Your Ultimate NFL Week 7 Betting Guide: Tips, Picks, Strategies for Every Game
USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Adam Thielen, Dak Prescott and Andy Reid.
- If you're looking for comprehensive betting and fantasy football previews for every Week 7 game, you've come to the right place.
- Our experts cover trends, sharp action, fantasy football sleepers and make the case for a few bets.
All odds as of Friday morning. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NFL odds and track your bets.
Betting odds: Tennessee Titans vs. Los Angeles Chargers (in London)
- Spread: Chargers -6.5
- Over/Under: 45.5
- Time: 9:30 a.m. ET
- TV channel: CBS
Betting market: The Chargers are getting 78% of bets, but have essentially remained at -6.5 across the market throughout the majority of the week (find updated odds here).
The Titans have been hit-or-miss this season, bneut are apparently good enough that books don’t want to give them a touchdown at a neutral location. — Mark Gallant
Trends to know: Since 2003, teams coming off a win of 20 points or more (Chargers won by 24 in Week 6) have gone 353-386-25 (47.8%) against the spread in their next game, according to Bet Labs data.
Over that same span, teams that lost their previous game by 20 or more points (Titans lost by 21 in Week 6) have gone 408-340-17 (55%) ATS in their next game.
One would think that if two such teams were to play each other the team coming off the blowout loss would offer value.
Indeed, from 2003-11, teams that lost their previous game by 20 or more points playing an opponent that won their past game by 20 or more points went 31-20 (60.8%) ATS. But in the past six years these teams are just 13-17-2 (43.3%) ATS. — John Ewing
The Titans were shut out at home against the Ravens last week. Since 2003, teams to get shut out and then be listed as underdogs the following week are 33-21-3 ATS (61.1%). When that team was shut out at home, the underdog is 16-7-2 ATS (69.6%). — Evan Abrams
Did you know? Big favorites tend to cover in London. There have been 10 teams favorites by four points or more. All 10 won straight up and nine of them covered, beating the spread by 11.9 ppg. — Abrams
Biggest mismatch: Chargers cornerback Desmond King vs. Titans wide receiver Taywan Taylor
Over the past three weeks, Taylor is second on the Titans with 20% of their target share, but he’s on an offense that’s averaging just 27.5 pass attempts per game, which doesn’t equate into many targets. He’ll also draw a matchup while in the slot against King, PFF’s No. 4 overall corner. — Stuckey
Which team is healthier? Titans
The Chargers will be without Joey Bosa (foot). They’re banged up elsewhere, as well: Kicker Caleb Sturgis (quad), tight end Virgil Green (ribs), center Mike Pouncey (knee) and wide receiver Travis Benjamin (foot) are also less than 100%.
Meanwhile, the Titans could be without linebackers Derrick Morgan (shoulder) and Will Compton (hamstring) in addition to left guard Quinton Spain (shoulder), but they’re relatively healthy otherwise.
DFS edge: The Chargers have deployed Casey Hayward, PFF’s No. 1 cornerback of 2017, in shadow coverage against the opposition’s No. 1 outside receiver in each of the past two weeks, and both Amari Cooper (1-10-0) and Antonio Callaway (2-9-0) were promptly shut down.
Up next is Corey Davis, who ranks among the league’s top six receivers in target share (30%), air yard market share (39%) and targets inside the 10-yard line (5).
The good news for Davis is that he should escape Hayward’s shadow for a decent portion of the afternoon.
Bet to watch: Titans +6.5
The Titans scored zero points last week, which is really saying something in a season where teams are averaging 24.1 points per game — on pace for an NFL record.
Since 2003, teams that scored fewer than 10 points the previous week have gone 394-337-15 (54%) ATS in their next game.
If those same teams, coming off a bad offensive game, are getting little public support it has been even more profitable to buy low on them, as the spreads are likely inflated.
Currently, less than 30% of spread tickets are on Marcus Mariota & Co. — Ewing
Betting odds: New England Patriots at Chicago Bears
- Spread: Patriots -3
- Over/Under: 49.5
- Time: 1 p.m. ET
- TV channel: CBS
Betting market: Following the Patriots’ big win over the Chiefs, the public is back on the New England bandwagon as 74% of bets have come in on New England at the time of writing (see live betting data here).
Doesn’t help that the Bears lost to Brock Osweiler last weekend, either.
The Pats are having trouble getting off the key number of -3 and staying there, though, because sharps have taken the Bears plus the hook every time they’ve been given the chance so far.
There have been five separate reverse line moves on Chicago +3.5 so far and I imagine we’ll see more if the opportunity presents itself. —Mark Gallant
Trends to know: Chicago was a popular play in Week 6 but let down bettors, losing to Miami as a 7.5-point favorite.
As Mark mentioned above, gamblers are fading the Bears in Week 7, but this could be a bad spot. Since 2003, home underdogs getting fewer than 25% of spread tickets have gone 208-174-11 (55%) against the spread. — John Ewing
The Patriots and Tom Brady have been home in Foxborough, Mass., the past three weeks and now head on the road to Soldier Field to face the Bears.
Brady has played just 12 career games (including postseason) in which the Pats were coming off three consecutive home games. In those 12 games the Pats have a 9-3 record straight up but are just 4-8 ATS. — Evan Abrams
Did you know? It’s not often we see a “good” Bears team listed as a home underdog at Soldier Field. The Bears have only been home dogs when they are better than .500 nine times since 2003.
Chicago is 3-6 SU and ATS in this spot. That includes a 36-7 loss to the Patriots in Week 14 of 2010. — Evan Abrams
Biggest mismatch: Chicago’s strengths vs. New England’s strengths
What is the formula to beating New England? I think there are five primary keys — two on offense and three on defense.
- Control the ball
- Execute in the red zone
You saw the Lions perfect the first key on Monday Night Football in Week 3. Head coach Matt Patricia knew the best way to beat the Patriots was to keep Brady off the field.
Well, the Bears rank fourth overall in average time of possession percentage at 54.19% and fifth in third-down conversion percentage at 46.03%. They can keep the chains moving and win the TOP battle against a New England defense that ranks 27th overall on third down (44%).
Regardless of how many yards the Patriots give up, they will generally end up at the top of the league in red zone-defense. They will force you to settle for 3s at a higher clip while Brady & Co. get 6s. That is no different this season, as the Pats are scoring red-zone TDs 68% of the time, while holding opponents to TDs 50% of the time.
Good news for the Bears: Not only is their defense holding opponents to a 50% TD rate inside the 20, but Mitchell Trubisky has been tremendous in the red zone this season. Just take a look at his stats:
- Inside 20-yard line-: 18-29 (60%) 9 TD, 1 INT
- Inside 10-yard line: 9-15 (60%) 6 TD, 0 INT
And you can’t just key in on one target as six different players have caught a red-zone TD and none more than two.
