Tips for Week 7 NFL picks: How to bet teams after a bye, teaser of the week and more
Get ready for football with everything you need to know about the Week 7 lines
The casual bettor loves to play teams coming off a bye. The thinking is simple: When a team has an extra week to rest, to heal up, and to prepare for their next matchup, they should have the edge coming into a game where the other team is on regular rest, might be dealing with more injuries and only has one week to prepare to face the rested team.
In practice, however, playing teams off a bye isn't necessarily profitable. If you look at ATS records since the start of 2011 of teams coming off bye, which gives each team at least seven data points to analyze, you'll see that only 11 teams are covering more than 50 percent of the time, while 14 teams are below 50 percent ATS (the other seven are, of course, right at 50 percent). This year we've seen four teams come off a bye and fail to cover in Weeks 5 and 6.
Two of the 11 teams that have been profitable plays off a bye are the Saints and Lions, both of whom are coming off a Week 6 bye. The Saints are tied for the best ATS record off a bye since 2011 at 6-1, while the Lions are just a game back at 5-2. So you should play both this week, right? Not quite.
We know what we're getting from the Saints. Sean Payton has been the coach there for a long time, and Drew Brees has been his quarterback for our entire sample. The team's average margin of victory over the last seven years off a bye is 6.9 points, and they beat the spread by an average of 4.4 points. Even on the road against a good team in Baltimore this week, history is on the Saints' side, and this year's version has been rolling after a shaky start to the season.
The Lions, however, have a new coach in Matt Patricia, and we can't make any assumptions about how he'll respond to playing with an extra week of preparation. We do know the Lions entered the bye off a big win at home against the Packers, but that was a game where they didn't look great despite the final score, with the offense managing by far its worst yardage output of the year and the defense giving up more than 100 yards more than its previous worst. We also know that Patricia's team didn't look ready to play at all in Week 1 despite having weeks of lead time to prepare for his coaching debut. When the Lions do win off a bye, the games tend to be very close as well, and as a result they have a negative margin of victory off a bye since 2011 despite being 5-2 ATS.
The Lions might be coming off a bye, but they're in a tough position of being a road favorite against a team that's good at home, and one that proved last week it can win with its backup quarterback on the field. I wouldn't be rushing to the window to play Detroit off the bye, but the trends back up rolling with the Saints.
If you want to know which sides I like this week, you can find that info at the SportsLine link below, where all my rated plays appear during the season along with my five SuperContest picks each week and plenty of great analysis from a fantastic collection of experts. You can also check out where all our CBS Sports staff lands on each game each week right here.
Each week in this space, I'm going to go behind the lines and picks to bring you a bit of a deeper dive into what you should know before locking in your plays. That includes which lines are on the move, which home-field advantages aren't getting enough credit, which injuries you should be monitoring, my top teaser play of the week and plenty more.
Let's get to it.
Over at SportsLine, I have some picks posted for Week 7, and I'll have plenty more by Friday night. Join now and use promo code WHITE for $1 on your first month and you can get mine and every SportsLine expert's picks throughout the year, as well as my SuperContest picks each Saturday.
However, you can get one free pick with my teaser of the week at the end of this article. Enjoy!
Biggest line moves
The Chargers easily took care of business in Cleveland last week, while the Titans offense couldn't get anything going against the Ravens. So it makes sense that this line would move from a lookahead number of Chargers -3 up 3.5 points. But you have to ask yourself: is this more reflective of the overall value of these teams, or was that Chargers -3 number closer on a neutral field?
The line has understandably moved away from the Bills with the news that Josh Allen is out and the recently-signed Derek Anderson is starting in his place. Anderson has ties to Sean McDermott through their time in Carolina, but that has nothing to do with the offense he'll be running this Sunday, since McDermott coached the defense with the Panthers.
Saints-Ravens was a pick 'em on the lookahead line, but after Baltimore laid it to Tennessee last week, Vegas is now seeing this teams as close to even. I've been touting the Ravens all year and have a ticket on them to make the playoffs and another to win the Super Bowl at 50/1, but this doesn't seem like a great spot for them with New Orleans coming off the bye.
The 49ers gave the Packers everything they had on Monday night and Vegas certainly took note, knocking this game down from a lookahead number of Rams -12.5. The Rams were unable to cover on the first two legs of their three-game road trip, but Baltimore showed last week that you don't necessarily want to autofade a team playing a third straight road game.
The Giants laid a dud last Thursday, and with the Falcons finally finding a way to win, this week's Monday night game saw a big move off the lookahead line of Falcons -3.5. Considering the Giants haven't looked completely lost on offense the entire year and the Falcons are playing half their second unit on defense, that might end up being a bit too aggressive.
So which teams should you back in Week 7 of the NFL season? And which Super Bowl contender goes down hard? Visit SportsLine now to see which teams are winning more than 50 percent of simulations, all from the model that has outperformed 98 percent of experts tracked by NFLPickWatch.com the past two seasons.
The DVOA edge
One of the things I like to look for when dissecting matchups is one where the Football Outsiders DVOA doesn't agree with the betting line. I don't have a specific formula, but my standard is basically four points of DVOA for every point on the neutral-field line, though once the line gets big enough I think it's more like five points of DVOA. Rather than use the regular DVOA numbers, for this exercise I first use DAVE (which incorporates preseason projections) and then weighted DVOA, to get a better sense of each team's value at the point of the season where I need to know it rather than as a whole.
