Week 7 of the NFL season kicks off Thursday night with a favorable play and we could be looking at a huge betting weekend if we start off on the right foot. The 2021 NFL Trade Deadline is looming and this is a critical time as contenders must decide whether to go all-in while pretenders must determine their chances of recovering from a slow start.
This storyline will determine the matchup's outcome. I'll also provide a pick for every Week 7 matchup, with odds courtesy of BetMGM.
Denver Broncos at Cleveland Browns
Storyline: How can the Browns overcome injuries?
This game went from one of the best overall matchups of the week to a strange one clearly affected by injuries. The Browns are without Baker Mayfield, both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt while Odell Beckham's status is still in the air. It's shocking this line hasn't clearly moved to favor Denver.
The Broncos are a good team with an average offense. Their offense breaks down at the worst times, a symptom of lacking a top-tier passer. They should win this game outright though based on the talent advantage tonight.
Pick: Broncos ML (+110)
Washington Football Team at Green Bay Packers
Storyline: Does Washington's secondary improve finally?
Washington has been a disturbingly bad team this year despite expectations they'd push for a playoff spot. The slew of injuries that have struck the offense, in particular, have been devastating, but the entire team wasn't up to snuff before the injuries. The secondary has been most confusing, ranking dead last in the league in passing yards.
Pick: Packers -9.5 (-110)
Carolina Panthers at New York Giants
Storyline: Will the Giants be able to score?
This might be the most uninspiring game of the week. Carolina has a fun, athletic defense capable of squashing offensive drives. But the Panthers' offense, led by Sam Darnold and without Christian McCaffrey, is a liability each week. Darnold is a fraud and his play as of late is starting to show that.
But, the Giants are even worse off. The injury bug has completely robbed Daniel Jones of a functional offense, and Jones couldn't make it work even with a good supporting cast. The Giants defense has also been a disappointment.
This is a tremendously good value for the Panthers even with their warts.
Pick: Panthers -3 (-110)
New York Jets at New England Patriots
Storyline: Can Zach Wilson create any plays?
The last matchup between these teams created an embarrassing moment for Zach Wilson and the Jets. Bill Belichick took Wilson to Sunday school to the tune of four interceptions. Wilson, coming off a bye week and all the wiser, must outplay Mac Jones and create some chunk plays to help the offense.
In general, the Jets have looked like a bottom-three team in the league still. New England has a high floor but a low ceiling. They'll outcoach and outplay New York once again in a comfortable cover.
Pick: Patriots -7 (-110)
Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins
Storyline: Which pass defense plays better?
Miami is now entrenched in Tua Tagovailoa trade and Deshaun Watson trade rumors instead of focusing on how they can turn this shocking 1-5 start around. Acquiring Watson would do nothing for one of the worst defenses in the NFL, and barely overcome their horrible offensive line.
Meanwhile, Atlanta has an elite passing game that will pick apart Miami's struggling defense. The talent is on Miami's side, but it's starting to look like Brian Flores may have lost his team.
Pick: Falcons -2.5 (-110)
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
Storyline: Are the Bengals for real?
The premier matchup of the week is an unexpected one in the AFC North. The breakout Cincinnati Bengals are in Baltimore fighting for control of the division. Problem is, Baltimore is back on top with an elite passing game and talented defense.
The Bengals are beating teams in the mediocre tier consistently but their lack of high-end talent cost them late against the Packers two weeks ago. Baltimore has dominated this series 7-3 over the last 10 matchups thanks to a much more physical defense and reliable quarterback. The emergence of Joe Burrow as a franchise passer changes the game, though.
I'm picking the Ravens to win but it'll be a close divisional battle. The Ravens' pass defense is vulnerable and the Bengals have one of the best offensive cores in the NFL. Buying the points to a full seven should even be a consideration.
Pick: Bengals +6.5 (-110)
Detroit Lions at Los Angeles Rams
Storyline: Just how bad are the Lions?
Lines this large are scary. It's not uncommon to see the better team let their guard down as the game progresses, or simply come out sluggish as they underestimate their foe. The Los Angeles Rams did well to avoid this last week, but the Lions have the tendency to play hard and be a nuisance even if they're bad.
I don't like touching a spread so large but I feel confident the total is too high.
Pick: Under 50.5 (-110)
Philadelphia Eagles at Las Vegas Raiders
Storyline: Can either run game perform?
The weakness of both these defenses is on the ground, but neither of these teams commits to the run, nor are effective if they were to. This creates a lopsided offense that thrives only as the quarterbacks do.
Pick: Raiders -3 (-115)
Houston Texans at Arizona Cardinals
Storyline: Does Arizona play sharp?
Another huge line that has me worried. It's uncomfortable to see a line 17 points or more. The Texans stink while the Cardinals are definitely capable of covering the spread. However, that's not the best bet from this game.
The total needs Houston to come out and score at least twice in order to hit the over.
Davis Mills has shown some talent worth continuing to invest in, but the Cardinals have a fierce defense that plays fast. Arizona likely covers in a similarly dominant fashion as Buffalo did against Houston, but I'll take the safer under.
Pick: Under 47.5 (-110)
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The points have swelled from 10 to 12.5 in this matchup after the Chicago Bears' offense continued to struggle in Week 6. The Buccaneers are arguably the best team in the league, but this is a ton of points. The question is whether Justin Fields and the Bears' offense will produce enough against the beat-up Bucs defense to cover.
Fields has a good opportunity as Tampa's pass defense ranks 27th. The scheme has been lacking, though, and we've seen Allen Robinson disappear despite the obvious talent Fields brings to the team. This has to change this week for the Bears to stay in playoff contention.
Tampa has been on fire all year on offense but I'm taking the Bears to cover. This is too many points considering the Bucs gave up the backdoor cover to a worse Philly team last Thursday night.
Pick: Bears +12.5 (-110)
Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco 49ers
Storyline: Is Kyle Shanahan able to turn things around?
I was selling the Colts and still think they're not an overly good team but their performances over the last month show an improving group. Quarterback Carson Wentz and running back Jonathan Taylor have slowly seen improvement to the point where we can say the Colts are a legitimate threat to win against other mediocre teams. Their 2-4 record is not necessarily an accurate indication of their ability to win games moving forward.
The 49ers are coming off a bye week, but it's strange oddsmakers continue to like them. They're 1-4 ATS this year and clearly not reliable. Kyle Shanahan has done a poor job getting the most out of this team, which is shocking considering his track record.
I'd feel more comfortable with the 49ers than I currently am if Jimmy Garoppolo is named the starter and not Trey Lance. However, this looks like an excellent opportunity to grab value on the line. I like the Colts, and even their moneyline would be a nice play even if I'm taking the points.
Pick: Colts +3.5 (-110)
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
Storyline: Which Saints squad will show up?
Two poor passing offenses collide in Seattle on Monday night. This game is relatively uninspiring, but the coaching staffs and quarterback variance make it mildly interesting. The Saints have become incredibly reliant on the run game to win, and the Seahawks are hoping Geno Smith can piece together some scoring drives.
If Jameis Winston comes out aggressive and hits some tight-window throws, the Saints can win comfortably. I love Winston but he hasn't done it consistently. I like the home dog to cover.
Pick: Seahawks +4.5 (-110)
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