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Roger Steinman/Associated Press
The 2019 NFL season is about 36 percent complete, and the majority of Bleacher Report’s NFL analyst team is finally above .500 picking games against the spread.
It still hasn’t been an easy year for NFL writers Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski, who remain 45-47 with their consensus picks and are coming off a 7-7 week both straight-up and against the spread. But a hot two-week stretch from Gagnon has the crew riding some momentum as we enter the heart of the campaign.
1. Brad Gagnon: 48-44 (10-4)
2. Brent Sobleski: 47-45 (7-7)
3. Gary Davenport: 39-53 (5-9)
Consensus picks: 45-47 (7-7)
Moneyline consensus: 59-32-1 (7-7)
Home teams continue to get slaughtered this season, especially against the spread (they’re 20-41-1 ATS when favored), and the professional football handicapping community will have to predict when the law of averages will kick in and balance the home/away scales.
Here’s how our experts have chosen to approach those trends with their Week 7 selections.
Lines from Caesars as of 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 16.
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The Kansas City Chiefs opened as a 4.5-point favorite for Thursday night’s game against the Denver Broncos, but that has dropped to an even field goal. The number has moved enough to push our group unanimously in Kansas City’s direction.
“You always want to be wary of road teams on short rest laying points in Thursday divisional matchups,” Gagnon admitted. “Patrick Mahomes’ injured ankle is a concern, as well. But you have to consider how likely the Chiefs are to lose three in a row, as well as how likely it is the Broncos win three in a row. This should be a correction game, and master game-planner Andy Reid should be able to toy with the less talented Broncos on a short week.
Gagnon concedes it’d be a different story if this spread were significantly higher than three. In fact, he was on the Broncos when the number was close to five because Denver almost never loses by wide margins at home. The Broncos hung with the Chiefs last year in Colorado, and they’ve lost by more than four points just once in their last 11 home games.
This is a toss-up you might want to avoid. But under those circumstances and with only three points to worry about, our experts are riding with the more accomplished and more talented team.
Davenport: Kansas City (-3)
Gagnon: Kansas City (-3)
Sobleski: Kansas City (-3)
Consensus: Kansas City (-3)
Score Prediction: Chiefs 31, Broncos 20
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The Arizona Cardinals have recovered from an early-season slump with back-to-back victories over bad teams. And now they’re getting a field goal from another bad team, the New York Giants.
Our gang is unanimously supporting Arizona as star cornerback Patrick Peterson returns from suspension.
“Don’t look now, but Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury and rookie quarterback Kyle Murray are figuring things out, and the offense is clicking,” Sobleski said. “Arizona amassed 956 total yards the last two weeks against poor competition. Guess what? The Giants aren’t exactly good competition.”
That said, the Giants are tough to get a bead on. While rookie quarterback Daniel Jones has been a disaster the last few weeks, he’s lacked support in a severe way. That’ll change Sunday as key offensive pieces Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram are expected to return from injuries.
This is not a game on which you want to spend your money, but the team that appears to be better is getting points, and it’s easy to imagine the Giants struggling defensively. They’ve been particularly vulnerable in the slot, which is just where the Cardinals have excelled with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk.
Davenport: Arizona (+3)
Gagnon: Arizona (+3)
Sobleski: Arizona (+3)
Consensus: Arizona (+3)
Score Prediction: Cardinals 26, Giants 23
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Jeff Haynes/Associated Press
The Indianapolis Colts have spent much of the week as a small favorite for Sunday’s divisional matchup with the Houston Texans, but the public has helped push the number down, and Caesars was rolling with a pick’em at press time.
That has the majority of our experts happy to pounce on a home team coming off its bye week.
“Frank Reich is a better coach than Bill O’Brien, and I love backing a good coach coming off a bye week,” Gagnon said. “The Colts are also at home, they’re getting healthier, and the banged-up and notoriously inconsistent Texans are due for a loss.”
The Texans are coming off a sweet road victory in Kansas City. But while the Chiefs were hurting, the Colts look as though they’ll get key defenders Darius Leonard and Clayton Geathers back from concussions.
