NFL Week 7 Picks
By Zach Zaffos (Twitter: @zachzaffos)
Season To Date Against the Spread (ATS):
Best Bets: 5-1 (83%)
Units: 15.5-5.5 (74%)
All Bets: 10-5 (67%)
Week 6 Recap:
1.5 units (Best Bet): TENNESSEE (+3) OVER Baltimore
Welp. Our streak of best bet wins was bound to end at some point, and this one was never in much doubt, as the Titans laid a goose egg.
So, looking back – what did we get wrong?
Well, for starters, the Ravens proved why it came into last week as the league’s best defensive unit. However, the Titans’ offensive line was equally as awful. No NFL team should allow 11 sacks in a game, and that is exactly what Tennessee did on Sunday.
1 unit: Indianapolis (+3) OVER NEW YORK JETS
Sometimes, it’s just not your day. On one of the first plays from scrimmage, Andrew Luck threw an easy pass to RB Marlon Mack, who subsequently tipped the ball into a Jet defender’s hands for a walk-in pick-six. Nyheim Hines later dropped the easiest touchdown grab you’ll ever see. And perhaps most concerning was the Colts’ defense. Did they force one punt on Sunday?
While our handicap touted Andrew Luck’s ability to carry a football team, we may have underrated the ineptitude of his supporting cast.
With that being said, it’s time to get back on the horse this week. You’re all in for a treat – as we have a season-high four games we like in Week 7! Let’s get to the picks (HOME teams in all caps).
Detroit (-3) OVER MIAMI (2 units)
But, Zach: Don’t you always like the home underdogs? Well, check out this nugget: Since 2002, road favorites are 60-23 against the spread (72%) coming off a bye.
The logic? On a typical week, a good portion of home-field advantage is derived from not having to adjust to your surroundings, feeling comfortable, etc. Away teams often fall victim to slow starts or not being 100% mentally ready for games. However, a bye week prevents that aforementioned phenomenon. And further, if the road team is clearly better than its opponent and is more focused and ready to play the game, it usually can exert its will on the inferior home team, regardless of the game’s location.
Fortunately for us, Vegas has not yet caught onto this trend, as home teams still seem to receive the standard three points in these situations.
Now, you don’t think we’d blindly follow one trend and calling it a best bet – do you? There are plenty of reasons to fade Miami in this one, as well:
• The Luck Factor: The Dolphins forced a Jordan Howard fumble at the goal line in the first half. They nearly went down 28-13 with 9 minutes in the 4th, but a Tarik Cohen touchdown was called back. They subsequently forced another Mitchell Trubisky redzone interception, and then threw two 40+ yard catch-and-run touchdowns to Albert Wilson. And best of all – Brock Osweilier completed a 35-yard pass on 3rd and 11 in overtime by throwing a ball off a defender’s helmet. Is this really repeatable?
• The Surprise Start From the Ostrich: In Brock Osweilier’s last permanent starting gig in Houston, he was so underwhelming that the Texans attached a second-round pick to him in a trade, in return for nothing. That’s right, Houston gave up the right to a valuable draft asset just to get rid of the Ostrich. I don’t buy that he’s an improved quarterback, but I do buy that he was more effective on Sunday because the Bears were not prepared to face him. Luckily for the Lions, Ryan Tannehill was announced out on Wednesday this week, as opposed to two hours before kickoff like last week.
• The Emotional Letdown: The Dolphins were a true underdog story this past Sunday, but if we’ve learned anything from our experience, it’s that it’s tough mentally to get up for a game the week after an emotional win. Furthermore, teams off an overtime game usually struggle the following week (5-11 ATS in 2018; 6-10 SU).
Based on the above, it’s difficult to imagine the Dolphins duplicating last week’s effort. Give me the fresh and rested Lions versus a tired and drained Miami team.
OTHER BETS I’LL DABBLE WITH
SAN FRANCISCO (+10) OVER Los Angeles Rams (1.5 units)
Did you know the 49ers have faced Aaron Rodgers, Pat Mahomes, Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, and Kirk Cousins in 5 of its 6 games, 4 of which were played on the road? Well, despite the murderer’s row of quarterbacks, the Niners actually rank 16th in yards per play allowed this season. Thus, it’s safe to say this is an above-average defense, when factoring in strength-of-schedule.
So the spread is 10 points in favor of the road team. If San Francisco’s defense is decent, than its offense must be horrendous, right?
The Niners rank 11th in the NFL in yards per play on offense (19th since Jimmy G’s injury). I’d say that’s fairly respectable.
So to be quite honest – I do not understand this line at all. San Francisco is being treated like a bottom-three NFL team, when the stats say otherwise. In fact, the Rams were only laying seven points each on the road in Denver and Seattle the past two weeks (neither of which they covered). You mean to tell me the Niners are three points worse than either of those two teams?
I think not.
Let’s take an undervalued San Francisco team facing a vulnerable LA squad preparing for its third road game in as many weeks. In fact, don’t be afraid to sprinkle a little on the SF money-line at +400 or better.
Oh, and as a side note, San Francisco is dead last in the NFL in turnover differential at -11. Regression to the mean is forthcoming.
ARIZONA (+1.5) OVER Denver (1 unit)
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Thursday Night Football is all about the home team. In fact, since 2015, home teams are 29-19-1 (over 60%) against the spread on Thursday nights.
So clearly road teams are at a disadvantage from the start.
But what if I told you that Denver is especially disadvantaged on the road? Let me explain.
The Broncos have a strong home-field advantage, because in addition to a strong fan base, the team has an altitude advantage (a factor that greatly impacts the game, but that only the home team is used to dealing with). However, unfortunately for Denver, it cannot carry these elements on the road. As a result, the market’s perception of Denver is often greater than the true quality of the team, as the home games skew market perceptions.
For some reference, Denver has played four home games thus far in 2018, and two road games. It has been crushed in each of the two away from Mile High, but enters this game as a road favorite.
Conversely, Arizona has rebounded nicely from a rough start, posting a solid 3-0-1 ATS margin since Josh Rosen first saw game action in Week 3.
So let’s ask ourselves one simple question: Who is the better team, home-field Arizona or road team Denver? I think it’s pretty simple – so give me Arizona and the points.
*BONUS BET (Late Addition)
NEW YORK JETS (+3.5) OVER Minnesota (1 unit)
The line moved from 3 to 3.5 just before posting of our column, so we had to make sure we added it in. Here are some quick reasons we like this one:
• Confidence in Darnold: There is excitement in New York again. After years of poor quarterback play, everyone is on the same page within the Jets’ organization: “We’ve found our guy”. Given the tangible excitement, I believe the rest of the team will be confident and extra motivated this week. Expect a strong effort from an excited defense.
• Minnesota’s Overrated Defense: Did you know Minnesota is 26th in the NFL, averaging 6.0 yards-per-play allowed? While the market still prices the Vikes as an elite defense, the numbers say otherwise. I think we’re getting a little bit of value as a result.
“Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.” (The Color of Money). Good luck this weekend and may the picks be with us.