Sports | October 23, 2020 7:15 am

Expert NFL Picks for Week 7, Including Steelers-Titans and Bears-Rams

Chris Altruda of NJ Online Gambling, Borgata sportsbook director Tom Gable and VSiN sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum offer their insights

Expert NFL Picks for Week 7, Including Steelers-Titans and Bears-Rams
James Conner of the Pittsburgh Steelers avoids a tackle against the Tennessee Titans.
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This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the football season.

For this edition of Best Bets, Chris Altruda, a national betting industry analyst for NJ Online Gambling, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, and sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN share their opinions on five Week 7 games, including a matchup of undefeated teams in the Steelers and Titans and the Jimmy G Bowl in New England, where the 49ers will visit the Patriots.

You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-0) (-125, -2, O/U 51.5) at Tennessee Titans (5-0)


A compelling matchup because … unless there is a tie, one of the NFL’s three remaining undefeated teams will leave this game with a loss. Both teams have played well on both sides of the ball at times this year, but neither has been consistent enough to be considered dominant. This certainly seems like it could potentially be a playoff preview as well.

Altruda’s Angle: Ben Roethlisberger should be the frontrunner for Comeback Player of the Year with his stellar play that includes 1,178 passing yards and 11 TDs against only one interception. The offense has been complemented by a stingy Steelers defense that has held three of five opponents to 75 or fewer rushing yards. They will certainly be put to the test against Titans beast back Derrick Henry, who is coming off his third career 200-yard game and carried Tennessee to a 42-36 overtime win over Houston. Four of Tennessee’s wins have been by six or fewer points, with all the decisive scores in those four games coming with less than two minutes left in regulation or later. The Titans may be due for a clunker, but the Steelers are also playing their first road game since Week 1. The absence of Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan could loom large here both for clearing holes for Henry and in Tennessee stopping Pittsburgh’s pass rush. Take the Steelers -2.

Gable’s Guess: The Titans are coming off a game where they gained the most yards in team history. Derrick Henry had a huge game Sunday. But the big loss there for Tennessee is they lost their left tackle, who’s probably their best offensive lineman and the protector of quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s blindside. Pittsburgh has a great defense and they are second-best in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game at 66.2. So you have one of the best rushers in the league going up against one of the best rush defenses. The Steelers did lose linebacker Devin Bush to a torn ACL on Sunday, a key player on defense. I think the 52.5 is a really high total. It’s the highest it’s been for either team this year. I would be looking to take the under here.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Steelers (4-1 against the spread) are coming off a 38-7 drubbing of the Browns last week, easily covering as 3-point home favorites. Pittsburgh is +62 in point differential this season, the best in the NFL. The Titans (2-3 ATS) have been equally impressive, overcoming a COVID-19 scare and not missing a beat. Tennessee just beat the Texans, covering as 3.5-point home favorites. This line opened with Pittsburgh listed as a 1.5-point road favorite. The public is backing the streaking Steelers; however, we’ve seen some books adjust this line all the way to Titans -1. This dog-to-favorite reverse line move signals wise-guy money backing the Titans. I’ll follow this sharp move and take the Titans on the money line to win the game.

Our Pick: Lewan’s absence swings this to the Steelers. Lay the points.

Seattle Seahawks (5-0) (-186, -3.5, O/U 56) at Arizona Cardinals (4-2)


A compelling matchup because … the first of two divisional matchups, this battle of the birds pits a rested Seahawks team against a Cardinals club that played on Monday Night Football and looked dominant against the Cowboys. Russell Wilson vs. Kyler Murray is a tasty quarterback duel if you like out-of-the-pocket passing, and should be one we’ll be seeing for years to come. Originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon, this game has been moved to Sunday Night Football.

Altruda’s Angle: Speaking of unbeaten teams, here are the Seahawks making the trip to the desert to take on the upstart Cardinals in a key NFC West showdown. The Cardinals forced four turnovers and had two chunk scoring plays that took the pressure off Murray in their dismantling of the Cowboys. It is also easier playing against backup quarterbacks, something Arizona has taken full advantage of the last two games. The bye came at a good time for Seattle given its banged-up secondary, though safety Jamal Adams is not certain of returning. The Seahawks have won their last four games coming out of a bye and the Cardinals are taking a big step up in opposing quarterback caliber from Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton to the MVP frontrunner in Wilson, who should add to his already impressive total of 19 TD passes. I’ll take the Seahawks -3.5 and UNDER 28 points in the first half.