For comparison, Trubisky’s red-zone numbers are almost identical to Tom Brady’s:
- Inside 20-yard line: 17-30 (53.3%) 9 TD 0 INT
- Inside 10-yard line: 8-13 (57.1%) 6 TD 0 INT
- Must pressure and hit Brady
- Must have viable cover guys in the secondary
- Must get a few takeaways
Coming into this season, the Patriots had covered a ridiculous 67.2% (90-43-2) of their games when Tom Brady was sacked no more than once.
For the #Jaguars to cover they need to punch Brady in the mouth
— John Ewing (@johnewing) January 21, 2018
Additionally, since Week 3 of the 2001 season, NE is 156-9 SU and 129-36 ATS when winning the turnover battle. When it doesn’t? Try 45-44 SU and 26-59-4 ATS.
The correlation is there and it makes sense. If you can pressure Brady while effectively covering his outlets in close man-to-man and getting a turnover or two, you can stop the Patriots offense.
Not many teams can do all three, but the Bears’ No. 1-ranked defense in DVOA is one of the few with the personnel to do so.
Chicago’s 2.8 takeaways per game leads the NFL, its 3.6 sacks per game ranks third in the league and its D-line has the third-highest Adjusted Sack Rate.
You know Vic Fangio will bring the pressure, which is the only way you can try to stop Brady.
Per Football Outsiders, the Bears have the NFL’s No. 1 DVOA pass defense. They have the corner depth and overall team speed in the back end to hang with the Patriots. — Stuckey
Which team is healthier? Patriots
The Patriots regularly list half their depth chart on the injury report. Everyone except right tackle Marcus Cannon (head) is tentatively expected to suit up.
The Bears have much more serious concerns, as Allen Robinson (groin) and Khalil Mack (ankle) failed to practice Thursday. No. 1 cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) and left guard Eric Kush (neck) aren’t guaranteed to play, either.
DFS edge: Robinson racked up 21 targets over the first two weeks of the season, but he has largely worked as the offense’s No. 3 pass-game option during their past three games.
Taylor Gabriel (22 targets) and Tarik Cohen (20) have been fed more than A-Rob (17) in that span, and tight end Trey Burton (13) hasn’t been far behind. Up next is a difficult shadow date with Stephon Gilmore, who joins Lions cornerback Darius Slay and Jaguars stud corner Jalen Ramsey as the only shadow corners who have somewhat regularly chased their opposing receiver into the slot.
Any exposure to Robinson should be on FanDuel, where his $6,500 price tag comes with a 94% Bargain Rating. — Ian Hartitz
Bet to watch: Bears +3
Don’t read too much into the Bears’ loss in Miami. They were clearly not focused in the Miami heat coming off a bye week and facing Dolphins backup QB Brock Osweiler.
Need proof? Look no further than the missed tackles. Chicago missed 19 of them, per PFF. They only missed 15 TOTAL in the first four games of the season. This is a top-three defense that should come out inspired vs. the Patriots, who have actually looked human.
I personally played the Bears +3.5 and the Under 49.5 on the app earlier in the week. I think the Bears control the clock and grind out a huge win at Soldier Field.
Another positive for the under: these are two of the least penalized teams in the NFL. Patriots average a league-low 4.3 penalties per game, while the Bears average the fourth-fewest at 5.8. Don’t expect many drives to continue as a result of undisciplined mistakes. — Stuckey
Betting odds: Minnesota Vikings at New York Jets
- Spread: Vikings -3.5
- Over/Under: 46
- Time: 1 p.m. ET
- TV channel: FOX
Betting market: Books are basically in two camps for this game: Move Minnesota to -3.5 with +100 or -105 juice or keep the Vikings at -3 with heavy juice between -120 and -130 (see the live odds here).
This is one of a handful of games this week in which sharps like the dog plus the hook, but everyone else likes the favorite at -3.
Though more than 70% of bets are on the over, more than half of the money is on the under. This has caused the total to drop from 47 to 46.5 since opening. — Mark Gallant
Trends to know: In Kirk Cousins’ career as a starting quarterback with the Redskins, he made five starts in New York at MetLife Stadium against the Jets and Giants.
Cousins’ teams are 1-4 straight up and against the spread and he has struggled to say the least: 4 TD, 9 INT, 54% completion rate, 5.3 yards per attempt, 10 sacks and four completions of 25-plus yards — Evan Abrams
Did you know? Jets kicker Jason Myers made 7-of-7 field goals and all three of his extra points last Sunday. The 24 points he scored were more points than the Jets have scored as a team in 15 of their previous 21 games. — John Ewing
Biggest mismatch: Jets red-zone offense vs. Vikings red-zone defense
NFL rookie quarterbacks see their inexperience exposed in the red zone, where the field is condensed and passing becomes much more difficult. That has been the case at times with Sam Darnold this season.
New York has scored a touchdown on just 30% of its red-zone trips, which ranks last in the NFL. While Darnold has struggled at times inside the 20, you can’t blame it all on the USC product; the Jets had been the least-productive red-zone offense over the past two seasons.
Head coach Todd Bowles and the staff certainly deserve some of the blame — as does the running game, which has averaged a league-worst 1.2 yards per carry in the red zone.
Don’t expect that to improve against a Vikings team that has only allowed opponents to score touchdowns on 37.5% of drives in the red zone — the second-lowest rate in the NFL. And to show that’s not a fluke of this veteran group, Minnesota only allowed a touchdown on 40% of its opponent’s red-zone trips during the 2017 regular season. That was good enough for third in the league. — Stuckey
Which team is healthier? Vikings
The Jets are very thin at receiver and corner. Terrelle Pryor (groin) could join Quincy Enunwa (ankle) on the sideline, while the defense could again be without starters Trumaine Johnson (quad) and Buster Skrine (concussion).
Jets running back Isaiah Crowell (foot) is tentatively expected to suit up, but his Vikings counterpart, Dalvin Cook (hamstring), remains uncertain.
The Vikings are fairly healthy at their skill positions, but defensive tackle Linval Joseph (ankle) and defensive end Danielle Hunter (groin) could join defensive end Everson Griffen (not injury related) on the inactive list. Left tackle Riley Reiff (foot) should be considered very questionable.
DFS edge: With Enunwa (ankle) ruled out, Jermaine Kearse will man the slot for the Jets. He’ll primarily line up against slot corner Mackensie Alexander after the Vikings just placed Mike Hughes (ACL) on IR.
Bet to watch: Vikings -3.5
Coming off back-to-back wins against the Broncos and Colts, the Jets are being massively overvalued in this spot. Minnesota’s defense is well equipped to stifle the Jets’ run game and force Darnold to beat the Vikings.