Meanwhile, Houston lost starters Tytus Howard and Bradley Roby to injuries at Arrowhead. The Texans are running into a physically and mentally tough opponent that plays them well, and they might be doing so in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Davenport: Indianapolis (PK)
Gagnon: Indianapolis (PK)
Sobleski: Houston (PK)
Consensus: Indianapolis (PK)
Score Prediction: Colts 24, Texans 21
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Perry Knotts/Associated Press
The line for Sunday’s matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals might be a problem. The 2-4 Jaguars are laying more than a field goal on the road, even as Gardner Minshew II’s magic wears off and Jalen Ramsey packs up for Los Angeles.
But our analysts just can’t justify backing the 0-6 Bengals right now, even after Cincinnati pulled off a backdoor cover last week against the Baltimore Ravens.
“Just when you think the Bengals can’t go any lower, the team finds a new nadir,” Davenport said. “Last week against Baltimore (a team that was 31st in the NFL in yards allowed per play), the Bungles managed just 4.5 yards per play and 250 yards of total offense. Cincinnati now ranks dead last in the NFL against the run, allowing almost 185 yards per game. The Jaguars aren’t especially good, but the Bengals suck harder than a 350-horsepower Roomba.”
The Jacksonville defense is better than Baltimore’s on paper, and it should be able to pick on Andy Dalton behind a brutal Cincinnati offensive line. Plus, Minshew, DJ Chark Jr. and the Jacksonville passing game should have a chance to rebound.
The New Orleans Saints defense was a tough matchup, but a Cincinnati team that already had the league’s third-worst pass defense in terms of DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders will be missing veteran starters William Jackson III and Dre Kirkpatrick, both of whom suffered injuries against the Ravens.
Even the potential return of Bengals left tackle Cordy Glenn isn’t enough to convince our guys to side with Cincy. But this is also a game you’d be smart to dodge.
Davenport: Jacksonville (-3.5)
Gagnon: Jacksonville (-3.5)
Sobleski: Jacksonville (-3.5)
Consensus: Jacksonville (-3.5)
Score Prediction: Jaguars 26, Bengals 20
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The Los Angeles Rams have lost as many games in the last three weeks as they did throughout the 2018 regular season, but our analysts agree unanimously that a trip to Atlanta to face the 1-5 Falcons is just what the doctor ordered for Jared Goff and Co.
“The Rams aren’t in a good place,” Sobleski confessed. “The loss of left guard Joseph Noteboom to season-ending ACL and MCL injuries only magnifies their offensive problems. With that said, the selection has less to do with the Rams’ current standing and far more about a 1-5 Falcons squad that’s surrendered 138 points during its current four-game losing streak. O-line protection is always less of an issue when the opponent can’t generate any pressure, and Atlanta is tied for last with five sacks.”
Goff has struggled while facing far too much pressure during L.A.’s three-game losing streak. But as Sobleski pointed out, the Falcons are far from feisty on that side of the ball. During its four-game losing streak, Atlanta has one takeaway and one sack.
Could the offense have success against a secondary that is going through a tremendous transition with Marcus Peters gone, Aqib Talib on injured reserve and the newly acquired Jalen Ramsey still getting up to speed? Certainly, but the Falcons have always been strong on offense, and it’s rarely been enough.
This is a team that has covered the spread in just six of its last 22 games, and none of our experts are willing to get behind that right now.
Davenport: Los Angeles (-3)
Gagnon: Los Angeles (-3)
Sobleski: Los Angeles (-3)
Consensus: Los Angeles (-3)
Score Prediction: Rams 34, Falcons 27
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Jeff Haynes/Associated Press
The 2019 Miami Dolphins might be one of the worst teams in NFL history, but the reality is they nearly won straight-up while covering their first spread of the season last week, their ceiling is a little higher with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback and their Week 7 opponent is laying 17 points despite averaging just 18 points per game this year.
The majority of our panelists figure that number is simply too high for the Buffalo Bills, who should win but might not do so in blowout fashion Sunday in Orchard Park.
“This may be a sign of some sort of mental lapse on my part,” Davenport joked. “But with the Dolphins deciding to go with the veteran Fitzpatrick at quarterback, the team’s offense should be slightly less revolting. It’s not a matter of the Dolphins being in any sort of position to win this game, but Miami could score enough points to make this spread awfully hard to cover for a Bills team that ranks 25th in the league in scoring.”
That said, we lack a unanimous consensus.
