Randall the Handle’s Week 7 NFL picks
Raiders (4-2) at Jaguars (2-3)
LINE: JACKSONVILLE by 1
The Jaguars have two wins. One came over in England against defenceless division foe Colts while the other occurred in final seconds against 1-5 Bears. The illusion that Jacksonville has suddenly turned things around has the Jaguars falsely favoured here. Even though it’s a small number, asking the Jags to win versus a superior team is a big demand. Oakland has won and covered all three of its road games. Jacksonville is winless at home. Raiders QB Derek Carr lays over counterpart Blake Bortles. In last week’s win over the less than ferocious Bears, the Jags were held scoreless for three quarters under Bortles before Chicago brain cramped and gave it up. Don’t worry about Oakland’s defensive stats, particularly in the passing category. Raiders’ secondary surrendered big yardage to Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers. Who wouldn’t? When facing Marcus Mariota, Joe Flacco and Alex Smith, Oakland yielded an average of just 239 passing yards. Bortles fits in with the latter group. After last week’s loss, Raiders get back on track here.
TAKING: RAIDERS +1
Redskins (4-2) at Lions (3-3)
LINE: DETROIT by 1
Have to like Washington’s current mojo after reeling off four straight wins and raising confidence along the way. Much can be attributed to largely unheralded receiving corps that ranks among the league’s best. The trio of DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon and Jamison Crowder possess speed, pass-catching ability and agility. That group can easily exploit a leaky Detroit secondary (23rd ranked) that has allowed multiple touchdowns in each game this season. Skins could also get TE Jordan Reed back on the field for this one, spelling even more trouble for Lion defenders. Washington’s defence is improving as well, not permitting a second half touchdown in four weeks. Josh Norman adapting well in new digs and the defensive line has been menacing recently. The NFC East is proving to be a tough group with a 10-4-1 ATS mark versus other divisions this season. And Redskins 11-6 last 17 as underdogs. Also note, Detroit just four covers in previous 14 vs. winning clubs.
TAKING: REDSKINS +1
Texans (4-2) at Broncos (4-2)
LINE: DENVER by 7½
The Texans will probably win the AFC South. That doesn’t mean they’re any good. They may think they’re good after an improbable win on Sunday night but that was certainly not one to gloat about. If your team has scored just nine points through 57 minutes against Indianapolis’ defective defence, guess what Houston? You’ve got a problem. QB Brock Osweiler remains subpar with poor stats across the board including an equal amount of interceptions (8) as touchdown passes. Osweiler would like nothing more than to stick it to John Elway’s club after the Broncos showed little interest in keeping him in Colorado. By the same token, Denver will want to prove its boss right, especially after stinging from a pair of losses before having 10 days to ready for this one. Winless on the road, Houston has been outscored 58-13 in its two away games when shutout 27-0 by Brady-less Patriots then being trounced 31-13 by Denver-like Vikings. Texans are once again in primetime but certainly aren’t ready for it.
TAKING: BRONCOS –7½
Giants (3-3) vs. Rams (3-3) at London, England
LINE: NEW ENGLAND by 9
The Rams have flown more miles recently than Hillary and Donald. After numbing loss in Detroit last week, Los Angeles boarded a plane for jolly old England in a less than jolly mood. Now this punchless team will play an early morning game (6:30 back in California) against a Giants team that can exploit L.A.’s vulnerabilities. In dealing with the second most popular Beckham in England this week, the Rams will have their hands full covering Odell as top cover guy Trumaine Johnson remains out. Offensively, the inability to worry opposition with Case Keenum throwing the ball for the Ramshas defences loading the box and halting RB Todd Gurley from doing any damage. While we eat our breakfast, our lean has the G-Men doing the same against this opponent.
TAKING: GIANTS –2½
Vikings (5-0) at Eagles (3-2)
LINE: MINNESOTA by 2½
If you’ve been riding the Vikings during this incredible 10-0 run against the spread (ATS), including 19-3 previous 22, it almost feels like a betrayal to go against them. However, this might be the point that oddsmakers have wised up and have upped the price knowing that they are a tough fade right now. Even though it’s a rather short price, not sure if Minnesota should be favoured in here. Granted, the Eagles are on a two-game slide but both contests were on the road where they were giving away points. Now they are taking points here at Lincoln Field where Philly is 2-0 and has outscored opponents 63-13 including a 34-3 pasting of the Steelers. QB Sam Bradford knows the Eagles but Philadelphia’s knowledge of him is bigger advantage.
TAKING: EAGLES +2½
Saints (2-3) at Chiefs (3-2)
LINE: KANSAS CITY by 6½
Never know what you get with the Jekyll and Hyde Chiefs having flip flopped wins and losses this season, all by significant margins. Andy Reid’s squad was strong last week, returning from a bye to handle division foe Raiders in a 26-10 triumph. However, those games seem to take something out of the Chiefs as KC has not covered in seven straight following tussles with Oakland. The Saints are capable of scoring points as they sit only behind Atlanta with Drew and Co. averaging 31 points per game. Not sure if Alex Smith’s pop gun offence can keep pace if Kansas City’s defence can’t slow down New Orleans. Saints also best when cast in this role, owning 15-8 ATS mark when taking 6 points or more and 3-0 as the pooch this year alone.
TAKING: SAINTS +6½
Browns (0-6) at Bengals (2-4)
LINE: CINCINNATI by 9½
Cincinnati won both games in this one-sided battles of Ohio a year ago by a combined 68-13. That was when the Bengals were not in a foul mood. Suddenly in danger of missing the playoffs, expect Cincy to have its ears pinned back for this one. As everyone knows, the Browns are winless. They’ve shown some fight but that charge should extinguish here. This will be Cleveland’s fourth road game in five weeks. It comes after an exhausting attempt to pull even with the Titans in Tennessee last week before coming up short. Not that a 0-6 can afford to do so but the Brownies may take a breather here as they think about hosting the Jets next week, a chance to break their goose egg. Cincinnati should romp.
