NFL Week 7: Picks and Predictions

It’s always nice to start the week off 1-for-1 but the Eagles sure made it harder than it needed to be as they escaped with a 22-21 win over the Giants on Thursday night. I typically don’t go into such detail with the Thursday game but, if you have ever been curious as to how many different ways there are to lose a football game, this was a case study.

Carson Wentz scored the game’s opening TD

Philly looked good right out of the gates and they capped off an 11-play, 76-yard drive with a Carson Wentz keeper touchdown on the game’s opening possession. I would have preferred Boston Scott get the ball on the 1-yard line for fantasy football reasons, but can’t argue with the results. New York showed some of the wrinkles they wanted to employ on offense and got near midfield but wound up punting on their first possession of the night and pinned the Eagles deep in their own territory. 

The Giants’ defense tightened up after the first drive and forced a quick 3 & out from the Eags who were forced to punt from their own 4-yard line. A 14-yard punt return gave NY great starting field position at the Philadelphia 39 and the Giants struck right away. Daniel Jones hit Golden Tate with an excellent throw and Tate went up over Cre’Von LeBlanc beat the contact to take it to the house. The extra point tied the game at 7-7 and we were staring down the barrel of a hotly contested division game. Philly would respond with a FG at the start of the 2nd quarter to make it 10-7, but life is strange in the NFC East and things got funky in a hurry.

New York was in the middle of a solid drive that had reached Philly territory when Jones zipped a ball off the hands of his tight end Evan Engram and picked off by Jalen Mills. Philly took over with great field position looking to add to their lead, but things went sideways once they reached the red zone. On 2nd & 15 from the NY-20, Carson Wentz desperately tried to keep the play alive scrambling to his left and threw a garbage ball into coverage where it was promptly picked off by James Bradberry in the end zone. Those types of plays make me question whether or not Wentz is actually good. It wasn’t just a bad throw, it was a bad decision and showed really poor situational awareness after taking a sack the play prior.

The teams exchanged punts heading into the final minute of the first half but, not to be outdone, the G-Men gave the ball right back to the Eags on a Dion Lewis fumble. Starting at the NY-42, Philly got to the 11-yard line before a trio of incomplete passes by Wentz brought the field goal unit onto the field. Jake Elliot inevitably shanked the 29-yard FG attempt wide left (which cost me the over), but Wentz was trying to be a little too cute trying to finesse throws on the two plays before. Somehow, the game was still 10-7 going into the half. 

Daniel Jones was on his way to pay dirt when he suddenly forgot how to run.

In pure NFC East fashion, the second half started with four consecutive punts as the two teams traded 3 & outs back and forth. The running joke this season has been that no team wants to win the division but, approaching midway through the 3rd quarter, it didn’t really look like either of them even wanted to win this game. However, after the Eags punted, we were treated to one of the most entertaining highlights of the 2020 season as Jones took a read-option play and broke out into the open for an 80-yard sprint before the turf monster brought him down at the Philadelphia 8-yard line. Wayne Gallman would score the go-ahead TD for the Giants to make it 14-10 after a defensive pass interference penalty reset the downs at the 1-yd line, but it’s moments like the Jones stumble that make you question whether or not fate is involved. 

This is a fitting metaphor for the Giants’ season

Both teams would trade 3 & outs and punt again before Philly strung enough plays together to make a drive down to the Giants’ 3-yd line. On 4th & goal, rather than try the FG to make it a 1-pt game very early in the 4th quarter, Doug Pederson sent the offense back on the field but, by now, you know where this is heading. Wentz threw incomplete to backup TE Hakeem Butler and Philly turned the ball over downs. It was a calculated decision that definitely didn’t factor in the sudden inability to stop New York from marching 97-yards in 15-plays to score another TD, courtesy of a Jones-to-Sterling Shephard connection. With only 6:17 remaining in the game, the G-Men had what appeared to be a stranglehold on the game with a 21-10 lead.

