After the Dodgers took a touchdown lead in the NLCS Game 5, my eyes fixed on the Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders rollercoaster ride for which the win and cover came down to the last play. Not the first, second or third last play, but the decisive fourth last play following a reversal of what appeared to be a 29-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr to tight end Jared Cook.
After review, referees put the ball back on the one-half yard line with eight seconds to go. Then after an offensive pass interference, and then a defensive pass interference, the Raiders got another shot on an untimed down from the 10-yard line. Another defensive holding created another untimed down from the 2-yard line when Carr whipped the ball to to Michael Crabtree in the front corner of the end zone to knot the game at 30. Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio then provided the winning extra point on a (penalty-free!) play. Quite a win and cover for the Raiders (+3) to save their season. And it’s another victory for the underdogs following an 11-3 against-the-spread record for the pups in Week 6. Let’s get to rest of the games, which may not all finish in such exciting fashion.
NFL Week 7 Picks, Projections, Patriots-Falcons Super Bowl Rematch and Packers Post-Rodgers
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3) at Indianapolis Colts: Last we saw the Colts, they surrendered a fourth quarter lead at the Titans on Monday night, allowing three touchdowns in the frame. Jacksonville doesn’t have that kind of firepower (well, ask the Ravens) but they do have a dominant secondary. The Jags defense is susceptible against the run, but rushing is not the Colts’ forte. It will be up to Frank Gore and rookie Marlon Mack to find some room behind a wobbly offensive line. Jacksonville’s offense also flows on the ground and Leonard Fournette, who’s dealing with an ankle problem and has been limited in practice this week. Not good. Forced to choose in a pool, I’d take those points. Score Projection: Jaguars 21, Colts 20
Tennessee Titans (-6) at Cleveland Browns: The Browns neverending game of QB hot pigskin puts the ball back into rookie DeShone Kizer’s hands after Kevin Hogan spelled him for Week 6. It’s not even worth analyzing Browns games anymore. They simply do not cover the spread. They’re 1-5 ATS this year after a 4-12 record in ‘16. The Browns do possess a strong run defense that matches a Titans strength… screw it, why bother? Score Projection: Titans 28, Browns 20.
New Orleans Saints (-4) at Green Bay Packers: Maybe all Green Bay needs to recover from life without Aaron Rodgers is another Brett. That’s Brett Hundley, third-year man out of UCLA who will make his first career start against an improved but not great Saints defense that can be beaten on the ground. The line opened at Saints -5.5, representing about a 12-point adjustment for the loss of Rodgers (broken collarbone), which is a tremendous adjustment and too much; the line got hammered back down. With a week to game plan, the Packers will scheme to Hundley’s strengths (although with Mike McCarthy, we’ll see) with more rollouts and ground action with Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery. We know what the Saints can do on offense: bludgeon opponents. But the Packers rally together and around Hundley at home. Score Projection: Packers 24, Saints 23
Baltimore Ravens (+5.5) at Minnesota Vikings: The Ravens offense has devolved from bad to anemic. They’re averaging just 24 yards per possession, dead last in the league, per Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar. Joe Flacco’s strength is inaccuracy and throwing interceptions. The Vikings are unlikely to flash much offense in this game without field-stretching WR Stefon Diggs and Case Keenum under center against a formidable defense that will return run-stuffing center Brandon Williams (foot). In other words, don’t watch this football game for offense. The total is a mere 39 and likely to go under barring a defensive or special teams score. Score Projection: Vikings 17, Ravens 14
New York Jets (+3) at Miami Dolphins: Behind a resurgent running game, the Dolphins rallied from 17 down against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta last week as 11.5-point dogs. They controlled the clock but mustered only 289 yards on offense, so credit the defense for stunting Atlanta; the D sealed the game with a Matt Ryan pick in the final minute. Miami has yet to score or allow more than 20 points all season. Their fierce front seven is squashing opposing running games, meaning it will be up to Josh McCown, behind a vulnerable offensive line, to find Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The Dolphins jump again! Score Projection: Dolphins 20, Jets 13
[Hello friends! Check out SportsHandle’s live odds page here.]
