We’re previewing the Week 7 NFL slate with score predictions for each game from our Nation reporters, what to watch for in fantasy, Football Power Index projections from ESPN Stats & Information and much more.
Point spread: LAC -6.5 | Matchup quality: 55.9 (of 100)
Turron Davenport’s pick: The Chargers’ offense is too explosive in both the running and passing game. The balanced attack is averaging 412.5 yards per game. Philip Rivers will take shots at Malcolm Butler, leading to at least one explosive play. After not scoring a touchdown in two consecutive weeks, Marcus Mariota will have a bounce-back game, but it won’t be enough to end their losing skid. Chargers 27, Titans 24
Eric D. Williams’ pick: The Bolts are playing better on defense and facing a Tennessee offensive line that allowed 11 sacks of Mariota in a loss to the Ravens last week. However, the Titans have been stingy on defense, giving up just 17.8 points per game, so this one likely will be a low-scoring affair. The Chargers have won nine of their past 10 games against Tennessee. Chargers 24, Titans 17
FPI win projection: LAC, 71.9 percent. Mariota’s 11 sacks last week pushed him to a 14.5 Total QBR, his lowest in a game in more than two years. This week’s opponent won’t be much easier, as the Chargers are allowing a 48.3 Total QBR in 2018, third lowest in the league.
What to watch for in fantasy: The Chargers D/ST could extend its double-digit point scoring streak to three games, and that makes them one of the best streamer D/ST options in Week 7. Read more.
Point spread: NE -2.5 | Matchup quality: 72.4 (of 100)
Mike Reiss’ pick: This is a good spot for the Bears to possibly pull the upset, with the Patriots coming off an emotional Sunday night victory, but two things have me sticking with the Patriots: Khalil Mack isn’t 100 percent with a right ankle injury; and the Tom Brady-led offense has scored 38, 38 and 43 points in its past three games and has even left points on the field. The New England defense will tighten up against the big play for the team to get its first road win of the season. Patriots 27, Bears 20
Jeff Dickerson’s pick: The Bears are catching the Patriots at the wrong time. Mack’s ankle injury, while not believed to be serious, is likely to limit his effectiveness versus Brady and the New England offense on Sunday. The Bears probably will put up a good fight, but in the end, New England’s firepower on offense will be too much for Chicago to overcome. Patriots 27, Bears 21
Tedy Bruschi and Darren Woodson see the Patriots taking out the Bears in Chicago after a huge Week 6 walk-off win vs. the Chiefs.
FPI win projection: CHI, 50.8 percent. The Bears are slight favorites at home, one of just two remaining games in which the Patriots are an underdog, according to FPI (Week 15 at PIT). Brady is 4-0 against the Bears in his career, but he faces a defense ranked second in defensive efficiency and first in takeaways per game (2.8) and points off turnovers per game (8.8) this season.
What to watch for in fantasy: Taylor Gabriel is arguably the most underrated asset in fantasy. Available in nearly two-thirds of ESPN leagues, he should be scooped up and considered a fringe WR3 option against New England. Read more.
Point spread: PHI -5 | Matchup quality: 58.8 (of 100)
David Newton’s pick: Philadelphia’s secondary is banged up, but the Panthers haven’t taken advantage of any secondary with deep passes. They have just two receptions for 20-plus yards, a league low. The Eagles are second against the run defensively, so look for them to put pressure on Cam Newton to beat the Panthers. Newton threw three interceptions in a loss to the Eagles last year, and that was at home. This one is on the road, and Philadelphia is coming off arguably its best game yet. Eagles 24, Panthers 17
Tim McManus’ pick: The Eagles own the No. 2 rushing defense in the NFL (79.8 yards per game), which will come in handy against a Carolina squad that averages five yards per carry. Carson Wentz is looking like his old self, and the swagger is back on offense. It should be a good day at the office for the Eagles, who have won 13 of their past 15 home games. Eagles 30, Panthers 24
FPI win projection: PHI, 69.8 percent. The Panthers enter the week with a 35 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to FPI. A win would propel their chances to 51 percent, while a loss would drop them down to 29 percent. That’s the biggest potential swing for any NFC South team in Week 7.
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Point spread: JAX -5 | Matchup quality: 45.6 (of 100)
Sarah Barshop’s pick: How each quarterback is able to hold up against the opposing pass rush will likely be the story of the game. Deshaun Watson has been under pressure on 41.5 percent of his dropbacks this season, which is the second-highest rate behind Tyrod Taylor, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The Jaguars lead the league with a 35.3 percent pressure rate, which will lead to a long day for Watson and the Texans’ offense. Jaguars 17, Texans 14
Mike DiRocco’s pick: The Jaguars swept the Texans last season and outscored them 74-14, but Watson only played the second half of the first game and none of the second game. The Jaguars’ defense over the past two weeks has given up 63 points, 802 yards and 49 first downs. One of the constants in those losses? Mobile quarterbacks really hurt the Jaguars when they got outside the pocket. Watson has that ability too. With the severe limitations on offense and the uncertainty of which Blake Bortles is going to show up, the Texans might only need 14 points to win. Texans 17, Jaguars 6
FPI win projection: JAX, 60.7 percent. This game has the biggest swing in terms of chances to make the playoffs and win the division of any game in Week 7. The Texans would have a 63 percent chance to win the division with a win and a 30 percent chance with a loss. The Jaguars would have a 43 percent chance to win the division with a victory and a 13-percent chance in defeat, according to FPI.
