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