This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which football experts and handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the professional football season.
In this Week 7 edition of NFL Best Bets, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN and Mike Golic Jr. of DraftKings share their opinions on five games that will kick off on the NFL’s seventh weekend of play, including an AFC West showdown between the Chargers and Chiefs in Kansas City. (With Taylor Swift in attendance?)
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
Browns (-3, O/U 41) at Colts
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Browns listed as a 2.5-point road favorite. The public is rushing to the window to back Cleveland after their big upset win over the 49ers, with 83% of bettors laying the points. This lopsided support has pushed Cleveland up to the key number of -3. I’ll target the total in this one. It opened at 42 and has fallen to 41. Currently, 78% of bets and 89% of money is on the under. Unders are 56-36 (61%) this season. When the total falls at least a half point, the under is 37-18 (67%). Cleveland’s defense has been fantastic this year. I’ll sweat the under.
Gable’s Guess: Cleveland’s stellar defense was on full display as they upset the Niners in Week 6. They’re No. 1 in the league in yards allowed at only 200.4 yards per game, which is 60 yards better than the next closest team. The Niners finished the game on Sunday with only 215 total yards and 17 points. San Francisco came into that game looking like a machine, averaging 402.6 yards per game and leading the league in scoring at 33.4 points per game. If you thought Gardner Minshew looked bad with the Colts against Jacksonville on Sunday, which he certainly did, you can only imagine what the Browns will make him look like. It seems when a team has an entire week to prepare for Minshew, it doesn’t go well for him. Deshaun Watson remains a question mark for the Browns, but I’m leaning toward him not playing. This is a low total, but I’m still going to take the under.
Golic’s Gamble: I don’t think what happened last week was an accident. Entering that upset win over the 49ers, the Browns already owned three of the top five defensive performances in terms of success rate for the 2023 season. They’re a juggernaut. Gardner Minshew probably won’t throw three picks again, but I have serious concerns about their ability to move the ball consistently, regardless of who’s at quarterback for the Browns this week. Laying the points with Cleveland.
IH Best Bet: The Browns should keep it rolling. Laying the points.
Lions (+3, O/U 42) at Ravens
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Ravens listed as a 2.5-point home favorite. Early money appeared to lay the points with Baltimore, pushing the Ravens up from -2.5 to -3. Now that we’ve reached the key number of 3, we’re starting to see buyback on the Lions, with Detroit +3 juiced up to -115. That signals a possible dip back down to 2.5. Short road dogs of +3 or less are 11-5 against the spread (69%) this season and 110-84 ATS (57%) since 2019. Dan Campbell is 5-1 ATS this season and 28-12 ATS (70%) overall. I’ll grab the points with the Lions.
Gable’s Guess: I think the Lions are going to be a very popular underdog play here. They’re quickly emerging as one of the premier teams in the NFC. Their defense did not allow a touchdown to Tampa on Sunday on the road, and we know how good and innovative this offense can be. Going to Baltimore to face the Ravens will be a tough test. They sit atop the AFC North, a division I think will be a dogfight all season. I equate the Ravens’ defense to Tampa’s defense and they were able to hold the Lions to 20 points. Baltimore’s offense hasn’t truly clicked yet this season. It’s kind of just been Lamar Jackson and there’s always something that seems to crop up. I’m going to take the under.
Golic’s Gamble: The Dolphins, Bills and 49ers all spit the bit, but someone has to buck the trend of losing after being anointed as the NFL’s best team. It’s best on best with the Lions offense facing Baltimore’s stingy D. They might not win outright, but I think they’ve got enough in the tank to at least cover Jameson Williams’s role as a deep threat flashed last week and could go a long way in giving Baltimore more to fear from the Lions’ vertical passing game this week. Taking the points with the Lions.
IH Best Bet: Like the Lions straight-up here, so will side with Detroit and the points.
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Falcons (+2.5, O/U 38) at Buccaneers
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Bucs listed as a 1.5-point home favorite. Currently, 80% of bets and 90% of the money is laying the points with Tampa Bay. This heavy combination of both Pro and Joe support has steamed the Bucs up from -1.5 to -2.5. Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder has been Jecykll and Hyde when it comes to home versus road. At home, he is 5-1. On the road, he’s gone 0-3. I’ll follow the trend (and the sharp line move) and back the Bucs to pick up the win at home. Give me Tampa Bay on the moneyline.
