NFL
October 22, 2020
BY Bryan Zarpentine

NFL Best Bets: Week 7

I’m a big enough person to admit when I mess up, and last week, I undoubtedly messed up. I lost four of five games, digging an awfully big hole myself. However, just six weeks into the season, I’m far from ready to throw in the towel. After all, I picked accurately on Monday night, and so I’m going to take that momentum into Week 7.

As a whole, Week 7 has some intriguing matchups scheduled, some of which I’d prefer to stay away from because I don’t have a great read on one or both teams. However, I’m feeling confident about the picks I’ve made for Week 7, as my comeback begins.

Cincinnati Bengals +3 vs Cleveland Browns

The Browns were atrocious last week and I’m not going to trust them to be any better this week. Defensively, the Browns have proven that they can’t stop anybody. If they get a lead, Myles Garrett leads a dangerous pass rush. Otherwise, there’s nothing to like about the Cleveland defense. Meanwhile, the Browns need to lean more on Baker Mayfield with half of their running back tandem missing while Nick Chubb is injured. Mayfield is too inconsistent and unpredictable, and I’m even more skeptical of him facing a team that has already seen him this year. Plus, his rib injury is a potential concern that could force Case Keenum back on to the field again.

On the other side, the Bengals aren't that bad, at least considering that they have one win in six games. Three of their four losses have come by five points or less, as only the Ravens have beat them going away. Keep in mind that this is just their third home game. They won one and probably should have won in Week 1 as well. Granted, the Cincinnati defense isn’t the most reliable. But Joe Burrow is making progress and the skill players around him should do some damage against the Cleveland defense, especially with A.J. Green starting to round back into form.

Dallas Cowboys +1 at Washington Football Team

Things looked bad for the Cowboys on Monday night, but they can’t possibly be that bad just because they lost Dak Prescott. The Cowboys had an encounter with Murphy's Law where everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. Of course, there will be an adjustment period with Andy Dalton taking over the offense. However, things can only get better and Mike McCarthy will find a way to make the offense work.

More importantly, this game is virtually a straight-up PK and there’s no way I’m taking Washington under any circumstances right now. They couldn’t even beat the Giants despite out-gaining them by more than 100 yards. Washington can’t run the ball and there’s little reason to think that Kyle Allen can win games in the NFL.

It’s still hard to fathom that the Cowboys are 2-4 and Washington is surely a team the Cowboys can beat. I’ll start to think differently if they lose, but I’m willing to give the Cowboys the benefit of the doubt against one of the worst teams in football.

Atlanta Falcons -2.5 vs Detroit Lions

Okay, so I’m not crazy about the Falcons and I don’t think Atlanta is poised for some kind of miracle comeback after starting 0-5. I’ll also admit that it’s a little weird for them to be favored in a game. However, there's no doubt that the Falcons offense can score points. Julio Jones had his best game of the season last week and he might be the team’s second-best receiver behind Calvin Ridley. Perhaps more importantly, it's hard to have much faith in the Detroit defense just because they held the Jaguars to 16 points last week. Expect Matt Ryan and the Falcons to put up a healthy point total.

On the other side, there's no guarantee Matthew Stafford and the Lions, even against a lackluster Atlanta defense, will be able to light up the scoreboard. Stafford looks a little off, perhaps because of the back problem that caused him to sit out the second half of last season. The running game is spotty and if this game becomes a full-scale shootout, Stafford and Detroit’s receivers might not be able to match Ryan and Atlanta’s pass catchers. Look for the Falcons to win a second straight game now that the monkey is off their back.

Los Angeles Chargers -7.5 vs Jacksonville Jaguars

The Chargers sure don't look like a team that's 1-4. They’ve played a difficult schedule and lost four games by an average of 4.5 points. The underrated should be able to handle one of the worst teams in the NFL. Even if he hasn't won a game yet, Justin Herbert looks like the real deal and hasn’t made too many rookie mistakes. After getting an extra week of practice, Herbert should be poised for one of the best games of his young career, especially against a team that’s given up at least 30 points in five consecutive weeks.

There's little doubt that the Chargers are capable of scoring 30-plus points against the lowly Jags. But there are concerns about the Jaguars' offense scoring enough to stay within 10 points of Los Angeles. Jacksonville appears to be reaching the end of the road with Gardner Minshew. His accuracy has waned over the past two weeks despite Jacksonville playing bad defensive teams in the Lions and Texans. He’s not getting the ball downfield and teams are starting to get a beat on the team's running game.

In the end, expect the Chargers to break out of their slump in a big way with a double-digit win over the Jags.

Chicago Bears +6 at Los Angeles Rams

To be honest, it's hard to explain Chicago’s success this season. The Bears are 4-1 this season when they’re the underdog. It's confusing why oddsmakers continue to doubt the team that’s 5-1 and sits atop the NFC North, but the Bears are six-point underdogs this week. Somehow, someway, without putting up impressive numbers or getting a ton of help from the running game, Nick Foles puts the Bears in a position to win games.

The Chicago defense deserves most of the credit, and they should continue to play well on that side of the ball this week. While Jared Goff has played well at times this year, his consistency has been an issue, especially against quality defensive teams. Keep in mind that the Bears have allowed 19 points or fewer in four of their six games. If they can hold the Rams to a similar total, covering six points won’t be easy.

All things considered, it'd be surprising to see the Bears lose by more than a field goal, even if they don’t pull off another improbable win. That means Chicago should beat the six-point spread.

Photo: Getty Images