In a league full of rules that are geared to enhance scoring, Drew Brees is taking full advantage. The New Orleans quarterback orchestrates the NFL’s No. 1 scoring offense, and he’s on pace to win MVP for the first time in his historic career.
The Baltimore defense is doing something equally impressive. The Ravens rank No. 1 in total defense (270.8 yards per game) and scoring (12.8 points per game). In a 21-0 win at Tennessee last week, the Ravens sacked Marcus Mariota 11 times and allowed only 106 total yards.
While the media hype goes to Kansas City and New England, do not sleep on Baltimore as a serious threat to win the AFC. The Ravens, who already have played all of their division road games, return home for four of their next five games. The Saints, 4-1 after the easiest stretch of their schedule, are about to get seriously tested by playing three of their next four on the road. The most intriguing game on this week’s card pits the top-scoring offense (36 points per game) against the top defense.
Brees, who needs one touchdown pass to reach 500 for his career, has 11 TD passes and is the NFL’s only starting quarterback with zero interceptions this season. But the Saints have piled up points against much weaker defenses than the one they will face on a windy Sunday in Baltimore.
Most signs point to Brees getting cooled off. As always, the riddle when betting on the Ravens is quarterback Joe Flacco’s inconsistency, but Flacco is facing a New Orleans defense that ranks 30th against the pass and allows 28 points per game.
Baltimore’s wild card is Justin Tucker, the league’s most lethal kicker. In this case, the edge goes to John Harbaugh’s defense on his home field, and a field goal could be the difference, so go with the Ravens as 2½-point favorites.
Four more plays for Week 7 (home team in CAPS):
* Bills (plus-7) over COLTS:
Andrew Luck has exceeded expectations in his comeback, passing for 16 touchdowns in six games, yet he also has tossed too many interceptions (eight) for a 1-5 team. Indianapolis has been hampered by key injuries on both sides of the ball. One positive for Luck is his favorite wideout, T.Y. Hilton, is expected to return. Buffalo ranks No. 3 in total defense (311.7 yards per game) against a tough schedule, and veteran Derek Anderson could give the Bills the best quarterback play they have had all season.
* Cowboys (-1) over REDSKINS: The favorite has flipped in this game after Dallas opened as a 2-point underdog. The Cowboys have won five in a row on the road in this rivalry, although they have been at their worst on the road this season while going 0-3 and averaging 12.3 points in losses at Carolina, Seattle and Houston. The Dallas defense is legit, and now linebacker Sean Lee is returning to complement the emergence of Leighton Vander Esch, a first-round pick from Boise State. The road trend in this NFC East series is undeniable. It will be on Dak Prescott to prove his performance against Jacksonville last week — 183 yards passing, 82 yards rushing and three total touchdowns — was not a fluke.
* CHIEFS (-6) over Bengals: Patrick Mahomes rallied Kansas City from a 24-9 deficit with four second-half touchdown passes, three to Tyreek Hill, in a shootout loss at New England. The Chiefs (6-0 ATS) rolled up 446 total yards, yet their defense yielded 500 yards, 31 first downs and 43 points to the Patriots, who ran 22 more offensive plays. Any offense capable of gaining 8.4 yards per play against a Bill Belichick defense is something special. Andy Dalton and the Bengals are nothing extraordinary, but they are not bad, either. Cincinnati is 4-2 straight up and ATS versus a respectable schedule. Dalton has 14 touchdown passes and seven interceptions, and the Bengals rank sixth in scoring offense at 29 points per game. Mahomes has 18 TD passes for a Kansas City offense scoring 35.8 per game. The sharp money figures to side with the ‘dog, but fading the Chiefs has been a foolish strategy, and the atmosphere will be electric on Sunday night in KC.
* Giants (plus-4) over FALCONS: Whether it’s Eli Manning’s last stand or not, the Giants have multiple problems aside from their quarterback. Manning is aging badly and fading fast, but a New York offensive line that was supposed to be improved remains a wreck. Manning has competed 68.7 percent of his passes, but he’s making mostly quick, short throws with little time to get the ball out, and he has been sacked 20 times. An immobile quarterback behind a bad line is a wounded turtle trying to cross a highway. The Giants need rookie running back Saquon Barkley and diva wideout Odell Beckham Jr. to find ways to make big plays. An Atlanta defense decimated by injuries has allowed 29, 41, 37 and 43 points in the past four games. Manning does not resemble a live ‘dog, but expect the Giants, who are 2-4 ATS with a win at Houston and a cover at Carolina, to move the ball against a soft defense.
Last week: 2-3 against the spread