Welcome to week 7’s Upset Watch.
Last week’s 9-5 was another winning week, but most importantly, we kept alive our 100% record with picks of the week this season so far, with the Texans coming through. Who do we have this week? Well check out our methodology, and then the picks below.
Next week we’ll begin publishing full details of Pickwatch Pro, and we’re also in full-swing revising our Game Center pages, or formerly ‘Matchup Hubs’ where we compare stats and narrow down expert info based only on the two teams. We think these combinations of stats will be very exciting additions to the site, and our aim is that you don’t need to look anywhere else for your stats each week.
On with week 7’s Upset Watch!
Week 7 Trends
Week 7 sees the start of the decline in upsets over the course of the season. From this stage, it is generally the case that spreads begin to become more informed, as bettors and Vegas get to grips with which teams they can trust and which are inconsistent. That makes things harder, but in this week, we can still pick half of the games to be underdog covers!
*This table does not classify teams playing in London as either home or road, those games are deducted from relevant calculations but still count for underdog/favorite categories.
Underdog covers in 2019: 56/92 = 60.87%
Home covers in 2019: 40/90 (36.96%)
Road covers in 2019: 56/90 (62.22%)
Home favorites in 2019 vs spread: 22-40 (35.5%)
Road Underdogs in 2019 vs spread: 40-22 (64.5%)
Road favorites in 2019: 14-14 (50%)
Home underdogs in 2019 vs spread: 14-14 (50%)
Home underdogs with spread 4 or less straight up: 6-9-1 (37.5%)
Home underdogs with spread 4.5 or more straight up: 1-11 (8%)
Home underdogs with spread 4 or less ATS: 11-5 (68.8%)
Home underdogs with spread 4.5 or more ATS: 3-8 (27.3%)
Road underdogs with spread 4 or less straight up: 15-15 (50%)
Road underdogs with spread 4.5 or more straight up: 11-20 (35.5%)
Road underdogs with spread of 4 or less ATS: 18-12 (60%)
Road underdogs with spread of 4.5 or more ATS: 22-9 (70.9%)
With 60% of underdogs covering this season, we’d be foolish not to consider the likelihood that at least half of the 14 games this week will end in a cover by the team expected to lose.
Despite the 6.7 projected number. Interestingly, no fewer than 8 underdog covers have happened each week this season. Will that number begin to regress towards the mean as the season goes on? Yes. Will it begin this week? Possibly. We need to err on the side of caution, and for that reason we’ll be taking seven underdog covers (half of the games) this week.
In addition, we’re particularly focused on road underdogs. Those teams are 71% when the spread is +4.5 or more, and this week, that accounts for 2 teams, Oakland and Miami. That’s 2 of our projected upsets, and we also want 60% of the road dogs that are +4 or less, so that’s 4 from Arizona, Houston, Baltimore, New Orleans, Philly and the Chargers.
Finally, we want 2 home underdogs, preferably with a low spread. That would mean a pair from Denver, Cinci, Atlanta and Detroit.
We’ll be avoiding the big spread home underdogs, who are still covering just a quarter of the time (Washington and the Jets) and winning even less. The Jets last week notched the very first win by a team in that situation all season long.
So who have we got?
Week 7 Picks:
Kansas City (-3) @ Denver
I left this one until last. The Broncos have simply not played anyone good enough to justify being this close to the Chiefs, who have lost two high-scoring games against big time opposition who will be there or thereabouts later in this season (Houston and Indy). The Broncos? They have yet to score more than 24 points in a game, and are averaging just 17 this season. The Chiefs? Almost 29 points per game. This one is not ripe for an underdog upset. That’s not to ever say that it will never happen, but it’d be near the bottom of our list.
Arizona (+3) @ NY Giants
Our first upset of the week and we think the Cards have a good shot against the Giants. The worry is that the Cards don’t travel well, they’re 2-9 straight up on the East coast since 2016, but they did beat the Bengals in Cinci a few weeks ago, and I am not sure we can read enough into this given the changes in coaching/players in that time. The big thing is that where they are weakest (pass defense) is not a strength of the Giants, who re-signed Bennie Fowler this week because they have no players left.
Houston (+1) @ Indianapolis
The Texans are the form team of the NFL and while the Colts have done nothing to earn our ire, this one hinges on the explosiveness that the Texans have shown in recent week. 84 points against the Falcons and Chiefs is nothing to sneer at. On balance, the Colts are equally as impressive, but road teams are really good this year, so we’re erring with the road dog.
Jacksonville @ Cincinnati (+3.5)
We needed home underdogs, and the Bengals are probably in a better spot than this, but it’s hard to get behind a team with such genuine issues on both sides of the ball. The Jags are real grinders, a great defense, and they’re able to shut down many teams through the air even without Jalen Ramsey, who is now off to the Rams. One thing with Cinci is that they have had a sneaky tough schedule, and this is only their third game at home this season. I think they can make things interesting, and frankly, of the four teams with home spreads under +4.5, they are the second best pick for an upset. We have to shake our belief in the power of the favorite one more time...
LA Rams @ Atlanta (+3)
This was tough. We actually switched the two games above around based on Cinci’s rushing malaise and the reliance on it to win. We have massive doubts about the Rams after three seriously poor performances. Anyone who watched the game last week can testify that their O-line is in complete disarray, but that even were it not, Jared Goff is at a real low-point of his career as a passer. With Todd Gurley also at a crossroads with the Rams, it’s hard not to think that the team Sean Mcvay has built is now in real jeopardy of being broken up.