Gable’s Guess: While his passing efficiency has kind of dropped from what it was at the beginning of the year, Murray is so dangerous in the pocket when he decides to run. Even when Dallas had somebody keying in on him defensively, he was still able to run past him — he’s that quick. Seattle has the worst pass defense in the league, letting up 370 yards per game in the air. Every single quarterback they’ve faced this year except one has thrown for more than 300 yards against them. And they’re not even generating much of a pass rush, with fewer than two sacks per game. I think Murray could have a field day in this one. The Seahawks are leading the NFL in points per game at almost 34 and they’re eighth in yards per game. I think the defense for Arizona, while they looked really good against Dallas, that’s not the same defense we’ve seen from them all year. I expect to see some regression defensively. If you can get Seattle laying 3, take. If it gets to 4 or higher, I would look to take the Cardinals.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: Seattle is coming off a bye week and edged the Vikings 27-26 their last time out, although they failed to cover as 6.5-point favorites. On the flip side, the Cardinals (4-2 ATS) are riding a two-game winning streak, having just crushed the Cowboys 38-10, easily covering as 1-point underdogs. This line opened with Seattle listed as a short 3-point road favorite. The public is absolutely hammering the Seahawks, who have become an auto-bet for Average Joes. This lopsided support pushed the line up from Seattle -3 to -3.5. Once the hook was available, we saw sharps pounce on the Cardinals +3.5, which has kept the line at 3.5 or dropped many shops back down to 3. Seattle would have value as a road favorite off a bye (roughly 69 percent ATS the last decade). However, Arizona has value as a contrarian divisional dog in a heavily bet game. The hook could end up being crucial in this game. I’ll back the Cardinals +3.5 in a big divisional game.

Our Pick: This seems like it’ll be a high-scoring affair. Take the over.

San Francisco 49ers (3-3) (+105, +2, O/U 43.5) at New England Patriots (2-3)


A compelling matchup because … Bill Belichick’s hand-picked successor for Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, will take the field on Sunday in New England — but not for the Patriots. This is the first time Garoppolo will face his former team since Belichick was forced to trade the 28-year-old QB in 2017. He’ll have something to prove against a Patriots team that is desperate to avoid its first 2-4 start in decades.

Altruda’s Angle: After a disastrous performance against Miami, Garoppolo bounced back with a strong effort against the Los Angeles Rams. Can he do it in back-to-back weeks against quality opponents and also without injured top running back Raheem Mostert? New England has not been 2-4 since Bill Belichick’s first season in charge in 2000 and there is a danger of falling 2.5 games behind Buffalo in the AFC East with a loss and an expected Bills win over the Jets. Cam Newton said all the right things after last weekend’s loss to Denver, but the Patriots no longer have the big-play offense that can overcome the multiple turnovers that have plagued them in back-to-back defeats. Despite nagging doubts about the Patriots’ overall quality, it is still too difficult to pass up laying less than a field goal at home in what should be a slugfest. Give me the Patriots -2 and UNDER 21.5 in the first half if you can get it.

Gable’s Guess: The Patriots defense has been solid as they’ve allowed only 22 points per game this year. With Garoppolo back for the 49ers, they should be able to put some points on the board there now.  The 49ers look decent and are a completely different team than what they were two weeks ago when they lost to the Dolphins. This one opened with the Patriots laying 3 points. If they had looked a little bit better last week offensively, I think you’d probably be looking at a 4.5-point opener, especially at home. I think there’s some recency bias in how this line is getting shaped. I would look to take the 49ers plus the points.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: These non-conference opponents are trending in opposite directions. The 49ers (33-3 ATS) snapped a two-game losing skid in Week 6 with a big 24-16 upset win over the Rams, winning outright as 2-point home dogs. On the flip side, the Patriots (2-3 SU, 2-3 ATS) have been mired in virus concerns and just lost their second straight game last week, falling to the Broncos 18-12 and losing straight up as 7-point home favorites. This line opened with New England listed as a 3-point home favorite. Spread bets are split in this game and the public doesn’t know who to take. However, we’ve seen this line fall from Pats -3 to -2. This signals pro money grabbing the points and backing San Francisco. Short road dogs +6 or less are 23-11 ATS (68%) this season. Road teams with a line move in their favor are 27-16 ATS (63%). In his young career, Jimmy Garoppoli is 10-3 ATS as a dog. Give me the 49ers and the points.

Our Pick: New England needs a win to save their season. The the Pats laying points.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2) (-196 -3.5, O/U 52) at Las Vegas Raiders (3-2)


A compelling matchup because … coming off a huge win on national TV over the Packers, Brady and the Buccaneers head to Las Vegas for the first time to take on a Raiders team that’s been resting up since knocking off the Chiefs on Monday Night Football. Vegas coach Jon Gruden has had ample time to gameplan for a Tampa Bay team that has been inconsistent, mostly on offense. Originally scheduled for Sunday Night Football, this game has been shifted to Sunday afternoon and could be moved again.

