Last week’s NFL action featured a string of particularly brutal beats for the PFN staff. But hey, at least we got our Lock of the Week correct. Plus, a late run salvaged what could have been a disastrous weekly showing.
Will that bad luck even out? Find out with us as you enjoy (or mock) PFN’s NFL Week 7 Picks and Predictions, with all lines as of Wednesday, October 20 and courtesy of Caesars.
NFL Picks and Predictions: Lock of the Week
Cowboys -7; Cowboys -335, Lions +260; O/U 48
The magic finally ran out for Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush in Week 6, but the backup signal-caller did his job while Dak Prescott was out with a fractured right thumb, keeping Dallas in the playoff hunt.
Now it’s time for Prescott to do his job: Expose one of the worst defenses in the NFL. (The Lions are far and away last in defensive EPA per play at .195.)
The Cowboys found a winning formula out of necessity during Prescott’s absence, and Kellen Moore needs to stick with it. Their run rate has jumped from 41% in 2021 to 46% in 2022 — and for good reason. The Cowboys are ninth in run success rate (43.2%) and 28th in dropback success rate (39.9%). We expect that second number to, of course, improve with the return of Prescott — which in turn should help all parts of the offense.
Two more data points: The Cowboys are 6-13 all-time in games in which Prescott throws 40 or more passes and 47-20 in which he throws 39 or fewer. But the real magic number seems to be 28. In games in which Prescott has had 28 or fewer attempts, the Cowboys have gone an insane 24-2.
Beasley: Cowboys 30, Lions 18
Miller: Cowboys 28, Lions 24
Robinson: Cowboys 28, Lions 20
NFL Picks and Predictions: Upset of the Week
Chiefs -3; Chiefs -165, 49ers +140; O/U 48.5
The problem with doing fun weekly NFL-branded content is that some weeks don’t fit the template perfectly. Week 7 is such a situation. On the surface, this seems like a Chiefs win, and perhaps even comfortably, considering the 49ers’ many injuries on defense.
But we trust our model (well, at least Beasley does). And that model suggests the oddsmakers are overvaluing the Chiefs. And it makes sense after the Niners surrendered 28 points to the Falcons.
The truth is, however, the Niners had three bad drives that accounted for 204 of the 289 yards allowed. San Francisco lost because of its offense, not its defense. Three turnovers, including one for a score, were the difference.
But ball security really hasn’t otherwise been a huge issue this year. They had just six giveaways entering Week 6, and only four teams have fewer takeaways than the Chiefs (5) in 2022.
Plus, we think the Niners will find success on offense against a KC defense that ranks 24th in EPA per play (.06), 27th in goal-to-go (81.8%), and 29th in the red zone (75%).
Beasley: 49ers 26, Chiefs 24
Miller: Chiefs 27, 49ers 20
Robinson: Chiefs 28, 49ers 17
More NFL Picks and Predictions
New Orleans Saints vs. Arizona Cardinals
Cardinals -2; Cardinals -130, Saints +110; O/U 44.5
The Arizona Cardinals are a bad football team. Getting DeAndre Hopkins back certainly helps an offense that has always looked lost without him, but his presence does nothing for a poor defense and bad special teams play.
Arizona ranks 29th in team DVOA. They are 23rd in offensive points per drive and 27th in defensive points per drive. Their offensive drive success rate has been buoyed by unsustainable fourth-down production.
Meanwhile, the Saints don’t fare much better. They rank 18th in offensive and defensive DVOA but 31st in special teams, and they rank 26th in team DVOA. Jameis Winston practiced last week but didn’t play. Andy Dalton has performed better than expected, but the team’s defense has declined for the first time in a half-decade.
— Dalton Miller
Beasley: Cardinals 24, Saints 21
Miller: Saints 24, Cardinals 17
Robinson: Cardinals 25, Saints 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers
Buccaneers -11; Buccaneers -600, Panthers +430; O/U 40.5
Prayers might be in order for the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers a week ago. The Buccaneers are too talented to be 3-3, and their offense is too talented to rank 16th in DVOA.
Tom Brady and the passing attack are getting healthier and more successful, but they cannot run the ball to save their lives. That said, the Panthers’ offense is about as non-existent as an NFL offense could get, and the Buccaneers’ defense is very talented. Tampa Bay has difference-makers on each level of the field and is well-coached.
Currently, the Panthers’ passing offense is the worst since Arizona’s in 2018. Last week against the Rams, P.J. Walker only completed one of his five attempts past the line of scrimmage. The one completed pass came at one yard. His aDOT was 0.1 yards downfield. If there aren’t significant changes made, the Panthers will struggle to score.
— Dalton Miller
Beasley: Buccaneers 25, Panthers 16
Miller: Buccaneers 24, Panthers 12
Robinson: Buccaneers 27, Panthers 11
Green Bay Packers vs. Washington Commanders
Packers -5.5; Packers -235, Commanders +192; O/U 41.5
The Green Bay Packers are in trouble. Their passing attack currently ranks fifth in success rate but 22nd in EPA-per-play. The receiving corps is in shambles, and even the back-to-back league MVP can’t elevate them.
