New York Jets at New England Patriots: 2021 Week 7 NFL Pick

New York Jets (1-4) at New England Patriots (2-4)

The Patriots are just 2-4, but they’ve had some tough luck, as three of their four losses have come by 1 point, 2 points, and in overtime, which is about as close as losses get, including near wins against the Buccaneers and Cowboys, who are both high level teams and a combined 10-2. Their schedule hasn’t been that tough and their wins have come against the worst teams in the league in the Jets and Texans, but they beat the Jets by 19 in New York already, while their close win over the Texans came in a game in which the Patriots were missing almost all of their starting offensive linemen and still won the first down rate battle by 8.67%. 

The Patriots now host the Jets again in New England and, as 7-point favorites, whether or not they cover this spread and win by multiple scores again is likely to come down to how healthy their offensive line is. They got stud left guard Michael Onwenu back last week, which made a big difference in their close loss to the Cowboys, while left tackle Isaiah Wynn and right guard Shaq Mason could both possibly return this week, which would also be a big boost.

If both play, they should be able to win by multiple scores against a team they had no problem with earlier this season and I would like bet them if the line remained at seven, but if one of them is out, that becomes a lot harder, especially with the Patriots in a tough spot with a trip to Los Angeles to face the Chargers up next on the schedule. Favorites of 7+ cover at just a 42.7% rate all-time before facing a team with a winning percentage that is over 50% higher than their current opponent’s winning percentage, which is the case here with the Chargers being 4-2. If both Mason and Wynn out, I would still take the Patriots, but I would drop all confidence. I’m leaving this as low confidence for now, but there may be an injury update tomorrow.

Update: The Patriots will have both Isaiah Wynn and more importantly Shaq Mason active and the line remains at seven, so I am putting a bet on the Patriots this week. I don’t expect this one to be close.

New England Patriots 27 New York Jets 17

Pick against the spread: New England -7

Confidence: Medium

Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins: 2021 Week 7 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (2-3) at Miami Dolphins (1-5)

This is one of the toughest games of the week from a spread standpoint, with the Falcons favored by 2 points. Not only does my calculated line of Atlanta -1 not give us any real line value with either side, but the Dolphins have three key players that are legitimately questionable, with wide receiver Devante Parker and their two best cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Byron Jones all seemingly gametime calls, after being significantly limited in practice this week.

The Dolphins have one of the worst rosters in the league, have the 2nd worst point differential in the league (-78), and could easily be 0-6 if not for the Patriots losing a pair of fumbles in a 1-point Miami victory, so the absence of up to three above average or better starters would be significant. If all three are active, I will probably be on the Dolphins, but I am taking the Falcons for now and depending on the status of all three of the aforementioned players, it’s possible I could like the Falcons more than a little bit.

Update: Parker is out, but Howard and Jones will both play. I will leave this as a no confidence pick in favor of the Falcons.

Atlanta Falcons 23 Miami Dolphins 20

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -2

Confidence: None

Detroit Lions at Los Angeles Rams: 2021 Week 7 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (0-6) at Los Angeles Rams (5-1)

The Lions are 0-6, but they aren’t usually getting blown out and, in fact, their -63 point differential isn’t even the worst in the league, as the Dolphins (-78) and Texans (-80) are both worse. On average, their losses have come by an average of 10.5 points per game, but even that makes it seem like they’ve been blown out more than they have been, as four of their six losses have been kept within 10 points, while one of their two losses by more than 10 points came in a game in which the Lions led the Packers at halftime in Green Bay. Detroit’s defense has been horrendous, but defense is the less predictive side of the ball, while their offense ranks 12th in first down rate and 6th when schedule adjustments are taken into account.

The Lions’ only real blowout loss came last week against the Bengals, who beat them by 23 points in what was easily Detroit’s worst game of the season. Normally betting on teams coming off their worst game of the season tends to be a winning proposition as you can get good value. That is somewhat the case in this matchup, as the Lions are underdogs of 16 points, while my calculated line has this game at Los Angeles -12. 

That’s not a ton of line value though and there is one thing that gives me pause in putting any confidence in the Lions this week, which is Sean McVay’s familiarity with his former quarterback Jared Goff. McVay got the most out of Goff for years and knows the quarterback’s weaknesses and tendencies better than anyone in the league, possibly even Goff himself. I’m still taking the Lions for pick ‘em purposes purely on value, but I can’t have any confidence in them and their best path to covering will likely be through a backdoor cover after getting down by more than the spread total early, which is definitely something the Lions have proven capable of this season.