And when that happens, it won’t be pretty for the rookie quarterback against the fierce pass rush.
I like the way the Vikings offense is clicking, too. Take Minnesota and lay the points here. — BlackJack Fletcher
Betting odds: Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles
- Spread: Eagles -4.5
- Over/Under: 45.5
- Time: 1 p.m. ET
- TV channel: FOX
Betting market: We’re dealing with a fairly boring spread here, which has been anywhere between Eagles -3.5 and -5 across the market to go along with a near-50/50 bet split (see live data here).
As it stands, it doesn’t appear this game will get out of this dead zone of inconsequential numbers. The over/under has been even more boring: It opened at 45 and … remains at 45. — Mark Gallant
Trends to know: Excessive wind is expected to be a factor at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday (winds between 16-17 mph throughout the game).
Since 2003, when the wind is gusting above 10 mph, the under is 13-5-2 (72.2%), going under the total by 6.3 PPG, according to Bet Labs data.
Since 2013, only three games have closed with better than 10 mph winds and those teams averaged 28.3 points combined in the three contests (most recently the Falcons-Eagles playoff game from last season that finished 15-10). — Evan Abrams
The Panthers are coming off a straight-up and against-the-spread loss against the Redskins last week in Washington.
Since Cam Newton was drafted No. 1 overall in 2011, the Panthers are 24-11-1 ATS (+12 units) when coming off a SU and ATS loss, making Cam the second-most profitable quarterback in that spot behind Andrew Luck (+14 units). — Abrams
Biggest mismatch: Panthers pass rush vs. Eagles offensive line
The Panthers and Eagles stack up fairly evenly against each other in big-play frequency and pace, while each team also boasts a top-10 run defense in adjusted line yards allowed per rush to complement their own top-10 offense.
The Eagles offensive line, however, is exploitable. It ranks 25th in adjusted sack rate and faces a Panthers defense that is one of nine units that have pressured the opposing quarterback on more than 50% of his dropbacks this season. — Ian Hartitz
Which team is healthier? Panthers
The Panthers offense is practically 100% healthy, but the defense could be without starting cornerback Donte Jackson (groin).
The Eagles have an abundance of small injuries to worry about, as cornerback Jalen Mills (hamstring), right tackle Lane Johnson (ankle), cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (calf) and running back Darren Sproles (hamstring) are looking shaky to play Sunday.
Bets to watch: Panthers 1H +3 and Panthers full game +5
Both the Panthers and Eagles are pretty evenly matched when you look across the board, but one spot where I see an angle is Philadelphia’s front line trying to get pressure on Newton.
The Eagles are generating the third-lowest pressure rate on opposing quarterbacks this season, ahead of only the Raiders and Buccaneers. As The Action Network’s Anthony Amico wrote earlier this week, Cam doesn’t face pressure often (10th of 36 qualified quarterbacks), but when he does, it’s usually bad news.
Cam ranks 35th out of 36 qualified quarterbacks in PFF Rating when under pressure this season. Over the past three seasons, he has six touchdown passes and 14 interceptions under pressure.
Cam has worked from a clean pocket 69.3% of dropbacks this season (10th out of 36 qualified quarterbacks), and he has nine touchdowns with just one interception.
On top of this schematic advantage, Newton is 66-47-1 (58.4%) against the first half spread in his career and he has covered eight of his past 10 first halves coming off a SU loss.
Newton is off to an extremely efficient start overall; it’s been even better than when he won the MVP in 2015.
This is too much value for me to pass up with Carolina coming off a loss in what could be a low-scoring game. — Abrams
Betting odds: Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Spread: Buccaneers -3.5
- Over/Under: 50.5
- Time: 1 p.m. ET
- TV channel: FOX
Betting market: After being reluctant to move this game off Bucs -3 early in the week, oddsmakers finally gave in. At the time of writing, the Bucs are getting 61% of bets and 68% of dollars (see live betting data here). The number finally moved to -3.5 or even -4 at some books. —Mark Gallant
Trends to know: One way to tell if the pros like an over is by tracking ticket and dollar percentages. When you’re seeing a higher percentage of money than tickets (i.e. 65% of dollars but 45% of bets), that is an indication of sharp action.
According to our Bet Labs data, the over has gone 67-54-1 (55%) since 2016 when there is at least 10% more money than tickets wagered on the over.
Through five games, the Buccaneers are scoring more than 28 points per game, but they are also giving up nearly 35.
It’s easy to see why all five of Tampa Bay’s games and first halves have gone over the total. — Evan Abrams
After opening the season 2-0 straight up and against the spread, Tampa Bay has failed to cover — and failed to win — in each of its past three games.
The good news for the Bucs? Since 2003, favorites on at least a three-game SU and ATS losing streak are 74-52-4 ATS (+19 units). — Evan Abrams
Biggest mismatch: Browns tight end David Njoku vs. Buccaneers pass defense
Quarterback Baker Mayfield has developed a connection with emerging second-year tight end David Njoku, who leads the offense with 30 targets, 18 receptions, 176 yards receiving and 74 yards after the catch in Mayfield’s three starts.
And now Njoku gets the pleasure of facing the Bucs, who rank 29th in pass DVOA (41.6%) against tight ends and have surrendered a league-high 97.2 yards per game to the position.
Every starting tight end to face them has outperformed expectations: Ben Watson (4-44-0), Zach Ertz (11-94-0), Vance McDonald (4-112-1), Trey Burton (2-86-1) and Austin Hooper (9-71-1).
With Mayfield struggling to complete passes to wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway (4-20-0 on 19 targets last week), he could look to his tight end often in a great matchup made all the better by the absence of Tampa Bay starting strong safety Chris Conte (knee, IR).
Backup safety Justin Evans has allowed a 15-173-2 receiving line on 17 targets in his coverage. — Matthew Freedman
Which team is healthier? Browns
The Buccaneers could be without key defensive linemen Vinny Curry (ankle) and Gerald McCoy (calf) against Carlos Hyde & Co. The back end of the defense isn’t set up very well, either, as safety Jordan Whitehead (hamstring) and cornerback Carlton Davis (groin) are far from 100%.
The Browns are devoid of talent at receiver at this point, as Rashard Higgins (knee) is expected to join Derrick Willies (shoulder, injured reserve) on the bench. Starting center JC Tretter (ankle) isn’t guaranteed to suit up, and starting cornerback E.J. Gaines (concussion) has already been ruled out.
DFS edge: Njoku leads the Browns with a 23.5% target share since Mayfield took over as the starting quarterback.
