Between a matchup of undefeated teams, an otherworldly Sunday Night Football matchup, and other very interesting games, Week 7 certainly gave the football world the entertainment they were seeking!
Through seven weeks of the season, you’d expect to have a lot of clarity about each team’s outlook. Instead, it feels as though we’re left with far more questions than answers. Hopefully, Week 8 can help with that.
All projections are computed based on a similar model that I used for my win total projections. In essence, it goes through the following steps:
- Computes the talent gap between the two teams
- Converts that to a win probability
- Converts that into a spread, factoring in home-field advantage (less this year)
- It also gives a score projection, though I’ll be allowing for a +/- 2 point change for those since certain scores are more likely than others.
In this article, we’ll be comparing the actual spreads to my model’s recommended spreads. Thus, we’ll order games by putting them into the following tiers. After accounting for the small margin of error when converting win probabilities to point spreads (0.40 points), qualifications for three tiers have differed slightly:
Tier 1 (“Green Light”)- 3.4+ point difference. These games present immense value.
Tier 2 (“Yellow Light)- 1.9+ point difference. These games provide some value, though you should proceed with caution.
Tier 3 (“Red Light)- <1.9 point difference. There isn’t any value to be found with these point spreads, so stay away from them at all costs.
Also, due to the margin for error, I will be using context at times to give slightly differing spread/game picks than what the model suggests. There are certain spreads where it wouldn’t make sense to support. For example, if a team is favored to win by 2, and my model thinks they should be favored by less, but will win, it wouldn’t make sense to pigeon-hole the underdog into only being able to cover by a very small range of possible outcomes. Additionally, since my model is computing recommended spread picks, rather than assigning an exact outcome for the game, it’s critical to not follow it 100% blindly- analysis of the information matters as much as the information itself! (0.9 points is a key number for there not to be statistically significant data).
With that taken care of, let’s get to the games! For the second week in a row, there is just one game in tier 1, but my model sees adequate value in a lot of games this week; this may be the perfect week for parlay participators.
*NOTE: Power Rankings Take Into Account Every Key Injury, Even If It’s Just For This Week
#1: Falcons (1-6, 15th) at Panthers (3-4, 22nd)
Falcons Win Probability: 52.72858028%
It’s been a frustrating start to the season for the Falcons, who have lost three games in which they had a 98% win probability or higher in. Still, that indicates that they are a far better team than their record would indicate, and all it takes is one glance at their roster to understand. Matt Ryan is the sixth-highest graded passer right now, while they still have one of the elite receiving corps in the NFL. It only feels like a matter of time before they have another explosive game offensively, similarly to when they played the Vikings, especially since they’ll be facing an inexperienced, lackluster Panthers pass defense. They have the more dynamic offense, which should give them a good chance to come out on top.
Panthers Win Probability: 47.27141972%
That said, Carolina has currently had the more efficient offense this season, as first-year offensive coordinator Joe Brady has done a marvelous job putting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in a position to succeed. When you have DJ Moore and Robby Anderson, your job is going to be easier naturally, and it’s not as though the Falcons are known for having a productive defense. They’ve been a very feisty team, and came very close to beating the Saints, and that’s why they are currently favored to win this game.
Spread Pick: ATL (+3)
Recommended Spread: ATL (-0.9)
Score Projection: Falcons 25 Panthers 24
Something that I appreciate from an objective model is that they don’t like at the teams, but rather, the sum of the parts. It’s easy to undervalue the Falcons because of their inabilities to close out games, yet the reality is that they should easily be 4-3 this season. I don’t think it should be a “hot take” to say that Atlanta is a better, and definitely a more talented team than Carolina, and I have a lot more faith in Ryan than Bridgewater. Thus, not only do I agree with my model’s recommendation to back the Falcons as a field-goal underdog, but I also concur that they should win this game outright.
#2: Chargers (2-4, 21st) at Broncos (2-4, 24th)
Chargers Win Probability: 49.02727941%
Speaking of teams who have dealt with a lot of poor luck in close games, all of the Chargers’ losses have come by one score this season, and that’s including overtime losses to the Chiefs and Saints. Justin Herbert is playing very well right now, as his big play ability has been a massive spark for an offense with so much perimeter talent. Plus, with edge rusher Melvin Ingram back in the lineup, their pass rush and secondary give them one of the better pass defenses in the NFL.
Broncos Win Probability: 50.9727059%
Drew Lock was terrible against the Chiefs last week, but he’s also a week removed from a productive outing against the Patriots, of all teams. Denver’s blowout loss to Kansas City looks worse than it was due to a kick return touchdown and pick six, and their pass defense, which now has cornerback AJ Bouye back healthy, is very underrated. In fact, I think Vic Fangio’s defense could present the young Herbert, who is benefitting from unsustainable production under pressure and on third downs, a lot of problems.