Cincinnati Bengals (+5.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers: This game will be won in the trenches. Both teams have proven very tough against the pass: Steelers rank 4th in passing defense and the Bengals 3rd (Football Outsiders’ DVOA). Antonio Brown and A.J. Green will get theirs — rest easy fantasy football warriors — but it will be on Le’Veon Bell and Joe Mixon (or Gio Bernard and/or Jeremy Hill) to sustain drives and improve field position. The possible absences of Steelers run-stuffing defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt (back) as well as center Maurkice Pouncey improves the outlook for Cincy on both sides. With a fairly low total of 40.5 and opponents, I’m gobbling those points. Score Projection: Steelers 23, Bengals 21
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3.5) at Buffalo Bills: The Bucs are not exactly who we thought the were, at least not here. After getting smashed on the ground in Arizona as a road favorite, they fly north to Buffalo with either a limited Jameis Winston (sprained AC joint in shoulder) or Ryan Fitzpatrick. Against a stifling Bills pass defense (3rd in DVOA), the outlook is cloudy with a probability of multiple interceptions. Tampa Bay will need a push up front — same for Buffalo who will get a rested LeSean McCoy after their bye against a porous Bucs rush defense. The line is actually off the board with Tampa’s QB uncertainty, but it’s locked at 3.5 in the SuperContest. Score Projection: Bills 24, Bucs 14
Carolina Panthers (-3) at Chicago Bears: Carolina has had some bonus time to prepare for Chicago following a Thursday Night Football loss to Philly in Week 6. The Bears have actually been home underdogs in each of their previous three home games (ATL, PIT, MIN) and they’ve covered every time. Some more concerning news for Carolina: WR Kelvin Benjamin (knee) hasn’t practiced this week, center Ryan Kalil (their best lineman) has been limited (neck) and their top defender, LB Luke Kuechly (concussion) may be out. Their injury report reads like a scroll. The Bears will look to continue to ground-and-pound with Jordan Howard and some Tarik Cohen dink and dunkage, because their WR corps is on par with Appalachian State’s. All signs point another Bears home dog cover. Score Projection: Bears 24, Panthers 23
Arizona Cardinals (+3) “at” Los Angeles Rams (London): This line is out to 3.5 at some books as a higher volume of bets is showing on the Cards, indicating reverse-line movement and sharper money on the Rams. Have people fallen back in love with future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson after his 26 carry, 134-yard and two score rushing performance in his first game for Arizona? “I don’t know how much more force you can put into the ground and create as much explosion as he does,” left tackle D.J. Humphries said of AP. “That dude is something special.” Maybe it’s a real good fit. The Rams are coming off a solid 27-17 victory at Jacksonville and will have shots against Arizona’s pass defense, whose top cornerback Patrick Peterson is nursing a quad strain, while struggling DB Justin Bethel is taking a seat for Tramon Williams. This feels like a close one and an over game to me (total is 46.5): Score Projection: Rams 27, Cardinals 26
Dallas Cowboys (-6) at San Francisco 49ers: The Niners remain winless (0-6), although they have been covering spreads (4-2). They’ll get a very beatable Cowboys defense here (ranked 30th) as a home dog as third-round rookie QB C.J. Beathard will make his first start. At Washington last week he completed 19 of 26 pass attempts for 245 yards and a score. That’s a spark, alright. The Cowboys offense, namely Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott, are likely to feast on a weak Niners defense. That said, woof and a shootout (total is 47): Score Projection: Cowboys 31, 49ers 28
Seattle Seahawks (-5.5) at New York Giants: What a Giants move to score their first win in dominating fashion (1) with a completed reformed WR corps due to losses of Odell Beckham Jr. and almost everyone else (2) with an actual running game and a 100-yard rushing effort on the back of previous backup Orleans Darwka and (3) against a solid Broncos rush defense. The Seahawks have been very unpredictable this season and who knows what we get after their bye week. A rested Jimmy Graham, at least. I think we see a low scoring game as both teams have to overcome struggling offensive lines. In a game where the total is just 40 (or 39.5), I’m once again siding with the home dog. Score Projection: Seahawks 21, Giants 20
Denver Broncos (PK) at Los Angeles Chargers: After a dismal offensive showing at home against Big Blue (2.7 yards per carry on 17 rushes) in which Trevor Siemian attempted 50 passes (29 of 50 for 376 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT) and absorbed four sacks, the Broncos ought to go back to the ground against a softer rush defense in Los Angeles that may be without the services of DT Corey Liuget (back). It’s going to be tough sledding for Phillip Rivers against Denver’s fearsome secondary, but he’ll try to work the middle with Hunter Henry. Denver is taking the bulk of the wagers here but in this case, I think the betting public has it right. Score Projection: Broncos 23, Chargers 20
Atlanta Falcons (+3.5) at New England Patriots: The Falcons will have to work through Patriots PTSD after their stunning Super Bowl LI defeat in which, well, you remember. On primetime (Sunday Night Football) after an embarrassing home loss to Miami, the Falcons have an opportunity to explode here against a brutal 32nd-ranked Patriots defense in some rendition of Matt Ryan and Julio down by the red zone. Atlanta could really use Vic Beasley here (hamstring), if only in passing situations to get after Tom Brady. Brady is almost a lock to rack up over 300 passing yards against a very beatable Falcons defense. The total here is a week high 56.5 and it may not even be high enough. It ought to be a shootout and a close one. Score Projection: Patriots 33, Falcons 31
Washington Redskins (+4.5) at Philadelphia Eagles: Philly is flying high at 5-1 after a successful road trip to Carolina, while Washington is coming off a close call at home against the Niners. The Eagles will host a pretty banged up Redskins defense with Josh Norman (ribs) and Bashaud Breeland (knee) on the mend (ribs), and DE Jonathan Allen out for the season (foot). Plus LT Trent Williams is questionable (knee). Injuries aside, Eagles QB Carson Wentz’s solid play is giving Browns fans (who passed on him) indigestion: he’s collected 13 TDs against just 3 INTs and 133 rushing yards (22 per game) a 99.6 rating. “I don’t know how he got to Philadelphia” said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. “And I’m very upset about that.” Cheer up, Jay. That said, Wentz is going to cause Washington fits and sadness with his scrambling ability and a heavy dose of completions to Zach Ertz. Washington may keep it close but they’ll need the pass catchers, including RB Chris Thompson, to break some big gains. Score Projection: Eagles 28, Redskins 21
Happy Week 7 to you all. Hit me up on Twitter with any thoughts, comments, concerns, questions, compliments or dad jokes.