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Columns - Magazine

Week 7 Best Bets

by Raymond Summerlin

Rich Hribar and Raymond Summerlin bring you their best bets every Friday of the NFL season as well as a preview of Sunday Night Football. The preview is free, but the bets can only be found in the Rotoworld Season Pass. Don’t miss out on the action.

Rich: 17-12-1 season record (last week: 3-1)
Raymond: 18-11-1 season record (last week: 1-4)

All lines taken from the VI Consensus at VegasInsider.com Friday morning.

Sunday Night Football – Bengals @ Chiefs (-6) – 58-point total
Rich:
The NFL flexed this game for good reason as it has the highest game total of any Week 7 contest.  The Chiefs are second in the NFL in points per game (35.8) while the Bengals rank sixth (29.0).  Not only do both of these teams score buckets of points, but they have also regularly outperformed their expected total as both teams have outscored their implied team total five times this season, tied for the most in the league.

To compound potential for a shootout, both of these defenses are also among the league’s worst. Kansas City ranks 27th in the league in points allowed per game (28.7) while the Bengals rank 23rd (26.3). It’s not like these teams have faced offensive behemoths, either. The Chiefs have faced three teams that rank 16th in the league or lower in offensive scoring. The Bengals have faced just two top-10 scoring offenses on the season but have at least faced four teams in the top half of the league in scoring.

The game total is massive once again, trailing only last week’s Sunday Night game with the Chiefs and Patriots, which was 59.5 points. That line didn’t even up close as the game saw 83 combined points scored. The average Chiefs game this season has now featured 64.5 points scored, clearing this 58-point game total in four of six games. While I won’t be making it an official pick, playing the over on the game total is once again totally in play.

What I do like here is laying the points. The value has yet to be officially squeezed out of the Chiefs from the public as they’ve covered in all six games this season so far. They’ve also won by 11 and 16 points in their two games at home in Arrowhead. With those two wins, the Chiefs have now won five consecutive regular-season home games, all by double-digit points.

The Bengals have lost eight consecutive games on the road in prime time and are mind-boggling 1-16 straight up at night on the road since Marvin Lewis took over as Head Coach in 2003. Against the spread, they are 3-12-2 in those games.  While I do like the Bengals Offense a good amount, I truly don’t buy that they can score with the Chiefs on the road, which is why I’m willing to give these points away.
Pick: Chiefs -6

Ray:
Last week was my first rough one of the season, but I did get a win paying the over on a historically high total in a game featuring the Chiefs on Sunday night. It just so happens I have another shot at the same situation this week. 

Since 2008, there have been seven games with a total of 58 or more. After it easily hit last week, the over is 6-1 in those games with four of those games blowing more than 10 points past the total. Like I wrote last week, there is not really precedent for totals this high in the NFL, and I do not believe line makers have adjusted enough to the new offensive reality.

How high should this line be, then? Probably at least 60. Chiefs games have averaged an astounding 64.5 points, and there have been 65 or more combined points in four of six. Bengals games have averaged a "measly" 55.3 points so far this season, but they hit 73 in Atlanta and have been at least in the 50s in four games. Neither team has run a ton of plays, but both have enticed other teams to play quickly against them. Cincinnati is sixth in seconds per play on defense, and the Chiefs are first. Kansas City has faced the third most plays in the league on defense, and the Bengals are right behind them at fourth. They are also first and second in passing attempts faced this season.