Altruda’s Angle: “Chucky Bowl” subplots aside with coach Gruden facing his old team — the one that beat the current team he used to coach in the Super Bowl — this game is about Brady and the Buccaneers being taken seriously as NFC contenders. The Bucs whipped the previously unbeaten Packers as their two interceptions of Aaron Rodgers resulted in a pick-6 and a first-and-goal they converted into a touchdown. Brady also did his part with a pair of scoring tosses. Tampa Bay’s run defense has yet to allow 100 yards in any game, a streak Vegas running back Josh Jacobs will get every opportunity to break since he’s had 23 or more carries in three of his team’s five games. While Derek Carr has been flying under the radar in superb fashion by completing 73.1 percent of his passes while throwing 11 TDs, the Buccaneers defense is not as likely to yield big scoring plays as Kansas City’s defense did in Las Vegas’ upset win. The Raiders have the potential to make Brady uncomfortable in the pocket, and that should result in this game finishing just under the total as the Buccaneers win. I’d take a same-game teaser of Buccaneers +3 and UNDER 59.

Gable’s Guess: Brady didn’t have to be spectacular last week by any means as Tampa really just dominated with their defense. They lead the league in yards allowed and opponents yards per play, defensively. Tampa certainly has one of the best defenses in the league and that’s going to be the key here in this one as I think they’re definitely going to be able to prove effective here against Las Vegas. I think Josh Jacobs is going to have a difficult time rushing this week so Derek Carr is going to have to carry a bigger load offensively for the Raiders. The Raiders did look impressive in that victory over the Chiefs and consistency is going to be key in whether they can follow that up. I think defense is going to be a question for the Raiders all season. They’ve given up at least 30 points in every game except one. I think Brady should be able to cruise in this one as well. I would be looking to lay the points with the Buccaneers.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Buccaneers (3-3 ATS) rebounded from a tough Thursday night loss to the Bears with a thrashing of the Packers last week, winning straight up as 2-point home dogs. Meanwhile, the Raiders (3-2 ATS) are coming off an impressive win of their own, upsetting the Chiefs as 10.5-point dogs their last time out. This line opened with Tampa Bay listed as a 3-point road favorite. This public is all over Tom Brady and the streaking Bucs. Early on, it was a sharp play to Vegas +3 with a line freeze and some reverse line movement. But now there are COVID-19 concerns with the Raiders offensive line and the line is up to 3.5. Las Vegas has value as a contrarian home dog in a heavily bet game. The Raiders also enjoy rest and game-plan advantage as they are coming off a bye week. I’ll buy low and grab Vegas and the points — as long as their offensive line plays.

Our Pick: It’s a square play, but take the Bucs to cover on the road.

Chicago Bears (5-1) (+210/ -6, O/U 45) at Los Angeles Rams (4-2)


A compelling matchup because … in a game that pits two teams with records that look inflated due to luck and a lack of quality opponents, one is going to be proved to be a fraud and one may emerge as a legit contender. Which one is which will likely come down to the play of the quarterbacks, Nick Foles for the Bears and Jared Goff for the Rams.

Altruda’s Angle: Regardless of who is under center for Chicago, an M.O. is emerging for Matt Nagy’s team of a relentless defense that gets just enough offense to keep winning. The Bears’ running game has been non-existent for three weeks running, which does not bode well facing the game’s most fearsome defensive presence in Aaron Donald. Los Angeles has been plagued by poor starts in both its losses, but both games were also on the road. This game has the same feel as the meetings between the teams in the last two seasons – hard-hitting and low-scoring. The expectation is the Rams duplicate last year’s result and keep the Bears at arm’s length. Go UNDER the 45 points.

Gable’s Guess: The Rams have basically feasted on the NFC East this year. They’ve beaten everyone in the division and that’s their four wins. It’s the worst division in football. So, a win here I would go a long way in disproving their doubters. The Bears have five wins, but the only game they’ve actually been favored in was against the Giants in Week 2. They’ve won each of their five games by seven points or fewer. Obviously, their defense has been the big reason that they’ve been in these games and have had the opportunity to win. In the last two meetings between these two teams, they combined for 45 total points. I would be looking at the under in this one.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This Monday Night Football showdown features two NFC playoff hopefuls trending in opposite directions. The Bears (4-2 ATS) are riding a two-game winning streak and just took down the Panthers 23-16, winning outright as 2-point road dogs. Meanwhile, the Rams (3-3 ATS) saw their two-game winning streak snapped last week when they fell to the 49ers 24-16, losing straight up as 2.5-point road favorites. This line opened with the Rams listed as a 7-point home favorite. We’ve seen pros load up on the Bears getting the points, which has dropped this line down from 7 to 6. Chicago has value as a road team with a line move (64 percent ATS this season) and a short road dog +6 or less (66% percent this season). I’ll back the Bears to lose by 5 or less

Our Pick: The Bears have a good win over the Bucs. Take ’em with the points.

Last Week: 1-4, Season: 16-14

Editor’s note: Lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.

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