Week 7 NFL best bets: A play on every game

By VSiN Staff  (VSiN.com) 

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Week 7 of the very unique 2020 NFL season is here. 

With games scheduled for Sunday and one (for now) on Monday, there are plenty of betting opportunities. Our experts Drew Dinsick, Dave Tuley and Matt Youmans combine to give their opinions on every game.

Cleveland Browns (-3.5, 50.5) at Cincinnati Bengals

Tuley: I heard a lot of people throwing the Browns on the trash heap after their 38-7 loss to the Steelers, but I remember hearing the same thing after their 38-6 loss to the Ravens in Week 1 -- and then they won four straight. The Browns are the No. 3 team in the AFC North, but still a playoff contender. Having said all that, I wouldn’t be laying more than a field goal here and, in fact, like the Bengals in this spot. The Bengals covered in the two teams’ Week 2 meeting with a 35-30 loss at Cleveland, and even though I’m trying to not put much stock into home-field advantage -- road teams are actually 51-39-2 ATS so far this season after the Giants covered on Thursday night -- I like the Bengals to be able to stay even closer (with a field goal, please) at home.

Pick: Bengals + 3.5

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Football Team (PK, 46)

Youmans: From the top down, Dallas looks like a dysfunctional organization, but that’s not exactly something new and the same has been true for Washington. In this matchup of NFC East misfits, the Football Team’s Ron Rivera gets the coaching edge against Mike McCarthy, who trotted out the kicker for a 58-yard field goal try while facing a 21-3 deficit to the Cardinals on Monday. The kick sailed wide right, and the McCarthy hire is headed in the same direction. The Cowboys’ embarrassing 38-10 loss to Arizona was not about the drop-off from injured quarterback Dak Prescott to new starter Andy Dalton; Dallas was undone by two Ezekiel Elliott fumbles and a variety of breakdowns by the NFL’s worst defense.

The once-dominant Dallas offensive line has been stripped down by injuries, and that could be a dilemma against Washington’s strong defensive front. Still, the Cowboys should be more motivated than usual and have a large edge when it comes to offensive playmakers: Elliott, if he stops coughing up the ball, and wideouts Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb. Dalton’s play was not the problem Monday. 

The Cowboys have won and covered five of the past six meetings with Washington, including 31-21 and 47-16 wins last year. For the Cowboys, this will be a circle-the-wagons effort or a wheels-fall-off wreck, and the risk in betting on a team that’s 0-6 ATS is obvious, so it’s a small bet. It’s simply a buy-low spot on Dallas, which was a 3-point favorite in this game before the Monday debacle.

Pick: Cowboys PK

Detroit Lions at Atlanta Falcons (-2.5, 55)

Dinsick: A nice contrarian spot is setting up in Atlanta where the market perception of these two teams as “over” teams will be challenged and the high total of 55 makes for a solid under look by my numbers. 

With competent quarterbacks and dangerous weapons in the passing game, both Detroit and Atlanta are viewed as high-flying offenses with poor defenses in the eyes of the betting public. In reality, through six weeks Detroit is 19th in Offensive DVOA at 0.4% and Atlanta is 22nd at -2.4%; this performance is confirmed when reviewing the game tape as both teams have been inconsistent throughout games and have utilized poor play sequencing and strategy.  Both teams currently rank in the 20s in terms of Defensive DVOA, but neither unit has performed as poorly as its reputation, with both sitting slightly below league average overall. 

My numbers make the Lions a live dog in this contest and their insistence to run the ball with the lead and shorten the game plays into this handicap as well. The total in this game would be 52 by my numbers so staying under 55 is a fair play and slightly higher expected value than backing the underdog.

Pick: Under 55

Tuley: The Lions look like the right side here, but this number is a little short for my comfort at + 2.5. However, they are more appealing when teasing the Lions up to 8.5 and including with other teasers where we get the key numbers of 3 and 7. (Note: In “Point Spread Weekly,” I recommended other potential teaser plays as Washington up to + 7.5, Saints down to -1.5, 49ers up to + 8.5, Chargers down to -2, Raiders up to + 8.5 and Titans up to + 1.5; but with Titans being bet to short favorites, the preferred teaser would be to take the Steelers up to + 7 or + 7.5 or higher if the line continues to move). 