As Randall Cobb is sidelined for multiple weeks with an ankle injury, the situation goes from bad to worse in the Packers’ receiving corps. Christian Watson is dealing with a severe hamstring injury. That leaves Romeo Doubs, Allen Lazard, and Amari Rodgers with absolutely no depth behind them.
Meanwhile, Carson Wentz is out, which could actually be a shot in the arm for the league’s 29th-best scoring offense. Taylor Heinicke is a familiar name in Washington, and we know what we’ll get from him. Sam Howell awaits his turn. Watch for the Commanders’ defensive interior to cause some problems for Green Bay’s interior offensive line.
— Dalton Miller
Beasley: Packers 23, Commanders 18
Miller: Packers 20, Commanders 17
Robinson: Packers 21, Commanders 16
New York Giants vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jaguars -3; Jaguars -165, Giants +140; O/U 42.5
Despite their respective records, Jacksonville is a three-point favorite at home. It might not make sense on the surface, but when we dive into the numbers, it makes all the sense in the world.
The Jaguars’ team DVOA ranks eighth, while the Giants rank 18th. Expected points added gives the advantage to the Jaguars, as does net points-per-drive and drive success rate. They’re better in almost every conceivable way, except the Jaguars are 2-4, and the Giants are 5-1.
While the Giants’ defense is still struggling at times, Mike Kafka and Brian Daboll are operating an offense that continues to improve weekly. And most importantly, Wink Martindale appears to get the defense to step up when they absolutely have to.
— Dalton Miller
Beasley: Jaguars 24, Giants 19
Miller: Giants 24, Jaguars 23
Robinson: Jaguars 26, Giants 19
Indianapolis Colts vs. Tennessee Titans
Titans -2.5; Titans -150, Colts +126; O/U 43.5
The Colts and Titans will face each other for the second time in a month on Sunday, and the winner of this game will have the upper hand in the AFC South. Given the conference’s overall strength, the division winner will probably be the only team the AFC South sends to the playoffs.
Matt Ryan posted his best performance as a Colt (and his most productive game in nearly a calendar year) against the Jaguars in Week 6. Indy’s reshuffled offensive line gave him time in the pocket, and the veteran QB showed excellent chemistry with his young receivers. Jonathan Taylor’s likely return will only boost this ascending offense.
The Titans have roared back into contention with three straight wins, but they’ve largely done it with smoke and mirrors. They’ve been outgained in all three of their victories, including by 100-plus yards in their last two games. Indy’s once-elite run defense has been obliterated in recent weeks, so it’s wheels up for Derrick Henry.
— Dallas Robinson
Beasley: Titans 22, Colts 21
Miller: Colts 27, Titans 24
Robinson: Titans 24, Colts 21
Atlanta Falcons vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Bengals -6; Bengals -267, Falcons +215; O/U 47.5
The Falcons and Bengals both enter their Week 7 matchup at 3-3, but they’re getting it done in very different ways.
Atlanta has essentially eschewed the passing game altogether. They’ve attempted more runs than passes in every game this year, and they’ve managed at least 150 yards on the ground in five of six contests. Cincinnati has given up 383 rushing yards over their last two games, so the Falcons’ ground-and-pound strategy could have success again.
If the Bengals want to force the Falcons to pass, they’ll need to get ahead by multiple scores. Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and co. finally managed a few explosive plays against the Saints on Sunday, and they’ll look to keep it up against an Atlanta secondary that just lost Casey Hayward.
— Dallas Robinson
Beasley: Bengals 26, Falcons 22
Miller: Bengals 31, Falcons 28
Robinson: Bengals 28, Falcons 21
Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens
Ravens -6.5; Ravens -292, Browns +235; O/U 45.5
We’re off the Browns. We gave them the benefit of the doubt because their metrics had been strong. But three straight losses — including a 23-point drubbing at the hands of a third-string quarterback back in Week 6 — suggest their problems on defense aren’t going away.
The Browns’ defense is 28th in yards per play, 26th in yards per carry (5), 27th in yards per pass (7.2), and 31st in points allowed (27.2).
The Ravens’ offense is third in yards per play (6.2), first in yards per carry (1), 10th in yards per pass (6.8), and fifth in points scored (26.3).
The Browns should be able to move the ball against a Ravens defense that is 27th in EPA per play (.07), but in the end, who do you trust more: Lamar Jackson or Jacoby Brissett?
— Adam H. Beasley
Beasley: Ravens 27, Browns 19
Miller: Ravens 30, Browns 24
Robinson: Ravens 24, Browns 18
New York Jets vs. Denver Broncos
Broncos -1; Broncos -125, Jets +105; O/U 39.5
The Jets-Broncos matchup projects as the lowest-scoring game of Week 7, which is what happens when two defensive-led teams that don’t trust their quarterbacks collide.