TAKING: BENGALS –9½
Bills (3-2) at Dolphins (2-3)
LINE: BUFFALO by 3
Give Rex Ryan an opponent with a weak run defence and it is Christmas come early for the jovial coach. That was proven last week when Rex’s Bills steamrolled San Fran’s marshmallow ‘D’ by gaining 312 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. The 49ers rank dead last in the category. The team that sits right in front of them is none other than these Fish. Yes, there is a hesitation in giving away road points within a division. And yes, LeSean McCoy’s injury in practice this week can’t be ignored. But streaking Buffalo has enough depth to wear down the Dolphins as others have. Miami impressive in win over Steelers last week but consecutive quality starts are rare in South Florida these days as Fins seek back-to-back victories for just the third time since 2014.
TAKING: BILLS –3
Colts (2-4) at Titans (3-3)
LINE: TENNESSEE by 3
Talk this week has been about how the Titans are improving. Let’s just slow down there, Bucko. Defeating Miami before hanging on for dear life vs. Cleveland aren’t exactly bulletin board victories. Yet, that pair of wins has influenced the price for this one. Pre-season pointspreads had the Colts as a 3½-point pick here. Are the Titans worthy of being six points better on the spread? Most importantly is that they are not only being asked to defeat a club that has defeated them in nine straight but requiring they do so by a margin. That just doesn’t wash. Tennessee is a .500 club that put together consecutive wins for the first time since late 2013. It hasn’t won three straight since the beginning of the 2011 season. Colts aren’t much but they feast on these types.
TAKING: COLTS +3
Ravens (3-2) at Jets (2-3)
New York’s early schedule was brutal. After opening with tough loss to the Bengals, the Jets had to travel in four of five weeks. Those trips included a short week to Buffalo (lone win), then to Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Arizona. The only home date had Seattle visiting. The taste in the marketplace’s mouth is not a pleasant one. But that has allowed the Jets to be undervalued here. Losers of three straight downtrodden Ravens arrive here with talent deprived roster and best pass rusher Terrell Suggs now out with bicep injury. Absurd scheduling finds the Jets back on the road for two more after this one, making this their only home game in a five week span. Geno Smith gets the nod for the Jets but he can’t be worse than Ryan Fitzpatrick’s been.
TAKING: JETS Even
Chargers (2-4) at Falcons (4-2)
LINE: ATLANTA by 6½
Tempting to side with the Chargers here as Bolts continue to compete and are only losing team in the league with a positive point differential. But coach Dan Quinn has made a huge difference in Atlanta and while off a loss in Seattle, that was a difficult assignment based on scheduling. Birds put forth a spirited effort, one they cannot hang their heads from. Returning home after pair away, there is a legitimate buzz in Atlanta these days. Quinn has toughened them up defensively and the offence is tops in the NFL, averaging 33.2 points and 441.5 yards per game. The Chargers arrive rested after defeating the Broncos a week and a half ago but facing Denver’s stagnant passing game without DB Jason Verrett will be much different than facing Matt Ryan and his arsenal of receivers.
TAKING: FALCONS –6½
Buccaneers (2-3) at 49ers (1-5)
LINE: TAMPA BAY by 2½
Must we? Yes, we must. As bad as the 49ers appear to be, we are still not prepared to spot road points with the immature Bucs. The Niners are saddled with poor quarterbacking, among other things, but Tampa’s Jameis Winston has taken a step back after a strong rookie year. Winston has 75.9 passer rating this season, ranking him 28th of 31 throwers that qualify. Coach Dirk Koetter is crisis managing the young QB, giving his backs more work and hoping the defence can hold up its end of things. Not exactly an ideal situation for spotting these points. While the betting public has little interest in the troubled Niners, their three home games have been respectable after shutting out Rams before losing to NFC talents Dallas and Arizona by respectable scores. Nice spot to grab some value.
TAKING: 49ERS +2½
Patriots (5-1) at Steelers (4-2)
LINE: NEW ENGLAND by 7
No Ben. Brady on a mission. Steelers suddenly a tough sell. But Pittsburgh is a proud organization and they haven’t taken a full touchdown at home since Terry Bradshaw had hair. Landry Jones will sub for Ben Roethlisberger and while it’s a huge step down, the Steelers have been known to step up in these situations having gone 11-9 when No. 7 hasn’t started under centre. Pittsburgh also offers up one of the offensive tandems in the league with RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown. New England success speaks for itself as they mow down opponents but Tom Brady is a modest 12-12-1 ATS when favoured by a touchdown or more on the road and the Pats have a game in Buffalo next week, a revenge minded stop after the Bills shutout the Patriots at Gillette.
TAKING: PITTSBURGH +7
Seahawks (2-3) at Cardinals (3-2)
LINE: ARIZONA by 2
On paper, looks like a good Sunday nighter as these two battle for NFC West supremacy. But not sure if we can trust the Cardinals right now. Back to .500 after a disappointing 1-3 start, wins over the lowly 49ers and Jets don’t evoke enough confidence to endorse the Cards against this formidable opponent. Seattle seems to have the blueprint for taking down this rival, winning three of past four meetings. QB Russell Wilson appears to be over his knee issues and he is known to shine in these primetime games with an 11-4 ATS mark. Seattle’s No. 1 ranked run defence is capable of stopping the red-hot David Johnson and that puts extra pressure on QB Carson Palmer, who figures to face a fierce pass rush from Michael Bennett and mates. Dog makes sense here.