Los Angeles Rams 31 Detroit Lions 17

Pick against the spread: Detroit +16.5

Confidence: None

Washington Football Team at Green Bay Packers: 2021 Week 7 NFL Pick

Washington Football Team (2-4) at Green Bay Packers (5-1)

The Packers are 5-1, but they are not the same team as they were a year ago when they went 13-3, as they are missing three of their best players, left tackle David Bahktari, edge defender Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Jaire Alexander. On top of that, Aaron Rodgers doesn’t seem to be playing at quite the same level as a year ago, even if he is still obviously one of the top quarterbacks in the league. The Packers’ only win by more than 10 points came against a Lions team that is winless and the Lions actually led at halftime before the Packers came back and pulled away in the second half. In total, the Packers’ +8 point differential is just 13th in the league and is more in line with a 3-3 team than one that is 5-1 at this point. 

The Packers are also in a bad spot here as they have to turn around and play a much tougher game against the undefeated Cardinals next week on Thursday Night Football. Favorites cover at just a 41.5% rate all-time before Thursday Night Football, while favorites of 7+ cover at just a 42.7% rate all-time before facing a team with a winning percentage that is over 50% higher than their current opponent’s winning percentage, both of which should work against the Packers this week.

The Packers are very tough to play at home, where Aaron Rodgers has a well above average 10 point jump in QB rating in his career and is 46-22 ATS when playing in front of fans in games he starts and finishes. However, that’s more of a reason not to bet on Washington than it is a reason to pick the Packers, as even with extra homefield advantage it’s hard to get this line up to the 8 points the Packers are favored by, even before you take into account that the Packers are likely to be flat in a tough spot this week. Washington isn’t quite bettable, but only because I don’t want to bet money against Rodgers at home without a great reason to and Washington is still the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Green Bay Packers 24 Washington Football Team 17

Pick against the spread: Washington +8

Confidence: Low

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks: 2021 Week 7 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (3-2) at Seattle Seahawks (2-4)

The Saints have been the most inconsistent team in the league thus far this season, leading the league in DVOA variance, with their losses coming in overtime to a 1-win Giants team and in blowout fashion to a Panthers team that has only beaten the Texans and Jets aside from their victory over the Saints, while their wins have all been by double digits against the Green Bay, New England, and Washington, who have just two other double digit losses between them, which came against the Chiefs and Bills, two of the top teams in the league. 

Now coming out of their week 6 bye, I would expect the Saints to be more consistent in a good way, as they are getting a significant number of key players back this week, including left tackle Terron Armstead, center Erik McCoy, and kicker Will Lutz, who are all among the best players in the league at their positions. Linebacker Kwon Alexander and Marcus Davenport also could return from extended absences this week. This is traditionally a team that gets better as the season goes on anyway, going 72-48-3 ATS in week 6 or later over the past 10 seasons. On top of that, big road favorites tend to cover at a high rate out of a bye, with favorites of 3.5+ covering at a 64.2% rate with extended rest over the past 30 seasons. 

We aren’t getting much line value with the Saints this week, but my calculated line is New Orleans -6, with the Saints getting significantly healthier and the Seahawks continuing to be without quarterback Russell Wilson, which obviously handicaps them in a significant way. Between that and the great spot the Saints are in, there is enough here for New Orleans to be worth a small bet as 4.5 point road favorites.

New Orleans Saints 24 Seattle Seahawks 17

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -4.5

Confidence: Medium

Kansas City Chiefs at Tennessee Titans: 2021 Week 7 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) at Tennessee Titans (4-2)

The Chiefs lost at home to the Bills a couple weeks ago and then the Bills went to Tennessee the following week and lost as 6-point favorites. Now with the Chiefs going to Tennessee, they are only 4-point favorites and seen as a popular pick to be upset this week. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story, as the Bills brought their best effort to knock off the Chiefs and then subsequently were flat the following week against a Titans team that brought its best effort to knock off the newly anointed AFC favorite. 

Now it could be the Titans’ turn to be flat. It’s tough to bring your best effort for back-to-back tough games and teams cover at just 40.8% rate all-time after a win as home underdogs of 5 or more. The Titans are also dealing with some injury absences, most notably left tackle Taylor Lewan, who is out with a concussion. The Chiefs are, meanwhile, significantly better than their 3-3 record, as they have faced a tough schedule, have struggled mightily with turnovers (-8, second worst in the NFL), and have had significant defensive injuries that have heavily contributed to them ranking dead last in yards per play allowed. 

All three of their wins came against opponents who are 4-2 or better and the Chiefs lost the turnover battle by a combined 8 across those three losses, while only being outscored by 25 points total, in games in which key defensive players were missing. At the same time, the Chiefs haven’t been much healthier in their three wins, which have come by a combined 34 points, despite only an even turnover margin across those three games. Their only one score win has come against another tough team, the Cleveland Browns. 