The Bills will present a much larger challenge to Miami than the Washington Redskins did, and Sobleski doesn’t trust them enough to take the 17 points. That’s fair when you consider Miami lost its only other road game this year by 25 points and that a much more respectable Dolphins squad fell to the Bills by a 25-point margin last December. Oh, and Buffalo is coming off its bye.
If you’re not comfortable backing a team that’s tanking, this might be another one to sit out.
Davenport: Miami (+17)
Gagnon: Miami (+17)
Sobleski: Buffalo (-17)
Consensus: Buffalo (-17)
Score Prediction: Bills 27, Dolphins 13
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The talented and expensive Minnesota Vikings roster has generally underachieved throughout quarterback Kirk Cousins’ time in Minnesota, but there’s some evidence the team is turning a corner. Minnesota has won back-to-back games in blowout fashion, with Cousins posting six touchdowns to one interception and a 142.5 passer rating in those outings.
Now they’re laying just a point and a half against a Detroit Lions team that is likely tired and dejected following a nightmarish experience Monday night against the Packers in Green Bay.
The majority of our experts are willing to bet the Vikes can make it three wins in a row Sunday at a site in which they beat the Lions 27-9 last December.
“Cousins isn’t Aaron Rodgers, but the Vikings also have far superior wide receivers compared to the offense Detroit faced Monday night,” Sobleski said. “Minnesota is riding high after discovering how to properly utilize those targets. Cousins should continue to push the ball downfield, with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen being the biggest beneficiaries of a well-rounded Minnesota offense.”
But Gagnon isn’t on board. He figures the Lions will be desperate and fired up after getting robbed on Monday Night Football, and he doesn’t trust the infamously inconsistent Cousins.
“The Lions would be unbeaten right now if not for some really tough breaks against Kansas City and Green Bay,” he said. “The football gods should be with them at home against an unreliable Vikings team that hasn’t covered the spread in three straight games since Cousins took over last year.”
So, tread carefully.
Davenport: Minnesota (-1.5)
Gagnon: Detroit (+1.5)
Sobleski: Minnesota (-1.5)
Consensus: Minnesota (-1.5)
Score Prediction: Vikings 24, Lions 21
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The Green Bay Packers might be superior to the Oakland Raiders, and they’re at home Sunday. But that’s not enough for the majority of our experts to lay even 4.5 points in Green Bay’s favor after this line plummeted from around a touchdown early this week.
“I swear this isn’t because Jamaal Williams cost me a cover last week by plopping his butt on the ground at the end of the Lions-Packers game,” Davenport quipped. “OK, mostly it’s not. Mostly, it’s because the Packers will likely be short-handed on offense again Sunday at Lambeau against a Raiders team that has beaten the Colts and Bears away from Oakland the last two weeks. The Packers may gut this one out just as they did against Detroit in Week 6, but that number is still too big a spread for me.”
The Packers are on short rest, while the Raiders should be fresh coming off their bye. The Packers didn’t play well without top receiver Davante Adams against the Lions, and Adams is still working to get back from a toe injury.
It’s just not a great spot for Green Bay.
However, you wonder if the Raiders are due for a dud on the road. Gagnon believes they played above their heads against a banged-up Colts team in Indianapolis and against an also-traveling Bears team in London. Prior to that, they had lost five of their previous six road games by at least 14 points apiece.
So again, exercise caution.
Davenport: Oakland (+4.5)
Gagnon: Green Bay (-4.5)
Sobleski: Oakland (+4.5)
Consensus: Oakland (+4.5)
Score Prediction: Packers 27, Raiders 24
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John Cordes/Associated Press
In the last three weeks, the Washington Redskins have averaged just nine points per game, and that number would be even worse if they didn’t score 17 in a near-losing effort against the lowly Dolphins in Week 6. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers defense has surrendered just 10 points per game in its last three outings.
In other words, there’s a decent chance the Redskins are completely shut down when the two meet Sunday. While it’s always scary giving up a near-double-digit spread with a road team, our analysts can’t get behind an easily stoppable force against an immovable object.
“It doesn’t matter who starts at quarterback for Washington or that Bill Callahan is now coaching the team,” Sobleski said. “San Francisco’s outstanding defensive front will stone Washington’s run game and pressure the poor signal-caller all afternoon long. Only jet lag could prevent the 49ers from coming out on top or even covering since the West Coast squad is making the dreaded cross-country trip with a 1 p.m. ET start time.”