What to watch for in fantasy: It might be unfair to call Watson’s stock “falling” if he struggles again in Jacksonville, but that is what would happen. Read more.
Point spread: MIN -3.5 | Matchup quality: 40.5 (of 100)
Courtney Cronin’s pick: Like the Jets, the Vikings feel pretty good after winning their past two games, but it’s still too early to determine whether everything’s back on track. Minnesota might struggle against the run if Linval Joseph isn’t healthy enough to play; and offensively, Kirk Cousins has to be extra cognizant of ball security against a defense that thrives off creating turnovers. Cousins can beat the Jets’ pressure by relying on Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and that might be easier to do, given the injuries in New York’s secondary. Vikings 27, Jets 19
Rich Cimini’s pick: The Jets are confident after two straight wins, but confidence can’t cover Thielen. Without Trumaine Johnson and Buster Skrine, rookie Parry Nickerson will draw Thielen in the slot. Thielen could go for 200 yards against the Jets’ beat-up secondary. Offensively, the Jets will struggle because the Vikings play excellent situational football, as Minnesota is No. 1 in third-down defense and No. 2 in the red zone. Vikings 28, Jets 17
FPI win projection: MIN, 55.5 percent. At 67.1, the Jets are a top-five team in terms of defensive efficiency, according to FPI, and that number increases to 77.3 in home games. Intriguingly, Cousins has performed better away from home this season, posting a 83.1 Total QBR in road games compared with 43.8 at home.
What to watch for in fantasy: Thielen aligns in the slot 60 percent of the time, and he’s a terrific bet to continue his outstanding early-season success this weekend. Read more.
Tedy Bruschi and Darren Woodson explain their picks for the Week 7 matchup between the Jets and Vikings.
Point spread: IND -7.5 | Matchup quality: 32.7 (of 100)
Mike Rodak’s pick: This game has the potential to be sloppy between two teams that rank in the top six in turnovers lost and in the top nine in turnovers forced. It seems reasonable to lean in the direction of Andrew Luck over Derek Anderson and in favor of the home team. But one bounce the Bills’ way could change the outcome. Colts 17, Bills 14
Mike Wells’ pick: The Colts are off to their worst start since the 2011 season. The only positive outside of Luck’s play this season is that they could have receiver T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) back for the first time since Week 4. Hilton’s return will help a group that has 13 drops in the past three games. Scoring will be tough, as Buffalo is ranked 10th in total defense. Colts 17, Bills 10
FPI win projection: IND, 79.5 percent. The Colts are the biggest favorite of the week, according to FPI, but they might not put up points on offense the way they have over the past few weeks. Luck’s three-game streak of 300-plus yards and three touchdown passes could come to an end, as the Bills’ under-the-radar defense ranks fourth in defensive efficiency.
What to watch for in fantasy: LeSean McCoy has had 45 touches over the past two weeks, a big bump from the 29 touches he saw in his first three games combined. The Colts are allowing the fourth-most RB completions per game (6.83), so his floor could be elevated this week. Read more.
Point spread: TB -3.5 | Matchup quality: 32.3 (of 100)
Pat McManamon’s pick: The Browns’ defense has given up 45, 9 and 38 points over the past three games, with two losses. It now gets to face the NFL’s top passing offense without two of its top-three corners. The Browns have to find big plays and points to win this game. The offense did that in Oakland, and it will do it again against a weak defense. Browns 34, Buccaneers 31
Jenna Laine’s pick: After dropping three straight games and firing defensive coordinator Mike Smith, this game is must-win for Tampa Bay. It’ll be facing an offense that is averaging a little over 21 points a game, but it could possibly be without Gerald McCoy and Vinny Curry, which would be significant. If Jameis Winston can manage to have production somewhat near last week’s four touchdowns and eliminate the turnovers, I like the Bucs’ chances here. Buccaneers 30, Browns 21
FPI win projection: TB, 74.1 percent. Will this game be Baker Mayfield‘s breakout? The Buccaneers are last in defensive efficiency, according to FPI, and have allowed an 80.2 Total QBR. There’s a long way to go, but the highest Total QBR allowed in a full season in our dataset (since 2006) is 66.1 by the 2009 Giants.