As Freedman mentioned, Njoku draws a favorable matchup against a Buccaneers defense that’s allowing 8.2 targets and nearly 100 receiving yards per game to tight ends this season.
Bet to watch: Browns/Buccaneers Over 50.5
The Bucs are the only team in the league to have all of their games hit the over, and it’s thanks to an explosive offense scoring 28.2 points per game and a league-worst defense allowing 34.6.
Led by Mayfield, the Browns have been inconsistent on offense, but they are talented enough to exploit a unit that could be without key players.
On defense, the Browns have allowed the Raiders and Chargers to score 45 and 38 points, respectively, over the past three weeks.
With a talented pass-catching unit of wide receivers Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries and tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, it’s reasonable to expect quarterback Jameis Winston to lead the Bucs offense to 3-plus touchdowns with 2-3 field goals.
I’d be comfortable betting this line up to 51.5. — Matthew Freedman
Betting odds: Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars
- Spread: Jaguars -4.5
- Over/Under: 41.5
- Time: 1 p.m. ET
- TV channel: CBS
Betting market: Spread bets are split, but a 60/40 money percentage differential in favor of Jacksonville has moved the Jaguars from -3.5 to -4.5 since opening.
Weather report: Wind is projected to be a factor in Jacksonville. The Jaguars are 1-3 straight up and against the spread in Blake Bortles’ four career games with wind speeds of 10 mph or higher.
More importantly, Bortles has been inaccurate and inefficient in those games with 82-of-162 (50.6%) passing, five touchdowns, nine interceptions and an average 213.3 passing yards per game. — Evan Abrams
Trends to know: The Jaguars failed to cover the spread by 36 points against the Cowboys last week, which is the fourth-largest ATS margin of defeat this season.
Since 2003, teams that failed to cover the spread by 30 or more points have gone 74-46-4 (62%) ATS in their next game (per Bet Labs). — John Ewing
Did you know? The 3-3 Texans are an NFL-worst 1-5 ATS, losing bettors 4.1 units. They’ve won two straight games — against the Cowboys and Bills — but failed to cover in either game.
Since 2003, only 19 teams have won two consecutive games SU, lost both ATS and been listed as an underdog in their next game. Those teams are 5-13-1 ATS, including 0-3 ATS since 2017. — Abrams
Biggest mismatch: Jaguars pass defense vs. Texans wide receiver Keke Coutee
Even though the Jags got destroyed by the Cowboys in Week 6, they have still limited wide receivers to a league-low 131.5 yards per game.
Outside cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are still yet to allow a touchdown this season, but the Jags have been without starting slot corner D.J. Hayden (toe) since the middle of Week 2, and have since been routinely exploited by pass catchers in the middle of the field: Chris Hogan (3-42-2), Quincy Enunwa (4-66-0), Travis Kelce (5-100-0) and Cole Beasley (9-101-2).
Backup slot cornerback Tyler Patmon is a liability in coverage with a 53.7 Pro Football Focus coverage grade, and when safeties Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church and linebackers Telvin Smith and Myles Jack have been matched up with slot receivers or move tight ends in the slot, they have allowed four touchdowns.
While Ramsey and Bouye might be able to limit DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, the Texans should still be able to attack the Jags aerially between the numbers.
Since rookie slot receiver Coutee entered the starting lineup three weeks ago, he’s been a close second on the team with 27 targets and 20 receptions, accumulating 193 yards and a touchdown. He has above-average agility (6.93-second three-cone drill) and was one of the top slot receivers in the nation as a junior at Texas Tech last season with his 1,429 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving.
Given how weak the Jags have been recently against slot receivers, Coutee could be the key to the Texans’ passing game in Week 7. — Matthew Freedman
Which team is healthier? Jaguars
Neither team is anything close to 100%, but the Jaguars are expected to have back most of their banged-up players with the exception of running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring), Hayden (toe) and potentially tight end James O’Shaughnessy (hip).
Things aren’t quite as clear for the Texans, as Hopkins (foot) and starting corners Johnathan Joseph (shoulder) and Shareece Wright (shoulder/hand/groin) were downgraded in Thursday’s practice.
The eventual statuses of center Zach Fulton (ankle), cornerback Aaron Colvin (ankle) and linebacker Brian Peters (ankle) should also be monitored.
DFS edge: The Jaguars boast the highest sack projection (3.3) among defenses on the main slate as Deshaun Watson has been under pressure all season with the Texans’ offensive line ranked 30th in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Sack Rate.
Overall, the Jags should be a high-floor option this week considering that Watson has been sacked 25 times this season and has been under pressure on a league-high 46.8% of his dropbacks. Their median projection leads all defenses in the FantasyLabs Player Models. — Justin Bailey
Bet to watch: Jaguars -4.5
No team has looked worse over the past two weeks than Jacksonville, losing by 16 points at Kansas City then getting absolutely throttled in the national late-afternoon game in Dallas, 40-7.
The Texans, meanwhile, might have salvaged their season with three straight wins entering Sunday’s game with a division rival.
I’ll play against both of these opinions here.
Despite Houston’s three-game winning streak, the Texans turned the ball over in each of those games, including three times against the Bills. And while Jacksonville’s defense has been missing big plays, there’s too much talent to assume a slump like that lasts the whole season.
I think the Jaguars get right here. — Ken Barkley
Betting odds: Buffalo Bills at Indianapolis Colts
- Spread: Colts -7.5
- Over/Under: 43
- Time: 1 p.m. ET
- TV channel: CBS
Betting market: Surprisingly enough, 46% of bettors are on the Bills at the time of writing, despite quarterback Derek Anderson starting just his fifth game since 2011.
The line has moved in the Bills’ favor, too, as they’ve gone from +9.5 to +7.5 at BookMaker.
Trends to know: This is the first time Andrew Luck has been a favorite of seven or more points since 2014. In his career, Luck is 8-1 straight up and 6-2-1 against the spread in this spot, according to our Bet Labs data. — John Ewing
The Bills have covered back-to-back games. Part of their success has been turnovers, as their opponents have coughed up the ball three times in each of the last two games.
Teams that average three or more takeaways in consecutive weeks have gone 130-172-9 (43%) ATS in their next game. — John Ewing
Anderson has started just three games in the past eight seasons. His last start came for the Panthers in 2016.
Anderson was 23-10-1 ATS (+11.1 units) with the Browns from 2006-09, making him the most profitable quarterback during that span. Since then, Anderson has started a total of 12 games, going 4-8 SU and 3-9 ATS (-6.1 units)
(NOTE: Does not include a 2016 “start” where Anderson had 1 pass attempt to begin game before Cam Newton replaced him.) — Evan Abrams
Biggest mismatch: Colts run defense vs. Bills run blocking
Quarterback is far from the only problem in Buffalo — the Bills offense is nearly as hopeless when it keeps the ball on the ground, thanks to putrid run-blocking efforts that landed its O-line in the cellar of Pro Football Focus’ run-blocking grades.
