Spread picks for every NFL Week 7 game
After another week of exciting games, we sit at 45-36-1 (55.6 percent) against the spread this season. This week, we have a number of road underdogs beating expectations—with even some winning their respective games. We have seven games with a “spread plus” value at least two points different than Vegas’ spread. We’ve been consistently good in picking such games this year, going 4-2 last week and 24-12 (66.7 percent) for the season.
For my pick of the Thursday Night Football game each week, as well as win probabilities for all games, follow me on Twitter (@EricEager82).
Giants (-3) at Rams
Prediction: Giants win by 3
Our second London game features two 0.500 teams and a matchup between one of the league’s best players (Aaron Donald) versus two of the league’s better guards (Justin Pugh and John Jerry). Donald has been an outlier again this season, producing a pass-rush productivity (14.0) mark two percentage points higher than any other defensive tackle. He’ll need to get quick push against Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr., and the Giants. Manning is currently the sixth-quickest quarterback in terms of time to throw (2.41 seconds), while Beckham leads all receivers in yards after the catch (241). Look for these two to exploit a Rams’ secondary missing Trumaine Johnson again this week.
Vikings (-3) at Eagles
Prediction: Vikings win by 3
The Vikings are not only undefeated, but they are also 5-0 against the spread. Fresh off a bye, they head to Philadelphia to face a team reeling from two close road losses coming out of their bye. Mike Zimmer’s defense has made far more accomplished quarterbacks look less than stellar over the past two seasons, and the lack of a competent replacement for the suspended Lane Johnson at right tackle figures to leave them vulnerable to a Vikings’ pass rush that leads the league in sacks per game, with 4.8.
Saints at Chiefs (-6.5)
Prediction: Chiefs win by 4
We should have known better than to fade the Chiefs last week coming off a bye against a Raiders, team that they’ve owned for years. This week has far less precedence historically, with the two teams meeting just once every four years. The Saints’ offense was tremendous last week at home against the Panthers, with quarterback Drew Brees playing up to his third-overall passing grade by throwing for 465 yards and four touchdowns. Dee Ford and the Chiefs’ defense stepped up their pass-rush last week for the first time all season, generating two sacks and 11 hurries in 40 passing snaps against Oakland. They’ll have to repeat this feat to cover the spread this week.
Washington at Detroit (-1.5)
Prediction: Washington win by 2
Both of these teams started a bit slowly this season, only to come on in recent weeks. The tale has been different offensively, however, with Matthew Stafford (86.5 overall grade ranking fifth among quarterbacks) playing at an exceptional level, while Washington has largely won despite the play of Kirk Cousins (67.1, 26th). If tight end Jordan Reed can return from his sixth-career concussion, he should be able to exploit the middle of the Lions’ defense, where linebacker Tahir Whitehead has allowed the fifth-most yards per coverage snap (1.90) among inside linebackers, and DeAndre Levy has been slowed all season by injury.
Browns at Bengals (-10)
Prediction: Bengals win by 8
The Bengals head home as double-digit favorites against a winless Browns team, despite having won just two games this season themselves. One of the biggest reasons for the Bengals’ slow start has been the decline of their defense, which has six starters with overall grades below 50.0, including all of their starting linebackers. Duke Johnson remains one of the better receiving backs in the league, producing 1.59 yards per route run, despite playing with a third-round rookie at quarterback, and should be able to exploit this weakness. Look for another relatively strong performance for Cleveland this week on the road.
Bills (-3) at Dolphins
Prediction: Bills win by 2
The Bills head to Miami on a four-game winning streak to take on a Dolphins’ team that stopped the bleeding last week at home against the Steelers. The success that Jay Ajayi and the Miami running game had against Pittsburgh will be difficult to duplicate against Buffalo, which boasts a front-seven with five players that have earned overall grades above 80.0 so far. Zach Brown has been the highest-graded linebacker in run defense so far this season, and the second-highest linebacker overall. His 34 defensive stops are the highest among inside linebackers by a mile. The Dolphins will need steady play from quarterback Ryan Tannehill to cover this one at home.
Raiders at Jaguars (-1)
Prediction: Raiders win by 2
Coming off a disappointing home loss against the Chiefs last week, the Raiders head to Jacksonville to take on a Jaguars team on a two-game winning streak. An underrated aspect of the Jaguars’ mini-resurgence has been the play of their offensive line, with injury replacement Patrick Omameh generating the fourth-best grade among guards during his first two starts in place of Luke Joeckel. The entire Jaguars’ starting offensive line owns overall grades above 73.4, while the Raiders have just one interior defender with an overall grade above 55.0. If the Jaguars’ running game can finally live up to their preseason hype, they should be able to produce at a level like Kansas City last week. Whether they’ll be able to keep up with the Raiders’ offense looking to rebound from a poor week will be another story. Look for the Raiders to outrun the Jags in Jacksonville.
