NFL Best Bets: Week 7

Following a third consecutive 3-1 week making picks on here, I’ve officially entered heater territory. Even better: I went 4-1 in the pregame dot com Super Contest for the second straight week. Even even better: my fantasy football team defeated the only remaining undefeated squad in my league, giving me three straight wins and putting my overall record at… 3-3. Also the Chiefs rebounded with a 26-17 win in Buffalo to put them at 5-1 on the season.

I think the message here is that football, as much as I love it, is dumb. It’s dumb that it consumes so much of my life for 20 weeks out of the year. It’s dumb that I spend so much time every week researching which games I like the most, and which players I should start or sit on my fantasy team. It’s dumb that I write about it so much. It’s dumb that I talk about it so much. It’s dumb that I think I know more than I actually do.

And yet, here I am. I love this shit. It’s encouraging, and a lit bit lucky, that I have managed to get better at picking games and winning fantasy matchups as the season has progressed. I feel so confident whenever I do these silly writeups, and the weeks I win three out of four (or four out of five if it’s the Super Contest) restore a little bit of my faith that maybe, possibly, I just might know what I’m saying (sometimes).

Last week ATS: 3-1

Overall ATS: 12-7-1

1. Chicago Bears (+6) at Los Angeles Rams

I have still yet to understand the disrespect being thrown at the Bears. They are 5-1 for crying out loud, regardless if I have to say in the softest possible voice that those wins have come against the Lions, Giants, Falcons, Panthers and Buccaneers. 5-1 is 5-1. 5-1 is currently good enough to lead the NFC North, a half-game better than the Green Bay Packers — whom everyone just assumes is eventually going to run away with this weak division.

The Bears are 5-1 (in case I’ve yet to hammer home that message), and they are a massive 6-point underdog on Monday Night Football against the 4-2 Los Angeles Rams. Giving 1.5 points for home field advantage I assumed this line was going to be Rams -3.5, which is honestly the most fair number I could come up with given that LA has lost to every non-NFC East team they’ve played in 2020. Their four wins have come against opponents who have combined for a record of 5-18-1 on the season, or 5-14-1 not counting those Rams losses. That isn’t good!

The betting market, meanwhile, is saying that those same Rams are 4.5 points better on a neutral field than the 5-1 Bears. Strictly out of principle I’m going to roll with the underdog in this matchup, because as impressive as the Rams have looked against one of the worst divisions I’ve seen in my life, I’m still not totally sure if they are all that good.

Chicago is not a sexy team, but they do have a strong defense, a starting QB in Nick Foles who tends to play up during standalone primetime games, and a head coach in Matt Nagy who — as an Andy Reid disciple — will probably have a few tricks to dial up for a Monday Night game. Also, they are being disrespected. Give me all of that. I’m not fully ready to pull the trigger on Bears to win this game outright, but I think it will be low scoring and close.

Score prediction: Rams 23, Bears 21

2. Dallas Cowboys (PK) at Washington Football Team

What is there to say? The Cowboys just got smoked on primetime — Monday Night Football — against the Arizona Cardinals. Andy Dalton struggled in his starting debut. It was legitimately one of those Everything That Could Go Wrong Did Go Wrong kind of games. They happen.

Somehow that Dallas performance was enough to sway next week’s game against the Washington Football Team by as much as four points, depending on which sports book you use. As of Sunday night, when every week my little brother and I guess the lines for the upcoming schedule of games, Dallas was -4. One absolute shitshow against a pretty good Cardinals team made it go from -4 to pick ’em. That doesn’t make sense.

I’m no lover of the Cowboys, but this (lack of) spread is too juicy to ignore. Personally, I would feel confident laying as many as 6 points in this matchup, due to the fact that Washington is absolutely abysmal at playing football. I understand that every team tends to play hard against the Cowboys, and particularly in a Let’s Kick ‘Em While They’re Down year, but something about Washington makes me think they aren’t capable. Let Dallas have a week to stew on their embarrassing loss; let Andy Dalton have another week to figure out what he needs to do to get the offense rolling; and let Mike McCarthy prove why, even at 2-4, the Cowboys are still the favorites to win the NFC East.

I like Dallas in this spot because I dislike Washington’s team so much.

Score prediction: Cowboys 27, Football Team 20

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (+1) at Tennessee Titans

The Titans might be a helluva football team, but I think this is a showcase game for the Steelers. Tennessee has perhaps had the strangest first six weeks of any NFL team, something I’ll try to explain as briefly as I can:

  • Week 1 — played at high altitude in Denver on Monday Night Football (W, 16-14)
  • Week 2 — played on a short week and narrowly escaped the Jaguars (W, 33-30)
  • Week 3 — needed a 54-yard field goal to win against the Vikings (W, 31-30)
  • Week 4 — had a COVID outbreak and didn’t play (BYE)
  • Week 5 — played on a Tuesday Night against a Bills team that didn’t know who they were playing until Monday (W, 42-16)
  • Week 6 — played on an extra short week and needed a touchdown with four seconds left to force overtime with the Texans, and eventually won in overtime (W, 42-36)

I’m as impressed as anybody that the Titans are undefeated. I’m just arguing that they’ve been through a lot in six weeks, and their five wins are softer than people are giving them credit for. Eventually, they are going to be taxed in performance for playing such a weird schedule, what with having a BYE in Week 4, playing on a Tuesday in Week 5, then turning around and playing on a Sunday in Week 6. If ever there was going to be a time to lay up, it would be now.

I think a big part of why they are considered one of the “elite” teams in the league is because they play an old-school brand of football. They have a great running back and a solid offensive line. The idea is they can just wear down defenses with Derrick Henry and control the clock.

I’m saying they are overrated because 4 of their 5 wins have come against weak teams, and playing ground and pound and putting up a million points is easy against opponents like Denver, Jacksonville, Minnesota and Houston. Playing the Steelers is a different animal. Pittsburgh has weapons in the receiving game that are comparable to the Kansas City Chiefs — the last team the Titans lost to.

The Steelers are going to score points this weekend, and Tennessee is going to attempt to Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill their way out of the first Super Bowl-caliber opponent they’ve had to face. I think Pittsburgh has too many playmakers, has too good of a defense, and that Tennessee is finally going to feel the effects of a weird early season schedule.

Score prediction: Steelers 31, Titans 17

4. New York Jets (+13) vs. Buffalo Bills

Fuck it, give me the Jets. They can’t go winless against the spread forever, can they? All we’ve heard all year long is that the Jets are the worst team in football (which they are), that their head coach is going to get fired (which he is), and that this organization needs a complete overhaul (which they do). So let’s pick ’em!

The Bills are still one of my favorite teams in the AFC, even though I’d probably put them 4th behind all of the Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers. They are coming off back-to-back losses, meaning they should be focused and motivated in this spot. Their quarterback, Josh Allen, has something to prove after consecutive poor outings. Their defense, having been crushed against the Titans and then getting ran all over against the Chiefs, has something to prove. Virtually everything about this matchup screams for a Bills blowout.

But I’m going against the grain, because going against the grain is what I do. The Jets have to win against the spread, eventually, and what better time than right after getting blown out by the Dolphins? Everyone alive is going to have the Bills in moneyline parlays and teasers, so why not have a game that makes absolutely no sense to make people sweat it out?

Score prediction: Bills 25, Jets 23

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