Pick: Tease Lions up to + 8.5

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-7.5, 51)

Tuley: The Panthers’ three-game winning streak was snapped with their 23-16 loss to the Bears last Sunday, but I expect them -- especially the offense -- to fare better against a Saints team that has let lesser teams (Lions and Chargers) stick around, so getting more than a TD is too hard to resist. This looks like an example of New Orleans being credited too many points for home-field advantage. While the Saints looked their best in their Week 1 home win over the Buccaneers, they lost to the Packers 37-30 in Week 3 at home and then won but didn’t cover as 7-point home faves vs. the Chargers in Week 5 before their bye. I expect a similar result with the points coming in handy.

Pick: Panthers + 7.5

Dinsick: It is relatively easy to talk me into an underdog in division getting more than a touchdown. It becomes even easier when the dog in question has an above-average passing offense (Carolina is No. 13 in passing EPA, gaining 0.155 points per dropback) going up against a below-average passing defense (New Orleans is 27th in passing defense EPA, conceding 0.246 points per dropback).  

Teddy Bridgewater’s quality of play has exceeded expectations so far this season under the scheme developed by Matt Rhule and Joe Brady. D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson are thriving as downfield targets, which will help the Panthers keep pace with a Saints team that has had extra time to prepare for a Panthers defense that will be missing several starters due to injury. It is unlikely that the Panthers have enough firepower for an outright win, but they have a high likelihood of staying within a touchdown as a fair line would be Carolina 6 based on my numbers.

Pick: Panthers + 7.5

Buffalo Bills (-11.5, 46) at New York Jets

Tuley: The Bills were -10 on the advance line for this game last week. Despite Buffalo losing to the Chiefs on Monday, it reopened around -11 and was bet up to -13 early Tuesday. It has since come back down to -11.5. I’m usually a sucker for double-digit home underdogs, but this could be the expectation. However, even if I do eventually give in, I’m certainly not going on record now at 13, as this line is my go to two full TDs. 

Best Bet: Pass

Green Bay Packers (-3.5, 57) at Houston Texans

Youmans: As I said last week, the bye week arrived at a bad time for Green Bay, which was 4-0 SU/ATS. Hot teams with time off usually get cooled off. The Packers came out of the bye looking like a totally different team. Aaron Rodgers threw the third pick-six of his career, and the first team in NFL history to score 150-plus points without a turnover in the first four games turned in a hot mess in the fifth game, a 38-10 loss at Tampa Bay. Back-to-back road trips are far from ideal. Green Bay’s injury report is a concern, too, with left tackle David Bakhtiari likely to miss the game. Most bettors will view this as a bounce-back spot for Rodgers and the Packers, and that could be the case.

It was obvious the Houston defense was worn out late in an overtime loss at Tennessee. But since dumping coach Bill O’Brien, who seemed to be despised by some of his players, the Texans have displayed a new and improved look for interim coach Romeo Crennel. Houston has faced the toughest schedule in the league to this point, so a high level of competition is nothing new for a battle-tested crew. It’s tempting to take the points with Deshaun Watson in what should be a back-and-forth shootout. The only certainty I see in this matchup is Rodgers putting a lot of points on the board against a tired Texans defense.

Pick: Over 57

Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans (-1, 50.5)

Dinsick: The highest-profile matchup of the week features the two remaining undefeated teams in the AFC fighting for pole position to obtain the No. 1 seed and the coveted sole bye in the playoffs this season. While much of the focus on the handicap of this game is being spent on the side, this game is squarely a pick ‘em by my numbers and no edge can be found. 

The total, on the other hand, is relatively low considering the caliber of the offenses taking the field on Sunday. The Titans are currently first in the NFL in offensive EPA, generating an impressive 0.23 points per play through with their balanced attack. The Steelers, similarly, have a top-10 offense in EPA per play but have yet to be truly tested and it is fair to speculate that this team has another gear if needed in a contest of this magnitude. Pittsburgh’s defense has graded well this season having faced a relatively easy schedule of opposing quarterbacks, but Devin Bush’s injury will likely impact how they match-up against emerging tight end Jonnu Smith and all-pro running back Derrick Henry. 

This game has all the markings of an old-fashioned shootout where the team with the ball last wins and fair total in this game state is 55 by my numbers, so over is in play. 

