Tis the season for October surprises — and not just in politics.
The Patriots got back to work last week after a long layoff and were rudely welcomed to the mix by the Denver Broncos, who upset New England at home. Hours later, the San Francisco 49ers pulled off an upset of their own, toppling the division rival Rams in Los Angeles.
This week, the 49ers and Patriots will meet in what might as well be the Jimmy G Bowl, as Jimmy Garoppolo returns to New England.
That Patriots-49ers clash is one of a few very intriguing matchups in Week 7. NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian dig into it all in their against-the-spread picks below.
But first, here’s how they fared in Week 6.
Mike Cole: 6-8 (43-46-1 overall)
Ricky Doyle: 5-9 (35-54-1 overall)
Andre Khatchaturian: 6-8 (44-45-1 overall)
Now, here are their Week 7 picks, with all lines via consensus data.
THURSDAY, OCT. 22
New York Giants at (-4.5) Philadelphia Eagles, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Giants. New York, for all its issues, has been pretty good at forcing turnovers (eight takeaways), and no team has turned it over more this season than Philly. Just hard to lay that many points with the Eagles right now.
Ricky: Giants. Just feels weird giving away more than a field goal in a crappy divisional game with a team that needs to scratch and claw for every yard thanks in large to its litany of injuries.
Andre: Eagles. The Eagles stink, but they have an excellent pass rush, which ranks third on Pro Football Focus. They’re fourth in the NFL in sacks, and the Giants have the worst-graded pass blocking on PFF.
SUNDAY, OCT. 25
(-13) Buffalo Bills at New York Jets, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bills. Buffalo’s defensive issues (29th in defensive DVOA) might be the NFL’s dirty little secret, but the Jets aren’t positioned to take advantage.
Ricky: Jets. Another week where I’ll probably regret taking the Jets midway through the first quarter.
Andre: Jets. Buffalo’s biggest win of the season was by 10 points. Conventional wisdom says to go against the Jets because they’ve looked horrendous with just six offensive touchdowns, but they’ll put up a fight at home against a division rival.
Carolina Panthers at (-7.5) New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m.
Mike: Saints. The Panthers have the fourth-most missed tackles and have allowed the sixth-most yards after the catch. If there’s any team that can expose that, it’s the Saints, as it seems to fit right into their short-passing offense — especially if Michael Thomas returns.
Ricky: Panthers. Teddy Bridgewater is 30-10 ATS in 40 career starts, dating back to his days as Minnesota’s quarterback. He’s 15-2 ATS as a road underdog. The Saints’ knack for coverage breakdowns should let the Panthers hang around.
Andre: Saints. Carolina has the lowest-graded run defense in the NFL, and it’ll have its hands full against Alvin Kamara. The Panthers also have allowed the most receptions and third-most receiving yards to running backs. Kamara fantasy owners should rejoice.
(-3) Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Mike: Browns. Last week was an awful matchup for Cleveland, especially considering Baker Mayfield’s injury situation. Slightly easier spot this week.
Ricky: Browns. Get-right spot for Cleveland after its blowout loss in Pittsburgh. The Bengals have a bad run defense and don’t pressure the quarterback, so the Browns won’t have to relive last week’s nightmare.
Andre: Browns. What Ricky said.
Dallas Cowboys at (PK) Washington Football Team, 1 p.m.
Mike: Washington. Andy Dalton had a passer rating of 60 and completed less than half of his passes when pressured last season. He’s gonna face a whole bunch of pressure behind an injury-riddled offensive line trying to slow down a very good Football Team pass rush.
Ricky: Washington. Are things really this bad for Dallas? *Pauses* Yes. Yes, they are.
Andre: Washington. Washington has a pretty good pass rush, and Dallas’ offensive line is decimated. Tyron Smith might not play again all year, and now his backup — a dude named Brandon Knight — will miss this week’s game. Zack Martin also might be out due to a concussion. It’ll be a long day for Andy Dalton.
Detroit Lions at (-2) Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m.
Mike: Falcons. A week off did wonders for Julio Jones, who caught eight passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns in Atlanta’s 40-point outburst last week in Minnesota. The Lions might suffer a similar fate here.
Ricky: Lions. Detroit is starting to turn D’Andre Swift loose. And his impact could be evident this week in the passing game, where Atlanta ranks 31st in receptions (46) and receiving yards (328) allowed to running backs.
Andre: Falcons. These teams are eerily similar. They have aging but decent quarterbacks that never shined in the big moment, Hall of Fame playmakers (Adrian Peterson and Julio Jones) and terrible defenses. I’ll take the home team.
(-3.5) Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans, 1 p.m.
Mike: Packers. Last week, we learned Green Bay could struggle against good defenses that can stop the run and rush the passer (duh). Houston can’t really do either of those things. Get-right spot for the Pack.
Ricky: Packers. Green Bay typically responds well to being down, going 10-0 ATS in its last 10 games after an ATS loss. Davante Adams has a game under his belt after returning from a hamstring injury, so he could go off against Houston’s secondary.
Andre: Texans. Houston can’t catch a break with its schedule. The Texans already faced Kansas City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Tennessee. Those four teams have a combined SU record of 20-2. Despite their 1-5 record, the Texans have a positive yards per play differential and Deshaun Watson leads the NFL in yards per attempt.
(-2) Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m.
Mike: Titans. The Steelers could be without Devin Bush and Mike Hilton, two of their best defensive players. Not great when you have to face an offense that ranks third in DVOA and first in EPA per play. Everyone likes to talk about the Titans’ run game, but they can chuck it, too, and Ryan Tannehill has excelled against the blitz — Pittsburgh’s attack of choice — since taking over in Tennessee.