Appearances can be deceiving and I guess that score by the Giants finally imparted the urgency of the situation on the Eags. They went down the field in a hurry, mostly on a Wentz deep ball to John Hightower and Greg Ward scored the TD a couple of plays later. You gotta go for the 2-pt conversion down five but, naturally, that failed. However, momentum had shifted and New York punted the ball right back to Philly in five plays after TE Evan Engram seemingly didn’t lay out on a nicely thrown ball by Jones. The frustration was clearly mounting for the Giants as Corey Ballantine took a cheap shot on DeSean Jackson after he was already down on the punt return. By any measure, it was a dirty play and it really sucked to see Jackson, who just returned from injury, being helped off the field. The hit did draw a 15-yard penalty for leading with the head, but the damage was done.

A great throw and catch saved the game and maybe the season for Philadelphia

With the game on the line, the Eagles needed a TD to win but we know that it wasn’t going to be a smooth process either way. Wentz chunked the New York defense for 30-yards on a pass to TE Richard Rodgers and pass interference call on the next play. A couple of Boston Scott runs set PHI up with 3rd & goal and the 5-yard line before defensive holding call gave them a new set of downs. Not to be outdone, Eagles’ center Jason Kelce ripped the helmet off a defender and set PHI back 15 yards. First & goal at the 18-yd line, Scott made a fantastic grab over Jabrill Peppers for the go-ahead TD. Now leading 22-21, Philly went for the 2-pt conversion to make it a field-goal game but of course that failed too. 

This fumble would seal the deal

Starting at their own 25, New York had no timeouts but only needed a FG to win. If this game taught us anything, it’s that nothing comes easy and the Giants would start the drive with a holding penalty to set them back 10-yard. Jones was sacked and fumbled on the next play by Brandon Graham and the Eagles gained possession. Wentz took the knee to mercifully end the game and escape with the one-point victory. 

This was the ugliest game of the season by a mile. Neither team has much to hang their hats on after that debacle but, at the least, the Eagles have a win to show for it. Travis Fulgham is looking like a good WR option for Philadelphia and, while the Giants have a ton of work to do, Wayne Gallman provided a nice punch out of the backfield. 

Not sure why I had to get into that Thursday game so heavily but, now that I’ve bored everyone to death, let’s get on to Week 7 around the league!

(4-2)Cleveland Browns at (1-4-1)Cincinnati Bengals (+3, 51.5)

Breakdown: When these teams met on Thursday Night Football back in Week 2, it was a close win for the Browns (35-30). Cincy has gotten their first win since then, but Cleveland is going to be looking for a bounce-back game after getting throttled by the Steelers. The Browns have only lost at the top of the AFC food chain while the Bengals have bounced around, exhibiting all the growing pains of a team breaking in their new QB. Nick Chubb is on IR this time around and now Joe Mixon is out too, but this game matters a lot more for CLE who’s trying to keep pace in the division and the conference. 

Pick: Browns

Vs Spread: Browns

Over/Under: Under 51.5

(2-4)Dallas Cowboys at (1-5)Washington (+3)

Breakdown: This is a beater of a game now that Andy Dalton is under center for the Boys. It looks like Kyle Allen is the starter for Washington which doesn’t leave a lot of veteran savvy to fall back on. Dalton should look better than he did against the Cardinals and Dallas does have a lot of weaponry for him to utilize. Both teams are bad, but it feels like the Boys are playing below their potential while Washington hasn’t really found their level yet. Picking this game doesn’t feel great.

Pick: Cowboys

Vs Spread: Cowboys

Over/Under: Over 46

(2-3)Detroit Lions at (1-5)Atlanta Falcons (-3, 56.5)

Breakdown: Here we are with another beater on the schedule. Detroit is coming off their bye and Atlanta is coming off a game where they actually looked like themselves. These squads are similar. Both these teams have gotten out to two-score leads and found ways to blow those games. However, the Lions play a little more controlled style and slightly better defense while the Falcons are more boom or bust. This is a coin toss game if there ever was one. Both have lost to the Packers and Bears, but Detroit has the best win between them vs Arizona. If the Lions get to .500, they can maybe stay in the wild card hunt. A win for Atlanta doesn’t change much for them. 

