Last week’s picks (8-6) were good, but nothing special, which is apt for the 2017 season, where no teams look special. With Aaron Rodgers joining the list of out-for-the-season stars, and most other “good teams” looking vulnerable, the NFL has once again achieved parity, the worst thing for bettors. How do we sift through such mediocrity? Slowly.
Week 7 ATS Picks
Thursday, October 19
Kansas City Chiefs (-2.5) at Oakland Raiders
Since the start of last season, the Chiefs are 0-3 against the Steelers and 17-3 against the rest of the NFL: Kansas City just doesn’t matchup well with Pittsburgh. But with the pressure of staying unbeaten removed from this team, they can get back to what they do best: beating the Raiders. Winners of five-straight over their AFC West rivals, the Chiefs can provide the final push to an Oakland team that is teetering on the brink.
Pick: Chiefs (-2.5)
Sunday, October 22
Baltimore Ravens at Minnesota Vikings (-5)
If it wasn’t for the kick-return game, the Ravens would’ve gotten stomped at home by a struggling Bears team. Baltimore’s offense has been a disgrace this season, and while Joe Flacco finished the game without Jeremy Maclin or Breshad Perriman, he still has to do a better job at reading defenses and moving the ball. Against Chicago, he was obsessed with exploiting a mismatch on the right side of the field that just wasn’t there. Minnesota doesn’t have any weaknesses on defense, perceived or otherwise. As long as Case Keenum can keep this offense chugging along — a proposition that’s a lot more reasonable than you would have thought after his Week 2 performance against Pittsburgh — the Vikes should be able to cover against a Ravens team that will struggle to hit double-digit points.
Pick: Vikings (-5)
Carolina Panthers (-3.5) at Chicago Bears
In his first home game since a dreadful performance against the Saints, Cam Newton picked up right where he left off, throwing three interceptions to the Eagles while completing just over 53-percent of his passes to boys in blue. Newton can’t take all the blame though, as all non-Newton Panthers combined to rush for just nine yards. The offense needs to rebound on the road again, because defensive leader Luke Kuechly suffered another concussion and was held out of Tuesday’s practice; the Panthers D is not the same without its middle linebacker. Under Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears offense has put an even larger premium on running the ball and, when they aren’t doing that, they’re running fun gadget plays that should expose an inexperienced player in the middle like David Mayo.
Pick: Bears (+3.5)
New Orleans Saints (-5.5) at Green Bay Packers
As I’m formatting each weekly picks column on Saturday, I try to guess next week’s lines to save time. I had the Packers as six-point favorites against the Saints before last week. That’s the kind of difference Aaron Rodgers makes. Green Bay has gone from Super Bowl hopefuls to completely hopeless in the time it takes to snap a collarbone. Making matters worse, the Saints defense looks positively lethal, generating nine takeaways and 11 sacks in their last three outings. Good luck, Brett Hundley! Keep Colin Kaepernick’s seat warm.
Pick: Saints (-5.5)
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-3)
As a Bears fan, I’ve always had a complicated relationship with Jay Cutler, but now he continues to torment me from beyond the blue and orange. I’ve gone a seemingly unsustainable 0-5 this season predicting Dolphins games. It looked like I finally had the pulse of this team when they fell behind 17-0 to Atlanta, but the Phins showed some real fight and pulled out a gutty win to leave them as the year’s most surprising 3-2 squad (Jets included). Miami is averaging the fewest points per game this season, and has yet to win the takeaway battle in any outing this year. But somehow they’re in the hunt. I liked the Jets in this spot, but I think I have to go against my initial gut here in hopes of reversing this trend.
Pick: Dolphins (-3)
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-3.5)
All the AARP Cardinals had to do was exchange one 32-year-old running back for a similar model with a higher resale value, and voila: a competent offense once again! A win this week would pull Arizona even with the Rams at the top of the NFC West, a position that seemed like a pipedream when David Johnson first went down. Considering the Rams poor record at home since moving (2-9 straight up), the Cards should follow their first cover of the season with another.
Pick: Cardinals (+3.5)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Buffalo Bills (-3)
I kind of hope former Bill and current Tampa backup Ryan Fitzpatrick starts this game for the Buccaneers, partly because the “revenge game” storyline is always fun, but also because he’s a known entity. Tampa has a wide range of possibilities when Jameis Winston is under center. When he’s not, they’re a below-average team without much of a run game.