Spread Pick: DEN (+3)
Recommended Spread: DEN (-0.32)
Score Projection: Broncos 20 Chargers 19
As great as Herbert has looked, he is going to see regression on his luck under pressure and on third downs; that is escalated by the fact that he is a) constantly under pressure and b) likely to deal with a lot of third and longs due to Los Angeles’ early-down run tendencies and Denver’s strong front seven. Considering that the market is valuing home-field advantage more than it should, this line is actually rather baffling. You cannot convince me at all that the Chargers are 5-6 points better than the Broncos (home-field advantage is being treated the same for whatever reason), let alone that they should be favored.
#3: Raiders (3-3, 25th) at Browns (5-2, 14th)
Raiders Win Probability: 33.27957397%
The Raiders are coming off of a very tough loss to the Bucs, but it is important to note they’ve beaten the Chiefs and Saints. Their offense has a high floor with Derek Carr’s efficiency and the speed they have at the receiver position, while tight end Darren Waller ought to give the Browns’ middling middle-of-the-field coverage some serious issues. Plus, for as well as Baker Mayfield played against the Bengals, that was his first real positive game of the season, so Las Vegas should have the quarterback advantage.
Browns Win Probability: 66.72042603%
Do you actually think the Raiders are going to be the team that slows down a productive Browns offense? They rank near the bottom of the league in every defensive metric, so I expect Cleveland to be able to attack them in all different types of forms. The Raiders faced multiple teams who run the outside-zone scheme last season. Here’s how it went:
Minnesota Vikings- 34 points allowed
Green Bay Packers- 42 points allowed
Tennessee Titans- 42 points allowed
That’s far from ideal, and it’s worth noting that not only could they exploited at the back end, but it’s likely Cleveland is also able to bully them up front. At that point, what do you do?
Spread Pick: CLE (-2.5)
Recommended Spread: -5.519117501
Score Projection: Browns 26 Raiders 20
How are the Browns such a modest favorite? Their offense showed no ill-effects with star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. getting injured, and there is no area where they’re weaker than the Raiders at. I could see this game being a massive blowout, though, at the very least, I’m all-in with my model’s projection that Cleveland easily covers this spread.
#4: Jets (0-7, 32nd) at Chiefs (6-1, 1st)
Jets Win Probability: <1%
Let us be frank; this is going to get ugly for the Jets. If it weren’t for poor red zone execution by the Bulls, they would have lost by two scores for the seventh consecutive game, and they are the only team with a point differential worse than -100. For all the blame placed on his supporting cast and the coaching staff, Sam Darnold deserves some as well. He has not graded out well by Pro Football Focus at all, and if he puts the ball in harm’s way, this could be over after the first drive.
Chiefs Win Probability: >99%
The Chiefs got what felt like a free win against the Broncos, and if all goes as planned, they should be able to take Patrick Mahomes out by halftime. There’s a case they may score more defensive touchdowns than the Jets score offensively.
Spread Pick: NYJ (+19.5)
Recommended Spread: KC (-16.57)
Score Projection: Chiefs 29 Jets 10
Just based on math, I’m obligated to follow my model and back the Jets as a three-score underdog. It’s likely that Kansas City takes this game easily, and holds back a lot. Thus, with the combination of a backdoor cover possibility, I’d assume even the Jets can cover this spread. It’s worth noting that three-score favorites have generally not covered, though this is Chiefs versus the Jets, which explains why I cannot even have faith with a team being able to lose by 19 points or less!
#5: Colts (4-2, 12th) at Lions (3-3, 17th)
Colts Win Probability: 54.41328008%
Frank Reich off of a bye? That’s not something you want to deal with. Indianapolis’ head coach has a fantastic track record when it comes to scripted plays, and with extra time to prepare for a predictable defense, he may have some tricks up his sleep for a Colts offense coming off of their best game (31 points versus the Bengals). Assuming they are back healthy, they’re pretty strong on both sides of the ball, and are certainly the more functional organization.
Lions Win Probability: 45.58671992%
Quietly, the Lions have had a very productive offense ever since getting star receiver Kenny Golladay back from injury, as Matthew Stafford has apparently felt by comfortable stretching the ball down the field and increasing his average depth of target. Thus, the Lions may have the explosive offense many expected them to have, and with the defense improving, could they make a playoff run? It’s certainly possible given that the hardest part of their schedule is out of the way, especially if their defense can continue to creep back towards average.