The Falcons are not great on D, but crucially, they are scoring enough points to keep this close. Last week was another example of them simply not being ruthless enough when it counted, but they do seem on the cusp of a win in most games. I think they can put the cat amongst the pigeons on Sunday.
Miami (+17) @ Buffalo
RUN AWAY! The Bills are yet to win a blowout this season, and a 17 point differential is a lot for a team that is also up against a QB who knows how to play in Buffalo. We are taking this one based on the road teams with high spreads performing well this season. Sure we’re nervous, but actually, the Dolphins aren’t totally irredeemable and have shown life enough to suggest that the Bills need to score more than 30 points to beat this spread, which they’ve yet to do this season.
Minnesota (-1) @ Detroit
This was as tough as it gets. The Lions have been so patchy this season, starting games well, tailing off, or finishing well but starting sluggishly. They were unfortunate last week, but the signs are there that they can hang with the big teams.
This is a huge game for the Vikes given the NFC North situation. In the toughest division in the NFL, this one could decide which team makes the playoffs come December. This comes down to the Lions being unable to stop the run, and how critical that has been to the Vikes’ success. The Lions have allowed over 100yds rushing in every game this season, and it’s not improving.
Oakland (+5.5) @ Green Bay
We always take road dogs over +4.5, and why should we not take the Raiders in this spot? I went to see the Raiders in London two weeks ago, and they were efficient, if not spectacular. I do think Aaron Rodgers could tear them apart, but think for a second about what a big spread on the road means. The level of expectation is that the home team will win comfortably, which usually inspires the team they face to play with freedom from pressure, and motivation. It’s hard to argue that those two factors aren’t the real reason underdogs keep it closer than expected on such a regular basis.
San Francisco (-9.5) @ Washington
Home dogs + big spreads = teams that are fundamentally broken. When it gets to 9.5, you can assume a lot about the situation. If anything, this one may even be generous to the Redskins given how good the 49ers have looked for the first time since forever. Given that the Redskins are effectively very similar to the Dolphins in terms of points over their last 3 games, and really only won last week because of a ludicrous playcall by Miami on the last play of the game, the spreads in their respective games are somewhat out of whack. For what it’s worth, San Francisco would have covered this spread 4 out of their 5 games so far this season.
LA Chargers (+2) @ Tennessee
Honk. Pick of the week alert.
The Titans keep burning me, but let me make one thing perfectly clear. It will be a cold, dark day in hell when I pick Ryan Tannehill to do anything other than bumble around and fumble the ball in the dying minutes of this game, gifting the opposition a victory. That’s his M.O. That’s what he does. Also, the Titans have regressed badly and now sit precariously on the edge of yet another franchise rebuild. Tannehill is not the answer to any question you want to ask, unless that question is 'who do you not want to be quarterback of your team?'
Side-note: I did enjoy Scott Hanson trying to inject some life into their game against the Broncos last week, down 16 with 2 minutes to play and no timeouts left. It’s now borderline impossible to recover an onside kick, but just in case there was any doubt, the Titans blew it and registered a big fat zero. How they are favorites here is beyond me.
The Chargers, by the way, are a great road bet in any case. Last season they were 7-1 on the road, and this season are 1-1 in a nail-biter in Detroit. I really like them here against a team that seems to be at the point of giving up on their season.
Baltimore @ Seattle (-3.5)
Best game of the week. I like Seattle here, they have a really good offense now, averaging 28.8ppg. These two teams actually have a bunch of common opponents too, each having played the Bengals, Steelers, Browns and Cardinals. The Ravens lost to the Browns, that’s the only defeat either team suffered against a common opponent, but what strikes you is that these two teams are very close, and in close games where the teams are genuinely well matched, Seattle would be my choice every time.
New Orleans (+3.5) @ Chicago
As mentioned, I watched the Bears two weeks ago and they were atrocious. My Bears, for what it’s worth. I never go for blind loyalty to my team (I’m a Bears fan so…) and this one has ‘low scoring’ written all over it. Between them, these teams have been been inconsistent all season long, alternating between performances that show optimism and utter capitulations. The Bears are talking about Mitch Trubisky being back, but I think it’s more likely Chase Daniel get’s one more start, and Teddy Bridgewater gets one more win.
Philadelphia @ Dallas(-3)
This one was tough. Neither of these two teams fills me with great hope, but the Cowboys are really good at home these days. They have lost just twice in their last 11 home games, and they’re 8-2 at home in primetime in their last 10 games at AT&T. I do think there is something to be said for a slight home advantage for a few teams in the NFL - ironically, the Chargers are money on the road, as mentioned, because they have half a stadium - and the Cowboys are one of them.
New England (-9.5) @ NY Jets This one has the potential to be more interesting than it looks. These two teams are defensively very good, and the difference will likely come down to a few key plays on offense. I think the spread is entirely out of line, by the way. The Jets are not totally incompetent and there is hope there, expecially with Adam Gase who has ample experience against the Pats. That works both ways, however, and if there’s one team Bill Belichick loves to beat up, it’s the Jets.
As I pointed out in week 2, the Pats haven’t lost to the Jets since 2015, and are 16-3 since the turn of the decade. They’d have covered this spread in the last 4 games easily, so until the Jets truly turn a corner against them, we take the Pats.