This should be a high-paced game featuring two good offenses and two struggling defenses. That is a recipe for an over even when the total is all the way up at 58.
Pick: Over 58

Patriots @ Bears (+3) – 49-point total
Rich:
The Bears are coming off a long overtime loss to the Dolphins in which they played in 100-degree weather. For the season, the Bears now have a loss to the Dolphins and just seven- and two-point victories against the Seahawks and Cardinals. Putting them this close to the Patriots weight class this early in the season off that long overtime game is placing the cart ahead of the horse, especially when we factor in that Khalil Mack has yet to practice at all this week.  After a slow start, the Patriots have scored 38, 38 and 43 points over their past three games while the Bears just allowed 31 points to a Brock Osweiler-led team. I believe the Patriots flirt with 30 points here once again and outpace the Bears by more than the field goal they’re giving on the road.
Pick: Patriots -3

Ray: Rich pretty much laid out the case here, but it is always important to remember home teams following an overtime game are particularly bad against the spread, going 53-87-6 (37.9%) since 2008. Underdogs are an even worse 17-31-3 (35.4%). I believe this phenomenon exists because home teams are not penalized as much on short rest – we also see this trend after Monday night games, for example – even though an overtime game, especially long ones, affect the legs of a team traveling home all the same. This is a bad spot for the Bears.
Pick: Patriots -3

Lions @ Dolphins (+3) – 46.5-point total
Ray: Miami is also a home underdog coming off a long overtime game, but that is not the only reason to like this game. The Lions are road favorites following a bye week, a situation which is 39-19 against the spread (67.2%) despite the Bears blowing things against these same Dolphins last week. While I am gun shy about playing favorites after last week, the numbers say Detroit is a must bet, especially with the Dolphins coming off overtime and once again starting Brock Osweiler.
Pick: Lions -3

Bills @ Colts (-7.5) – 43-point total
Rich: I don’t want to have a slate where I’m only into favorites, even if they are arguably two of the three best teams in the NFL, so we need a dog on the table. When looking at underdogs this week, there’s one that jumped out right away and for the third week in a row, I’m ready to place my money in the hands of the Buffalo Bills. The Colts are a 1-5 team with a -28 point differential laying 7.5 points, which is hard to justify. They will be getting Margus Hunt back into the lineup this week, but this is a team that has allowed 37, 38 and 42 points over their past three games.

The Bills have really come around defensively, as well. Opponents have scored a touchdown on just 4-of-44 drives (9.1 percent) against the Bills over the past four weeks, the second-lowest rate in the league over that span.  The Bills have covered in three of their past four games and unbelievably, a change to Derek Anderson is the best thing this offense could do since they’ve generated no passing offense to speak of to this point of the season. I may be staying on the Bills one game too long here after back-to-back wins, but I just can’t see the Colts giving away this amount of points to anyone at this stage.
Pick: Bills +7.5

Cowboys @ Washington (-1) – 41.5-point total
Ray: I have to get the favorite taste out of my mouth, so I will go with a Cowboys squad I have seemingly been on the wrong side of all season. They are once again in a good situation this week, however, as a road team in a divisional game before their bye. Teams in that spot are 34-19-1 against the spread (64.2%) since 2008. Favorites tend to do better, but dogs are still 17-11-1 (60.7%) during that run. I am worried Dallas is being overvalued here after a surprising win last week against the Jaguars, but it is too profitable a spot to pass up. As always with underdogs of less than three, I will bet the money line. 
Pick: Cowboys +1

Rams @ 49ers (+9.5) – 52-point total
Rich: So far, 2018 has been the season of the over with teams on pace to score the most points in an NFL season through six weeks. Of the 93 games played so far, the game total has gone over 51 times (54.8 percent).  It’s getting more skewed as the season moves, too. If you bet the over in every game each week, you would not have had a losing week through six weeks, but there’s been a tangible jump in high-scoring output over the past three weeks, with the over hitting for a 27-19 record over that span. I’m not here to suggest that you bet every over, but there are a few games that are too low this weekend.

The first is a game with what appears to a high total between the Rams and 49ers. We know the Rams Offense is one of the best in the league with them averaging 32.7 points per game and the 49ers defense is miserable, allowing 29.8 points per game, which ranks 29th in the league.

The Rams have allowed 26.3 points per game over the past four weeks and the 49ers have scored 27 or more points in four of six games this season. If the 49ers are going to put up around 24 points, then this game total is going pop as the Rams surely will push 30 on their own.