Spread Pick: DET (+3)
Recommended Spread: IND (-1.54)
Score Projection: Colts 26 Lions 24
This is a pick that scares me, but it appears that the market is still undervaluing the Lions slightly, and the Colts aren’t exactly explosive offensively. Indianapolis should be able to limit Detroit’s big play ability given their defensive scheme, but I also think they don’t have the playmaking talent to exploit the Lions’ man-coverage tendencies. I expect this to be a tight game where neither team is able to pull away, and for that reason, taking the underdog is logical.
#6: Patriots (2-4, 13th) at Bills (5-2, 11th)
Patriots Win Probability: 43.83205432%
Remember when the Patriots were seen as one of the premier teams in the NFL and Cam Newton was back to his peak form? Those were good times, though, in retrospect, it’s likely that those reactions all came from an overreaction a single primetime game against the Seahawks. Still, they’re a very smart organization, and I refuse to believe that the offense is THIS bad; Cam Newton’s rushing ability ought to be maximized better, and it should be against a very thin Buffalo front seven. Meanwhile, do you trust Josh Allen to fit balls into tight windows against one of the league’s bets secondaries?
Bills Win Probability: 56.16794568%
Yet, Allen is the better quarterback in this matchup, as his abilities as a rusher probably outdo Newton’s. Additionally, Buffalo has the far superior offensive playmakers, and when you’re the only team capable of completing chunk plays, your chances of winning go up drastically. Hopefully, they won’t have to settle for eight field goal attempts in this game!
Spread Pick: NE (+3.5)
Recommended Spread: BUF (-2.04)
Score Projection: Bills 24 Patriots 22
Doesn’t this feel like a classic Patriots win? Any time you doubt them, they always seem to find a way to respond, but it’s also possible their reign on the AFC East is over. Since they had the luxury of playing the Jets last week, the Bills have likely been planning for this game for the past two weeks, and are the far more dynamic team. Taking the Patriots with the points is the only logical play, but this could be the game where the power of the division officially shifts.
NOTE: With Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, AND Stephon Gillmore out for this game, my model no longer supports NE (+3.5). It does, however, support NE (+4), which is the new pick for this game.
#7: Vikings (1-5, 16th) at Packers (5-1, 6th)
Vikings Win Probability: 34.19956889%
The Vikings may be 1-5, but similarly to the Falcons, that doesn’t do them justice; they’ve lost multiple games by one single point and have faced a very tough schedule. They currently have a top-ten graded offense from Pro Football Focus, as their receiver production has been off the charts. Having a top-ten offense gives you a chance to win any game, especially if their young secondary can continue to progress.
Packers Win Probability: 65.80043111%
Unfortunately for Minnesota, their first meeting with the Packers did not go well, as Aaron Rodgers exposed their young secondary en route for 43 points. The Vikings have now traded edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue, and with all day to throw, Rodgers could once again dominate. That could force Kirk Cousins into obvious passing situations, which isn’t a good idea considering the state of Green Bay’s pass rush versus the Vikings’ offensive line.
Spread Pick: MIN (+6.5)
Recommended Spread: GB (-5.22)
Score Projection: Packers 26 Vikings 20
The key to this spread is getting it at MIN (+7). At that point, it is a very smart play; the Vikings should keep this close with the way their offense has performed. Nevertheless, given how volatile they’ve been week-to-week, I wouldn’t fault anyone for choosing to back Aaron Rodgers here. For what it’s worth, though, even in what felt like a Week 1 blowout, Minnesota only lost by nine, which is encouraging if they’re going to cover this spread.
#7: Titans (5-1, 10th) at Bengals (1-5-1, 26th)
Titans Win Probability: 64.41183998%
Even after losing to the Steelers, the Titans sit at 5-1 thanks to one of the most productive offenses in the NFL. The drop-off in level of competition from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati in terms of defense is massive, and I fully expect Tennessee to get back to scoring early and often. Considering the Bengals will be without three of five starting offensive linemen, getting an early lead and forcing Joe Burrow into obvious passing downs could be a recipe for disaster for the young quarterback.
Bengals Win Probability: 35.5881600%
Burrow is a very productive quarterback, and that gives the Bengals a very high floor. That’s why they’ve come very close to beating the Browns, Colts, and other talented teams, despite having one of the worst offensive lines and not a lot of defensive talent. Even with his offensive line in shambles, Burrow has enough receiving talent to exploit some of the Titans’ issues in the secondary, which could keep this game interesting.
