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Week 7 NFL Picks Against the Spread

This week, we’re taking the points against the Cowboys and Dolphins as their starting QBs are expected to return from injury, and we like the Chiefs in a Super Bowl LIV rematch. Here are our picks against the spread for every Week 7 game.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

We’ve got some heavy hitters on bye, with the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams and Minnesota Vikings all getting the week off. Chiefs–49ers is probably the best matchup on the docket, and we get a key AFC South matchup between the Colts and Titans, while the Giants will try to improve to 6-1 in Jacksonville.

Lines are from FanDuel. Stats are from TruMedia/Pro Football Focus unless otherwise noted. On to the picks!

Week 6 record: 8-6

Season record: 51-41-2

New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals (-2.5)

My favorite sequence in the Cardinals’ loss to the Seahawks last week came in the fourth quarter. Kyler Murray threw behind tight end Zach Ertz on third down, setting up a fourth-and-2. Kliff Kingsbury was not ready with a play call (shocking, I know), so he called timeout. On the ensuing play, the Cardinals then had an O-line breakdown, and a wide receiver fell down running his route, resulting in a sack and a turnover on downs. It was yet another reminder that the Cardinals are the most disorganized team in the NFL, and the issues stem from roster construction to coaching to quarterback play.

The Saints, meanwhile, got lit up by Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase in a loss to the Bengals last week. Their defense was supposed to be a strength, but it currently ranks 15th in expected points added (EPA) per drive. This week, the Saints will once again be without cornerback Marshon Lattimore, and wide receivers Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry.

For the Cardinals, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins returns from suspension. He won’t fix all of Arizona’s problems, but Murray’s numbers have been so much better with Hopkins on the field; since they became teammates in 2020, Murray’s passer rating is nearly 15 points higher when Hopkins plays, while he averages nearly 1.5 more yards per attempt when Hopkins is on the field than when he’s not. So, I see this pick as a win-win. Either the Cardinals cover, or I get to make fun of them again next week.

The pick: Cardinals (-2.5)

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott
Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys (-7)

I did some digging to figure out just how bad this Lions defense has been, and the results are not pretty. In the past 10 years, this is the sixth-worst defensive performance (by EPA per drive) we’ve seen through the first six weeks of the season. On one hand, that’s terrible. On the other, maybe there’s nowhere to go but up?

It looks like Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott could return in this matchup (he was a full participant in practice on Wednesday), but it’s unclear what to expect from him—he’s coming off a significant thumb injury on his throwing hand, and didn’t exactly look crisp in Week 1 before the injury. There’s a scenario in which Prescott looks great, the defense dominates, the Cowboys win in a blowout, and they become a trendy pick as a Super Bowl sleeper in the NFC.

But the Lions offense has moved the ball well most weeks, and it’s possible that Prescott looks rusty. This number feels a little high to me.

The pick: Lions (+7)

Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans (-2.5)

The Colts offense finally looked good last week, as they piled up 434 yards and 29 first downs in a 34-27 win over the Jaguars. Every time the RedZone Channel flashed to that game, QB Matt Ryan was connecting with Michael Pittman Jr. in the middle of the field for a big completion. Ryan was 13-for-16 for 134 yards when targeting Pittman. Was this the game that got the Colts going, or was it just a random blip and they’re going to come back down to earth in Week 7?

After an 0-2 start, the Titans won three straight going into their bye last week. They’re a mediocre team, not a great team. When these two met in Week 4, the Titans stormed to a 24-3 lead before holding on for a 24-17 victory.

I need to see more than one good performance from the Colts before believing in them.

The pick: Titans (-2.5)

New York Giants at Jacksonville Jaguars (-3)

The following two things can both be true:

  1. The Giants are a well-coached team that is maximizing the talent on its roster.
  2. The Giants aren’t as good as their 5-1 record would have you believe.

As the tweet below suggests, the Giants have been one of the luckier teams in the NFL through six weeks:

They have a plus-14 point differential, and Football Outsiders numbers indicate that the Giants have operated more like a three-win team than a five-win team.

I’ve been getting burned by the Giants, and they’re 5-1 against the spread this season. But I like Jacksonville here.

The pick: Jaguars (-3)

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-6.5)

The Ravens blew a 20-10 fourth-quarter lead in their loss to the Giants last week. The final 15 minutes included:

  • A Lamar Jackson interception after a botched snap
  • A Jackson fumble on their last drive
  • The defense allowing the Giants to drive 75 yards for a touchdown

It was the third time this year that the Ravens have blown a lead of 10 points or more.

The Browns have lost three in a row. Their defense has been one of the NFL’s most disappointing units. Cleveland’s D ranks 31st in EPA per drive, ahead of only the Lions.

It’d be no surprise to see the Ravens blow the Browns out. Baltimore feels like a good team that is coming up small in high-leverage situations. But given how well the Browns run the ball (setting aside last week against the Patriots), I think this one could be tight.

The pick: Browns (+6.5)

Atlanta Falcons at Cincinnati Bengals (-6.5)

The Falcons got an outright win over the 49ers last week, but more importantly, their cover streak continued. Atlanta is now 6-0 against the spread. They run the ball well every week and are currently first in Football Outsiders’ rushing DVOA metric.

Ja’Marr Chase won the game for the Bengals last week with a 60-yard catch-and-run for the game-winning score with 1:57 left against the Saints. The truly great wide receivers solve problems in high-leverage situations, and that’s exactly what Chase did.

I love the Bengals’ quick-strike ability on offense, but given how well the Falcons have run the ball this year, this feels like a competitive game. I’m taking the points.