Running back LeSean McCoy will have to do it all by himself against a Colts run defense that has held up well this season, allowing 3.7 yards per carry and ranking fourth in PFF’s run-defense grades. — Chris Raybon
Which team is healthier? Bills
Quarterback Josh Allen (shoulder) won’t start Sunday, but the Bills are otherwise expected to have their full suite of starters with the possible exception of left guard Vladimir Ducasse (knee).
The Colts continue to have plenty of injuries on their hands, as starting receivers T.Y. Hilton (chest/hamstring) and Ryan Grant (ankle) are both uncertain for Sunday, while tight end Jack Doyle (hip) and short-yardage back Robert Turbin (shoulder) seem unlikely to play.
DFS edge: Both of these defenses could be in play for DFS depending on your overall roster construction.
The Colts are more expensive on both sites by a substantial amount, which makes sense since they’re favored by 7.5 points.
They’re a strong play overall because the Bills can’t pass block, allowing 24 sacks this season and ranking dead last in adjusted sack rate. The Colts’ 3.0 sack projection ranks only behind the Jaguars in Week 7.
The Bills defense is an interesting punt play if you need the salary. Overall, PFF grades Buffalo as the No. 6 overall defense and the No. 4 pass rush, and its 4.9 yards per play allowed trails only the Ravens’ rate this season. Furthermore, Buffalo ranks ninth in adjusted sack rate, and the Colts boast the fourth-highest turnover rate this season. — Justin Bailey
Bets to watch: Under 43 and Under 21.5 1H (half unit each)
Anderson was at home running around with his kids 10 days ago and now will start an NFL game. That’s how bad Nathan Peterman is at quarterback.
While Anderson should have some familiarity with the playbook from his time playing for offensive coordinator Brian Daboll in Cleveland in 2009, there’s no way he will get up to speed in time. (And even if he does miraculously get up to speed, how much is he really going to improve DVOA’s worst offense by a wide margin?)
So I expect Buffalo to stay very conservative and vanilla on Sunday. Without Allen, you lose the mobility when the protection inevitably breaks down and without Peterman, you decrease the chances of pick sixes drastically.
Both of those things are good for the under.
While I have nothing positive to say about the Bills offense, Buffalo’s defense, on the other hand, is one of the most underrated units in football.
We all knew the Bills have great safeties, but their secondary is rounding into a plus-unit with the development of future All-Pro corner Tre’Davious White on the outside and Taron Johnson in the slot.
This group has only allowed 6.7 yards per pass attempt, which ranks third in the NFL. Their front seven has also played extremely well.
Not only are the Bills able to generate pressure led by a rejuvenated Jerry Hughes, they rank sixth in yards per rush (3.8). Overall, only the elite Ravens and Jaguars defenses have allowed fewer yards per play than Buffalo.
With Andrew Luck unable to throw the ball deep, the Bills will bring their very good safeties (Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde) down in the box to stifle the Colts run game and short passing onslaught.
The Colts excel on defense against the run (fourth in yards per carry), but struggle to defend the pass (which Buffalo can’t exploit). This one should be ugly, but make sure you grab the under before it dips below 43 — the most important number since the extra point rule changes.
Oh, and pray we don’t see Nathan Peterman at any point. — Stuckey
Betting odds: Detroit Lions at Miami Dolphins
- Spread: Lions -3
- Over/Under: 46.5
- Time: 1 p.m. ET
- TV channel: FOX
Betting market: The line for this game opened on Wednesday morning at BookMaker, but it was taken off the board shortly after when Ryan Tannehill was declared out. It has since re-opened with the Lions as a 3-point favorite, which is less than what was expected.
The lookahead line for this game was Detroit -2 last week at Westgate, which was assuming Tannehill would be at quarterback. Bob “Scooch” Scucci said on The Favorites podcast that Detroit would be around -5.5 to -6 if Tannehill as declared out, but here we are at -3.
Trends to know: The Dolphins are 4-2 straight up and 4-2 against the spread. In Matthew Stafford’s career, he is 15-25-2 ATS (-10.8 units) when facing teams above .500 SU and ATS, the least profitable NFL quarterback in this spot since being drafted by Detroit in 2009. — Evan Abrams
Since the Lions’ opening-night loss to the Jets, Detroit has covered the spread in four consecutive games. Stafford has never covered five consecutive games in a single season.
With the Lions 4-1 ATS (80%) on the season, they are currently the second-most profitable team to wager on in the NFL, but their ATS average margin on the season is actually -0.9.
Since 2003, only one other team has played a game in any week, regular season or postseason, where they were covering 80% of their games with a negative ATS margin for the season: the Detroit Lions in Week 7, 2005. Lions were three-point dogs in Cleveland and won outright. — Abrams
Did you know? Last Sunday’s game was just the second time in 26 starts for Osweiler that the quarterback threw three touchdown passes in a game. Osweiler had thrown two or more touchdowns in eight previous games.
On average, Osweiler followed those performances by throwing 0.63 touchdowns and 0.88 interceptions in his next start. He has never thrown two or more touchdowns in consecutive games. — John Ewing
Biggest mismatch: Lions offensive line vs. Dolphins pass rush
Per Pro Football Focus, Matthew Stafford has been kept clean on 71.1% of his dropbacks, and the Lions offensive line has surrendered just nine sacks this season, ranking eighth in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate.
Additionally, the Dolphins defensive line lost William Hayes (ACL) in September, and their current line is severely banged up as Andre Branch (knee) and Cameron Wake (knee) were limited in practice, and rotational lineman Jonathan Woodard (concussion) didn’t practice on Wednesday.
Stafford could have plenty of time to seek out his trio of receivers against PFF’s No. 26 pass-rushing unit. — Justin Bailey
Which team is healthier? Lions
Detroit running back Theo Riddick’s (knee) potential absence could signal a big week for Kerryon Johnson. The Lions are otherwise fairly healthy coming off their Week 6 bye.
The same can’t be said for the Dolphins, who will again turn to Osweiler with Tannehill (shoulder) hurting. Defensive ends Charles Harris (calf), Woodard (concussion) and Wake (knee) are question marks going into Sunday.
DFS edge: The Dolphins have moved stud corner Xavien Howard around the formation against Amari Cooper (2-17-0), A.J. Green (6-112-0), and Allen Robinson (5-64-1) this season, but each has been able to escape his shadow whenever they lined up in the slot.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Howard simply sticks to the left side of the field, where he should see a mix of Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay.