Pick: Lions

Vs Spread: Lions

Over/Under: Under 56.5

(3-3)Carolina Panthers at (3-2)New Orleans Saints (-7.5, 51)

Breakdown: Both these teams need a win in the highly competitive NFC South, especially if the Bucs lose on the road in Vegas. I like how the Panthers play but I envision them as a Wild Card contender rather than the division winners. However, the Saints come out of their bye week still without Michael Thomas and now Emmanuel Sanders is out on the COVID-IR. Expect a steady dose of Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray against a defense that’s given up the 13th most yards on the ground. It’s hard to go into New Orleans and win unless you’re a top-shelf team. The Panthers a good team and can totally win this game, but last time I picked against NO for personnel reasons it backfired.  

Pick: Saints

Vs Spread: Panthers

Over/Under: Under 51

(4-2)Buffalo Bills at (0-6)New York Jets (+11, 40.5)

Breakdown: The Bills need a get-back game in a big way after disappointing Ls to teams at the top of the conference. It’s not a “must-win” but it’s absolutely a game Buffalo has to win. The Jets haven’t shown much of anything and the Bills need to use the opportunity to correct many of the issues that were exposed in their back-to-back losses. Sam Darnold looks to be coming back but it’s all hands on deck in this one and BUF needs to dominate. 

Pick: Bills

Vs Spread: Bills 

Over/Under: Over 40.5

(4-1)Green Bay Packers at (1-5)Houston Texans (+3.5, 56)

Breakdown: I’m sure the Packers want to get the taste of that embarrassing loss to the Bucs out of their mouths and the Texans are just what the doctor ordered. Houston’s defense hemorrhages points and even though they can combat it with scoring, the offense hasn’t been consistent. Green Bay is a little banged up but even without a healthy Aaron Jones, the Texans have given up the most rushing yards this season so GB should be able to dictate how the game goes. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams are going to have to hold it down as well in what figures to be a high scoring game.

Pick: Packers

Vs Spread: Packers

Over/Under: Over 56

(5-0)Pittsburgh Steelers at (5-0)Tennessee Titans (+1.5, 52.5)

Breakdown: This is the game of the week and likely the game of the season to this point. Whoever wins assumes the top spot in the AFC and potentially the NFL depending on what happens in Arizona between the Seahawks and Cardinals. All but one of Pittsburgh’s wins were against losing teams, but the same goes for the Titans and they both smashed the one winning team they did play, so the strength of schedule is an iffy decider. Four of Tennessee’s wins were decided by 12 total points so their 5-0 mark looks a bit more fragile even though PIT has had some close games themselves. The Steelers have one of, if not, the best defense in the league in terms of yardage & scoring, while the Titans offense’ is more opportunistic than it is dominant (9th-rushing, 21st-passing),  so you’ve gotta imagine they’ll make things tough for TEN. Like the oddsmakers, I have to favor the Steelers on the road. 

Pick: Steelers

Vs Spread: Steelers

Over/Under: Over 52.5

(1-5)Jacksonville Jaguars at (1-4)Los Angeles Chargers (-8, 49)

Breakdown: What a junker this game is as the Jaguars hurtle towards the abyss with Minshew Mania in freefall. The Chargers are proving to be a tough team to beat with their four losses coming by a combined 18-points. They could have realistically been 4-1 at this point so they are the much better team if you ignore the record. Plus, they are at home. The Jags can be volatile so 8-pts may be too big a spread, but they have lost by double-digits three times. 

Pick: Chargers

Vs Spread: Chargers

Over/Under: Under 49

(3-3)San Francisco 49ers at (2-3)New England Patriots (-3, 45.5)

Breakdown: This is a big game for two teams that are supposed to be good and who are both looking to keep pace for playoff contention. Cam Newton hasn’t been a particularly effective passer of the football for a while now and it’s really showing in New England. I won’t look at totals because he does have one less game due to COVID but he is dead last in TD% and has the 6th highest INT%, 24th in adjusted-yards/attempt, 26th in yards/game, 27th in QB rating, 26th in total QBR, and 23rd worst in sack%. His 5-rushing TDs is the lone bright spot but it’s not looking great this season. The Niners’ pass defense hasn’t been stellar but they looked better against the Rams last week. Going into Foxborough is never easy but at least it’s familiar territory for Jimmy G. Losing Raheem Mostert again is a huge blow to the SF offense but NE doesn’t score that much. This is pretty close to a must-win for the Niners if the want to make a push this season. 

