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NFL week 7 is Comeback SZN for us. I have to apologize for last week's goose egg debacle. We went 0-4 last week with our “best” bets of the year (lol) and our losses weren’t close. I went to Vegas last weekend and let's just say I didn’t come back with any spare change. The good news is we are still 19-13-1 on the season nearly hitting at a 60 percent clip. The last time we came off a losing week, we destroyed the board going 6-1 on the following week. As always, we are still #PositiveVibesOnly, so we march forward into a new week.
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There are no significant betting trends to mention so we will head straight into the picks. All picks for this week will be one unit each.
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals
Spread: Cleveland (-3.5)
Okay, I already know what you are thinking: Austin are we really going to freakin bet the Browns again? I know, I watched the ass kicking the Browns took from the Steelers last week. Baker Mayfield was horrible and was graded as the worst overall passer in Week 6 by a country mile. But the Browns won’t be playing a Steelers defense that ranks second in DVOA, and is on pace to have the most pressures in NFL history. The Bengals defense is a far cry from the Steel Curtain. We handicapped the first matchup of this game perfectly, and we are going to see much of the same here.
The narrative going into this game is that the Bengals are making strides to becoming a competent football team after their near upset win against the Colts. The Browns are the same old Browns after their embarrassing loss to the Steelers. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Despite Joe Burrow’s good quarterback play, the Cincy offense ranks near the bottom of the league in every important offensive category: 26th in yards per play (4.7), 28th in third down conversion rate (36 percent), 29th in red zone touchdown conversion rate (47.1 percent), 29th in offensive adjusted sack rate (8.8 percent), and 27th in overall offensive DVOA. The point being, despite all the Burrow hype, this Bengals' offense is simply not good. The Bengals failed to put away the Colts, blowing a 17 point lead and only scored three points in the second half. They have one of the worst offensive lines in the league, and now they have to go up against Myles Garrett who leads the NFL in sacks and pressure rate.
The key for the Browns offense is keeping Mayfield upright and making sure he has time to throw the football. The Browns have a top three offense in the AFC if Mayfield plays well. The problem really has been they have not gotten good production from their former top draft pick.
Thankfully for Baker, the Bengals ranked 29th in overall pressure rate. The Browns have a significant advantage on the outside with Odell Beckham. The Browns top rated offensive line should maul a Bengals defensive front that ranks 25th in adjusted line yards.
As crazy as it seems, this is a career defining game for Mayfield. He cannot afford to lose to the younger Joe Burrow, with the significant talent advantage that Mayfield has with his supporting cast. After a rough week against the Steelers, there is legitimate doubt surrounding Mayfield’s long term future in Cleveland. Baker hears the noise. Mayfield should show out and put up a crap ton of points on the Bengals.
Cleveland is still a legitimate playoff threat in the AFC, while the Bengals are still a middling rebuilding franchise. I love the Browns to take care of business on Sunday.
The pick: Browns (-3.5)
Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans
Spread: Green Bay (-4)
I know, I can see you guys through the computer shaking your heads. But in my defense, Colin Cowherd said the Packers were the easiest bet of the year this week after this line came out. So it must be a lock right? Well, I learned my lesson calling games the “lock of the year” so I’m not going to go that far, but I do love the Packers in this spot.
The Packers are coming back from an embarrassing loss during a stand alone game. Packers coach Matt Lafleur said the Packers went into last week's game were lethargic and underprepared. I guarantee, that won’t be the case this week. The Packers have yet to lose back to back games under LaFelur’s tenure. Aaron Rodgers is a career 40-21-1 ATS after not covering the spread the week before including a staggering 10-0 ATS after their last failed covers. Rodgers looked human against a Bucs defense that ranks fourth in pressure rate and No. 1 in defensive DVOA. The Packers will have a lot easier time moving the ball against a Texans defense that ranks 28th in pressure rate and 32nd in defensive DVOA.
