When the NFL schedule came out, Sunday night’s Super Bowl rematch was clearly the best of the 256 regular-season games.
Even four weeks ago, Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots was the marquee game of the season. Now? It’s still a fun one, but we come in with far more questions about each team than we expected.
In this season that’s being defined by there being an incredible number of good teams but clearly no great one – we’re one game into Week 7, and 31 of 32 teams have at least two losses already – the Falcons and Patriots haven’t stood out either. The Falcons are coming off consecutive home losses to the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. The New England Patriots have two losses, were pretty lucky to beat the Houston Texans at home and struggled to put away the New York Jets last week. Neither team is bad, but neither is looking like a Super Bowl favorite so far either.
The Falcons’ offense hasn’t been what it was last season. It’s easy to point to the change at offensive coordinator, from Kyle Shanahan to Steve Sarkisian. Last season Matt Ryan had 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions. This season he has six touchdowns and six interceptions. Ryan was always unlikely to repeat his MVP numbers, and the Falcons offense as a while was going to regress some, but the dip has been startling.
The Patriots’ issues are harder to explain. Almost all of their players from a team that was nearly perfect with Tom Brady in the lineup last season returned. They added a ton of talent in the offseason. It just hasn’t clicked yet. The defense is the biggest issue: Every quarterback they’ve faced has thrown for more than 300 yards. Maybe the Patriots will start to roll at some point, but their mediocrity to this point is baffling.
I’m still picking the Patriots on Sunday night. There’s a revenge factor for the Falcons for obvious reasons, but this doesn’t seem like the type of team that can go on the road and beat the Patriots. Let’s assume Ryan throws for 300 yards because everyone else has against New England, but I still think the Patriots do enough to cover the 3.5-point spread (it’s a SuperContest pick for me, too). And maybe that will get the Patriots going as we get closer to November.
Here are the rest of the Week 7 against-the-spread picks:
Packers (+5.5) over Saints: Nothing against the Saints, though they’re historically not the same team outdoors (however, it’s worth noting they are on a 9-2-1 streak against the spread in road games, according to OddsShark) and it appears there will be rain in Green Bay on Sunday. I think the Packers will play well around Brett Hundley, and Hundley will play well too. I’m a little concerned about the injuries around Hundley, because the Packers are taking on injuries at a stunning pace, but you’ll see a good effort from the Packers.
Dolphins (-3) over Jets: I’m just going to be stubborn and continue to pick against the Jets.
49ers (+6.5) over Cowboys: I get why this line is where it is, but all we’ve seen for five weeks is the 49ers play hard and pretty well (and lose every time). The 49ers are going to break through eventually. (The 49ers are plus-6 in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)
Broncos (+1.5) over Chargers: The Broncos won’t be scared to go on the road against a solid divisional rival. First of all, the Chargers have no home-field advantage. Also, the Broncos have won 15 of their last 18 divisional road games, according to OddsShark. And Denver will have a bit of an edge after being embarrassed last Sunday night by the Giants. (The Broncos are a pick’ em in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)
And the rest of the picks …
Raiders (+3) over Chiefs (picked Thursday): Not much more to say about that game, which I have to assume will hold up as the NFL’s game of the year. It had a little bit of everything. And if you’re not a believer in Derek Carr, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for.
Bills (off) over Buccaneers: I assume Jameis Winston will play (his injury status is why the game is off the board on Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em). I also have no faith in the Bucs winning on the road whether Winston plays or not.
Panthers (-3) over Bears: The Bears are a lot feistier than people figured on. They’ll battle hard at home. But a good Panthers team coming off a loss with a few extra days to prepare will be too much.
Browns (+5.5) over Titans: At some point, picking the Browns to cover week after week is foolish, but it just seems like a bad spot for the Titans. It’s not like they’ve been impressive so far.
Jaguars (-3) over Colts: It’s tough to pick the Jaguars. They’re impossible to predict. Leonard Fournette’s ankle injury really makes it murky. I have faith in the Jaguars’ defense finding a way to pull it off, though who knows which Jaguars team shows up.
Rams (-3) over Cardinals: Oh look, a “home” game for the Rams about 5,500 miles from home. I’m still not sold on the Cardinals being a new team with Adrian Peterson. I am sold on the Rams being pretty good.
Ravens (+5.5) over Vikings: This Ravens offense is terrible, but they can ugly up the game and keep it close.
Giants (+5.5) over Seahawks: It’s scary to pick the Giants, even after they finally played well last week, but it’s also scary to think about the Seahawks’ offensive line trying to block the Giants’ front four.
Bengals (+5.5) over Steelers: Most people probably tuned out the Bengals after their terrible start. But they have looked much better the last three weeks, after an offensive coordinator change. Even though the Steelers got a very nice win last week, their offense still hasn’t come alive. Maybe this is the week, but I’d like to see it first.
Redskins (+4.5) over Eagles: This is a tough pick, because Washington deserves a little more respect than they’re getting in this line but the Eagles might be the best team in football. Washington is dealing with a few key defensive injuries, which makes it even tougher. I’ll take the Redskins just because underdogs are hitting almost 60 percent of the time so far this season and you could do worse than blindly taking the points.
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