© Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Week 7 of the NFL schedule brings with it the next four teams up for bye weeks, leaving 14 matchups for consideration. AFC North contender Cleveland takes on division leader Baltimore knowing that victory would wipe out the gap between them and possibly give the Browns the lead in the division. Green Bay will seek to put their recent woes to bed against Washington in yet another game they really should win, and the 49ers will take on the Chiefs in a battle between leaders of their respective leagues West divisions.
These are my picks from the best of the Week 7 schedule.
© Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
New York Giants @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Spread: Giants +3.5, Jags -3.5
Total: Over/Under 41.5
Money line: Giants +130, Jags -153
The New York Giants seek to pick up where they left off following their third victory from an underdog position of 10+ points this season. Brian Daboll's Giants have vanquished the memory of 5 straight losing seasons to record their best start since 2009, and on Sunday, they will travel to host the Jaguars.
Saquon Barkley is in a contract year, and he's certainly making the most of his time. Dominating touches out of the backfield in their recent wins, with over 24 carries in most of their games. It's worth noting that although there has not been a dip in production, he has been hampered by a shoulder injury which the Giants will need to manage. Quarterback Daniel Jones put in arguably his best performance of recent weeks on Sunday, distributing the ball accurately, scoring multiple touchdowns, and mainly taking care of the football. Unfortunately, Jones is not a headline-grabbing quarterback, and his impact is limited with the run game so strong and the receiving core so weak. He is managing games quite well under Daboll's tutelage.
With three consecutive losses, October has not been a kind month for the hosting Jaguars. Interestingly that mirrors a reduction in the impact of running back James Robinson. He scored freely in September but has been restricted in carries and yardage in recent games. Travis Etienne has risen to take an equal share of rushing attempts with Robinson and is, overall, gaining double the yardage on most plays than his team-mate. Trevor Lawrence has also struggled recently, having noticeably inferior performances against Philadelphia and Houston. The Jacksonville quarterback looked after the ball well against the Colts. Despite being sacked four times, he managed to rush for two touchdowns. Still, multiple sub-200-yard passing in recent games indicates that all is not well here offensively.
I expect this to be a close game that could go either way, I am favoring the Giants +3 here, and I'm unable to see a scenario whereby the teams score 40+ points based upon recent form. So back the Under as a result.
© Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Falcons @ Cincinnati Bengals
Spread: Falcons +6.5, Bengals -6.5
Total: Over/Under 47.5
Money line: Falcons +220, Bengals -263
The Atlanta Falcons travel to Cincinnati on Sunday off the back of a tremendous win against San Francisco last week. The 49ers were solid favorites in that game. They were the best defense in terms of total yards allowed and totaled up a staggering 13 sacks over the previous two weeks. Atlanta built their victory by restricting the 49er's ground game, stopping them on 3rd down, and their offensive line's dominating play.
Arthur Smith's team will need to be at their best this weekend against Cincinnati. Their young secondary has outperformed expectations so far, greatly helped by their offense remaining on the field for long periods. However, they are still one of the worst in the NFL at limiting opposition passing yards.
Enter the Bengals, who conversely have struggled with their run game this season but have dominated recent games in the air. Joe Burrow has a dazzling array of options to select from, having already thrown to 10 different receivers this season. His favored target has been fellow LSU product Ja'Marr Chase, with whom he connected on Sunday to achieve 132 passing yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, the Bengals have experienced a frustrating 2022. They have yet to be able to reach their 2021 form for much of it, giving up 20 points per game. They've looked particularly vulnerable against the run game, which does not bode well against a Falcons' offense mainly focused on the ground. Even as they lost Cordarelle Patterson to injury (knee), Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley ensured production did not tail off. Marcus Mariota has performed admirably. Despite being limited to under 20 attempts in recent performances, a connection with Olamide Zaccheaus, Kyle Pitts, and Drake London has enabled Mariota's team to take advantage of their opportunities as they arise.
In summary, this should be a high-scoring game, given the strength of the two offenses relative to the defenses. The result will depend on how Cincinnati deals with the ground game and Atlanta deals with the aerial assault. Ultimately, I feel Cincinnati will have too much here, but the safer bet is to back the Over on this occasion.
© Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Texans @ Oakland Raiders
Spread: Texans +6.5, Raiders -6.5
Total: Over/Under 45.5
Money line: Texans +230, Raiders -300
The two teams with the AFC's worst records match up on Sunday as the Raiders host the Texans at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Houston has had the opportunity to take stock of their season-to-date following a very early bye-week off the back of a victory against Jacksonville. This was a strange game in which the Texans gave up significantly more yardage to their opposition but managed to take advantage of their opportunity once it arrived.
The season has been largely frustrating for Houston. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is failing to get the best from Brandin Cooks. With just 42 targets and only half of these connecting, Cooks is on track for his first sub-1000-yard season since joining the Rams. On defense, Houston is one of the worst in the league for giving up yards per game, although they are yet to play a genuinely elite offense.
There are reasons for future optimism for Houston fans moving forward. While they are giving up yardage, they are one of the top teams in preventing red-zone possessions from converting into touchdowns, one factor which put them in the top half of NFL teams in terms of points against per game. In addition, GM Nick Caserio's 2022 picks have thus far proven fruitful. Dameon Pierce is among the league leaders in rushing yards and has broken an average of seven tackles a game. In the secondary, Jalen Pitre (safety) and Derek Stingley Jr (cornerback) have made instant contributions, particularly in terms of interceptions and passes defended.
Sunday's opposition, the Raiders, is undoubtedly wondering how they are sitting at 4-1, having been competitive in every game. Josh Jacobs has responded to his team electing not to pick up his 5th-year option by becoming a machine at running back, posting almost 500 yards and being particularly effective after contact. His highlight came in the Broncos game, where he posted 144 yards and two touchdowns. Likewise, Davante Adams has performed consistently with five touchdowns across five games and back-to-back 100+ yards in recent weeks. Both players have been critical to an offense that is mid-ranking in terms of yards, but top-6 in terms of points scored per game (26).
Although I expect the Texans to make a game of this, the Raiders should be able to take advantage of a poor Houston rush defense to win this one by more than a single touchdown. Back the Raiders -7 as a result.
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