What to watch for in fantasy: Things seem to be aligned nicely enough for Mayfield to have a chance at a top-10 week. Read more.
Tedy Bruschi and Darren Woodson explain their game picks for the Week 7 matchup between the Browns and Buccaneers.
Point spread: DET -3 | Matchup quality: 20.2 (of 100)
Michael Rothstein’s pick: Miami might be good at home, but don’t be fooled. This matchup actually plays pretty well for Detroit. The Dolphins aren’t good at reaching the quarterback (4.7 sack percentage), and if you give Matthew Stafford time to throw, he’ll beat you. As long as the line continues to hold up — and the potential return of T.J. Lang should help — Stafford could have a monster day. The Lions’ run defense is suspect, but it’s an overall favorable matchup for the Lions, particularly since Brock Osweiler has only completed 56 percent of his passes against Matt Patricia defenses in his career and hasn’t had a game against Patricia with over 60 percent passing. Lions 27, Dolphins 20
Cameron Wolfe’s pick: It’s tough to get a peg on this Dolphins team so far this season. They’re 4-2 with a backup quarterback likely leading them through the rest of October. The Miami heat and their stadium represent one of the best home-field advantages in the first two months of the season. The Dolphins are 3-0 at Hard Rock Stadium this season. Will the Osweiler revival continue against a stingy Lions pass defense? Probably not, but this seems like a prime game for Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake to bully the Lions’ 30th-ranked rushing defense, especially in the fourth quarter. Dolphins 24, Lions 23
FPI win projection: MIA, 50.9 percent. The Dolphins will be without Ryan Tannehill for a second straight week, but the switch to Osweiler doesn’t change their chances to win, according to FPI. The Dolphins would have a 51 percent chance to win with either quarterback under center.
What to watch for in fantasy: The platoon setup Miami has adopted for Drake and Gore does place a cap on the upside value of their Week 7 blocking advantage over Detroit, but placing either of them into an RB2 or flex starting role is a high-percentage play with notable upside potential. Read more.
Point spread: BAL -2.5 | Matchup quality: 80.9 (of 100)
Mike Triplett’s pick: I’m tempted to pick a loss here for the Saints since they’re on the road and facing the NFL’s No. 1 defense. But I can’t bet against Drew Brees accomplishing something he wants to add to his career bucket list in felling the Ravens, the only team he has never beaten in his 18-year career. And the Saints actually have been very good outdoors lately, with a 5-2 record over the past two years. Expect Brees to lean on his RB duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram to get this one done. Saints 25, Ravens 22
Jamison Hensley’s pick: The Ravens are coming off a franchise-record 11 sacks, but they’ll be hard-pressed to get to Brees. He gets rid of the ball quicker than anyone in the league, which creates a big problem for Baltimore. Since the start of the 2015 season, the Ravens are 11-17 (.392) when recording two or fewer sacks in a game. Saints 30, Ravens 27
FPI win projection: BAL, 60.4 percent. Brees is second in the league with a 79.2 Total QBR this season, but he goes on the road to face a Ravens defense that has allowed the lowest Total QBR in the league (44.2). The Ravens lead the league in defensive efficiency and are allowing an NFL-best 8.5 points per game at home.
What to watch for in fantasy: The Saints have the seventh-lowest pressure rate this season, while Joe Flacco sports a stellar 8-to-1 TD-INT rate with 7.3 yards per dropback from a clean, unpressured pocket. Read more.
Steve Young previews Sunday’s matchup between the Saints’ high-powered offense and the Ravens’ stifling defense.
Point spread: LAR -10 | Matchup quality: 68.0 (of 100)
Lindsey Thiry’s pick: The Rams feature the top-ranked offense, and Todd Gurley is coming off a 208-yard rushing performance, which will make it difficult for the 49ers to decide whether to focus on stopping the run or the pass? The Rams’ defense is still looking to put together a complete performance over the last few weeks after a dominant start, but the unit solved its run-game issues against the Broncos, a trend they expect to continue. Rams 34, 49ers 21
Nick Wagoner’s pick: After losing Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers have been in position to win every game they’ve played, but they haven’t been able to win any of them. The difference is a lack of top-end playmakers as compared to many of their opponents. That should again be the case on Sunday, when the star-studded Rams come to town riding the wave of a six-game winning streak against the Niners, who have lost four in a row and 12 straight October games. Kyle Shanahan’s familiarity with the Rams and their staff could make it closer than expected, but the Rams’ star power will provide enough for the win. Rams 34, 49ers 24
FPI win projection: LAR, 73.3 percent. One reason for the Rams’ success has been their domination on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The Rams lead the league in ESPN’s pass block win rate and ESPN’s pass rush win rate, according to tracking data from NFL Next Gen Stats.
