NFL Picks and Predictions: Week 7

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, October 21st, 2016

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Rivalry week in the NFL, on several levels.
We kick off Week 7 with the oldest grudge match in NFL history between the Bears and Packers — two sides who’ve been going at it since 1921. Green Bay lost that first meeting 20-0, by the way. Samkon Gado couldn’t get it going on the ground. Here’s another 20-nothing … The Bills lock up with the Dolphins in an AFC East tilt. Did you know Buffalo never beat Miami in the entire decade of the ’70s? That includes two meetings per season, for 10 years.
You have to wonder if the Texans can beat the Broncos on the
road in the Brock Osweiler bowl. That’s a dual rivalry, actually —
don’t forget about Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak going against his
former team.
And I haven’t even gotten to your standard divisional showdowns,
like Colts at Titans, Browns at Bengals or a juicy sucker on Sunday
night, Seahawks at Cardinals.
The picks are below and I believe they are better than last
week’s edition, in which your friendly prognosticator lost one close
game after another in the final moments. So frustrating. Now, let’s
get to it!
(Elliot Harrison went 8-7 on his predictions for Week 6, giving him a
record of 57-35 thus far this season.)

Chicago (1-5) at Green Bay (3-2)
Thursday, 7:30 PM CBS
Line: Packers -8 / 46
With injuries to Eddie Lacy and James Starks leaving running
duties to Ty Montgomery, Randall Cobb and a guy they just picked up
Tuesday, the Packers’ offense is a mess. Speaking of messes, that’s
what some people think Aaron Rodgers is. The Green Bay quarterback’s
passer rating right now is a mediocre 88.4, which would be the lowest
of his career as a starter. Truth be told, though, Rodgers has thrown
10 touchdowns in five games and isn’t as awful as all the Negative
Nancys out there would have you believe. Besides what the eye test
tells you, there is one noticeable difference, though: Rodgers’
yards-per-attempt mark (6.5) is roughly 1.5 yards under his career
number (7.9). Meanwhile, the Bears’ defense has looked better as of
late, allowing the Lions only seven points in Week 4 (not including a
punt-return touchdown) and the Jaguars 17 in Week 6. But they’re still
not very good. Rodgers rebounds like a codependent ex-girlfriend.
Pick: Packers 25 Bears 17

NY Giants (3-3) at LA Rams (3-3)
Sunday, 9:30a.m NFLN
Line: Giants -2.5 / 43.5
Is the Giants’ offense back on track? Eli Manning and Odell
Beckham Jr. have connected for three touchdowns over the last two
weeks, while Beckham put up two bills receiving versus the Ravens. The
Rams’ defense presents a stiffer challenge in London. With Los Angeles
cornerback Trumaine Johnson ailing, covering Beckham should be a group
effort. The Rams sorely need Robert Quinn back healthy to apply
pressure on Manning. Staying on the health front, with Rashad Jennings
now back, the Giants should run the football more — in theory. Rams
running back Todd Gurley hasn’t come close to posting a 100-yard game,
and it won’t get easier against a Big Blue defense that allows 3.5
yards per carry. LA-NY presents a sleek matchup, with the two largest
markets in the U.S. playing in London. Just wondering if either of
these teams is any good at this point.
Pick: Giants 26 Rams 20

New Orleans (2-3) at Kansas City (3-2)
Sunday, Noon FOX
Line: Chiefs -6.5 / 50.5
How much of Sunday’s contest in Kansas City will be on Drew
Brees’ shoulders? As written about in this week’s Power Rankings, the
Saints’ franchise quarterback is being asked to carry this team at 37
years old. Brees lifted his team last week over the rival Panthers,
but he hasn’t been particularly strong on the road recently. This
season, he’s tossed three touchdowns and two picks in two away games
with a passer rating a little north of 80. Last season, his passer
rating was 25 points lower away from home (112.5 to 87.7). The Chiefs
are coming off a strong performance in which they shut down the
high-octane Raiders passing attack. On that note, would you believe
Kansas City corner Marcus Peters has more INTs (13) since 2015 than
the entire Saints team (11)?
Pick: Chiefs 27 Saits 17