Ricky: Steelers. Tennessee has thrived off play-action with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, and Pittsburgh has allowed the lowest QBR (38.9) and completion rate (57%) on play-action since the beginning of 2019. The Titans’ loss of starting left tackle Taylor Lewan is huge ahead of a date with T.J. Watt and the Steelers’ relentless pass rush.
Andre: Steelers. Pittsburgh’s rush defense is the second-best in the NFL, allowing just 3.3 yards per carry. This will be Derrick Henry’s biggest test. The Titans, meanwhile, allow the second-most yards per carry and the fifth-most yards per play overall. Not good when you’re going up against a balanced Pittsburgh offense that rarely makes mistakes.
(-3.5) Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Cardinals. The Seahawks are fifth in points scored this season despite being 31st in third-down conversions. They need big plays, and Arizona ranks 11th in explosive pass plays allowed. If that continues here, the Cardinals’ seventh-ranked third-down defense should be able to get off the field at a high rate.
Ricky: Cardinals. The Seahawks have allowed the most yards per drive (42.1) in the NFL. Only the Giants have allowed more plays per drive. It feels like Seattle’s defensive woes, reliance on turnovers and tendency to play in close games will catch up at some point. Take the home underdog in a crucial divisional showdown.
Andre: Cardinals. Arizona ranks fourth in yards per play differential. The Cards still are underrated by the public, which is why they’re home underdogs in a divisional game against a team that rarely blows out anyone. Seattle’s last four wins were by one possession, and just two of its last 17 wins have been by double digits.
Jacksonville Jaguars at (-7.5) Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Chargers. I think I let the Jaguars’ Week 1 win over the Colts linger in my brain for too long and trick me into thinking they’re better than they are. Not anymore. The Chargers’ defense is going to devour the Jags, who are on the brink of a QB change.
Ricky: Chargers. The Jags are who we thought they were. Thankfully, because Gardner Minshew was starting to lose his luster.
Andre: Chargers. Justin Herbert’s Chargers have lost three of their last four games to Hall of Fame quarterbacks (Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady and Drew Brees), and all four of those losses were by one possession. Herbert’s getting better every week and should have no problem feasting against the Jaguars, who have the second-worst yards per play differential in the NFL.
(-9.5) Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. The Broncos’ defense is very good and also is well-positioned to stop the suddenly run-heavy Chiefs. But don’t be surprised if the Broncos also move the ball on KC, as they’re getting closer to full health for the first time all season.
Ricky: Chiefs. It feels like Kansas City is just messing around on offense lately — “Yeah, sure, let’s try this whole running thing” — which I don’t love from a betting perspective. But the Chiefs still always are just a snap or two away from creating separation on the scoreboard, especially given their ball-hawking defense.
Andre: Chiefs. Though the Broncos have the best-ranked defense on Pro Football Focus, Denver is susceptible to turning the ball over. They have the fourth-worst turnover differential, and Kansas City has the fourth-best. Give Patrick Mahomes a short field and you will die.
San Francisco 49ers at (-2.5) New England Patriots, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Patriots. The real play here might be the under, with both offenses in the bottom third of the league while both defenses are great in the red zone and on third down. In a close, low-scoring game, I expect the Patriots to find a way to separate late and avoiding losing two straight at home.
Ricky: Patriots. San Francisco will have trouble pushing the ball downfield against New England’s defense, which has surrendered the third-fewest receiving yards to tight ends (200) and fourth-fewest receiving yards to running backs (148). No opponent knows Jimmy Garoppolo quite like the Patriots, and Bill Belichick will do his best to remove the QB’s safety valves, especially George Kittle.
Andre: Patriots. When Garoppolo releases the ball in under 2.5 seconds, he has a league-best 134.6 passer rating with seven touchdowns and no picks. When he holds onto the ball longer than that, his passer rating drops to 53 (third-worst) with no touchdowns and two picks. The Patriots have the third-best coverage grade on PFF. Their secondary is going to take away Garoppolo’s first read and force him to survey the field and go through progressions. The numbers suggest he struggles to do that.
(-3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Las Vegas Raiders, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Bucs. We’re not even sure this game will be played, but if it is, Vegas likely will be without tackle Trent Brown, who is on the COVID list. Losing one of your top linemen against this defense seems less than optimal.
Ricky: Bucs. There’s definitely letdown potential here after Tampa Bay’s blowout win over Green Bay. But the Bucs cleaned things up, committing zero(!) penalties in that victory. They should be able to take care of business in Las Vegas provided they carry over that discipline.
Andre: Bucs. It all comes back to Tampa’s rush defense. It allows just three yards per play. If Josh Jacobs get stuffed, Derek Carr will be asked to do too much. Meanwhile, the Bucs’ running back tandem of Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones averages nearly five yards per carry and will go up against a Raiders defense that allows the eighth-most yards per carry.
MONDAY, OCT. 26
Chicago Bears at (-5.5) Los Angeles Rams, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Rams. The Rams have allowed 20 points or fewer in four of their six games, and Chicago will be the worst offense they have faced so far.
Ricky: Bears. Chicago’s defense is really good, ranking fifth in DVOA, per Football Outsiders, and fourth in Pro Football Focus’ overall defensive grade. The Rams will face problems similar to what they experienced in last week’s loss to the 49ers, perhaps on an even larger scale.
Andre: Rams. Jared Goff’s life is easy when he faces the NFC East (4-0 SU record). It’s not as easy when he plays any other division (0-2 record, with losses to Buffalo and San Francisco). Fortunately for Goff, he’ll get bailed out by his defense this week. The Rams allow the fourth-fewest yards per play, and I have no clue how the Bears’ anemic offense (28th in yards per play) expects to move the chains in this one.