Gable’s Guess: I think people are finally seeing what keeping Desmond Ridder at quarterback is doing to the Falcons. Luckily, they play in the weakest overall division in football. He threw three interceptions against Washington and lost at home for the first time in his career. Washington stacked the box and dared Ridder to beat them through the air, and he couldn’t do it. For Tampa, Baker Mayfield turned into Baker Mayfield on Sunday, and the Detroit defense got their hands on a ton of passes. That’s always a problem for Mayfield, and he only threw for 206 yards there. Tampa only converted two third downs on Sunday on 12 attempts. If they can’t stay on the field, they don’t have the firepower to score a bunch of points. It’s another low total, but I’m going to take Tampa to cover the spread.
Golic’s Gamble: I had to double-check this wasn’t an Iowa line from college football. The Falcons’ offense remains held back by its young quarterback’s inability to take care of the football. Three turnovers in two of the last three weeks. Sloppy game with a low number. I’ll go with the under.
IH Best Bet: Looking for the Bucs to bounce back after last week and cover.
Chargers (+5.5, O/U 48) at Chiefs
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Chiefs listed as a 6-point home favorite. Currently, 56% of bets are laying the points with Kansas City, yet we’ve seen the Chiefs fall from -6 to -5.5. This signals some smart money jumping on the Chargers at the key number of +6. Normally, I would lean Chargers in this spot based on the line move and divisional dog edge. However, the Chiefs enjoy a rest advantage. I’ll tease the Chiefs down by 6 points to a virtual pick’em so they just have to win the game straight up. I’ll pair that with the Seahawks (-7.5 to -1.5) versus the Cardinals.
Gable’s Guess: This is a very difficult spot for the Chargers. They are coming off a loss on Monday Night Football and traveling to Kansas City to play a well-rested Chiefs team. Justin Herbert had a very poor performance against Dallas. Even when he had time to throw, he missed a lot of targets. He is also continuing to deal with an injured finger. They seem to continue to force it to Keenan Allen, and it’s not going well. I think the defending Super Bowl champs are quietly just a couple of weeks away from putting this division away again. They can really put a stranglehold on it with a win in this game. Everything about this situation screams the Chiefs. Andy Reid has 10 days to prepare. It’s a short week for the Chargers. Maybe Taylor Swift is back at Arrowhead. I’ll lay the points with Kansas City.
Golic’s Gamble: Betting the Chiefs on the under used to feel sacrilegious. But in 2023, this offense is more death by a thousand cuts than blow the lid off. The Chiefs have hit the under in nine of their last 11 games at Arrowhead. The Chargers’ defense is built to stop big plays and give up rushing yards. Justin Herbert is coming off one of his worst games as a pro and should rebound, but not enough to push this number over the top. Siding with the under.
IH Best Bet: Betting something clicks for the Chiefs here and laying the points with Kansas City.
Dolphins (+2.5, O/U 52) at Eagles
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Eagles listed as a 3-point home favorite. The public is undecided with 50% of bets on both sides of the spread. However, despite this even ticket split, we’ve seen the Eagles fall from -3 to -2.5. This signals smart money grabbing the points with the road dog Dolphins. Tua Tagovailoa is 11-6 ATS (65%) as a dog in his career. If I’m betting on a dog, I want a dog who can put up points, thereby keeping pace or backdoor covering. Miami leads the NFL with 37 points per game and has outgained the Eagles on offense (506 yards per game compared to 407). I’ll back the Dolphins with the points. I also like Miami in a teaser (+2.5 to +8.5), which I will pair with the Bills (-8.5 to -2.5) against the Patriots.
Gable’s Guess: These are two contenders to win their respective conferences. The Eagles losing to the Jets left a lot of people scratching their heads — it really made the Eagles look like a shadow of who they are. Even if they had won the game, it would’ve been ugly. Miami, despite falling behind early to Carolina, didn’t sweat covering a 14-point spread on Sunday. There’s no guarantee the Philly defense will be able to slow down Miami’s offense, which is on a record-setting pace in multiple categories. I think the Dolphins will be an extremely popular play here, but I’m going to take the over.
Golic’s Gamble: The return of defensive tackle Jalen Carter should go a long way in helping create the kind of disruption up front that can knock Tua and Miami’s offense out of rhythm just enough to give the Eagles offense a shot. The Dolphins’ average to below-average rush defense should be facing an Eagles offensive line that sees Lane Johnson return to the field. See a big bounce-back week for the Eagles in a close one. Give me the Eagles on the moneyline.
IH Best Bet: Until the Eagles prove they’re right, will assume they are still a bit off. Miami and the points.
Last Week: 2-3; This Season: 15-14-1
Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate based on injuries, the weather and other factors. Double-check the odds before betting.