Indianapolis (2-4) at Tennessee (3-3)
Sunday, Noon CBS
Line: Titans -2.5 / 48
The Titans’ pass rushers were all over Browns quarterback Cody
Kessler last Sunday. My good buddy, NFL researcher @MarkDulgerianOS,
says, “Yeah, but Kessler’s offensive line is terrible.” So maybe it’s
garbage. The Colts’ line is a diamond in the rough — with 90 percent
of it being rough. Tennessee blitzes 30.5 percent of the time, tops in
the league, which presents quite the problem for Andrew Luck after
what he saw late in last Sunday’s Texans game: flashing colors,
usually not his own, with the game on the line. Luck’s passer rating
against the blitz is 69.8 Not good. Frank Gore putting up 100 yards
for the Colts again would help immeasurably. That said, I think Marcus
Mariota’s improved play for Tennessee, coupled with the weak Indy
defense, spells a Titans win.
Pick: Titans 28 Colts 24

Washington (4-2) at Detroit (3-3)
Sunday, Noon FOX
Line: Lions -1 / 49
I always feel nervous picking the Lions, but I figure the
Redskins’ winning streak has to end somewhere, and Detroit has looked
better in recent weeks. Both of these clubs beat the Eagles within the
past two weeks with solid situational defense. Think both Kirk Cousins
and Matthew Stafford will fare well in this game. Did you know that
since Week 7 of the 2015 season, Cousins and Stafford are the second-
and third-highest-rated passers? Cousins and Stafford! Back to
situational defense: This game could be decided by how Washington’s
unit fares on third down. The Lions are converting 46.5 percent of
their third-down attempts, an extremely high number (and third-best in
the NFL).
Pick: Lions 26 Redskins 24

Oakland (4-2) at Jacksonville (2-3)
Sunday, Noon CBS
Line: Jaguars -1 / 48.5
The Raiders might not be built for long-term success, what with
their inability to run the ball and their persistently leaky defense,
but they can put points on the board. Oakland QB Derek Carr has been
mostly stellar when the outcome has been in doubt. Prior to the Week 6
loss to the Chiefs, Carr had been the NFL’s top passers when trailing
and one of the very best in the fourth quarter. That’s interesting, at
least in terms of this matchup, because the Jaguars have fared
surprisingly well in the fourth quarter this year — they are ninth in
passer rating allowed and fourth in total yards allowed. Jacksonville
is also allowing the fewest 10-yard plays in the league this year, so
it isn’t as easy to get chunk plays on the defense. Unfortunately,
Jacksonville’s offense struggles in that realm as much as the Jags’
opponents do. Blake Bortles has been the worst passer in the league on
the deep ball (with a 27.3 passer rating on passes that travel over 20
yards in the air). That said, Bortles should find plenty of openings
in a weak Raiders secondary, thus, I think this game is a
higher-scoring affair.
Pick: Raiders 28 Jaguars 26

Washington (4-2) at Detroit (3-3)
Sunday, Noon FOX
Line: Lions -1 / 49
I always feel nervous picking the Lions, but I figure the
Redskins’ winning streak has to end somewhere, and Detroit has looked
better in recent weeks. Both of these clubs beat the Eagles within the
past two weeks with solid situational defense. Think both Kirk Cousins
and Matthew Stafford will fare well in this game. Did you know that
since Week 7 of the 2015 season, Cousins and Stafford are the second-
and third-highest-rated passers? Cousins and Stafford! Back to
situational defense: This game could be decided by how Washington’s
unit fares on third down. The Lions are converting 46.5 percent of
their third-down attempts, an extremely high number (and third-best in
the NFL).
Pick: Lions 26 Redskins 24

