Week 7 NFL odds, picks: Bengals shock Chiefs, Ravens dominate Saints, Bears beat Patriots
The Bengals bounce back from a loss to the Steelers, the Ravens stay hot, and the Bears shock the Patriots in Soldier Field
The Bengals may not know how to beat the Steelers, but they've been pretty good against the rest of the league this season. On paper, they match up well against the Chiefs, who are coming off their first loss of the season. In Baltimore, the Saints have to figure out how to keep Drew Brees upright; a week ago, the Ravens defense sacked Marcus Mariota a mind-blowing 11 times, while the Baltimore offense has some semblance of balance for the first time in years. And in Chicago, the Bears bounce back from last week's Brock Osweiler-ing in Miami. Khalil Mack and the NFL's most tenacious defense will make life difficult for Tom Brady, and Chicago will beat New England for the first time since ... 2000, back when Brady was a rookie and Mitchell Trubisky was 6 years old.
We'll talk about all Week 7 games in our picks below.
LAST WEEK: 9-6
OVERALL RECORD: 54-37-2
Denver at Arizona
Line: Broncos -2.5
This game looked a lot more interesting six weeks ago, back when we had no idea the Broncos' defense stunk or that new Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks would misuse David Johnson in such a way that he morphed into one of the league's least-effective running backs. If you're looking for a bright spot, Arizona rookie Josh Rosen has been pleasantly surprising amid a sea of a lot of unwatchable football. Meanwhile, the Broncos are currently on a four-game losing streak, and general manager John Elway, for the second year in a row, has used the word "soft" to describe a once-dominant defense. Not helping: Offseason signee Case Keenum looks nothing like the quarterback who had a career year with the Vikings in 2017 and more closely resembles the cast of characters he's succeeded in Denver. Through the first six games, Keenum's eight interceptions is tied for the most in the league with the beleaguered Derek Carr. This feels like a race to the bottom but the Broncos squeak out the win on the road.
Pick: Broncos 17, Cardinals 14
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Line: Chargers -6.5
Is this the year the Chargers finally put it all together, from start to finish? Over the years, we've seen flashes of just how good this team can be but they've never sustained it long enough to be taken seriously. The 2018 season feels different. Philip Rivers is among the NFL's best quarterbacks, behind only Drew Brees, Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes; running back Melvin Gordon is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and Austin Ekeler is averaging 6.4; and the defense, which is a replacement-level unit through six weeks, should be much-improved when Joey Bosa returns, possibly by Week 9. The Titans, meanwhile, are an enigma. After an impressive, gutsy win over the Eagles, they stumbled against the Bills and then flopped badly last week against the Ravens, who managed to sack Mariota a whopping 11 times. Which Titans team will show up in London? Great question.
Pick: Chargers 30, Titans 12
Buffalo at Indianapolis
Line: Colts -7.5
The Bills are without their rookie first-round pick, Josh Allen, who could be sidelined several weeks with an arm injury. It seems cruel and unusual to put Nathan Peterman back on the field, and there's a chance just-signed journeyman Derek Anderson could be in the mix for the start. Sean McDermott legitimately deserves Coach of the Year consideration; yes, the offense is unwatchable but the defense ranks third in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders, and that unit has everything to do with their two improbable wins this season. The Colts, meanwhile, are slowly improving under Frank Reich, but those improvements come in fits and starts.
Pick: Colts: 21, Bills 13
Carolina at Philadelphia
Line: Eagles -4.5
So is this Eagles team finally putting it together after sputtering out of the gates? Or are they destined to be a replacement-level team a year after winning the Super Bowl. They've certainly looked better in recent weeks, thanks in part to the improved play of Carson Wentz and the offensive line tasked with protecting him. The Panthers, meanwhile, are coming off a hard-to-explain loss to the Redskins, though they remain a top-10 team in overall efficiency.
Pick: Panthers 24, Eagles 21
Cleveland at Tampa Bay
Line: Buccaneers -3
Baker Mayfield is expected to play after injuring his ankle last week against the Chargers in the most Browns way imaginable: He slipped on the first-down marker. And while Gregg Williams' defense has been a top-10 unit all season, Todd Haley's offense currently ranks 30th, ahead of a quarterback-less Bills outfit and a Cardinals unit that can't figure out how to properly use David Johnson. The Bucs have the league's worst defense and fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith this week. The failings on that side of the ball have obscured a passing offense that ranks fourth. Williams will undoubtedly come after Jameis Winston and likely force him into several turnovers, but will Cleveland's offense be able to capitalize?
Pick: Buccaneers 28, Browns 20
Detroit at Miami
It's Brock Osweiler's world and we're all just living in it. Last Sunday morning everyone was making jokes about the prospect of Osweiler starting for Ryan Tannehill, who suddenly popped up on the injury report. Then Osweiler promptly threw three touchdowns and helped lead the Dolphins to an overtime win over the Bears. The Lions have been an underachieving enigma this season, underperforming on both sides of the ball, and are 0-2 on the road with close losses to the 49ers and Cowboys.
