.

Final Update: As I think about this more, I’m dropping this to a no confidence pick at +2. Brady has been close to automatic as underdogs or favorites or less than 3 in his career, going 49-22 ATS, and I don’t feel like going against that with any confidence. New England could easily win this game by a field goal, especially with Khalil Mack seemingly at less than 100% with an ankle injury.

New England Patriots 24 Chicago Bears 23

Pick against the spread: Chicago +2

Confidence: None

Detroit Lions at Miami Dolphins: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (2-3) at Miami Dolphins (4-2)

The Lions are coming off of a bye and teams tend to do well as significant road favorites after a bye, going 25-9 ATS as road favorites of 3+ since 2008. The Dolphins faced a Bears team in the same spot last week though and pulled the upset as 7-point underdogs. That’s probably partially because the Bears were expecting to face regular Dolphins starter Ryan Tannehill, who was surprisingly ruled out Sunday morning, after suffering a setback to his shoulder injury at practice the previous Friday.

Instead, the Bears faced Brock Osweiler, who has shown in the past he can play well when teams aren’t expecting to face him, playing arguably his best game of the past 3 seasons as a mid-game injury replacement last year with the Broncos against the Colts. With the Lions having a full week to prepare for him, I would be surprised if Osweiler didn’t regress this week, even with the Lions having an underwhelming defense.

The Dolphins are getting some starters back on defense for this one, with defensive end Cameron Wake and cornerback Bobby McCain returning to practice this week after missing the past two games and practicing in full on Friday, but the Lions are getting healthier too, with right guard TJ Lang returning after the bye and defensive end Ezekiel Ansah possibly playing for the first time since week 1. There isn’t enough line value to take the Lions as 3 point road favorites, but this should be able to win this one with relative ease.

Detroit Lions 26 Miami Dolphins 20

Pick against the spread: Detroit -3

Confidence: Low

Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (3-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)

The Eagles got off to a disappointing 2-3 start, but it was clear they could easily turn it around. Those three losses came by a combined 11 points, with the Eagles winning the first down rate battle in two of them, and they still had one of the most talented teams in the league on paper. Last week, the Eagles looked much more like their Super Bowl team from 2017, blowing out the Giants 34-13 in New York on Thursday Night Football. Despite the slow start, the Eagles rank 4th in first down rate differential at +5.17% overall on the season, so they could easily go on a big run.

That big victory shifted this line significantly, as the Eagles were mere 3-point favorites on the early line in this home game against the Panthers and are now 4.5-point favorites, a big line movement, considering about 1 in 5 games are decided by 3 or 4 points. That being said, I think we’re still getting some line value with the Eagles, who are significantly better than a middling Panthers team that ranks 15th in first down rate differential at +1.50% and 10th in my roster rankings. I have this line calculated at Philadelphia -7, so the Eagles are worth a bet.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 Carolina Panthers 20

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -4.5

Confidence: Medium