Rodgers should look like super man again on Sunday. The major drop-off in defensive competition will be greatly beneficial for an explosive Packers offense. This is a great smash spot for Green Bay, and I’ll be using multiple Green Bay stacks in DFS as well. I like the Packers to bounce back and cover against a struggling Texans team.
The pick: Packers -4
Detroit Lions at Atlanta Falcons
Spread: Falcons -2.5
This is a game that I have continuously gone back and forth on. But when you have that temptation to bet on the Falcons, you have to fade your own brain. I don’t think you can justify giving points with the Falcons ever. We saw the Falcons break into the win column last week against the Vikings. But their 40-23 win was pretty fluky. They got the benefit of three costly Kirk Cousins turnovers. The Falcons possessed the ball for over 40 minutes of that game. However, the Falcons only averaged 5.7 yards per play and gave up 7.1 yards per play on the defensive end. I have never seen a team lose the YPP by a full yard and still win by three possessions. The Falcons were also 3-3 on fourth downs and had a couple beneficial penalties in the second half that helped extend important drives.
At this point, the Lions and Falcons seem to be mirror images of each other. Both have a surplus of offensive firepower, struggle to make stops on defense, and both seem to have more talent than their records indicate. I tend to side with the team that’s getting the points here. The Lions seem to be trending in a positive direction since their Week 5 bye week. They got a couple defensive starters back from injury and they have adjusted their defense featuring more zone coverage to limit big plays.
Also, the Lions seem to be have a more positive outlook on the season. Sitting at 2-3, the Lions believe they are a viable playoff contender with the expanded playoff while the Falcons seem to be in tank mode after firing their coach. All three of the Lions losses have come against playoff teams: Bears, Packers, and Saints. They have been far more competitive in games against strong competition. I also like the Lions' emergence and increased usage of rookie running back DeAndre Swift in the backfield, who will be making his first start in his home state of Georgia.
This is a game that is going to be fun to watch and will feature plenty of scoring. One or two explosive plays will most likely decide this game. I trust Matt Stafford more than Matt Ryan to make those crucial plays in the fourth quarter. The over is in play as well. However, we have to take advantage of the line value on the Lions in this one.
The pick: Lions +2.5
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Football Team
Spread: Washington (-1)
We get another matchup where we get to see two NFC (l)east teams battle for first place in the division. It is really hard to justify a bet for either team. Right now the Cowboys are a complete dumpster fire.
I was wrong about many things last week, but claiming Andy Dalton would be an average or above average NFL starting quarterback may have been the dumbest take I’ve ever made on the internet. To say Dalton was horrible on Monday night football was and is a laughable understatement. Dalton had a 38.9 QBR, he completed 34 out of 54 passes averaging 4.4 yards per attempt, he threw for two interceptions and was sacked three times. As bad as it was, it could have been much worse according to PFF- Dalton had an additional SEVEN turnover worthy throws and could have been sacked five additional times. Dalton did not get much help from his star running back Zeke Elliot, who fumbled on consecutives possessions in the first half. Dalton is bad, and he is playing behind an offensive line that is in shambles.
The Cowboys are down four starters on the offensive front and they have struggled to find cohesion all year. They will be playing a young talented defensive front that ranks ninth in adjusted sack rate. The Washington defense has been pretty decent ranking seventh overall in defensive DVOA, ninth in red zone scoring defense, 13th in yards per play, and they rank 13th in takeaways. They will play a Dallas offense that has potent skill position players, but they’re banged up O-Line and inconsistent QB play will give them problems moving the ball.
The main reason it is impossible to back Dallas in this spot, is they may have the worst defense in NFL history. We have mentioned it many times before, but Dallas is last in scoring defense surrendering 36 points per game. The Cardinals scored 36 points against them, and somehow brought the average down. That shows just how bad the Cowboys’ defense has been. And what’s ironic is that they have some pieces. They were still dominated in the run game, even with Leighton Van Der Esch back. Fortunately, the Cowboys defense will go up against a Washington offense that ranks last in virtually every offensive category. So something has to give. Washington quarterback Kyle Allen has shown promise in his two starts completing 72.9 percent of his passes and holding a 71.9 QBR rating. There are several college teams that could hang 24 on the Cowboys defense. We are going to fade the Dallas defense until Nolan is fired.
