NFL Week 7 predictions: Our picks against the spread
By Emmanuel Morgan
More overtime games? Yes, please.
The total of 10 overtime games so far in the 2021 NFL season is tied for second most in a single season through six weeks. So many close contests can be frustrating when you’re trying to predict winners based on the spread. (Just check out the poor record.)
But the league’s competitiveness has been enjoyable, and it embodies the old quotation about how any team can win or lose “on any given Sunday.”
This week’s schedule includes a rematch of the AFC championship game from two seasons ago, Kansas City against Tennessee; a divisional matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals; and the Las Vegas Raiders’ second game with an interim coach.
Below is a look at Week 7, with all picks made against the spread.
All times Eastern
Byes: Bills, Cowboys, Jaguars, Vikings, Steelers, Chargers.
Last week’s record: 6-9.
SUNDAY’S BEST GAMES
Kansas City at Tennessee Titans
1 p.m., CBS
Line: Kansas City -4.5 | Total: 56.5
Kansas City safety Tyrann Mathieu has seen enough.
Television cameras caught his emotional dialogues with his teammates on the bench and his hands above his head in confusion on the field after poor defensive performances and breakdowns.
The team ranks 28th in rushing defense, a nightmare for Kansas City (3-3) as it faces the Titans (4-2) and Derrick Henry, the NFL’s leading rusher. The offense is not helping the defending AFC champion, either. Kansas City leads the NFL in turnovers (14), and Patrick Mahomes’ eight interceptions are tied for second with Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Trevor Lawrence. After watching the Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Chargers and Baltimore Ravens contain Kansas City, the Titans’ defense could do the same, or at least keep the game competitive enough to allow Henry and the offense to cover the spread. Pick: Titans +4.5
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
1 p.m., CBS
Line: Ravens -6 | Total: 47
The Ravens (5-1) have shown they can win in several ways. Lamar Jackson can throw for more than 400 yards or the team can amass 200 rushing yards. Four of the team’s six games have been decided by one score, and the matchup with the Bengals (4-2) could be just as close.
Cincinnati’s defense ranks ninth in rushing yards allowed (543), meaning Baltimore may have to rely more heavily on Jackson’s arm. Joe Burrow and rookie wideout Ja’Marr Chase, who ranks fourth in the league in receiving yards (553), are capable of making it a shootout. Expect the Bengals to keep the game close. Pick: Bengals +6
Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco 49ers
8:20 p.m., NBC
Line: 49ers -3.5 | Total: 44
San Francisco (2-3) could join Seattle on the brink of irrelevancy in the NFC West with another loss, while the Los Angeles Rams and the Arizona Cardinals have winnable games.
Jimmy Garoppolo (calf) is likely to start as rookie Trey Lance recovers from a knee injury. But he will be without tight end George Kittle (calf), who was put on injured reserve before last week’s bye.
The Colts (2-4), though, got a shot of confidence from bullying the Houston Texans after their fourth-quarter collapse to the Ravens. They hope to continue that momentum. Carson Wentz has thrown only one interception this season, and guard Quenton Nelson, the team’s best lineman, is practicing this week after a three-game absence. If he plays against Nick Bosa and the 49ers’ defense, it may allow Wentz and the Colts to start a win streak. Pick: Colts +3.5
SUNDAY’S OTHER GAMES
Washington Football Team at Green Bay Packers
1 p.m., Fox
Line: Packers -9.5 | Total: 49
Washington fans are on notice. If you raise a middle finger at Aaron Rodgers, he will unleash a profanity-laced monologue after he scores a touchdown, as he did last weekend against the Chicago Bears.
Whether Rodgers is in his typical Zen-filled mood or irate, the Packers (5-1) should easily beat the Footballers (2-4). Washington played competitively against Kansas City, thanks to forcing three turnovers, but soon unraveled. Rodgers has completed nearly 67% of his passes and thrown only three interceptions. Pair that responsible play with Antonio Gibson, Washington’s leading rusher, being compromised by a shin injury, and it’s clear why Green Bay is a big betting favorite. Pick: Packers -9.5
Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins
1 p.m., Fox
Line: Falcons -2.5 | Total: 47.5
Losing to the previously winless Jacksonville Jaguars in London should be an embarrassment to the Dolphins’ front office and coaching staff. Completing a similar performance against the Falcons (2-3) in two consecutive weeks should be unforgivable. Tua Tagovailoa showed promising glimpses in his return from a rib injury, but the defense that kept the Dolphins (1-5) in playoff contention last year struggled against rookie Trevor Lawrence and allowed more than 300 passing yards for the third time.
