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, Paul Bovi, a sports betting expert from VegasInsider.com who’s been handicapping games for three decades, and VSiN reporter Josh Applebaum, shared their opinions on five games on the NFL’s slate of Week 7 matchups, including Sunday’s nights NFC East showdown between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
4-2 Texans (+1, +110, O/U 47.5) at 3-2 Colts
In this AFC South matchup, two of the more impressive teams in football will square off for control of the division. Both come in off impressive wins over Kansas City where their respective defenses were able to hold Patrick Mahomes and the potent Chiefs offense generally in check. The winner takes an early lead in the jockeying for playoff position atop the AFC.
Bovi’s take: “Both teams are coming in off road wins over the Chiefs, with the Texans prevailing 31-24 while the Colts bested Kansas City 19-13 before heading into their bye week. Indy has gotten the best of the Texans in their last two head-to-heads including a 21-7 win in the AFC Wildcard Game back in January. In that one, they held Deshaun Watson to only 235 yards passing on 29-of-49 attempts. The Colts will welcome back their leading tackler and arguably their best defensive player in Darius Leonard, who is critical to their run defense and has missed the last two games. Leonard piled up 38 tackles when these teams met last year in three games, including that Colts’ playoff victory. Watson has been stellar in several games this year, though the Jaguars and Panthers were both able to keep the Texans’ offense under wraps in limiting Watson to 159 and 160 yds through the air. Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who took over for the retired Andrew Luck, tends to emphasize more of a short passing game, thus we should see Indy control the ball for longer stretches. The Colts have injuries to a pair of their cornerbacks which have them listed as questionable at this time. We’ll give the nod to the Texans 24-21.”
Applebaum’s take: “This one’s a little tough. It opened at around a pick ‘em and you have the public siding with Houston here. Houston does have a lot of trends that you definitely lean on. They’re a divisional dog. Divisional dogs definitely love these spots that build in familiarity, level the playing field, and benefit the team getting points. I do lean a little bit to the Colts here though because you are in a contrarian spot. Houston’s coming off a big win, so Indy is contrarian. They’re in a heavily bet game where the public is loading up on the underdog. You also have a good situation with Indy where they’re a favorite coming off of a bye, especially a home favorite off a bye. Those are just good spots historically. If you look at favorites off a bye, they’re 60 percent ATS (against the spread). They both beat the Chiefs in their last game, but Indy has had that extra time to rest. I see value here with Indy. It’s not the best play of the week, but I go Indy here.”
Our Pick: The Texans are hot and healthy to take them with the point.
2-3-1 Cardinals (+3, +110, O/U 50.5) at 2-4 Giants
Two of the top picks in this year’s draft in Kyler Murray (No. 1) and Daniel Jones (No. 6) will square off for the first time in a matchup the NFL is hoping will showcase some of the future faces of the league. Both Jones and Murray have been inconsistent and neither of their defenses can stop a nosebleed.
Bovi’s take: “Kyler Murray is coming in off his signature outing as he racked up 340 yards on 27-of-37 attempts with three TDs and no interceptions. His rating came in at 128.2 which exceeded his previous best of 90.5 by a substantial margin. Arizona fended off overtime and preserved victory in the 34-33 win over the Falcons courtesy of a missed Matt Bryant PAT. That said, the Cardinals have been unable to defend the pass this year and in the last four games opposing quarterbacks have completed 98-of-128 passes for 13 TDs without an interception. On Sunday, Matt Ryan completed 30-of-36 passes for 356 yards. As they prepare for the Giants, the Cardinals will get back the services of cornerback Patrick Peterson which should help them improve those numbers going forward. As for the Giants, their defense has struggled throughout en route to a 2-4 record. Omitting their 24-3 win over the Redskins, they have allowed an average of 32 points per game with none of those coming in under 28 points allowed. Quarterbacks Tom Brady and Kirk Cousins combined to complete 53-of-68 for 640 yards over the last two weeks. Giants QB Daniel Jones has seen a steady drop in his productivity since that eye-popping performance vs the Buccaneers, last week completing only 15-of-31 while throwing three interceptions. He should be able to get back on track here as running back Saquon Barkley will return from injury along with tight end Evan Engram, the latter of whom leads the team in receptions with 33 despite sitting out the loss to the Patriots last week. We’ll call for the Giants to get the win in a higher scoring game — 33-27.”