That might give you pause, and you might be concerned about the fact San Francisco’s offense is still missing key cogs Joe Staley, Mike McGlinchey and Kyle Juszczyk. But the 49ers already have four 13-plus-point victories this season. Taking Washington is too big a risk.
Roll with the Niners or don’t roll at all.
Davenport: San Francisco (-9.5)
Gagnon: San Francisco (-9.5)
Sobleski: San Francisco (-9.5)
Consensus: San Francisco (-9.5)
Score Prediction: 49ers 27, Redskins 13
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Kyusung Gong/Associated Press
Sunday’s matchup between the Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans might be a bettor’s nightmare.
Tennessee, which has lost four of five games overall and three straight at home, has benched quarterback Marcus Mariota. But Los Angeles has also lost four of five, the roster is ravaged by injuries, and the Chargers’ only regulation win this year came against the miserable Dolphins.
With great reluctance, the majority of our analysts are taking a couple of points with a Chargers team that at least traveled well last season and has a much more stable quarterback situation.
“That we have to pick this game at all is bad enough,” Davenport joked. “That people are going to watch it on purpose is even worse. The Chargers are in a tailspin after getting blasted at home two games in a row by squads with one win combined going in. The Titans have scored more than 17 points just twice this year and benched Marcus Mariota during a shutout loss in Denver last week. It’s nigh impossible to pick which of these bad teams will want to lose this game least, but I’m sure as heck not laying points on either team.”
But Gagnon is a dissenter. He notes the Chargers just aren’t right without Derwin James, Melvin Ingram III, Russell Okung and Mike Pouncey. Meanwhile, the Titans are getting healthier along the offensive line, and the Tennessee defense might be the strongest unit in this game.
We’ll see if Ryan Tannehill can give a boost to the inconsistent Tennessee offense, but it’s worth noting the Titans have surrendered 20 or fewer points in nine of their last 10 games.
Don’t break the bank for the Bolts. And yes, there’s a conservative trend with this week’s picks given how many wonky games are on the schedule.
Davenport: Los Angeles (+2)
Gagnon: Tennessee (-2)
Sobleski: Los Angeles (+2)
Consensus: Los Angeles (+2)
Score Prediction: Chargers 20, Titans 17
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John Froschauer/Associated Press
The Seattle Seahawks might have the NFC’s best home record since 2012, but they’ve yet to win at CenturyLink Field by more than a single point this season.
Two of our three experts imagine they’re due for a big home win when they spot the Baltimore Ravens 3.5 points on Sunday.
“Russell Wilson is the best player in professional football right now,” Gagnon said, “and he should have a field day against a Baltimore defense that has just 11 sacks and has surrendered an ugly 6.3 yards per play despite a soft schedule. Baltimore is a phony 4-2 and is in for a rude awakening in one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. The Seattle defense isn’t what it used to be, but a unit featuring Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Jadeveon Clowney is too smart and experienced to let Lamar Jackson run wild as he did against Cincinnati.
“Giving up the hook isn’t ideal, but the Ravens secondary is a mess right now, and Wilson is the best deep passer in the league. Even if the freshly acquired Marcus Peters is ready to roll Sunday, that won’t be enough to slow Wilson down, especially because Peters is a liability as often as he’s an asset. I’ll risk that loss on the hook and predict a Seattle blowout.”
But Sobleski doesn’t see it that way. He figures this will be a close game between two similarly talented but flawed teams. And it’s worth noting Baltimore has played well on the road this year, while Seattle has surprisingly been outscored by its opponents in three home games.
It’s no surprise our guys lack a unanimous consensus with this agonizing line.
Davenport: Seattle (-3.5)
Gagnon: Seattle (-3.5)
Sobleski: Baltimore (+3.5)
Consensus: Seattle (-3.5)
Score Prediction: Seahawks 27, Baltimore 21
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“This is arguably the hardest pick of the week,” Davenport said of Sunday’s late-afternoon matchup between the Drew Brees-less New Orleans Saints and a Chicago Bears squad that has been offensively challenged this season. “On one hand, the Saints keep finding ways to win, the Bears don’t have Akiem Hicks, and New Orleans is getting a field goal.