Oakland (4-2) at Jacksonville (2-3)
Sunday, Noon CBS
Line: Jaguars -1 / 48.5
The Raiders might not be built for long-term success, what with
their inability to run the ball and their persistently leaky defense,
but they can put points on the board. Oakland QB Derek Carr has been
mostly stellar when the outcome has been in doubt. Prior to the Week 6
loss to the Chiefs, Carr had been the NFL’s top passers when trailing
and one of the very best in the fourth quarter. That’s interesting, at
least in terms of this matchup, because the Jaguars have fared
surprisingly well in the fourth quarter this year — they are ninth in
passer rating allowed and fourth in total yards allowed. Jacksonville
is also allowing the fewest 10-yard plays in the league this year, so
it isn’t as easy to get chunk plays on the defense. Unfortunately,
Jacksonville’s offense struggles in that realm as much as the Jags’
opponents do. Blake Bortles has been the worst passer in the league on
the deep ball (with a 27.3 passer rating on passes that travel over 20
yards in the air). That said, Bortles should find plenty of openings
in a weak Raiders secondary, thus, I think this game is a
higher-scoring affair.
Pick: Raiders 28 Jaguars 26

Buffalo (4-2) at Miami (2-4)
Sunday, Noon CBS
Line: Bills -3 / 44
Riding the hot hand, here. No, not Bills quarterback Tyrod
Taylor — and no, not the Dolphins, who are coming off one of the most
shocking wins of the season. Buffalo has won four games in a row on
the legs of LeSean McCoy and on the backs of the entire defensive
unit. So much for Rex Ryan getting fired — the Bills have made
talking about coordinators sexy again. Dennis Thurman is calling a
helluva game these days as DC. Since being named OC four weeks ago,
Anthony Lynn improved the Bills per-game rushing number from 75.5 over
the season’s first two weeks to 211.8 in Weeks 3-6 … 211.8!!!!!
That’s a huge number. Good thing the Dolphins own the NFL’s
31st-ranked run defense. Miami’s offense has looked much, much better
in recent weeks, but I think the Dolphins will see the ball less this
week.
Pick: Bills 26 Dolphins 21

Baltimore (3-3) at NY Jets (1-5)
Sunday, Noon CBS
Line: Jets -1 / 41.5
The Jets finally get on the board. With Ryan Fitzpatrick
presumably getting ready to audition for the role of the Green Knight
at Medieval Times (the Green Knight only gets intercepted by lances),
it’s Geno Smith time. Yes, his career numbers (57.9 percent completion
rate, 27 touchdowns, 36 picks and a 71.9 passer rating) are less than
encouraging. And Geno got pizza rolled in his only career start
against the Ravens (40.9 percent completion rate and a passer rating
of 22.3 in 2013). But maybe there’s something to be said for
interrupted momentum: His last time out as a starter, in Week 17 of
the 2014 season, Smith carved up the Dolphins for 358 yards, three
touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Of course, there’s
the matter of Baltimore’s run defense — tops in the league thus far
— which means Matt Forte might have a hard time hitting the 20-yard
barrier again. On the bright side for the Jets, Terrell Suggs is
dealing with a torn bicep. Offensively, banged-up Ravens QB Joe
Flacco is averaging a paltry 6 yards per throw. This could get ugly
fast, like the score.
Pick: Jets 18 Ravens 16

Tampa Bay (2-3) at San Francisco (1-5)
Sunday, 3:05 FOX
Line: Bucs -2 / 47
Wondering if anyone is going to offer up any watchable offense
this weekend in Santa Clara. Yep, this could be a fugly deal. The
visiting Bucs average only 4.8 yards per play, which is the
second-lowest mark in the NFL. At least the 49ers make up for it by
averaging 4.6. Tampa Bay has lost three straight games following a bye
week. That’s OK: San Francisco has lost five straight games — period.
The 49ers’ point differential (minus-58) is the worst figure in the
NFC. Overall, I like Jameis Winston, going on two weeks of tape, in
this game. Need to see more from Colin Kaepernick, although Tampa’s D
present far less of a challenge than the Bills’ unit.
Pick: Bucs 20 49ers 17