New York hemorrhaged points over the first three games of the season, but they’re third in defensive EPA per play over the last four weeks. Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed are outstanding in the secondary, and Gang Green’s wave of pass rushers should have a field day with a Denver offensive line that’s without left tackle Garett Bolles.
The Broncos’ defense is elite too, but Russell Wilson can’t get anything going on the other side of the ball. Hampered by injuries and poor decision-making, Wilson looks like a shell of himself. It seems ridiculous to say Denver will have to ride Latavius Murray to a victory, but that’s where we are.
— Dallas Robinson
Beasley: Jets 20, Broncos 19
Miller: Jets 21, Broncos 19
Robinson: Jets 19, Broncos 16
Houston Texans vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Raiders -7; Raiders -320, Texans +250; O/U 45.5
Although the Texans and Raiders have similar records through six weeks, Las Vegas is clearly the better team.
On a granular level, this game doesn’t set up well for Houston. The Texans have leaned into the run game with rookie Dameon Pierce leading the way, but the Raiders play elite rush defense. Meanwhile, right tackle Tytus Howard has been good, but handling Maxx Crosby for 50+ plays is a different story.
Houston’s defensive front isn’t imposing, so Las Vegas’ subpar offensive line won’t be as much of a hindrance. A perfect game plan for the Raiders? Get out to an early lead as Davante Adams schools a young Texans secondary, then salt away the game with 20+ Josh Jacobs carries.
— Dallas Robinson
Beasley: Raiders 25, Texans 20
Miller: Raiders 27, Texans 21
Robinson: Raiders 26, Texans 16
Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Chargers -6.5; Chargers -285, Seahawks +228; O/U 51
If you like offense then this will probably be the game for you in Week 7. The 51-point total is the highest of the week, and it makes sense given the teams’ propensity to put points on the board and allow points on the defensive side of the ball. Seattle ranks eighth in offensive points-per-drive, while Los Angeles ranks 11th. But on defense, they rank 30th and 25th, respectively.
J.C. Jackson has struggled for the Chargers, and it’s been intriguing to watch Brandon Staley only dress three cornerbacks week-in and week-out. His fourth-down strategy has been as interesting, if not frustrating, for those who like to attack their problems using probabilities.
Meanwhile, Seattle’s offense is a well-oiled machine. Geno Smith has been outstanding, and Kenneth Walker appears poised to replace Rashaad Penny admirably. But the big question is: can impressive rookie CB Tariq Woolen make a big play late in this game to secure a victory for Seattle?
— Dalton Miller
Beasley: Chargers 27, Seahawks 24
Miller: Chargers 30, Seahawks 27
Robinson: Chargers 27, Seahawks 24
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Miami Dolphins
Dolphins -7; Dolphins -335, Steelers +260; O/U 44.5
Tua Tagovailoa is back, and not a moment too soon for a Dolphins team that hasn’t won since Sept. 25. Tagovailoa should buoy an offense that, under Skylar Thompson and Teddy Bridgewater over the last two weeks, ranked 28th in EPA per play (-.1).
Tagovailoa had it going before suffering a scary concussion in Week 4. He leads the NFL in QBR (80) and yards per attempt (9). Tyreek Hill — who is on pace to break the NFL’s single-season receiving yards record — should roast a Steelers defense that ranks 25th in yards per pass (7.2).
So the Dolphins will score points. Will the Steelers? Unlikely, regardless of whether Kenny Pickett or Mitch Trubisky plays. Yes, the Dolphins’ defensive backfield is super banged up, but the Steelers rank 30th in points (16.2) and have scored eight offensive touchdowns in six games. They need a score on defense or special teams — or perhaps both — to have a chance on Sunday.
— Adam H. Beasley
Beasley: Dolphins 27, Steelers 17
Miller: Dolphins 30, Steelers 20
Robinson: Dolphins 26, Steelers 17
Chicago Bears vs. New England Patriots
Patriots -7.5; Patriots -385, Bears +300; O/U 39.5
No team has been more dominant over the last two weeks than the Patriots, who have outscored their opponents by 52 points to save their season after a 1-3 start. And now there’s some intrigue in Foxboro, as Mac Jones’ job is not necessarily safe whenever it is he does return from a significant high-ankle sprain.
We’re working under the assumption that third-stringer Bailey Zappe makes his third NFL start come Monday. And he deserves to keep the job as long as he’s playing well. Zappe is third in EPA per play over the last two weeks (.22), and the Patriots are hanging onto the football. They have turned the ball over just twice in the last two weeks after coughing it up nine times in the first four.
The Bears, meanwhile, couldn’t even beat the Commanders at home. How are they going to beat the Patriots on the road?
— Adam H. Beasley
Beasley: Patriots 26, Bears 15
Miller: Patriots 24, Bears 14
Robinson: Patriots 20, Bears 10
Season Standings Through Six Weeks
Adam H. Beasley
49-44-1 straight up, 44-48-2 against the spread
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