Golden Tate has caught at least five passes in six consecutive games dating back to last season and will mostly face off against the 2018 first-round slot corner Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Tate carries a strong +3.1 Projected Plus/Minus and GPP-friendly 90% Leverage Rating on DraftKings. — Hartitz
Bet to watch: Lions -3
Detroit should be fresh coming off its bye, while Miami will be far from that after an extended overtime win and an offensive line that has been decimated by injuries.
That’s bad news with Osweiler slated to start.
The Lions’ advantages don’t stop there: Their defensive line ranks first in adjusted sack rate and offensive line first in power-rush blocking.
This should be a trench battle and Detroit is fresher, healthier and better equipped to win that battle up front. — Collin Wilson
Betting odds: New Orleans Saints at Baltimore Ravens
- Spread: Ravens -2.5
- Over/Under: 50
- Time: 4:05 p.m. ET
- TV channel: FOX
Betting market: This line has moved to Baltimore -3 at a couple of books, but for no longer than a few minutes. For the most part, it’s been stuck at 2.5 with 56% of bettors taking the potent Saints over the stingy Ravens as of writing (see live data here).
The over/under is seeing a reverse split of 56% of bets on the over, but 64% of dollars on the under, which has helped drop it from 51 to 50 since opening. —Mark Gallant
Trends to know: The Saints enter this matchup off their Week 6 bye. Over his career, Drew Brees is 11-5 straight-up and 12-4 against the spread with at least two weeks to prepare for a game, including the playoffs. — Evan Abrams
Under John Harbaugh, the Ravens are 7-3 SU and 5-3-2 ATS when facing an opponent that’s coming off a bye. –– John Ewing
Did you know? The Ravens are 5-1 ATS in the second halves of games and have yet to allow a second-half touchdown, which no other team has done that in its first six games since the 1970 merger.
The Ravens have outscored their six opponents 62-15 in the second half, and three of those 15 points against came in their overtime loss to the Browns. That means they’re giving up less than a field goal per second half on average.
This second-half dominance really isn’t anything new for Harbaugh. Since he took over as head coach in 2008, Baltimore is 95-76-9 (+13.7 units) against the second-half spread, making him the second-most profitable coach behind only Pete Carroll (+21.7 units).
If the Ravens happen to be down at the half this Sunday, they’re 39-22-4 against the second-half spread when trailing at the half under Harbaugh, making him the most profitable coach in that spot since 2008. — Abrams
Metrics that matter: The Ravens own the No. 1 defense in terms of points per drive (1.05) while the Saints have the No. 1 offense (3.46) in that same category.
Something has to give on Sunday. — Stuckey
Biggest mismatch: Saints Run Defense vs. Ravens Run Offense
I would say practicing against Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram has paid off, though that hasn’t exactly worked out for the Saints’ pass defense. But I digress.
The Ravens’ rushing attack, meanwhile, has stumbled to a 21st-place ranking in DVOA and a 22nd-place ranking in Adjusted Line Yards. Alex Collins has cleared 4.0 yards per carry only once in six games, while Javorius Allen is sitting at a ghastly 2.8 for the season. — Chris Raybon
Which team is healthier? Ravens
The Ravens could be without starting guard Alex Lewis (neck), but should otherwise be near full strength.
Meanwhile, Brees will have to rely on wide receivers Tre’Quan Smith and Cameron Meredith with Ted Ginn Jr. (knee, injured reserve) out for at least the next eight weeks. Brees hopes to have starting guards Larry Warford (back) and Andrus Peat (head) available, though neither practiced on Thursday.
DFS edge: The Browns shadowed John Brown with fourth-overall pick Denzel Ward in Week 5 and the Titans had 2017 first-round pick Adoree’ Jackson travel with Brown in Week 6.
I expect the Saints to follow suit and use their No. 1 cornerback to track Brown, who joins Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins as the only wide receivers with more than 900 air yards this season. It’s not the easiest matchup for Smokey, as Pro Football Focus has graded Marshon Lattimore as the league’s 16th-best full-time cornerback from Weeks 2-6 since he was eviscerated by Mike Evans in Week 1.
This is good news for Michael Crabtree and revenge-game minded Willie Snead, who will each see plenty of No. 2 cornerback Ken Crawley and slot corner P.J. Williams — two of PFF’s bottom-10 defensive backs this season among 111 qualified players. — Hartitz
Bet to watch: Under 50
The best defense in the league will clash against the best offense in the league.
A +24% bets vs. dollars differential has dropped the total down to 50, and I’m in agreement. I think this would be a solid play regardless, but what makes it my favorite play is the weather.
Winds between 12 and 16 mph will be swirling in Baltimore, which should impact any long passes and field-goal attempts. — Gallant
The Ravens have only closed with a total of 50 or higher once with Joe Flacco starting at M&T Bank Stadium: in 2015 against the Chargers. So this total is historically high for the situation. The Ravens have leaned to the under at home with Flacco (55.6%, 8.7% return on investment), too.
As Mark noted above, wind is expected to be a large factor. When Flacco starts at home with an average wind of 5 mph or higher, the under is 28-16 (63.6%, 24.6%), including 11-2 with an average greater than 10 mph. In those 13 games, opponents have averaged only 12.1 points.
I would be hard-pressed to not again mention the incredible second-half defense Baltimore has played. In addition to not allowing a second-half touchdown, the defense has allowed less than 20 net yards per drive, which is the best in the NFL by more than five yards.
Opponents’ 36 total second-half drives (tied for fifth most in the league) have started with the Ravens leading by an average of 9.6 points, which is the NFL’s highest lead in that spot. — Abrams
Betting odds: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
- Spread: Redskins -1
- Over/Under: 41.5
- Time: 4:25 p.m. ET
- TV channel: CBS
Betting market: This is the only game on Sunday in the -1.5/-2 range, and so far, there hasn’t been very much interesting betting activity. Some books have gone from -1.5 to -2 since opening, some from -2 to -1.5, and others that opened at -1.5 remain there.
Trends to know: Teams that won their previous game by 30 or more points have gone 87-103-9 (46%) against the spread the following week since 2003.
If those teams won in a blowout as an underdog — like the Cowboys did last week — they were 6-12-1 (33%) ATS the next week. — John Ewing
The Cowboys are one of only nine teams with a positive differential in both halves of games this season (+9 in the first half and +11 in the second). Yet Dallas is just 3-3 straight up.
The Cowboys have entered halftime trailing their opponents in three games this season and are 3-0 against the second-half spread in all three. They’re a mediocre 69-60-1 against the second-half spread under Jason Garrett, but are 32-16 (+14.6 units) when trailing at the half and 27-37 (-13 units) when leading. The former is the best mark in the NFL since Garrett was hired in 2010. — Evan Abrams
Did you know? The Cowboys have lost three straight road games SU entering this divisional matchup in Washington.