Turnover margin is one of the least predictive stats and I would expect any team that has struggled with turnover as much as they have to be significantly better going forward, but that’s especially the case for the Chiefs, as having an elite quarterback is one of the few ways to consistently fare well in the turnover margin. Overall, the Chiefs were +23 in turnover margin in Patrick Mahomes’ first 3 seasons in the league prior to this season. Even this season, most of Mahomes’ interceptions have been off of drops or tipped balls, which are unlikely to continue recurring at this rate. 

The Chiefs defense should also be a lot healthier this week. So far this season, defensive linemen Frank Clark (3 games missed) and Chris Jones (2 games missed), cornerback Charvarius Ward (4 games missed), and safety Tyrann Mathieu (1 game missed) have yet to play in the same game all year and those are arguably their four most important defensive players. The Chiefs should have at least three of them back this week with Ward, the least important of the three, being the only one of the four to even be legitimately questionable this week. Most notably, they will get Chris Jones back from his absence this week and he’s one of the best defensive linemen in the league when healthy. 

Aside from turnovers, which I mentioned earlier as unlikely to continue, the Chiefs’ offense has been as effective as ever this season, leading the league with a 40.6% first down rate that is even more impressive when you factor in schedule adjustments (+10.71% first down rate above expected), so if their defense can even be a complementary unit, this team should be as tough to beat as ever going forward. Even at 3-3, they could easily be considered a Super Bowl favorite in the long-term.

Defense is a much less predictive side of the ball anyway, but I would expect them to be a lot better on that side of the ball going forward, while the offense should continue dominating, barring key injuries of their own. I was hoping for a better line after the Titans won last weekend, but even with the Chiefs as 4-point favorites, we are getting line value, as my calculated line has the Chiefs favored by a touchdown. This is still worth a small bet, as somehow the Chiefs have wound up underrated.

Update: After considering the Titans’ injuries more, I am upping this bet. The Titans will have Bud Dupree active despite barely practicing this week, but he’s struggled mightily this season, while safety Amani Hooker, who has played very well when on the field this year, is inactive after injuring himself in practice on Friday. The Titans were already down a pair of starting cornerbacks and their top linebacker from a defense that was already underwhelming entering the season, so it’s hard to see them having much success at all slowing down the Chiefs this week. This line remains at 4, while my calculated line is Kansas City -8.5, so we’re getting a lot of value with Kansas City.

Kansas City Chiefs 38 Tennessee Titans 30

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -4

Confidence: High

Carolina Panthers at New York Giants: 2021 Week 7 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (3-3) at New York Giants (1-5)

The Panthers started 3-0, but have fallen back to earth at 3-3. The schedule has gotten tougher, as their wins came against the Jets and Texans, two of the worst teams in the league, and the Saints, who were flat off of a huge week one win, while their recent losses have come to the Cowboys, Eagles, and Vikings. However, injuries have also been a big part of the problem and this team has legitimately seen it’s level of play fall off in recent weeks as a result of absences like feature back Christian McCaffrey, top cornerback Jaycee Horn, and top linebacker Shaq Thompson.

The Panthers schedule gets easier this week with a trip to New York to face the Giants, but the Giants aren’t as bad as the Jets or Texans, who were relatively competitive against the Panthers earlier this season. The Giants are just 1-5, but two of their losses have come by a combined four points, so they could easily have another win or two, while their blowout loss to the Cowboys was a tied game before quarterback Daniel Jones suffered a concussion that knocked him out for the game.

Overall, they rank 23rd in schedule adjusted first down rate, 22nd in schedule adjusted yards per play allowed, and 13th in special teams DVOA, not great, but also not in line with the worst teams in the league. The Giants are coming off their worst game of the season, losing 38-11 at home to the Rams, but betting a team coming off their worst game of the season tends to be a winning proposition as you can get good value, as we are in this game where the Giants are field goal home underdogs against an underwhelming opponent. The public is betting heavily on the Panthers as field goal road favorites because of recency bias, but my calculated line is at even. 

The Giants are also in a good spot as home underdogs immediately after being blown out as home underdogs, as teams cover at about a 59.3% rate in their second straight game as home underdogs after a loss by 14 points or more. Teams likely tend to be undervalued in that spot historically like the Giants are here and it seems to be easier for teams to compete with or better a superior team in their second of two home games than in the first. Between the line value and the good spot, the Giants are worth a play this week, as they have a good chance to pull the upset and we are getting a field goal cushion to work with if they don’t.

Update: The Giants surprisingly won’t have wide receiver Sterling Shepard, which hurts this offense, but I have already locked this pick in. The Giants aren’t a terrible bet even without Shepard, but I would have preferred if he played.