For example, the Broncos are one-point favorites in Arizona. DVOA shows a massive difference between the two teams, about 23 percentage points. That would make the line around Broncos -5.5 or -6 on a neutral field. When factoring in the 2.5 points of home-field advantage I give to Arizona, that suggests the line should be Broncos -3 or -3.5. At least where DVOA is concerned, the edge goes to the Broncos on the current line.
DVOA basically sees no difference in the overall values of the two teams in the Patriots-Bears, Vikings-Jets and Jaguars-Texans matchups, yet the line is giving a clear edge to one side, putting a lot of value on the home 'dogs in the first two cases and the Jaguars in the other. The Panthers have a slightly higher rating than the Eagles, which would make Eagles -3 a better line there with the Eagles having a better-than-average home-field advantage. The Ravens have a slightly better rating than the Saints and should get 3.5 points for HFA as well, so that line probably 1.5 points off per DVOA. And the Falcons rank just 23rd with a -8.5 DAVE rating (and much worse when considering only DVOA), putting them a lot close to the Giants in value than the line above would suggest.
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Fading the public
If 80 percent of the action or more is on one side of a line, you want to be thinking about taking the other side, a practice commonly known as fading the public. If the consensus thinks it has a game figured out, that should be flashing warning signs for you. (All betting trends data from BetOnline via Vegas Insider, and you can find the latest numbers here.)
The Chiefs are just over the threshold at the time of writing, and with the line not budging, the Bengals make for a nice play on the other side. The backdoor should be wide open in that game, considering how bad the Chiefs defense has played.
The public loves getting 3.5 on the Jets at the BetOnline number, but the ticket count flips the other way in spots where the Vikings can be had at -3. If you think there's value on the Jets, you should be able to find them at +3.5, but if you like the Vikings, you should probably jump on -3 where available now because this one could go up.
Other public plays that could wind up over the 80 percent threshold: Chargers -6.5 vs. Titans in London; Patriots -3 at Bears;
Lines I'd move
Broncos -1 at Cardinals (ARI -1)
Titans vs. Chargers -6.5 (LAC -3)
Patriots -3 at Bears (NE -1)
Lions -2.5 at Dolphins (MIA -1)
Panthers at Eagles -4.5 (PHI -7)
Bills at Colts -7.5 (IND -9.5)
Texans at Jaguars -5 (JAC -7)
Cowboys at Redskins -2 (WAS -5)
If my power ratings and weighted home-field advantage numbers say a line is more than a point off, you'd be 20-10-1 by blindly playing the side where there's value. There's obviously more that comes into play, as Friday injury reports, weather and other factors will determine whether I'm comfortable playing one of these value sides, but it's a good place to start.
I don't think the Broncos are that good, so I don't understand making them road favorites on Thursday night, a spot that we've seen is tough for most road teams. I moved the Chargers up a full point in my power ratings and the Titans down a full point, and that only got me to a three-point difference on a neutral field in London. With the Chargers playing at 6:30 a.m. West Coast time, I don't get them being favored by nearly a touchdown here. I have the Patriots rated No. 2 in the NFL, but that's not enough to make them three points favorites on the road against a better-than-average team.
The line for Lions-Dolphins is off, even taking into account the Ryan Tannehill injury.Brock Osweiler has to start again, but there just isn't that big a difference between the two QBs, and certainly not enough to justify making a bad Lions team a road favorite. The Dolphins are the better team overall, and they face an easy defense here.
I think the Eagles are on their way toward being one of the best teams in the league and have them aggressively rated as 3.5 points better than average, while I have the Panthers right at average. Even with all Indy's injuries, I think Andrew Luck vs. a fill-in QB on the league's worst offense is enough to make the Colts near double-digit favorites. I think the Texans are pretty awful, and this is a bad spot for them with the Jags coming off being embarrassed in Dallas. And finally, on ratings alone Washington should be favored by a field goal more against the Cowboys, but their history against the franchise would probably make that a more conservative move for me. At any rate, Washington should be at least -3.
Teaser of the Week
Colts -1.5 vs. Bills
Dolphins +8.5 vs. Lions
The Colts have had to deal with a massive amount of injuries, yet their offense is still trucking on, with Andrew Luck's squad averaging more than 27 points per game over the last three weeks. The Bills were a trainwreck on offense witih Josh Allen, and now they'll play a guy they just signed at quarterback because their normal backup would cause the coaching staff to lose the locker room. Doesn't sound like a recipe for success, so even if the Bills get their best from the defense, Indy should cover this small number with ease. I've talked about the Lions-Dolphins matchup at length, and there's a ton of value teasing them up through 3 and 7 here.
Other teaser plays worth considering include: Chiefs PK, as they're a much better team than the Bengals; Saints +8.5, as they're typically great off the bye and the Ravens are a little inflated after a dominant win last week; Bears +9, as the Patriots haven't played well on the road this year; Jets +9, as the Vikings haven't looked right on defense.
The teaser of the week is 4-2 after the Titans flopped at home against the Ravens; the play there was to throw the Steelers in with the Dolphins, especially after the latter line ballooned once Ryan Tannehill was ruled out.
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