Applebaum’s take: “I really like the Cardinals in this one. The Giants open as a three-point favorite and the public is all over them even though Arizona is playing well. They’re just down on Arizona and with the Giants getting Saquon back, the public loves that. But good value here with Arizona because typically oddsmakers are going to give three points for home-field advantage to the home team. So they’re telling you that, when you see a home favorite at minus three, they’re telling you on a neutral field, these teams are even. So I like that value to Arizona getting points in a situation where teams are pretty much even. Road dogs have killed it this year … 67 percent against the spread. So I like Arizona plus three there.”
Our Pick: Hope Murray and Jones light it up and take the over.
4-2 Ravens (+3, +120, O/U 49.5) at 5-1 Seahawks
Leading their respective divisions, Baltimore and Seattle have been two of the better teams in the NFL this season thanks to the play of their quarterbacks. Lamar Jackson became the second quarterback to amass over 200 passing yards and 150 rushing yards in a game in the Super Bowl era last week. The first? Colin Kaepernick.
Bovi’s take: “At 5-1, the Seahawks have won four of those games by a combined eight points. They have been at times fortunate, but one cannot discount quarterback Russell Wilson, who has completed 70% of his passes with seven TDs without having thrown an interception this year. Running back Chris Carson appears to have conquered some early season fumbling issues and leads the team with 504 yards rushing. They did suffer a loss as up-and-coming tight end Will Dissly went down with a torn ACL on Sunday. The Ravens may get back the services of cornerback Jimmy Smith this week while they also acquired CB Marcus Peters from the Rams on Tuesday which would bolster what has been a leaky pass defense. Lamar Jackson’s assertion that he was becoming a ‘pass-first’ QB after that first game certainly has not come to fruition as he has run the ball 66 times over the last five games. Wide receiver Marquise Brown was out with an injury on Sunday and is questionable for this one. Assuming he does not play, a steady dose of short passes to his three TEs once again appears likely which would accompany the running game. Figure Seahawks coach Pete Carroll throws a few defensive wrinkles at the Ravens aimed at limiting Jackson’s rushing yards. Looking for a close game here so we’ll side with the under and hope the injuries go our way.”
Applebaum’s take: “I really like the Ravens here. Opened with Seattle as a four-point favorite at home and bets are about even. It’s going to be a really heavily bet game. It’s not a crazy contrarian play. You know these heavily bet games you want to really lean on contrarian value betting against the public. More often than not the public loses. You want to be with the house in these big action games. Bets are about even, yet you’ve seen that line fall toward the Ravens. So Ravens are plus-four down to plus 3.5. Some books are even on a plus-three. It tells me the line really shouldn’t move at all if the bets are even. The fact that it fell toward Baltimore, looks like sharp play there on the Ravens. Also, I kind of like the under here. They’re really high-scoring teams and you think it’s got to be a high-scoring game. But this line opened at around 50, got up to around 50.5 or 51 and then you really saw sharps hit that under pretty hard and cause it to fall back down to 49.5. So I like that under and definitely Baltimore there.”
Our Pick: Hope Jackson and Wilson struggle and take the under
5-1 Saints (+3, +123, O/U 38) at 3-2 Bears
After having a week off to lick their wounds following an upset loss to the Raiders, the Bears will host the Drew Brees-less Saints in Chicago. New Orleans has won every game after Brees went down in Week 2 but struggled to score points last week during a game against the Jaguars. No matter who’s been playing quarterback, that’s been a problem the Bears have struggled with all season.