New York Giants 17 Carolina Panthers 16 Upset Pick +135

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +3

Confidence: Medium

Houston Texans at Arizona Cardinals: 2021 Week 7 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (1-5) at Arizona Cardinals (6-0)

The Texans won their week one game and were tied 10-10 with the Browns at halftime in week two, but that changed when quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who was playing at a high enough level to mask a lot of the flaws on this roster, got injured and was replaced by raw rookie Davis Mills. Since Mills’ insertion into the lineup, all of this team’s flaws have been magnified and they have been made worse by the loss of arguably their best player, left tackle Laremy Tunsil, for an extended period of time. 

Overall, the Texans have been outscored 137-41 since Mills took over the starting job and that’s even worse if you take out a 25-22 loss to the Patriots in a game in which the Patriots were missing most of their offensive line but still won the first down rate battle by 8.67%. Their other three full games with Mills have been losses by an average score of 27.7 points, including a 31-3 loss last week to an underwhelming Colts team that was missing its two best offensive linemen.

Now the Texans have to go to Arizona to face the NFL’s last undefeated team. The Cardinals may not be the best team in the league and have had a few things break their way to allow them to still be undefeated, but they’re definitely one of the top teams in the league. This line is high at 18, but I don’t think it’s high enough, as my calculated line has the Cardinals favored by 23. That doesn’t mean I am betting them though, as there are a lot of things that can go wrong with betting a huge favorite, hence why favorites of 17+ are just 15-24 ATS over the past thirty seasons. 

The Cardinals are also in a bad spot, as they have to turn around and play a much tougher game against the Packers next week, which will be made even tougher by the fact that it’s on a short week. Favorites cover at just a 41.5% rate all-time before Thursday Night Football, while favorites of 7+ cover at just a 42.7% rate all-time before facing a team with a winning percentage that is over 50% higher than their current opponent’s winning percentage, both of which should work against the Cardinals this week. 

Overall, this game is sandwiched between matchups against the Rams, 49ers, and Browns and matchups against the Packers and 49ers for the Cardinals. That makes it hard to see them bringing their best effort for this game against arguably the worst team in the league, but the talent gap between these two teams is so big that it might not even matter, so the Cardinals are still the pick for pick ‘em purposes, even as massive favorites.

Arizona Cardinals 31 Houston Texans 10

Pick against the spread: Arizona -18

Confidence: None

Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco 49ers: 2021 Week 7 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (2-4) at San Francisco 49ers (2-3)

The 49ers were a team I expected to make a big leap in win total this season, but that was largely dependent on them staying relatively healthy compared to last season’s disastrous injury situation, which hasn’t quite happened. Jimmy Garoppolo will return this week from a one-week absence, getting extra rest over last week’s bye week, but he returns to an offense without arguably it’s two most important players, tight end George Kittle and left tackle Trent Williams, who are both among the top players in the league at their respective positions, making them monumental absences for the 49ers. 

This 49ers’ offense also remains without starting running back Raheem Mostert, while Garoppolo could be at risk of an in-game setback, given his injury history, in which case the 49ers would have to turn to third string quarterback Nate Sudfeld with regular backup Trey Lance out and Sudfeld would be a significant dropoff under center if he had to see action. Meanwhile, their defense will be without rotational defensive tackles Maurice Hurst and Javon Kinlaw, starting linebacker Dre Greenlaw, and top cornerback Jason Verrett. 

The 49ers are still not as injury plagued as a year ago and their disappointing 6-10 record a year ago could have been a lot better had the 49ers not lost several close games in which the turnover margin almost definitely decided the game, but they are just a slightly above average team in my roster rankings right now. The Colts, meanwhile, have been as banged up as any team in the league thus far, but they haven’t been terrible all things considered, ranking 13th in schedule adjusted first down rate, 24th in schedule adjusted yards per play allowed, and 18th in special teams DVOA, and they’re getting healthier and have been playing better of late. 

The big injury development for the Colts in recent weeks has been Carson Wentz returning to form after early season foot issues and he’ll get the added benefit of having stud left guard Quenton Nelson return to the lineup this week after a 3-game absence. I have the 49ers as the slightly better team in my roster rankings right now and they are at home, but my calculated line is just San Francisco -3, so we’re getting some line value with the Colts at +4. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to bet, especially considering the Colts play in the eastern time zone and now have to travel west for a night game, a spot in which teams cover less than a third of the time historically. I am still taking the Colts, but only for pick ’em purposes.

Update: Looking at this game more, this line really isn’t that far off and the 49ers do have the big edge in a night game. I wouldn’t bet on the 49ers, but I’m changing this pick to them for pick ’em purposes.

San Francisco 49ers 26 Indianapolis Colts 20

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -4

Confidence: Low