The Raiders and Chiefs opened Week 7 with a hot-blooded division matchup punctuated by Marshawn Lynch’s ejection for contact with a referee and a wild ending that featured a flurry of penalty flags and first-and-goals from varying distances. Looking ahead, Sunday’s slate features a host of teams trying to claw out of the pit of mediocrity that has consumed the NFL, as more than half of the league has three or four wins. But the afternoon games are merely the appetizer. Sunday night’s matchup between the Falcons and the Patriots pits Julio Jones and Matt Ryan against New England’s historically bad pass defense but also carries the weight of a certain seldom-discussed 25-point comeback from earlier this year.
Seattle (-4) at N.Y. Giants
As usual, the Seahawks got off to a slow start to the season, losing two of their first three—though dropping games to teams led by Aaron Rodgers and Marcus Mariota, both on the road, makes plenty of sense.
Otherwise, these Seahawks have looked above average besides the offensive trenches while marching to a 3-2 mark, including a road takedown of the Los Angeles Rams their last time out. A defense with five interceptions is only allowing 17.4 points per game, and Russell Wilson has eight touchdowns against three intentions.
The New York Giants aren’t the scary-looking team they used to be, and the signs were there before the team lost both Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall for the season.
Granted, momentum says the Giants are on a rebound after winning their first game of the season in Week 6, a road upset of the Denver Broncos. But we’re still talking about a team with an average rushing attack and Eli Manning struggling to stretch the field while averaging 6.63 yards per completion, his lowest number since 2007.
Pick: Seattle (-4)
Baltimore at Minnesota (-4.5)
This line might seem a little off to those who haven’t been paying close attention.
Yes, the Baltimore Ravens have a reputation as a quality team lately, and yes, the Minnesota Vikings are a mess under center. But the Vikings are the four-win team this year despite everything while the Ravens float at .500.
These Ravens don’t match their reputation in any way shape or form. Joe Flacco looks like a shell of his former self at four touchdowns and eight interceptions, and this isn’t a case of oddly tipped passes or mistakes by others skewing the numbers.
It’s the same story for a once-proud defense now ranking 30th thanks to coughing up an average of 141.3 rushing yards per game—which opens up the door for a huge rushing day for Vikings backs.
The Vikings lost breakout rookie back Dalvin Cook to injury and mostly haven’t had a starter under center, yet Jerick McKinnon has shined over his past two outings, rushing for 164 total yards, adding 81 more through the air and totaling three touchdowns.
Given the fact this goes down in Minnesota and the Ravens have lost three out of their last four, including upsets at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears, it isn’t hard to see why a supportive environment and balanced attack will have the Vikings coming out ahead.
Pick: Minnesota (-4.5)
Jacksonville (-3) at Indianapolis
Want proof 2017 is weird?
Yet another Jacksonville Jaguars-Indianapolis Colts matchup is one of the easiest picks of a week, but for the completely opposite reason than we’re used to.
The Jaguars are favorites on the road against their AFC South foe, and it’s hard to see a reality in which they don’t go over the spread, too.
These two-win Colts have some encouraging performances from backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett under their collective belt, yet he’s still only sitting on three touchdowns and interceptions while completing less than 60 percent of his passes.
Even those in charge will admit there’s no room for mistakes right now.
“We’ve got to play 60 minutes,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said, according to Stats LLC (via ESPN.com). “It’s a recurring thing, I know that. We’ve got to figure out, obviously, a way to finish games. Our margin for error is minute and we just continue to kill ourselves.”
The Jaguars, 3-3, already have 23 sacks and 10 interceptions on the year while allowing just 18.3 points per game. Little has changed offensively with Blake Bortles under center, but the Jaguars also boast a rookie breakout back by the name of Leonard Fournette, who already has 596 yards and six touchdowns.
The ability to fluster a backup and outright control the game flow of this encounter means the Jaguars will achieve a winning record while taking down a rival.
Pick: Jaguars (-3)
And now the rest of this week’s picks:
Home Team in CAPS, my selection in BOLD
Titans -6 BROWNS
Jaguars -3 COLTS
STEELERS -5 Bengals
VIKINGS -4.5 Ravens
DOLPHINS -3 Jets
BILLS -3 Buccaneers
PANTHERS -3 Bears
Saints -3.5 PACKERS
RAMS -3 Cardinals
Cowboys -6.5 49ERS
Seahawks -4 GIANTS
Broncos -1 CHARGERS
PATRIOTS -3.5 Falcons
EAGLES -4.5 Redskins
Last Week: 7-5 | Overall: 45-36-1