Pick: Dolphins: 24, Lions 20
Houston at Jacksonville
Line: Jaguars -5
Which team is going to show up? That question is directed to both the Texans and Jaguars, who play in the NFL's worst division. The Texans should be much better, especially on offense, but suspect play calling by coach Bill O'Brien and ill-timed on-field lapses have them treading water at 3-3. And while they could have four or five wins, they could also be sitting at 1-5. But Houston has a franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson. The Jaguars have Blake Bortles, who continues to play like, well, Blake Bortles. He's been a liability this season and the defense, which gave up a 40-burger to the Cowboys last week, hasn't been able to bail him out. Jacksonville won both matchups last season but prior to that had lost five straight to Houston.
Pick: Texans 31, Jaguars 18
Minnesota at N.Y. Jets
Line: Vikings -3
A year ago, the Vikings' offense ranked fifth and its defense was second. That goes a long way in explaining their 13-3 record and trip to the NFC Conference Championship Game. This season, Kirk Cousins has replaced Case Keenum. Cousins has been good -- he ranks 12th in value per play among all quarterbacks -- but Keenum was first in that metric in '17. The biggest difference between this year and last, however, is Minnesota's defense, which currently ranks 20th. The Jets have improved drastically on that side of the ball (18th last season, now they're seventh), though the storylines have mostly revolved around rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, who has shown glimpses of becoming a franchise talent. Expect the Jets to harass Cousins all afternoon and unless the Vikings defense makes an appearance, Minnesota could be headed for its third loss of the season.
Pick: Jets 27, Vikings 26
New England at Chicago
Line: Patriots -3
The Patriots are coming off a huge win at home against the Chiefs. The Bears are coming off a tough overtime loss on the road to Brock Osweiler (!) and the Dolphins. Conventional wisdom tells you that these teams are now trending in different directions but the Bears still have one of the NFL's best defenses while the Patriots' unit isn't even replacement level. If Khalil Mack and Co. can get after Tom Brady, and Mitch Trubisky and Tarik Cohen can get back on track against a suspect group, Chicago can pull out the win.
Pick: Bears 21, Patriots 20
New Orleans at Baltimore
Line: Ravens -2.5
After watching what the Saints did to the Redskins on national television, this game might seem like a blowout. But on Sunday, New Orleans will be on the road against a defense that is coming off that 11-sack performance against Marcus Mariota and the Titans. Plus, the Saints are a completely different team outdoors. They're also 1-5 all-time against the Ravens, and Brees is 0-3 dating back to 2006, his first season in New Orleans. If the Saints find a way to prevail in M&T Bank Stadium, they'll have a case for the NFL's best team. Unfortunately for them, the Ravens' D has been dominant and the offense, which has been a one-dimensional mess for years, finally has balance. Joe Flacco has a reliable running game to go along with a downfield passing attack that includes three (!) playmakers: Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead.
Pick: Ravens 30, Saints 14
Dallas at Washington
Line: Redskins -1.5
Both teams are coming off big wins -- the Cowboys embarrassed the Jaguars, dropping 40 points on the defending AFC South champs, while the Redskins beat the Panthers to move to 3-2 and first place in the NFC East. If recent history is any indication, Washington faces a tough task; it's lost four straight to Dallas, and six of the last seven, and eight of the last 10, dating back to 2014. If the Cowboys can win at FedEx Field, they'd move into first place in the division.
Pick: Cowboys 24, Redskins 23
L.A. Rams at San Francisco
Line: Rams -9.5
C.J. Beathard looked pretty good against the Packers, and there are certainly reasons for optimism in San Francisco after scoring 30 points in Lambeau. But Green Bay is a middle-of-the-road team, according to Football Outsiders, ranking 14th. The Rams are undefeated and feature the NFL's most potent offense. The 49ers' defense? It ranks 25th.
Pick: Rams 35, 49ers 20
Cincinnati at Kansas City
Line: Chiefs -6
The Steelers are the Bengals' kryptonite. So there's really no reason to put too much stock in last Sunday's last-second loss to their arch rivals. For some reason, Cincy can't figure out how to beat Pittsburgh, even when it's the better team. But the Bengals match up well against the Chiefs, who are coming off their first loss of the year. Cincy's defense can harass Patrick Mahomes, who has thrown four interceptions in his last two games, and if Andy Dalton gets time in the pocket, which he's had for much of the season, he can pick a defense apart. In related news: Kansas City's defense is terrible.
Pick: Bengals: 31, Chiefs 30
N.Y. Giants at Atlanta
Line: Falcons -5.5
The Giants are coming apart at the seams, mostly due to the fact that their 37-year-old quarterback looks and plays like he doesn't want to be on the field. But there is no Plan B, at least at quarterback, because the team used the No. 2 overall pick on transcendent talent, running back Saquon Barkley. But Eli Manning isn't the only problem; the defense has actually been worse than the offense, and Odell Beckham Jr. has been more distraction than game-changer. The Falcons, meanwhile, feature a top-10 offense that spends its Sundays trying to compensate for an injury-ravaged defense that, understandably, isn't very good. Atlanta's struggling defense could get a pick-me-up this week, however, because New York can't figure out how to get into the end zone.
Pick: Falcons 38, Giants 13
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