Spread Pick: TEN (-5.5)
Recommended Spread: TEN (-4.76)
Score Projection: Titans 28 Bengals 22
At 5.5 points, I’d probably take the Titans. If 6 points though, a relatively significant key number, my model sees enough value in picking Cincinnati. Nobody covers like Joe Burrow, especially with the receiving corps and star secondary players the Bengals have. Still, he has no support whatsoever, while Tennessee’s offense should move the ball with complete ease. By no means would I be rushing to bet one side or the other.
#9: Rams (5-2, 7th) at Dolphins (3-3, 24th)
Rams Win Probability: 63.89289092%
We’ve constantly discussed the balance of power in the NFC, but a team that doesn’t get discussed much is the Rams. Yet, they’re 5-2 and have one of the more balanced teams in the NFL. I’m not ready to call them an elite team due to the fact they’ve played the entire NFC East, but there is a significant amount of talent on their roster. Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey aren’t the type of players who will make life easy for Tua Tagovailoa in his first ever start, while Sean McVay should tear up Miami’s mediocre defense with the star talent present at the receiver position.
Dolphins Win Probability: 36.10710908%
Although Tagovailoa could struggle in his first start, there’s also the chance that he could be a star; there is a lot of unknown here that could work in their favor. He performed very well in college, and I have no doubts he’ll be a successful quarterback for a long time. Meanwhile, they get to host a west coast team at a 10:00 AM PT time game on a short week while they’re on a bye week, which just feels like a recipe for success.
Spread Pick: LAR (-3.5)
Recommended Spread: LAR (4.58)
Score Projection: Rams 29 Dolphins 23
My model cannot take into the account the ramifications of the scheduling quirks regarding this game, but I still do feel much more comfortable taking the Rams than the Dolphins. There’s just so much unknown regarding Tagovailoa, especially in his first ever start behind a poor offensive line. I get that the Rams have had an easy schedule and are at a disadvantage it terms of their preparation, but overall, I don’t see how the market perceives them as being such a modest favorite over Miami here.
#10: Steelers (6-0, 9th) at Ravens (5-1, 5th)
Steelers Win Probability: 41.49554112%
After taking down the Titans, the Steelers are the only undefeated team in the NFL. Simply put, their defense has been remarkable, as they’ve utilized an elite pass rush and solid pass coverage to overwhelm opponents with a lot of different blitz packages. Theoretically, if Ben Roethlisberger can just be a game manager and puts the ball in the hands of the various run-after-catch specialists that they have offensively, they should be in a very good spot.
Ravens Win Probability: 58.50445888%
At the end of the day, you have to take in prior knowledge of these teams when evaluating them, and with that in mind, the Ravens are still the best team in the AFC North. They currently have the best average point differential in the NFL, and they have their own blitz-happy defense that is causing opposing offenses a lot of problems. Plus, I don’t know how Pittsburgh’s aggressiveness is going to work against Lamar Jackson, who had a 112.1 passer rating against the blitz last season and is the type of explosive runner that could break off a 60+ yard run at any point of the game. I’m also more inclined to have faith in their innovative offense rather than Pittsburgh’s middle-of-the-pack scoring unit.
Spread Pick: BAL (-3.5)
Recommended Spread: BAL (-2.8)
Score Projection: Ravens 25 Steelers 21
This is going to be a very tight game between divisional rivals, and when the spread was around six points, Pittsburgh was the easy pick. Now, however, they’ve been betted enough by the public to justify taking the Ravens. They’re the better team, are coming off the bye, and should win this game, and if you feel that way, 3.5 points probably isn’t too much for them to win by. Getting them as a mere three-point favorite would be better, though, to be honest, expecting any sort of value from an exciting matchup like this would be foolish.
#11: 49ers (4-3, 4th) at Seahawks (5-1, 2nd)
49ers Win Probability: 42,75941573%
Just a few weeks ago, many were ready to dismiss the 49ers. Now, they’re 4-3 and have won convincingly against the Rams and Patriots. Simply put, head coach Kyle Shanahan is a genius. Even with Jimmy Garoppolo throwing passes at an extremely low average depth of target, Shanahan is making it work by scheming plays for his playmakers, as even without Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk are monsters after the catch. Then, you add in the work defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has done engineering an injured defense, who is getting tremendous contributions from their pass coverage, and it’s clear that this is still a team that is being overlooked.
Seahawks Win Probability: 57.24058427%
Being able to scheme up production is great, but what if you can just have it come naturally? That’s the case for the Seahawks, who have the league’s best quarterback this season in Russell Wilson, who is leading an ultra-explosive offense throwing to the receiver duo of Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. For as poorly as the defense has played, they also haven’t been healthy and have faced difficult offenses. If safety Jamal Adams returns this week, I expect them to look more like the unit they were supposed to be; their 14th rank in Pro Football Focus coverage grade isn’t too bad!