Bovi’s take: “The Bears have played two home games this year with opponents running the ball 38 times for a meager 87 yards, a shade over two yards per carry. In those games, Kirk Cousins and Aaron Rodgers combined for 436 yards on 66 attempts with two of the 45 completions accounting for 86 yards. Teddy Bridgewater has filled in admirably for the injured Drew Brees but, while he has been efficient and taken care of the football, he has not accounted for meaningful yardage through the air. That figures to remain the case in this one. While he went off on the beleaguered Tampa Bay secondary for 314 yards, the Saints’ backup quarterback has averaged only 195 yards in the other four contests. The Saints have won four in a row with the defense coming up big of late. Last week, they held Jags QB Gardner Minshew to 14 completions on 23 attempts for an anemic 159 yards. Prior to that, Dak Prescott and Jameis Winston were stymied and could manage only 427 between them. The total comes in at only 38 but the feeling here is that the Bears will win a low scoring field goal-fest, 19-16.”
Applebaum’s take: “This one is interesting. I mean I’ve bet against the Saints a lot with Teddy Bridgewater and they keep cashing. They’re 5-1 and 4-2 against the spread. But I do like Chicago here. It opened at Chicago minus four and you had heavy betting on New Orleans. You have three-quarters of the bets on the Saints. They’re a big public play. Any time public loads up on an underdog, I like to go contrarian and sweat the favorite. Chicago is down to minus three. If they go to -2.5, I think that’s your best play. The key to me also is you have that favorite coming off a bye. I mentioned that earlier. They’re at 60 percent ATS since 2003. How do you not grab New Orleans plus the points? It tells me it’s kind of a trap spot and I do like Chicago at home coming off the bye. So I lay the points there with Chicago.”
Our Pick: Look for the defenses to dominate here and take the under.
3-3 Eagles (+2.5, +120, O/U 48.5) at 3-3 Cowboys
Dallas and Philadelphia enter this game tied atop the NFC East and, similar to the situation between the Texans and Colts, the winner will have an early advantage in playoff seeding. Prior to the game, Eagles coach Doug Pederson essentially guaranteed Philadelphia will win. In the NFL, it’s never a good idea to give a team that sort of bulletin board material.
Bovi’s take: “The Eagles may get some welcome relief on defense as a pair of cornerbacks that sat out Sunday’s 38-20 drubbing by the Vikings are practicing and might be in the lineup. Kirk Cousins exploited their absence by completing 22-of-29 passes for 333 yards and four touchdowns. Philly’s Carson Wentz threw for 306 yards, his highest yardage output of the year, but the Eagles were unable to match strides. Dallas has been struggling of late as they have dropped three in a row including Sunday’s 24-22 decision to the previously winless Jets with returning quarterback Sam Darnold enjoying his best day as a pro with 338 yards through the air on 23-of-32 attempts. Cowboys wideout Amari Cooper will probably sit this one out due to injuries sustained on Sunday while the Eagles are anxiously awaiting the return of their star receiver Desean Jackson. We pegged the Eagles game over last week due to their cornerback woes but, assuming they are in the lineup, we can envision Philly’s second-ranked run defense slowing down Ezekiel Elliott and keeping a close game on the low side of the total. Call this one 24-21 for the Cowboys.”
Applebaum’s take: “This game is really similar to the Saints and the Bears. It’s almost the same exact spot really. Philly has value and opened at Dallas minus three. Again, home-field advantage. You have that value. And obviously you know divisional dogs are in a good spot. So there are reasons to like Philly. The one thing I don’t like about Philly is they’re just a massive public side and this is your Sunday Night Football game. That’s your most heavily bet game of the day. So when you bet contrarian, you want to do it in these heavily bet games and everyone is loading up on Philly. So I like Dallas if it gets down to -2.5. You can’t blame anyone for taking Philly plus three, but really the value there is with Dallas and you know, oddsmakers set this line knowing they’re going to get flooded with Philly money and yet they set it at three anyway. If Philly wins and covers, books get cleaned out. And they’re not going to put themselves in that spot. So I like Dallas there, ideally at -2.5 if you can get it.”
Our Pick: Hope Dallas rails against Pederson’s prediction and lay the points.
Last Week’s Picks: 2-3, Season: 17-13
Editor’s note: Lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.