San Diego (2-4) at Atlanta (4-2)
Sunday, 3:05 FOX
Line: Falcons -6.5 / 53
Another potential upset? Not because the Falcons just lost in
Seattle and they’re beaten down. Rather, I just get the feeling that
these Chargers are playing their hearts out for head Mike McCoy and
Philip Rivers, who isn’t operating with a full deck out there. Think I
am making excuses for San Diego’s 2-4 record? Look at this way: What
would the Falcons’ record be without Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman?
Well, Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead aren’t the same caliber, but
they are as important to the Chargers’ offense. Both Ryan and Rivers
like throwing the ball — in fact, those two rank first (263.9) and
third (253.5), respectively, when it comes to passing yards per game
among QBs who’ve never won a Super Bowl in NFL history. (No. 2? Dan
Marino, of course.)
Trivia: San Diego has lost eight of nine meetings against the
Falcons. The Bolts’ only win came in 1988. What Chargers RB ran for
145 yards that day?
Pick: Falcons 28 Chargers 23
New England (5-1) at Pittsburgh (4-2)
Sunday, 3:25 CBS
Line: Patriots -7 / 45.5
Tom Brady vs. Landry Jones!!!!! Yeah … Not exactly the QB duel
we were hotly anticipating.
What was once the darling game of the Week 7 schedule took a
major hit this week when Ben Roethlisberger was forced to go under the
knife. And with Ryan Shazier questionable, Pittsburgh could be hurting
on both sides of the ball. Look for James White to excel if Shazier is
indeed absence. He’s a nice receiver out of the backfield who has
caught 12 balls (and scored two touchdowns) since Tom Brady returned
— after logging 13 grabs and zero TDs in the first four games of the
season. When it comes to the Steelers’ offense, well, it’s important
to note that backup quarterbacks are 14-47 against the Belichick
Patriots, averaging less than 20 points per game on offense.
Important, as in, Pittsburgh loses.
Pick: Patriots 30 Steelers 16

Seattle (4-1) at Arizona (3-3)
Sunday, 7:30 NBC
Line: Cardinals -2 / 43.5
Heckuva matchup that’s lost a little luster, given that neither
team has been dominant. The Seahawks’ primary charge this week will be
stopping David Johnson, who is the most complete back in football this
side of Le’Veon Bell. Meanwhile, Russell Wilson is enjoying another
fine season. Do you realize he has the second-highest passer rating in
NFL history? Crazy talk. The wild card in this matchup could be
Michael Floyd, who seemingly emerged from the doghouse this past
Monday night to see more time on the field. Remember it was Floyd who
carved up the Seahawks on Sunday night last year with seven catches
for 113 yards and two tugs. For all the talk of the Seahawks’
offensive line holding them back, they’ve averaged 30 points per game
over the last three outings. Still, giving Arizona the edge in the
desert.
Pick: Cardinals 23 Seahawks 21

Houston (4-2) at Denver (4-2)
Monday, 7:30 ESPN
Line: Broncos -7.5 / 40.5
Brock Lobster’s revenge. Es la venganza del quarterback de los Tejanos!
(Just gonna let that sit there and resonate.)
Osweiler might as well have been teaching español through the
first 55 minutes last Sunday night versus the Colts. While he got it
going late on that day, this Broncos defense simply won’t provide the
creases in coverage. Nor will Osweiler enjoy 4.5 seconds to pick a
receiver. Von Miller is the best edge rusher in football. Shane Ray
has done a viable enough job of making DeMarcus Ware’s prolonged
absence less noticeable. Shaquil Barrett has made several plays.
Running right into the teeth of the Denver front with Lamar Miller
makes sense, although I don’t anticipate him being able hit the gas on
those outside runs like he did vs. Indy. Give the W to Gary Kubiak.
Pick: Broncos 23 Texans 13

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