Colts at Titans (-3)
Prediction: Titans win by 3
The Titans are one of the more surprising teams in the league so far, generating a top-10 PFF grade in overall offense, passing blocking, run blocking (where they’re first), run defense, and pass-rushing. The Colts have the fourth-worst cumulative team grade in the league so far, due in large part to a starting front-seven void of any player with an overall grade above 45.0. After giving up Lamar Miller’s best game of the season, look for the Colts to surrender big chunks of yards to the Titans’ smash-mouth attack. If the Titans can improve their play on the back end of their defense, they should be able to get above 0.500 this week and into contention for the AFC South.
Ravens at Jets (-2)
Prediction: Ravens win by 5
Geno Smith makes his first start of the season for the Jets, who face a Ravens team fresh off their third-consecutive close loss. His first task is not the most difficult—Baltimore’s four primary cornerbacks have just the 38th, 45th, 58th, and 69th-best coverage grades over their three-game losing streak. Smith’s top target, Brandon Marshall, is sure to welcome the change, as Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to generate only a 49.2 passer rating on throws to his direction during the first six weeks (last among qualifying wide receivers). A return to replacement-level production from the quarterback position would work wonders for the Jets, but I need at least some convincing before I back New York with any confidence.
Chargers at Falcons (-6.5)
Prediction: Falcons win by 6
Even in a loss last week, the Falcons showed they were a force to be reckoned with. The Chargers are coming off an impressive showing themselves, beating the defending Super Bowl champions on a short week. While cornerback Casey Hayward has been one of the best free-agent signings so far this season, it will be difficult for the Chargers’ banged up secondary to stop a motivated Julio Jones, who’s leading the league in yards per route run by more than a quarter of a yard. One thing that appears to be between the Falcons and another big day offensively is the Chargers’ front-seven—led by rookie edge defender Joey Bosa (86.1 overall grade this season), Melvin Ingram (82.4), and Bradnon Mebane (81.9)—which has helped San Diego stay close in all of its games this season. Look for the Chargers to keep this one close, as well.
Buccaneers (-1) at 49ers
Prediction: 49ers win by 1
The Bucs are rare road favorites, traveling west after their bye week to play a 49ers team that was dragged up and down the field by Buffalo’s rushing attack last week. If Doug Martin, our highest-graded running back a year ago, was healthy, Tampa Bay may have been able to achieve a similar feat this week. He suffered a setback Wednesday, however, and remains out, leaving Jameis Winston responsible for generating points for the Bucs. With his second-best target (Vincent Jackson) done for the year with an ACL injury, look for the 49ers’ impressive rookie cornerback, Rashard Robinson (if he is able to play), to focus on Mike Evans in this one. Robinson, at 6-foot-1, has added superb length and coverage talent to the 49ers’ defense this fall, surrendering just 0.47 yards per coverage snap, which is best in the league among corners.
Patriots (-7) at Steelers
Prediction: Patriots win by 18
The Patriots have steamrolled during their first two games with Tom Brady back, and now face a Pittsburgh team without Ben Roethlisberger. With Roethlisberger out, the Steelers will no doubt lean on Le’Veon Bell, who’s averaging a whopping 4.2 yards per carry after contact this season (the general average yards per carry in the league is only 4.1). Running has been difficult on the Patriots, who have the second-highest cumulative defensive run grade so far this season. If Bell can be contained at all, the Patriots’ offense, featuring the second- and third-highest-graded tight ends in the league, should be able to open this game up on the road.
Seahawks at Cardinals (-2)
Prediction: Cardinals win by 3
The first showdown of the season between the top two teams in the NFC West places a hot Seattle team playing on the road against a Cardinals team that may have saved its season the last two weeks—concluding last week with an absolutely dominant performance against the Jets on Monday Night Football. Despite the score Monday night, Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer remained off the track he established last year, finishing the week as the least-accurate quarterback in the NFL. His signature deep passes have been accurate only 33 percent of the time. His aerial attempts won’t become any easier against Seattle’s defense, where Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril remains in the top 12 among 4-3 defensive ends in pass-rush productivity, and Richard Sherman has given up a passer rating of just 67.5 into his coverage. Look for a close one this week in Glendale.
Texans at Broncos (-9)
Prediction: Broncos win by 5
Brock Osweiler returns to Denver with the same record as the team that let him leave via free agency. That said, when the Texans have had to play a defense of the caliber of Denver’s, they’ve scored just a combined 13 points. While the Broncos have struggled (for their standards) recently on defense, the fundamentals remain strong, with Von Miller and Shaq Barrett both in the top 10 in pass-rushing productivity for 3-4 outside linebackers. On top of that, Brandon Marshall in the top 10 among inside linebackers in yards per coverage snap allowed, and Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib among the three highest-graded cornerbacks. The Texans’ defense, very good in its own right, should keep the Houston close in this one against Denver’s own inexperienced quarterback.