5 NFL Picks To Make For Sunday: Titans To Cover Spread, 49ers-Patriots Under, More Bets
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images. Pictured: George Kittle
Chris Raybon, a senior NFL and fantasy football analyst, highlights his favorite Week 7 NFL picks below. He has a 298-233-17 (56.1%) all-time record on NFL bets he’s tracked in the Action app.
Week 7 NFL Picks
Click on a pick to skip ahead to that analysis.
First Half Under 22
Browns -3 at Bengals
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET | More Game Info
Baker Mayfield has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL against pressure, so it wasn’t surprising that the Browns came out flat against the Steelers, getting trounced 38-7. While Pittsburgh ranks No. 1 in pressure rate (36.2% per Pro Football Reference), Cincinnati ranks 29th (15.7%), so this is a great time to buy back in on Cleveland.
The narrative coming into the week will be that the Bengals are making strides after they nearly stole one against the Colts, ultimately falling 31-27, but I still wouldn’t trust this team to outscore a Browns squad that averages 27.2 points per game while the Bengals average 21.5.
The Bengals still rank 26th in yards per play (4.7), 28th in third-down conversion rate (36.0%) and 29th in red-zone touchdown rate (47.1%). And they disappointingly failed to put the Colts away in a game it jumped out to a 24-7 lead and won the turnover battle, 2-1, mustering only three points over the second half.
I like the Browns up to -4.
Titans -1 vs. Steelers
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET | More Game Info
Entering last week, no one was sold on the Steelers, allowing us to get a favorable line to hammer in a nightmare matchup for Mayfield, who predictably struggled against Pittsburgh’s No. 1 rated defense in quarterback pressure rate (39.4%). You would think that would spell trouble for the Titans, as they just lost starting left tackle Taylor Lewan, but Lewan hadn’t been playing particularly well this season, earning a 61.8 grade from Pro Football Focus on 231 snaps. In fact, Lewan’s replacement, Ty Sambrailo, has outperformed him with a grade of 66.1.
More importantly, Ryan Tannehill leads the NFL in passer rating under pressure (110.5), and the next-closest QB (Phillip Rivers) does not even come within five points of Tannehill. Passer rating under pressure can sometimes be deceiving, as it doesn’t account for sacks, but Tannehill also has taken sacks at the third-lowest rate under duress (9.8%).
Aside from getting pressure, the Steelers’ other strength is their run defense, but so far they’ve faced the non-existent run game of the Giants, the Broncos without Melvin Gordon, and the Texans when David Johnson was getting only 11-13 carries per game under Bill O’Brien. The past two weeks, they’ve allow a 33/153/4.6/2 line to running backs, losing leading tackler Devin Bush in the process. Now they face the NFL’s leading rusher, Derrick Henry.
The Titans are second in the NFL with 32.8 points per game, and that’s come with them leaving another 17 points (or 3.4 per game) on the table via Stephen Gostkowski missed kicks.
The Titans are easily the best offense Pittsburgh has faced, and these are the spots that make them most vulnerable despite their stout defense. Why? Because even with rookie Chase Claypool exceeding all fathomable expectations, the Steelers rank 25th in yards per play (5.4) and an even more disconcerting bottom-five in early-down success rate both rushing and passing.
Tennessee’s defense is by no means good (22nd in Football Outsiders’ DVOA), but good offense beats good defense in today’s NFL.
Finally, the Titans have the situational edge, as the Steelers are going on the road for the first time since Week 1 while the Titans are on their third straight home game. I like the Titans at anything under a field goal.
49ers-Patriots Under 45 & First Half Under 22
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET | More Game Info
This line got as low as 43.5 but has been bet back up to 45, likely because of the news that the Patriots are getting back offensive linemen Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney. That’s great news for the Patriots, but not necessarily the total, as it should just help a Pats offense that averages a league-high 33.0 rushing attempts per game milk time of possession.
In the first half especially, that is likely what we’ll see on both sides: According to Football Outsiders, the Patriots rank 29th in first-half pace while the 49ers rank 31st.
There are a number of other factors that create favorable conditions for the under. In terms of air yards per pass attempt, Cam Newton ranks 30th (6.3) and Jimmy Garoppolo ranks 31st (6.2). This limits the risk of explosive plays — particularly with both teams ranking top-four in fewest missed tackles on defense — and force the offenses to convert on third down and in the red zone, which could be a struggle since both defenses rank top-eight in third-down defense and top-six in red-zone defense.
Seahawks -3.5 at Cardinals
Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET | More Game Info
Betting on the Cards last week was one of the enjoyable games of the season: Zero sweat.
Now, it’s time to fade them.
Are the Cardinals any different than the team that entered Week 5 at 2-2 after back-to-back losses to the below-average Lions and Panthers? Did the Cardinals really “hit their stride,” as the narrative would have it, or did they simply beat up on the league-worst Jets and the injury-ravaged Cowboys? Not to mention, another one of the Cardinals’ wins came against the Washington Football Team.
The Cardinals are not only short on quality wins, but also preparation time, as they played on Monday night while the Seahawks are coming off a bye — a spot that has been incredibly favorable for the super team (i.e. the favorite):
This is simply a letdown spot for the Cards: Short week, going from facing the NFL’s coldest QB to its hottest in a game in which the absence of top pass-rusher Chandler Jones will truly be felt for the first time.
Offensively, Kyler Murray is coming off a game in which he completed only 9-of-20 passes but was bailed out by an 80-yard touchdown that he nearly overthrew, and Arizona’s run game will likely revert to form against Seattle’s top-10 run defense — not to mention DeAndre Hopkins (foot) is at less than 100%.
I like Seattle up to -4.