Pick: Bills (-3)
Tennessee Titans (-6.5) at Cleveland Browns
The Browns are somehow not living up to rock-bottom expectations. They’ve already bungled DeShone Kizer’s development, and now there are calls for a complete housecleaning midway through year two of Sashi Brown’s rebuild. Bailing on this plan so soon would be the only thing more Browns than going 2-14 this year. With Marcus Mariota back under center, the Titans offense took off in Week 6. While he’s still not a threat to take off, himself, due to a bad hamstring, Tennessee has enough power in the run game to dispatch of this tragic Cleveland team. Yes, the Tennessee defense can be exploited through the air, but Stanford product Kevin Hogan is, evidently, too progressive to exploit anyone or anything. I guess that’s what four years in Palo Alto will do to you. (Hippie.)
Pick: Titans (-6.5)
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3) at Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis could’ve put the Titans away in Week 6 and stayed in the hunt in the AFC South, but a failure to produce in the red zone was their downfall. Even if Andrew Luck returns this week, the Colts need to get more from the run game, after gaining just 85 yards on the ground against Tennessee and getting stopped on a key fourth-and-one. Giving Marlon Mack more than two carries would be a good start. Run defense remains the biggest non-Bortles weakness of the Jaguars, but Indy hasn’t shown any reason to think they can exploit that. The Jags are also 7-4 ATS on the road since 2016.
Pick: Jaguars (-3)
Dallas Cowboys (-6) at San Francisco 49ers
The Cowboys can’t feel rested coming out of their bye week. Between the reinstatement of Zeke’s six-game suspension and Jerry Jones’ threats of dismissal for any player who kneels, Dallas has the stink of an upset candidate. The Niners, on the other hand, really haven’t done anything to earn their status as a heavy underdog. While they’re still winless on the year, their last five losses have been by a combined 13 points, and two came in OT. The close calls continued in Week 6. After falling down 17-0 on the road, the Niners benched Brian Hoyer and then rallied to almost win another game under rookie C.J. Beathard. The switch at QB won’t breathe much life into San Fran, they were already full of spunk. Now they just need to finish a game. Against a Dallas team that can’t close, perhaps it happens this week?
Pick: 49ers (+6)
Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers (-1.5)
Get excited, people! We could have the chance to bet against Brock Osweiler this week! Trevor Siemian suffered a shoulder injury Sunday night, and although it didn’t force him from the game, it probably should have. He was not good. Now he’ll undergo tests on that shoulder, possibly setting us up for another chance to cash in on the Brock Lobster. As for Los Angeles, a lot has changed since these teams met in Week 1. Most importantly, the Chargers finally made a high-pressure field goal last week.
Pick: Chargers (-1.5)
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (-6)
The Steelers rediscovered their best formula for winning football games against the Chiefs: a heavy dose of Le’Veon Bell to control the clock and put their excellent defense in a position to close out opponents. It might not be the sexy high-scoring offense we expected at the start of the year, but if Pittsburgh sticks to that formula, they’ll win the AFC North. If they start throwing the ball too much, this feisty Bengals team will destroy them. Either way, I like Cincy to cover what should be a close divisional game.
Pick: Bengals (+6)
Seattle Seahawks (-6) at New York Giants
Week 6 was vintage Eli Manning. When everyone was counting out his sorry-a** team, he stumbled backwards into a giant upset by making a few big throws to relatively unknown receivers and letting his defense carry him to a win. Now, things can return to normal in New York, where Giants fans would still prefer to see their team bottom out and draft a new QB. Seattle can make this offense look like the dreadful outfit we know it to be.
Pick: Seahawks (-6)
Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots (-3.5)
It’s an interesting time for a Super Bowl LI rematch to take place. The Falcons will have to relive the franchise’s lowest moment during an already disappointing time (back-to-back home losses to AFC East teams). The Patriots continue to look vulnerable, beating the Jets thanks mostly to a questionable replay review. Atlanta’s offense has been bad, putting up just 17 points in two straight games, but the Patriots defense is still the best cure for scoring woes. Despite what the Falcons will say this week, they’ve had this game circled since Feb. 6. If Atlanta only gets one win the rest of this season, it will come here.
Pick: Falcons (+3.5)
Monday, October 23
Washington at Philadelphia Eagles (-4.5)
Carson Wentz has the Eagles looking unflappable on offense. Not even the absence of Lane Johnson or 126 yards in penalties could stop this team from clawing out another road win. Washington nearly blew a huge lead to the lowly Niners, but held on thanks to the playmaking ability of Kirk Cousins, who once again had little help from his ground game without Rob Kelley. It’s a shame the two best teams in the NFC East will be done playing each other after this week, and considering Washington already coughed up round one, they can ill afford to drop this game on the road. Expect a tight affair.
Pick: Washington (+4.5)