The pick: Falcons (+6.5)

Commanders QB Taylor Heinicke
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Green Bay Packers at Washington Commanders (+4.5)

With Carson Wentz sidelined for at least a month because of a finger injury, Taylor Heinicke is back in the lineup as the Commanders’ starting QB. That might not necessarily be a downgrade. Washington’s passing offense was 22nd in DVOA with Heinicke starting 15 games last year. It is 29th this season through six games with Wentz.

The Packers offensive line got pushed around last week in a loss to the Jets, and we could see the same thing happen here. Washington’s defense has produced sacks on 9.1 percent of opponents’ dropbacks—the fourth-best mark in the NFL. Green Bay’s defense, meanwhile, has underachieved.

Packers win, but Commanders make them sweat. This feels like a field-goal game.

The pick: Commanders (+4.5)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (+10.5)

The Panthers were competitive into the fourth quarter last week before losing 24-10 to the Rams. But at some point, this is going to turn into the “1-2-3, Cabo!” team. They’re 1-5 and have fired their coach, traded a starting wide receiver, and started two different quarterbacks. This has the feel of a baseball team that’s 20 games out of a playoff spot on August 1 but still has to play out the rest of the season.

As for the Bucs, the way I see it, most of their problems stem from leaks in pass protection. There are reps where the O-line gets smoked up front and other reps where it’s clear Tom Brady doesn’t trust his blockers. But if we isolate just the way Brady has been throwing the ball, he’s still making a lot of high-level plays.

I’m not giving up on the Bucs yet. Carolina has some talented players on defense, but it’s hard to see the Panthers offense moving the ball consistently here.

The pick: Bucs (-10.5)

Houston Texans at Las Vegas Raiders (-7)

The Raiders are not as bad as their 1-4 record suggests. Their four losses have come by a combined 14 points, and the Raiders are 0-4 in one-score games. Their offense, specifically, has performed better than most might suspect. The Raiders are fifth in EPA per drive.

The Texans have been mostly competitive, but the Raiders’ luck turns here, and they win comfortably.

The pick: Raiders (-7)

New York Jets at Denver Broncos (-1)

The Jets defensive line was fantastic in last week’s upset over the Packers, and rookie corner Sauce Gardner continues to look fantastic.

As for the Broncos, well, it’s not pretty.

This one will likely come down to which quarterback avoids the big mistake. It’s unclear whether Russell Wilson (hamstring injury) will play, and even if he does, he’s unlikely to be close to 100 percent.

The Broncos defense is excellent, but I don’t think the Jets will ask quarterback Zach Wilson to do a lot here.

The pick: Jets (+1)

Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Chargers (-6)

The Seahawks defense was one of the worst in the NFL through five weeks before showing signs of life in a Week 6 win over the Cardinals. Seattle held Arizona’s offense out of the end zone and got big contributions from rookie corners Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant. Offensively, the Seahawks rank fourth in EPA per drive.

Watching Chargers-Broncos on Monday night, I couldn’t shake one thought: The Chargers have done the impossible. They’ve found a way to make Justin Herbert boring. Statistically, the Chargers offense ranks ninth in EPA per drive. But everything just feels so hard for them on a weekly basis.

Of the Seahawks’ three losses, two have been one-possession games. This is a competitive team. I’ll take the points.

The pick: Seahawks (+6)

Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers (+2.5)

The 49ers defense was crushed by injuries last week. Per The Athletic’s Matt Barrows, seven defensive starters either didn’t start or didn’t finish the game against the Falcons. In an important story that flew under the radar, safety Talanoa Hufanga reportedly cleared two concussion tests on Sunday, but he developed symptoms on Monday and did not pass a third test.

It would be fun to see a healthy 49ers defense go up against this Chiefs offense, and while they seem to be getting healthier, they’re probably going to have to rely on backups in some key spots once again in this game. As for Kansas City, I have no concerns after the loss last week to the Bills. That was a coin-flip game. The Chiefs offense still ranks first league-wide in EPA per drive by a pretty significant margin. I’ll take Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes to bounce back here in a rematch of Super Bowl LIV.

The pick: Chiefs (-2.5)

Pittsburgh Steelers at Miami Dolphins (-7)

Last week was a Mike Tomlin classic. The Steelers were heavy home underdogs and were playing with a depleted roster against the Bucs, but used special teams, defense, and some timely third-down conversions to take down Tampa Bay, 20-18. It’s unclear whether Pittsburgh will have quarterback Kenny Pickett for this game as he goes through concussion protocol. If Pickett is not cleared, the Steelers will roll with Mitchell Trubisky, who threw for 144 yards and a touchdown after replacing Pickett in the third quarter last week.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, are expected to get quarterback Tua Tagovailoa back for the first time since he was carted off the field in Week 4 with a concussion.

There’s still a lot about this Steelers team that concerns me, but Tomlin as an underdog is always intriguing, and that Dolphins defense has not been good this year (24th in EPA per drive). Give me the points.

The pick: Steelers (+7)

Chicago Bears at New England Patriots (-7.5)

Bill Belichick gassed up the Bears quite a bit during his press conference this week, which can mean just one thing: He knows they stink.

Belichick and his staff did a great job of putting quarterback Bailey Zappe in a position to succeed during last week’s win over the Browns. Zappe was 7-for-8 for 165 yards on play-action passes. That’s the sixth-highest passing yardage total off of play-action for any quarterback in a single game this season.

The Bears offense continues to be a tough watch. There’s a scenario in which their defense holds up well and Justin Fields makes some second-reaction plays. But given the matchup between Chicago’s passing offense and a Patriots defense that’s playing well, I can’t put my faith in the Bears.

The pick: Patriots (-7.5)