Early in the season, you can cite plenty of reasons for bad football. Teams don’t really take the preseason seriously and there is one fewer week to prepare now that the regular season is 17 games. You end up with a lot of turnovers, bad offense and sloppy games.
Well, it’s almost Week 7 and we’re still seeing a lot of turnovers, bad offense and sloppy games. Not to mention some awful flag fests.
But the NFL is a titan in the sports betting world and any game is a good game because wagering exists. We’re still seeing a lot of low scores, though, as defenses are keeping everything in front of them and teams are getting bottled up with their spread formations in the red zone. We thought we’d see more scoring in Week 6, but that wasn’t the case in most games. Will it be the case in Week 7?
Here are some early lines to consider (odds are from DraftKings as of Sunday night):
Atlanta Falcons at Cincinnati Bengals (-6.5, 45)
The Bengals offensive line continues to be a work in progress (to put it nicely), but they draw a Falcons team in Week 7 that does not pressure the quarterback. Atlanta entered Week 6 last in Pressure% at 12.7%, last in QB Knockdown% at 1.4% and had one of the lowest blitz rates in the NFL. The way to hurt the Bengals offense is to get after Joe Burrow. The reigning AFC champs shouldn’t have to worry about that.
We’ve seen some signs of life from the Bengals recently, including their comeback win over the Saints with 300 passing yards from Burrow, who actually found Ja’Marr Chase seven times for 132 yards and two touchdowns. That connection is remarkably important for Cincinnati and this was a big step in the right direction.
The Falcons are one of the teams running the ball very effectively to generate offense. They also had a great scripted drive to start the game against the 49ers and scored their third first-quarter touchdown of the season. Coach Arthur Smith is making a lot of progress and some first-half success against Cincinnati would push the Bengals to be a little more aggressive in the passing game.
The Bengals have defended the run well but haven’t faced many teams that can run the ball effectively. The Falcons can, and that should lead to points.
Pick: Over 45
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-6, 45.5)
The Browns, who continue to be putrid on defense, are riding back-to-back Overs into this one. The game against the Falcons in Week 4 had the yardage and the chances to go Over as well. The Ravens defense has not been spectacular either, so we have another scenario with two good rushing teams against two bad defenses. Running teams are the ones having more success with all of the Cover-2, Cover-3 and zone being called by defensive coordinators, and these two teams should have offensive success this week.
Cleveland’s offense was bottled up by New England, but Bill Belichick sold out against the run and outfoxed Kevin Stefanski again, much like he did in last year’s blowout win against the Browns. In Stefanski’s first two seasons in Cleveland, Browns-Ravens games have totaled 44, 89, 26 and 46 points, but last year’s first game had six turnovers and the second game didn’t have Lamar Jackson. The 44-point game in 2020 was Stefanski’s head-coaching debut and there was no preseason that year. The Ravens have averaged almost 31 points per game against the Browns since Stefanski took over.
Baltimore had 211 rushing yards against the Giants on Sunday and had seven yards per play yet found a way to lose. In Cleveland’s loss to the Patriots, the game state and the defensive scheme forced Jacoby Brissett into 45 pass attempts out of 67 total plays. That isn’t the blueprint for success, and I would assume that Cleveland runs a lot more against a Baltimore defense that entered the Giants game allowing six yards per play and five yards per carry.
Pick: Over 45.5
Houston Texans at Las Vegas Raiders (-7, 44)
The Texans and Raiders are both coming off of bye weeks, but my inclination is that Josh McDaniels and the Raiders will get a lot more out of theirs.
Pep Hamilton’s uninspired play-calling has led to only 17.2 points per game and just five yards per play for the Texans offense. They haven’t turned the ball over a lot but are one of the league’s worst third-down offenses and create very few explosive plays. In their win over the Jaguars, they were outgained by almost 180 yards. The Raiders have had a lot of problems defensively, but this Houston offense is very limited and looks unlikely to take advantage.
Meanwhile, the Raiders are fourth in points per drive. Their 1-4 record does not illustrate how well this offense has moved the ball (5.8 yards per play). Their defense has been the primary issue, but they’ve outgained each of their last three opponents (while going 1-2) and just haven’t been able to keep up in the touchdown department. Las Vegas is 9-for-19 in the red zone, while opponents are 14-for-17. It’s unlikely the Texans will have that much red-zone success.
The Raiders have been able to work on a lot of different things with the early bye. This is a “circle the wagons” game for their postseason hopes and I expect them to come through.
Pick: Raiders -7