What to watch for in fantasy: This week, Cooper Kupp will be out, leaving a 27.1 percent share of the Rams’ red zone targets to be distributed. Robert Woods is the main candidate to see a massive bump. Read more.
Point spread: WSH -1.5 | Matchup quality: 50.5 (of 100)
Todd Archer’s pick: The road has been unkind to the Cowboys this season, as they are averaging just 12.3 points, 276 yards and 16 first downs in their three losses away from home. That might be a poor forecast for Sunday’s game at Washington, but the Cowboys have found FedEx Field a friendly place as of late. The Cowboys have won five games in a row in Landover, Maryland. In those five victories, the Cowboys have averaged 29.4 points. They won’t score that many this time, but they will improve to 2-0 in the NFC East this season. Cowboys 24, Redskins 17
John Keim’s pick: The Redskins are 9-16 after a win over the past three years under coach Jay Gruden, so they’ve had a lot of trouble handling any sort of success. In their three wins this season, they’ve outscored opponents by a combined 38 points; in their two losses, they’ve been outscored by 36. They’ve been the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde team. Dallas stopped Washington’s run game last year, but in the first meeting, the Redskins’ line had only one regular starter. The Redskins are 12th in yards per carry allowed and have faced four offenses with better quarterbacks. Redskins 21, Cowboys 20
FPI win projection: DAL, 51.9 percent. This game will have a big impact on whether these teams make the playoffs from the NFC East: The Cowboys would have a 61 percent chance with a win and 34 percent with a loss, while the Redskins would be at 36 percent with a win and 14 percent with a loss, according to FPI. It should be a close game; FPI has Dallas at 52 percent to win, while Vegas has the Redskins as a two-point favorite.
Point spread: KC -6 | Matchup quality: 62.9 (of 100)
Katherine Terrell’s pick: The Bengals’ defense had trouble stopping the Steelers in the last minute of a loss last week, and now it is potentially down three defensive starters. Combine that with the Chiefs’ high-scoring offense and an offensive line that has only allowed six sacks and it doesn’t make for a good matchup for Cincinnati in a primetime game on the road. The Bengals’ offense would need to keep pace with the Chiefs to be able to stick around. Chiefs 33, Bengals 24
Adam Teicher’s pick: Each team could look in the mirror and almost see Sunday’s opponent. Both have high-scoring offenses (Chiefs 35.8 points per game, Bengals 29.0) but yield scores almost as fast (Kansas City 28.7, Cincinnati 26.3). The significant differences come in the kicking game, where the Chiefs rank in the top five in every key statistical category while the Bengals are near the bottom in many. Look for Tyreek Hill or Tremon Smith to make the difference with a big kick return. Chiefs 37, Bengals 33
FPI win projection: KC, 69.9 percent. This game has the largest impact on a first-round postseason bye of any Week 7 matchup. The Chiefs would have a 71 percent chance at a bye with a win, according to FPI and a 46 percent chance with a loss. The Bengals would have a 21 percent chance at a bye with a win and a 6 percent chance with a loss.
What to watch for in fantasy: Consider tight end C.J. Uzomah. Andy Dalton claims the league’s seventh-highest rate in yards per dropback (9.2) and fifth-highest completion clip (81 percent) targeting tight ends. The Chiefs have allowed 91.7 yards per game and the third-most fantasy points (16.8) to the position this season. Read more.
Tedy Bruschi and Darren Woodson predict that Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will outduel Andy Dalton and the Bengals on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Point spread: ATL -5 | Matchup quality: 44.6 (of 100)
Jordan Raanan’s pick: Finally a matchup that might favor the sputtering Giants offense. The Giants play a decimated Falcons defense that is allowing 32.0 points per game. With 11 days between games, the Giants should have plenty of time to exploit Atlanta’s weaknesses, which include stopping opposing running backs from catching the ball out of the backfield. And Saquon Barkley just so happens to lead all running backs in receptions. This is the week the Giants pull the upset. Giants 26, Falcons 23
Vaughn McClure’s pick: The Falcons average 34.5 points per game at home and are 14-of-16 in scoring in the red zone at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Matt Ryan has thrown 13 touchdowns with one interception there, so scoring points in the Monday night matchup shouldn’t be a problem, even if Ryan is missing an offensive weapon or two. Yes, the Falcons’ defense has given up an average of 33.3 points per game at home, but the Giants average just 19.5 points per game. Falcons 35, Giants 17
FPI win projection: ATL, 69.7 percent. Look for Ryan to have another big game at home. He has an 83.3 Total QBR at home this season as compared with 31.2 on the road. Thanks in large part to that, the Falcons have an offensive efficiency of 90.8 at home, second only to the Rams.
What to watch for in fantasy: Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley will see struggling Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple on most of their Week 7 routes. Receivers facing Jenkins have scored 96 fantasy points this season, which is third highest in the league. Read more.
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