Pick: Over 50.5

Seattle Seahawks (-3.5, 56) at Arizona Cardinals

Dinsick: The Seahawks head to the desert coming off their bye week and looking to remain undefeated against a division rival Cardinals team playing its first home game since Week 3. In reviewing the performance in Arizona’s win over the Cowboys in Week 6, it is fair to adjust their passing defense up, now at full strength, while also adjusting the offense down. The Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury passing offense has not lived up to expectations this season (23rd in EPA per dropback, excluding garbage time) which presents a problem as they face a Seattle defense that is returning several key players in the secondary. Most of the success for Murray this season has come on the ground, which matches up poorly against a Seattle team that is strong against the run, conceding an EPA of -0.153 point per rush.

If the Cardinals are able to repeat the outstanding coverage they showed against the excellent Dallas wide receivers, this sets up for a perfect under spot given the inflated total of 56. Depending on where you got the number, the Cardinals are 1-5 or 0-6 to the under this season, falling five points short of the total on average. This may be the last time we see a total in the 50s for a Cardinals game.  

Pick: Under 56

Youmans: Murray lofted a perfect pass that Christian Kirk caught in stride on the way to an 80-yard touchdown Monday in Dallas; take out that play, and Murray went 8-for-23 for 108 yards the rest of the night. Murray’s accuracy in Arizona’s aerial attack has a lot of room for improvement, but the Seahawks are nearly as weak as the Cowboys in terms of pass defense. The Cardinals are fortunate to have a dependable running back in Kenyan Drake, who carried 20 times for 164 yards and two touchdowns Monday, and the league’s No. 2 scoring defense (18.7 PPG).

Russell Wilson will tell us if Arizona’s impressive defensive numbers are legit. I hate to bet against Wilson, but the Seahawks are in a similar situation the Packers faced last week -- a hot team hitting the road after a bye -- and it paid off to bet against Aaron Rodgers. Seattle made narrow escapes in home victories over the Cowboys, Patriots and Vikings, and the Cardinals are currently better than those three teams.

Pick: Cardinals + 3.5

Tuley: Don’t call me a bandwagon jumper on the Cardinals as I have bets on them to win the NFC West and NFC from back in April when I gave them out here and on VSiN. This is obviously a key game for them to make a serious run at the division, but they have a great shot at the minor upset. The Seahawks are undefeated at 5-0 but they have a knack of being involved in close games (which helps with us getting more than a field goal).

Pick: Cardinals + 3.5

San Francisco 49ers at New England Patriots (-2, 43.5)

Youmans: Public perception can be a valuable handicapping tool. A week ago, the betting public wanted nothing to do with the 49ers, who were off an ugly home loss to Miami. This week, the betting public seems ready to write off the Patriots, who are off an ugly home loss to Denver. I was buying low on San Francisco last week in this column, and this week I’m doing the same with New England. Seldom do we see Bill Belichick off a loss at such a cheap price.

Before his COVID-19 break, Patriots quarterback Cam Newton was playing at a relatively high level. Newton’s performance was weak against the Broncos, but that was partly because of a patchwork offensive line that allowed pressure and made Newton show nervous feet in the pocket. The line is expected to be mostly intact this week with Isaiah Wynn at left tackle, Joe Thuney at left guard, David Andrews at center and Shaq Mason at right guard. Belichick is known for taking away the top weapon on opposing offenses, and for the 49ers that’s tight end George Kittle. It could be an unhappy homecoming for QB Jimmy Garoppolo if Belichick’s defense is successful in reducing Kittle’s influence. If I bet on a team like the Jets and lose, I feel like an idiot; if I bet on Belichick and lose, I can live with that.

Pick: Patriots -2

Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5, 45.5) at Denver Broncos

Tuley: The Broncos certainly stepped up for us by beating the Patriots outright last Sunday, but I’ve been equally impressed with how the defense has kept them in games vs. the Titans (which looks better with each passing week) and Steelers (ditto) as the 2-3 Broncos are 4-1 ATS on the season. This line is on the rise after everyone watched the Chiefs pull away to cover against the Bills on Monday afternoon/night, but I contend that the market overvaluing the Chiefs. Wait to see if we can get 10.

Pick: Broncos + 9.5 or better

Jacksonville Jaguars at Los Angeles Chargers (-8, 49)

Tuley: The last time we saw the Chargers, they were covering as seven-point road underdogs in a 30-27 loss at the Saints, and now they’re laying more points than that. I certainly don’t recommend betting chalk with teams in this situation, but I’m not willing to jump in on the Jaguars, who look like they’re getting worse each week. You know where we’re going with this ... 

Best Bet: Pass, except for teasing Chargers

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