The look ahead line was Dallas -3, so we are giving up some decent line value here. You can’t take an over with Washington’s offense, and you damn sure can’t take an under with the Dallas defense. So we will take the slightly less talented but better coached Washington football team that’s been playing hard all year. Give me the Washington football team to win this closely for Ron Rivera, who has coached this entire season while treating his cancer.
The pick: Washington Football team (+1)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans
Spread: Titans -1
On Sunday’s afternoon game of the week, we get to see a battle between the AFC’s last unbeaten teams. This is a line that simply does not make sense. It opened with Pittsburgh as a favorite but the line has shifted in the Titans favor late Thursday. There is sharp actions on both sides of this game. Regardless, I liked the line when Pittsburgh was a favorite, so I’m thrilled we get a chance to get them close to even money.
To begin, Pittsburgh is simply the better football team. After scanning through various power rating systems, the Steelers were consistently ranked 4-7 while Tennessee was anywhere between 7-11. For example, The Steelers rank 3rd in overall DVOA while the Titans rank 7th.
Despite being 5-0, the Titans are incredibly lucky to be where they are. They have caught every lucky break needing miracle comebacks to beat below average opponents in wins against the Broncos, Vikings, Jaguars, and their most recent 42-36 thriller against the Texans.
The Titans incredible lucky road has made up for the faults of their very porous defense. The Titans defense has major issues, ranking: 27th in yards per game allowed, 30th in yards per rush allowed, and 25th in yards per pass. They have been killed on explosive plays allowing the highest percentage of run plays to go 20 yards are more. On a down to down basis, the Titans rank 30th in passing success rate and 22nd in rushing success rate. While opposing offenses are marching down the Titans throats, they are not forcing teams to settle for field goals allowing their opponents to convert 87.5 percent of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns - dead last in the NFL. When you look at this defensive metrics, its incredible how the Titans are still unbeaten.
The Titans defense will face a Steelers offense that has seemed to find its groove as of late. The Steelers rank fourth overall in points per game (31.4), 10th in third down conversion rate, and ninth overall in offensive DVOA. The addition of Chase Claypool, has added another explosive dynamic to the Pittsburgh offense. I don’t think it will be difficult for the Steelers to move the ball against the Tennessee defense.
While Titans have been exceptional on the offensive side of the ball scoring 32.8 points per game, but they have yet to face a defense that comes close to Pittsburgh. Titans will have to find away to deal with the Steelers massive front without starting left tackle Taylor Lewan. We watched the Steelers defense completely dominate the top rushing attack at the line of scrimmage last week. Across the board, the Steelers defense is among the best in the NFL ranking second in overall defensive DVOA, second in points per game, third in yards per play, first in rushing success rate, and fourth in passing success rate. Titans running back Derrick Henry has shown he could be a one man wrecking crew, but even Henry is going to have trouble against the Steelers front.
In addition, you can add to the narrative that the Steelers were very vocally upset that the Titans positive Covid test caused Pittsburgh to have a bye earlier this season. Pittsburgh is going to come into Tennessee looking for blood. The Titans have been good, but there are so many factors that point towards a Steelers cover. This is my favorite play of the day.
The pick: Steelers ML (+100)
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
Spread: Seattle (-3.5)
Sunday night we get treat, with a fantastic matchup between two NFC West contenders and two prolific quarterbacks. From a betting perspective, this is a classic "Pro’s vs. Joe's" scenario. If the Titans weren’t a thing, the Seahawks would be the luckiest team on the planet. They were outplayed at home by the Patriots and by the Vikings on Sunday Night Football a few weeks back. They trailed the lowly Cowboys in the fourth quarter, and if Brian Flores didn't settle for five field goals they possibly lose to the Dolphins. Despite that, the Seahawks have the MVP front runner and an unbeaten record to make them a public darlings. As a result, already two thirds of the ticket count has been wagered on Seattle.