Dallas hasn’t lost four consecutive road games SU since 2002, when the Cowboys lost five in a row. They finished that season 5-11 and fired Dave Campo for Bill Parcells. — Abrams
Biggest mismatch: Cowboys CB Byron Jones vs. Redskins WR Josh Doctson
Doctson was one of those guys who we’d say things like “see what he can do if he can just stay on the field.”
Well, he’s been on the field, and we haven’t seen much of anything.
Doctson has reeled in only 43.6% of his career targets, and his 68 yards on 19 targets this season (3.6 yards per target) means that the Redskins are better off handing the ball off than targeting Doctson through the air.
Doctson projects to run more than half of his routes at Jones, who has allowed a 50% catch rate en route to Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 grade among all cornerbacks this season. — Chris Raybon
Which team is healthier? Cowboys
The Cowboys defense is nearing full strength, as linebacker Sean Lee (hamstring) practiced in full on Thursday and is tentatively expected to suit up on Sunday. The offense could be without receiver Tavon Austin (groin) for a while, but should get back fellow wideout Brice Butler (groin).
The Redskins are also banged up at receiver. Paul Richardson (shoulder/knee) could join Jamison Crowder (ankle) on the bench, while the backfield could be without Chris Thompson (ribs) for another week.
Washington’s defense is relatively healthy outside of safety Troy Apke (hamstring) and linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (chest).
DFS edge: Ezekiel Elliott joins Todd Gurley as the league’s only running backs with at least 15 carries in every game they’ve played this season.
Elliott is averaging a robust five yards per attempt, and his 30 targets are already approaching his career-high mark of 39 in a season. Up next is a great matchup against the Redskins’ 28th-ranked defense in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards allowed per rush.
Zeke is $8,100 on DraftKings and carries a strong 28.5-point Projected Ceiling, but he’s expected to join Gurley as the main slate’s highest-owned backs. — Hartitz
Bet to watch: Redskins -1
I rode the Redskins last week in the same spot against a much better team. And they won.
This line is way out of whack for two market-driven reasons.
- Continued disrespect for a Redskins defense that is bland and lacking in star power, but is still really good. It’s fifth in overall yardage allowed and, more importantly, top 10 in points allowed per game and yards allowed per play.
Umm, yeah, the Cowboys beat the Jags last week in a for-their-lungs spot. Now they’re going on the road in a divisional game, and all the home team has to do is eke out a win.
Too much credit is being given to Dallas for a big win last week. — Chad Millman
The Cowboys are 3-0 at home and 0-3 on the road. They’ve scored 8, 13 and 16 points on the road in ugly offensive performances.
Meanwhile, the Redskins are coming off a hard-fought win at home against the Panthers.
The Cowboys have missed Travis Frederick more than any team has missed any player this season (outside of Jimmy Garoppolo), and it shows on the road, where you need a calm and collected center who can direct things under pressure, as noted by Elliott earlier this week.
The Cowboys won’t score enough points to win this game on the road. — Geoff Schwartz
Betting odds: Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers
- Spread: Rams -9.5
- Over/Under: 52
- Time: 4:25 p.m. ET
- TV channel: CBS
Betting market: The biggest favorite of the week, the Rams are getting less support heading into this week than they typically have. At 53% of spread bets as of writing (see live data here), this would be their second-lowest bet percentage behind their Week 4 matchup with the Vikings, in which they closed with 48%.
Perhaps the public is tired of losing.
Even though the Rams are 6-0 straight-up, the fell to 3-3 against the spread last week with their third consecutive loss ATS. With C.J. Beathard and San Francisco putting up a fight in Green Bay, almost half of bettors want the points. Some books have moved the line from 10 to 9.5 as a result. — Mark Gallant
Trends to know: Undefeated teams favored by double-digits have been more profitable in the first two months of the regular season than the last two, with a 34-22-1 ATS record in September and October compared to 8-16 ATS record in November and December. — John Ewing
The Rams have been dominant in 2018. They’re the last undefeated team in the league and have been listed as the favorite in all six games, with their smallest spread being -6.5 in Week 1 against the worst team in the NFL (the Raiders).
Since 1990, the Rams are the 38th team start the season 6-0. Of the 37 teams before, 17 were favored in all six games, but only one other was favored by at least 6.5 points in each of its first seven games: The 2000 Rams, who were favored in all 16 games and were upset by the Saints in the wild-card round. — Evan Abrams
Did you know? While the Rams have won six consecutive games, the 49ers have lost four in a row. Since 2015, teams that have won at least four straight that are facing teams that have lost at least four straight are 9-0 SU and 8-0-1 ATS, covering by 13.1 points per game. — Abrams
Biggest mismatch: 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin vs. Rams cornerback Marcus Peters
It’s obvious that Todd Gurley and his offensive line — which ranks first in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards with 5.68 per carry — should be able to dominate the 49ers defense, which has a league-low Pro Football Focus grade of 54.7.
For that matter, Jared Goff and his wide receivers should be able to exploit the 49ers’ pass defense, which is last in the league with a dreadful 38.5 PFF grade.
These mismatches are why the Rams are such big favorites on the road.
But perhaps the biggest one-on-one mismatch is that between Goodwin and Peters.
Ever since Peters (calf) and fellow cornerback teammate Aqib Talib (ankle, injured reserve) exited Week 3 early with injuries, the Rams have been vulnerable through the air, giving up big performances to all manner of wide receivers: Mike Williams (4-81-2), Adam Thielen (8-135-1), Stefon Diggs (11-123-0), Aldrick Robinson (2-33-2), David Moore (3-38-2), Tyler Lockett (3-98-1), Emmanuel Sanders (7-115-1) and Demaryius Thomas (3-57-1).
Although he’s playing through his injury, Peters has been poor over the past month, giving up a league-high five touchdowns in his coverage and 271 yards with an 84.2% catch rate on 19 targets.
Finally healthy after battling quad and hamstring injuries, Goodwin — who has a 4.27-second 40-yard dash time — just torched the Packers for 4-126-2 receiving on five targets last week. He has more than enough speed to get deep on the hobbled Peters for multiple big plays.
If the 49ers cover, it will probably be because Goodwin wins his matchup. — Matthew Freedman
Which team is healthier? Rams
Wide receiver Cooper Kupp (ankle) won’t suit up on Sunday, but the Rams will welcome back kicker Greg Zuerlein (groin). Receiver Josh Reynolds (hand) is expected to play, so the only key question marks for the Rams are defensive end Michael Brockers (shoulder) and left guard Rodger Saffold (knee).