Pick: 49ers

Vs Spread: 49ers

Over/Under: Under 45.5

(5-1)Kansas City Chiefs at (2-3)Denver Broncos (+9.5)

Breakdown: The Broncos likely feel pretty good after picking up a W over the Pats, but this is the Chiefs we’re talking about. I get that they’re at home but still. Maybe Denver covers a big-ish spread but their offense isn’t especially potent.

Pick: Chiefs 

Vs Spread: Chiefs

Over/Under: Over 44.5

(4-2)Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (3-2)Las Vegas Raiders (-3, 53.5)

Breakdown: It’s time to find out what both these teams want to make out of the rest of their season. The Bucs signed Antonio Brown, so they’re asking for trouble. I know they’ve had health issues at WR, but this sends a weird message to the rest of the guys who’ve been in Tampa before Brady. Tom wanted him in NE and now pushed for it here, but trouble has followed AB at every turn. It’s a bit surprising that the Raiders are favored here, even coming off the bye week and playing at home. It isn’t really “home” yet and the Bucs have the best run defense in the league so far. If TB can limit Josh Jacobs and make it a passing competition, I have to, unfortunately, lean toward TB12. I’m pulling for the Raiders though.

Pick: Bucs

Vs Spread: Bucs

Over/Under: Over 53.5

(5-1)Chicago Bears at (4-2)Los Angeles Rams (-5.5, 46)

Two of the very best defensive players in the league will be on display in this game

Breakdown: This is a surprisingly big game in the NFC, as the top of the power rankings could potentially see the Bears on top with a win. Not that Chicago cares what I think, but a W and Seattle loss would position them nicely down the stretch, and a Rams W would certainly help them in the conference and division hunt. They need to respond after a disappointing showing on the road in SF last week and coming home could be a nice remedy. Chicago does their thing very effectively but the Rams can beat them if playing right. I’m surprised to see LA with the spread that heavily in their favor though. 

Pick: Rams

Vs Spread: Bears

Over/Under: Over 46

(5-0)Seattle Seahawks at (4-2)Arizona Cardinals (+3, 54.5)

Breakdown: This could have been the game of the week if not for the showdown in Nashville, but this is a huge NFC West matchup nonetheless with two incredibly dynamic QBs leading big-play offenses. Coming out of their bye week, I’m sure glad Seattle didn’t sign Antonio Brown. They have a good young WR corps that’s doing just fine and they don’t need the headache. The Cards have rebounded nicely after a two-game slide but their only real quality win was against the 49ers to start the season. Seattle’s best win came against the Patriots, so the strength of schedule edge probably goes to AZ. The Hawks are still without their dynamic new safety Jamaal Adams, so the defense will have some trouble with the Cards’ explosive offense but DeAndre Hopkins is dealing with a bum ankle which could put a dent in that explosiveness. The Cards defense will have more difficulty getting after Russell Wilson without Chandler Jones. We’ve seen teams slow Arizona down and if Seattle can contain Kyler Murray and limit Hopkins, they most likely win but I could see it going either way. 

Pick: Seahawks

Vs Spread: Seahawks

Over/Under: Over 54.5

NickVs SpreadOver/UnderChristen
EaglesEags -4.5Over 44Eagles
BrownsBrowns -3Under 51.5Bengals
CowboysCowboys -3Over 46Washington
LionsLions -3Under 56.5Atlanta
SaintsPanthers +7.5Under 51Saints
BillsBills -11Over 40.5Bills
PackersPackers -3.5Over 56Packers
SteelersSteelers -1.5Over 52.5Titans
ChargersChargers -8Under 49Chargers
NinersNiners +3Under 45.5Patriots
ChiefsChiefs -9Over 44.5Chiefs
BuccaneersBucs +3Over 53.5Raiders
RamsBears +5.5Over 46Rams
SeahawksSeahawks -3Over 54.5Seahawks

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