The Seahawks have been lucky all season, winning four out of their five games by one score and I would make the argument that Seattle has been outplayed during three out of their wins this year. I have been looking to fade the Seahawks in this spot for a while now. I’m a little worried that the Seahawks get slight advantage coming off a bye week, especially with the Cardinals having to play on a short week. Typically, betting against Russell Wilson is an idiotic move. But I’m the king of idiot ideas so we are betting against Russell Wilson.
I do believe I have pretty good reasoning behind this though.
Since 2014 under Pete Carroll, the Seahawks are 11-17-1 ATS as an road favorite, and are 5-10-1 ATS as a road divisional favorite. Both of those trends are in play here. As for the Cardinals, they are 10-4-2 ATS as underdogs under HC Kliff Kingsbury.
In their last meeting in Week 16 last season, the Cardinals physically dominated the Seahawk, holding Wilson to 169 passing yards in a 27-13 win. The Cardinals will not come into this game scared. Arizona will be playing with confidence after a dominating performance against the Cowboys a showing they really did not get credit for in the national media. This is must win statement game for Arizona.
The Cardinals potent offense should dominate a Seattle defense that ranks 26th in DVOA, 32nd in pressure rate, 29th in yards per play, and 28th in third down conversion rating. The Seattle pass rush does not have a chance of getting to the mobile Kyler Murray. The secondary does not have a prayer in guarding DeAndre Hopkins. The Cardinals should be able to move the ball consistently and that will keep them in the game.
In addition, the Seahawks have routinely struggled defending running quarterbacks. The Patriots Cam Newton was able to carve Seattle defense on the ground and through the air and Kyler Murray should have similar success throwing to more dynamic weapons on the outside. The Cardinals rank fifth in the NFL in total yards per game (402.5), second in yards per rush (7.1), and they have scored touchdowns on 80 percent of their red zone possessions- second in the NFL to Seattle.
Kingsbury is going to be very aggressive, constantly pushing the envelope against the Seattle defense- going for it on fourth down, taking deep shots, and not settling for field goals. I can easily see the Cardinals being able to match Seattle score for score.
Unless you have been living under a rock, the new "Let Russ Cook" movement in Seattle has produced the leagues top offense so far. Wilson struggled early in the game against the Vikings when they played cover four or cover two with two-high safeties. Expect the Cardinals to implement the same strategy with multiple looks. The Cardinals have the highest graded safety in Budda Baker, a young promising corner in Byron Murphy, and a valuable veteran in Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals secondary can matchup with the Seahawks receivers and give them some problems. The Cardinals have an above average secondary that ranks 12th in passing yards allowed per game (226.6), sixth in passing yards per attempt, 14th in adjusted sack rate, and they rank 10th overall in pass defense DVOA.
On the other side, the Seahawks have faced just one Top 15 ranked defense the entire season (Patriots), and the road trip at Arizona will be their next biggest test. The Cardinals rank second overall allowing 18.6 points per game, seventh in third down percentage (36.49 percent), and second in the NFL in red zone TD scoring percentage (41.69 percent). The key to this game is which team can convert touchdowns in the red zone and which team can get off the field on third downs. I give a slight edge to Arizona in these situational spots.
Arizona has not played the best defensive competition but they’re defensive unit is being overlooked in this spot. Giving three and half points is a big number for Seattle on the road -- too much against a quality opponent. The Cardinals will have fans in the stadium for the first time this season with 1,200 fans in attendance so there will be new energy in the stadium. I like the Cardinals to cover in this spot and for Arizona to hand the Seahawks their first loss. The Cardinals will earn our respect.
The pick: Arizona +3.5 and Arizona ML +160
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