The 49ers remain banged up at receiver between Pierre Garcon (shoulder/knee), Dante Pettis (knee) and Trent Taylor (back). Cornerbacks Jimmie Ward (hamstring), Ahkello Witherspoon (concussion) and Richard Sherman (calf) also aren’t 100% entering this difficult matchup.
DFS edge: Gurley is an obvious play this week, but to reach his salary, you’ll need some help from a value play like Reynolds, who is only $3,500 on DraftKings with a 91% Bargain Rating.
Kupp has already been ruled out, and Goff has attempted the fifth-most passes from three-wide receiver sets this season, making Reynolds a serviceable play with a +2.12 Projected Plus/Minus on DK. — Justin Bailey
Bet to watch: Over 52
The Rams’ explosive offense requires no introduction, but the 49ers have quietly continued to move the football well in Jimmy Garoppolo’s absence.
Both teams possess leaky pass defenses, giving the matchup the week’s highest combined explosive play rate in the passing game.
The Rams (No. 7) and 49ers (No. 8) also make up the week’s only matchup between two teams ranked in the top 10 in situation neutral pace, so both offenses should have plenty of opportunities against their opponent’s respective below-average defense in Football Outsiders’ overall DVOA. — Hartitz
Betting odds: Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs
- Spread: Chiefs -5.5
- Over/Under: 58.5
- Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
- TV channel: NBC
Betting market: The cover kings — aka the 6-0 against-the-spread Chiefs — are getting nearly 80% of bets at the time of writing (see live data here).
They haven’t given anyone a reason to fade them, especially if you don’t have to lay a touchdown.
There’s been some buyback on Cincy at BookMaker when the line has reached six, causing it to site in the dead zone at 5.5.
More than 70% of bets are taking the over despite this being the highest total of the week. Interestingly enough, it’s actually dropped between a half point and a point depending on the book.
Trends to know: The over/under opened at 58.5 points. This would be just the ninth over/under of 58 or more points since 2003. The over hit in all previous eight games by an average of 8.5 points. — John Ewing
The Chiefs are giving up more than 28 points per game so far this season. When Andy Dalton faces a team that surrenders an average of 28 or more ppg, Cincy is 12-2 ATS (+10 units).
Since Dalton was drafted in 2011, he is the most profitable quarterback in the league against a bad defense, covering the spread by more than eight points per game in those contests. — Evan Abrams
Biggest mismatch: Chiefs special teams vs. Bengals special teams
Patrick Mahomes, the incomparable Tyreek Hill and the rest of the Chiefs offense have been getting a lot of love — and rightfully so — but I don’t hear enough appreciation for K.C.’s special teams unit, which has been nothing short of spectacular so far this season.
Kicker Harrison Butker has connected on all 11 field-goal attempts and each of his 26 extra-point tries. You can’t beat perfect.
The Chiefs’ punting game has also been close to perfect, as Dustin Colquitt’s impressive 45.5 net yards per punt average leads the NFL.
Kansas City opponents are averaging only 18.8 yards per kickoff return — the fifth-lowest mark in the NFL. And the Chiefs don’t punt often (only the Rams and Saints have punted fewer times), but their coverage has been excellent when they do. Their opponents are averaging just 1.7 yards per punt return, which paces the league.
Kansas City’s return game has also been extremely productive, as it ranks fourth in kick return average (28.8) and first in punt return average (26.7).
Not surprisingly, Football Outsiders ranks Kansas City’s special teams unit No. 1.
FO ranks the Bengals as a middle-of-the-road unit (No. 16), which is actually an improvement for a team that has struggled mightily on special teams in recent years.
Despite the gradual rise in efficiency, mainly due to productive return units, Cincy has really struggled in the kicking game in 2018:
Punter Kevin Huber’s 42.9 gross punting average ranks 29th in the NFL. Add that to a coverage unit that allows the third-most yards per return (13.6) and you get the second-worst net punting average in the league (36.3) — only the Chargers are worse. That’s not ideal against TyFreak, who might very well break one in the return game.
Kicker Randy Bullock is only 7-of-9 (77.8% or 25th in NFL among qualified kickers) on the year, which includes a miss in between 30-39 yards.
Everyone knows the Chiefs have an elite offense and a not-so-elite defense, but a big reason why they’ve covered every game is two of their three units have arguably been the class of the league so far in 2018.
They should have a significant advantage in getting more of those hidden yards via special teams on Sunday, which could very well lead to another cover. — Stuckey
Which team is healthier? Chiefs
The Bengals are all kinds of banged up, with the likes of linebacker Vincent Rey (hamstring), tight end C.J. Uzomah (shoulder), slot corner Darqueze Dennard (shoulder), safety Shawn Williams (concussion), center Billy Price (ankle) and running back Gio Bernard (knee) far from guaranteed to suit up. The good news is field stretcher John Ross (groin) should return.
The Chiefs are again expected to be without pass rusher Justin Houston (hamstring) and all-world safety Eric Berry (heel), but are otherwise fairly healthy aside from center Mitch Morse (concussion) and linebacker Anthony Hitchens (groin).
DFS edge: Mahomes and the Chiefs have taken the league by storm, averaging 35.8 points per game and a robust 6.8 yards per play.
Naturally, Hill has dazzled: He ranks second behind only Julio Jones among full-time receivers with 2.74 yards per route run.
Overall, TyFreak is the PPR WR3 this season. He has an exploitable matchup against a Bengals defense that has given up 1.8 DraftKings points above salary-based expectation to wide receivers over the past 12 months. — Ian Hartitz
Bet to watch: Bengals +6
Ultimately this is a marketplace, which means you will have success if you can identify when teams are overvalued or undervalued and then sell or buy accordingly.
Well, the Chiefs are simply too expensive here. I personally make the Bengals +1.5 on a neutral field, so +6 holds value after adjusting for home-field advantage.
A very basic way to set NFL power ratings is to look at net yards-per-play differential — the simplest way to account for what really matters: the difference between the yards you gain and allow on a per-play basis — even better if you manually adjust those numbers to remove meaningless noise from garbage time.
From a pure net yards-per-play perspective, these teams are very equal. The Chiefs have a +0.1 differential, which means their defense is almost as horrendous as their offense is elite, while the Bengals are -0.1. That implies the Chiefs should be -1.3 on a neutral field — right in line with my numbers.
I still have this Chiefs defense rated as one of the three worst in the league, while Football Outsiders has them at 28th DVOA. And once their third-down defensive numbers stabilize to a level more in line with their other numbers, it’s going to get even uglier on that side of the ball in KC.
The Chiefs will score, as they will against any team in the league, and the special teams discrepancy and a few potential Bengals injuries in the secondary worry me just a tad. But the Bengals have the talent on offense to keep up (or at least sneak in the backdoor if need be). — Stuckey
Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.