In both games against Wade Phillips’ scheme a year ago, Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers dialed up 39 and 34 points. In 2016, Shanahan’s Falcons went into the Denver and beat the league’s best defense (coached by Phillips) 23-16. In 2010, when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in Washington, they score 30 points against a Phillips-led Dallas defense. The bottom line is Shanahan knows how to scheme offense versus Phillips’ scheme defensively.
Pick: Over 52

Ray: 
This is not a pick for me, but big home underdogs are usually an auto-bet situation, especially since this number has climbed to 10 at some books. I am a little hesitant, however, because the 49ers are in a couple bad spots, most notably coming home after a tough loss on Monday night. Even so, I at least have to put it out there that double-digit home dogs are 29-17-1 against the spread since 2008. 

Panthers @ Eagles (-4.5) – 44.5-point total
Rich: The Eagles are coming off a season-high 34 points scored a week ago, finally looking like the offense we saw a year ago for the first time this season. The Panthers have been sort of a mirage this season despite their record, ranking 17th in defensive DVOA and 24th in yards per play allowed defensively. They’ve also been worse than expected each week since Week 1. Over the past four games, the Carolina opponent has bested their implied team total.

On the other side, the Eagles defensive scheme of attempting to bring pressure consistently – I say that because up until last week against the Giants, the Eagles were not landing any of that pressure- leaves them vulnerable to running quarterbacks. Newton himself ran for 71 yards against this defense a year ago and we’ve already seen the Eagles allow 46 yards rushing and a score to Marcus Mariota a few weeks ago. These two teams played on a short week last year to a 28-23 Philadelphia win, so there’s a lot to work with here in regard to the pedestrian game total and the Carolina defense being on the overrated end of the spectrum.
Pick: Over 44.5

Ray:
The Panthers have been one of the more confusing teams this season, and they head into Philly coming off a bad loss in Washington. That said, they are a road team coming off a road loss, a situation which on its own has a 55 percent win rate over the last 10 seasons. More importantly, the Eagles have to go play the Jaguars in London next week, and teams prior to the London trip are now 19-26-1 against the spread (42.2%). I wish the Eagles were not coming of a mini-bye after playing last Thursday, but I also am not ready to buy them being back because they walloped the Giants in an island game. There is at least one point of value in this line, and there are a couple situational reasons to like the Panthers as well.
Pick: Panthers +4.5

Browns @ Bucs (-3.5) – 50-point total
Rich: The Bucs are another team which has an explosive offense paired with a horrendous defense. Tampa Bay ranks first in the league in yards per play on offense (7.2 yards) and ranks last in yards per play allowed (6.9) defensively.  The Bucs are also allowing 4.2 offensive touchdowns per game, the most in the league. Tampa Bay is expected to be without their best defensive player in Gerald McCoy, to further complicate matters slowing down their opponent this weekend. Because of that good offense and poor defense, every Tampa Bay game has gone over so far this season with an average of 62.8 combined points scored per contest. In four of those five games, the teams have combined to score 57 points or more with a low of 48 points. The Browns have also been up and down recently after a hot start, allowing 45 and 38 points in two of their past three games.
Pick: Over 50

Saints @ Ravens (-2.5) – 49.5-point total
Ray: This is the year of the over, but that does not mean you have to avoid every under, especially since there could be overreactions. This looks like one. After opening at 50.5, this game has already been bet down a point despite 63 percent of the bets coming in on the over, and it could move further the rest of the weekend.

That movement makes perfect sense. The Ravens have been the best scoring defense in the league this season, allowing just 77 points in six games and zero offensive touchdowns in the second half. They allowed 34 points to the Bengals in that weird Thursday night game in Week 2. They have allowed just 43 points total in their other five games with no team topping 14 points and the Titans failing to score last week. This defense is the real deal. Add in the Saints and Drew Brees are playing both on the road and outdoors and their defense has been better as of late, and this looks like a bad line.  
Pick: Under 49.5

Raymond Summerlin
Raymond Summerlin is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter at @RMSummerlin.