That’s a trend that may continue against the pass-first Falcons, who welcome receiver Calvin Ridley back after he dealt with a personal issue before the bye. These teams, whether they admit it or not, are in rebuilding mode. But the Falcons are a safer bet after a week off while Miami recovers from its London trip. Pick: Falcons -2.5
New York Jets at New England Patriots
1 p.m., CBS
Line: Patriots -7 | Total: 42.5
Zach Wilson did not throw an interception last week only because the Jets (1-4) had a bye. He has turned the ball over at least once in every game and most likely will against the Patriots (2-4). Coach Bill Belichick will again have a plan to confuse the rookie. The Patriots beat the Jets in Week 2 as Wilson threw four interceptions. Even if he improves his ball security, it’s unlikely that New England will lose. Pick: Patriots -7
Carolina Panthers at New York Giants
1 p.m., Fox
Line: Panthers -2.5 | Total: 43
Expediting Daniel Jones’ return from the concussion protocol only to take a thrashing against the Rams is not a good look for the Giants (1-5). Players at skill positions — running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and receiver Kenny Golladay (knee) — are still hurt, and rookie receiver Kadarius Toney aggravated an ankle injury. With their statuses unclear, this is a classic “get right” game for the Panthers (3-3), who have lost three straight. Sam Darnold must protect the ball better — he has thrown four interceptions in two weeks — but the Panthers’ defense will relish facing a hobbled opponent. Bet on Carolina with confidence. Pick: Panthers -2.5
Philadelphia Eagles at Las Vegas Raiders
4:05 p.m., Fox
Line: Raiders -3 | Total: 49
Running back Miles Sanders is one of the best playmakers the Eagles (2-4) have. But coach Nick Sirianni elects to lean on Jalen Hurts’ arm, and Sanders has not logged more than 15 rushing attempts in a game. He might find success against the Raiders (4-2), if his coach gives him the ball. Las Vegas ranks 25th in rushing yards allowed (784). It could also alleviate pressure from Hurts as he tries to evade Maxx Crosby, who leads the NFL in quarterback hits (18). The Raiders looked efficient in Rich Bisaccia’s first game as the interim coach. If the Eagles don’t switch their offensive plan, Las Vegas could win again. Pick: Raiders -3
Detroit Lions at Los Angeles Rams
4:05 p.m., Fox
Line: Rams -15 | Total: 50.5
Lions quarterback Jared Goff played for the Rams (5-1) for five seasons and helped lay the groundwork for SoFi Stadium to open, which it did in 2020, and he will play there this weekend as a visitor.
But Detroit coach Dan Campbell said Goff “needs to step up” with the Lions (0-6) the only winless team in the league. Matthew Stafford, whom the Rams acquired for Goff and two first-round picks, has transitioned seamlessly into coach Sean McVay’s offense. He is tied for third in passing touchdowns (16) and is fourth in passing yards (1,838). Stafford said he wants to play in big-time games. While this isn’t one of them, it will be a chance to show his former team what he’s capable of when surrounded by quality supporting pieces. Pick: Rams -15
Houston Texans at Arizona Cardinals
4:25 p.m., CBS
Line: Cardinals -17 | Total: 47.5
DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt escaped the Texans (1-5) and their disjointed culture and are now key contributors to the Cardinals (6-0), the league’s lone undefeated team. Houston ranks 25th out of 32 teams in points allowed per game (28.7) while Arizona is fourth in points scored per game (32.3). The spread is rightfully lopsided. Pick: Cardinals -17
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4:25 p.m., CBS
Line: Buccaneers -12.5 | Total: 47
Last week it was Aaron Rodgers. This week it is Tom Brady.
Rookie Justin Fields has another front-row seat to watch an elite quarterback play, and it will help him as he continues to develop as starter for the Bears (3-3). It may not translate to wins, and probably won’t against the Buccaneers (5-1), whose defense is adept at pressuring quarterbacks but has struggled to secure sacks. Tampa Bay lost Richard Sherman (hamstring), its newly acquired cornerback, in the first drive last Thursday, another blow to a team devastated by injuries. Even so, Fields will learn that going throw for throw with Brady is a tough task. Pick: Buccaneers -12.5
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
8:15 p.m., ESPN
Line: Saints -5 | Total: 43.5
Coach Pete Carroll confirmed the Seahawks (2-4) were open to signing veteran free-agent Cam Newton as a quarterback option while Russell Wilson remained on injured reserve. Geno Smith lost a costly fumble in overtime and took five sacks against the Steelers. His performance does not help one of the worst defenses in the league. The unit ranks 28th in passing yards allowed (1,754) and 30th in rushing yards allowed (845). The Saints (3-2) have been woefully unpredictable. But coming off a bye, they should be prepared to beat a Seahawks team in flux. Pick: Saints -5