“On the other hand, the Bears have had an extra week to prepare for a game they need to win, the Saints aren’t exactly blowing teams away, and Alvin Kamara is banged up. I’ve been back and forth on this one, but at day’s end, that extra prep time sealed the deal for me.”
Gagnon is joining Davenport on the Bears minus a field goal, as he figures the mighty Chicago defense will be too much for Brees replacement Teddy Bridgewater. A unit that has surrendered just 13.8 points per game this season should be fired up to send a message after failing to make splash plays against Oakland.
The Saints have yet to lose in four Bridgewater starts, but the former Vikings Pro Bowler has a sub-7.0 yards-per-attempt average, and the New Orleans offense has generated 20 or fewer points in three of those four outings.
Still, the Hicks injury has Sobleski providing a voice of dissent.
“New Orleans gained a major edge for this weekend’s contest when the Bears placed Hicks, one of the game’s premier interior defenders, on injured reserve,” he said. “As a result, Bridgewater should be more comfortable in the pocket. As long as he’s comfortable, he plays clean and efficient football. That’s the key. The Saints don’t have to be the same explosive offensive unit they once were, but mistake-free football has been a recipe for success in recent weeks.”
Expect a close game at Soldier Field.
Davenport: Chicago (-3)
Gagnon: Chicago (-3)
Sobleski: New Orleans (+3)
Consensus: New Orleans (+3)
Score Prediction: Bears 24, Saints 20
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Jeff Haynes/Associated Press
You might want to wait until Sunday to place your bets on the night matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, just because both teams have several big injury questions entering Week 7.
The Eagles still don’t know if they’ll have DeSean Jackson back, and now they’re without left tackle Jason Peters. On the other side of the ball, Nigel Bradham, Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills remain question marks.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys are hoping to get starting offensive tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins back, top wide receivers Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb are all nursing injuries, and defensive backs Byron Jones and Anthony Brown weren’t practicing to start the week.
Still, the Eagles are used to being banged up, and they’ve managed to win two of their last three games during a stretch in which Dallas has gone winless. The Cowboys have yet to prove they can handle their injuries, or that they can beat non-terrible opponents.
With that in mind, our whole gang is taking points with Philly.
“I went back and forth on this one, and my pick might be different if the Cowboys were a little less banged up,” Davenport admitted. “But whether it’s the offensive line, at wide receiver or in the secondary, Dallas is dealing with nicked-up guys all over the place. Philly’s secondary is admittedly a mess, and it wouldn’t be a huge stunner if the Cowboys won this battle of flawed NFC East contenders. But I like the Eagles’ chances of making just enough plays to win a close one, so I’ll take the points.”
In this case, Davenport has the support of his colleagues, and the law of averages says he’s likely to eventually bounce back from a poor start. It’s also worth noting he crushed his fellow analysts with a 133-116-7 record ATS in 2018.
Davenport: Philadelphia (+3)
Gagnon: Philadelphia (+3)
Sobleski: Philadelphia (+3)
Consensus: Philadelphia (+3)
Score Prediction: Eagles 27, Cowboys 23
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Winslow Townson/Associated Press
Eventually, the New England Patriots might lose. Eventually, they might at least play a close game against a bad team. But at the moment, they’ve won each of their last 10 games against teams with losing records, all by at least 12 points.
The New York Jets have taken some big steps forward since losing to New England by a 16-point margin on the road last month, but none of our analysts are willing to predict they can avoid a double-digit defeat Monday night against New England.
“New England’s ridiculous defense will present a much greater challenge to Sam Darnold and Co. than the underachieving Cowboys,” Gagnon said. “And we all know the Jets aren’t as good as that result would seem to indicate. They were outscored 16-3 in the second half of that Dallas game, and now they face the smartest team in football. Throw in that said smart team has had extra time to prepare and there’s no way I can get behind Gang Green.”
This might not be a blowout, especially if star linebacker C.J. Mosley can return to the Jets defense and make life difficult on a shorthanded New England offense. But the Jets are too risky a pick with only 10 points in their back pocket.
Davenport: New England (-10)
Gagnon: New England (-10)
Sobleski: New England (-10)
Consensus: New England (-10)
Score Prediction: Patriots 28, Jets 13