Spread Pick: SEA (-3)*
Recommended Spread: SEA (-2.39)
Score Projection: Seahawks 28 49ers 24
This is very dependent on injuries. Right now, I’ve tweaked my model to assume cornerback Shaquill Griffin doesn’t play, but Adams does. If one plays, then Seattle should limit a Samuel-less offense enough to win. If both are out, though, then the tides shift a little. For now, though, the Seahawks have the more dynamic offense with an easy quarterback advantage, though this was easily the hardest spread to choose a side on this week.
#12: Saints (4-2, 8th) at Bears (5-2, 20th)
Saints Win Probability: 61.2691897%
These two teams may have similar records, but there is no doubt in my mind that the Saints are the clear superior team. Despite all the criticism he has taken this season, Drew Brees appears to have regained the accuracy and anticipation for compensates for his complete lack of arm strength, which has allowed the offense to continue to be a top-ten unit. Plus, for all their defensive woes, it’s very possible those don’t end up being a problem against a Bears offense that ranks 30th in yards/play.
Bears Win Probability: 38.67308103%
To win this game, Chicago will need to execute chunk plays to mitigate their lack of offensive efficiency, and try to win in an old-school, low-scoring affair. Luckily for them, they’ll face Brees outdoors, where he’s always performed worst, and without his top receivers in Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Allen Robinson and the team’s overall speed could present a major problem for a Saints secondary that is vulnerable in the vertical passing game, should Nick Foles be able to connect with them.
Spread Pick: CHI (+4)*
Recommended Spread: NO (-3.01)
Score Projection: Saints 26 Bears 21
The Saints have not shown the ability to blow teams out, and I’m guessing an outdoors game against a tough defense without their top receivers won’t be where they start doing so. Thus, I see it likely that they win this game but do not cover, though this depends greatly on the health of Robinson. He’s dealing with a concussion, and if he cannot play, then New Orleans is certainly the smart pick here. If he does, though, this should be a close game where the Saints win by a field goal.
#13: Buccaneers (5-2, 3rd) at Giants (1-6, 30th)
Buccaneers Win Probability: 81.147935%
Could the Bucs be the best team in the NFL? That’s certainly a legitimate possibility, considering they may have a top-five offense AND the league’s best defense. With the way he’s playing right now, Tom Brady deserves to be in the MVP discussion, and even without Chris Godwin, he has plenty of targets to throw to; Rob Gronkowski appears to be back to being an elite tight end. Can you imagine what they’ll do to a weak Giants defense, and can you also imagine their blitz-happy defense will do to Daniel Jones, who leads the league with a 43.8% pressure rate?
Giants Win Probability: 18.852065%
His overall statistics aren’t great, but Jones is tied-14th in Pro Football Focus passing grade this season, who generally has performed fine agains the blitz. We also must consider the possibility that this could be a trap game for the Bucs, as they host the Saints in primetime a week after.
Spread Pick: TB (-10.5)
Recommended Spread: TB (-10.27)
Score Projection: Bucs 33 Giants 21
Even if the Bucs overlook the Giants, they are far more talented to not have an overwhelming chance of winning this game. The blowout potential here is massive, so without my model seeing an edge on either side, I’m more comfortable backing Tampa Bay here. Jones has constantly been put in a position to fail, and given the defense he’ll face this week, it is not getting any easier for him.
SPECIAL NFC EAST TIER
#14: Cowboys (2-5, 28th) at Eagles (2-4-1, 27th)
Cowboys Win Probability: 21.63038807%
The Cowboys have been the laughing stock of the NFL recently, but they still have perimeter talent with a dynamic receiving corps. The Eagles were lucky to win at home against the Giants last season, and it’s not as though Dallas with their third-string quarterback is much worse.
Eagles Win Probability: 78.36961193%
Ben DiNucci, really? A seventh-round rookie from James Madison is going to be Dallas’ favor? It is so easy to see how the Cowboys’ game script will be here: “protect” the young quarterback by establishing the run. That obviously is an extremely bad process, shifting the advantage to Philadelphia tremendously.
Spread Pick: PHI (-9)
Recommended Spread: PHI (-9.34)
Score Projection: Eagles 22 Cowboys 13
There is no way I am backing a team with a putrid defense and a third-string quarterback, especially coming off of multiple four-score losses when they were trying to “establish the run”. The Eagles are not a good football team, but how can you have any confidence in Dallas?