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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Thursday, 20 October 2016

NFL Week 7 Picks 2016 (October 20-24)

The NFL season has produced some up and down results for me and Week 6 was no different as my picks went 3-3.

There was less bad luck this week than there has been and I simply made some bad picks while the three winners I had were all fairly comfortable including an underdog winning outright. I perhaps could have got more out of the Cincinnati Bengals pick at New England because that game was very, very close going into the Fourth Quarter and having more than a Touchdown start looked a big number at that point.

The Panthers also came very close to a big comeback against the New Orleans Saints although that defeat might have ended any hopes the Carolina Panthers have of making the Play Offs. Some teams are in that tough position already, while this week we also have the second of the three games set to be played in London.

Hopefully Week 7 can produce a winning record which can get this season turned back into a positive position as we get close to the half way mark in the 2016 season.

Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers Pick: The question is still being asked as to what is wrong with Aaron Rodgers and the vaunted Green Bay Offense as they struggled again in Week 6 and were beaten by the Dallas Cowboys. I am sure Rodgers is telling everyone to 'R-E-L-A-X', but the fans were not very happy last Sunday and there isn't a lot of time for them to prepare for this big Divisional game.

The Chicago Bears come to Lambeau Field knowing they are on the brink of being in a position from which they won't be able to recover. Being 1-5 in the NFC North likely already spells the end for the Bears in terms of the Play Offs, but they have been competitive in recent games and could easily be heading into this one at 3-3 with a little more composure in the Fourth Quarter of games.

Brian Hoyer has been much better than Jay Cutler at Quarter Back and it looks certain that Cutler will be moved on in the off-season. This does look a decent match up for Hoyer to have a big game again for Chicago because the Green Bay Packers are struggling with injuries in the Secondary that Dallas exposed but the New York Giants should of exposed too.

Eli Manning hadn't been helped by much on the ground and Hoyer looks like he will be in a similar position, but I expect him to make enough decent throws to keep the Bears moving the chains. Hoyer has looked after the ball so far and he has been getting rid of it quick enough to avoid Sacks, although he is going to be under pressure in this game from a solid Green Bay pass rush which can get to the Quarter Back.

It won't just be Hoyer who faces some pressure in the pocket as Chicago should be able to get close to Rodgers too as he has been guilty of holding onto the ball while his Receivers try and create separation. Rodgers does look to have a better match up this week as the Chicago Defense is also banged up and I would expect Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery to make enough moves to find separation when Rodgers goes back to throw.

The Bears Defensive Line has at least played the run effectively and Green Bay are missing Eddie Lacy for this game. Knile Davis will get the start having been traded from the Kansas City Chiefs, but the Bears should feel they can keep Green Bay in third and long spots for long enough to try and pressure Rodgers and make the Quarter Back produce the kind of game he hasn't been able to over the last twelve months.

With the way I feel this game is going to go on both sides of the ball, I am surprised the Chicago Bears are being given over a Touchdown worth of points. Despite the public money coming on the Packers, the Chicago spread has come down from the opening 9.5 line, but it remains appealing at 7.5 and I like the Bears in this spot.

They have been competitive in their recent losses and Hoyer can make plays against a banged up Secondary while the road team is 6-1 against the spread in the last seven games of this Division rivalry. We could easily see Chicago covering late on with the amount of points they are being given and I will back the Bears with the points.

Los Angeles Rams v New York Giants Pick: The second of three games to be played in London takes place in Week 7 as the Los Angeles Rams give up a home game to face the New York Giants in Twickenham Stadium. This is a Stadium more accustomed to seeing rugby matches than those from the NFL, but that won't stop the fans packing it in to the rafters as two 3-3 teams meet.

It is a big moment for both the Rams and Giants who are in Divisions where the top teams look significantly stronger than they do so dropping to 3-4 after seven weeks is simply not on the agenda. Both have had previous experiences of playing in London, which should help the preparation, but the 9:30am Eastern Time start has to be an issue for both.

The Rams have at least tried to get accustomed to the time change by heading over to London early in the week compared with the Giants who landed on Friday, but it is incredibly tough for a West Coast team to play an early game in London.

There will be a hope that a change in scenery can help Todd Gurley break out for the first time this season as the LA Rams have been winning games without a lot from their star Running Back. The Rams are averaging just 3.1 yards per carry on the season and they are facing a Giants Defensive Line that have actually been strong against the run all season.

Despite the very strong performance Case Keenum produced against the Detroit Lions, I have little doubt the Giants will try to lock down Gurley and force the Quarter Back to consistently make the big throws to beat them. Keenum's career suggests that will be a tall order for the Rams even though he should have plenty of time in the pocket to attack a banged up Secondary.

Keenum showed last week that he can make plays when asked, but the Interceptions remain a concern and this could be another game that is going to be relying on his arm.

Last week his performance should have been good enough to earn the win, but Keenum's efforts were wasted by another poor Defensive performance from the Rams. This was supposed to be the strength of the team, but the return of Robert Quinn this week might be huge as they look to put some pressure on Eli Manning at Quarter Back who has the rejuvenated Odell Beckham Jr coming off a two Touchdown performance against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Rams Secondary could be missing their top Corner Trumain Johnson and that should make life a little easier for Manning to connect with Beckham Jr. The return of Quinn will at least give the Rams a chance to get a more consistent pass rush but Manning should be able to make some big plays downfield when he is given a little bit of time.

I think the bigger concern for the Rams this season has to be the below average play of the Defensive Line when it comes to stopping the run. Aaron Donald remains a beast, but one player can't make all the difference when a Defensive Line is giving up over 5 yards per carry over their last three games. I don't think the Giants are going to be able to really take advantage of the run Defense though as they have struggled to open gaps for their Running Backs all season so it may come down to Manning to make the plays to keep the chains moving.

We have already seen the Minnesota Vikings shut down this Offense by getting plenty of pressure on Manning, while the Quarter Back has also been guilty of making some big mistakes throwing the ball. Even with Quinn back, the Rams might not be able to match that pressure and I think the Giants will have enough to earn a victory here by forcing Keenum into a couple of mistakes and shutting down Gurley.

It will be a close game, but I like the Giants who beat this team when they were still in St Louis last December. OBJ looks to be in strong form and the Giants have enough threats in the passing game to hurt this Secondary, while I don't trust Keenum to have two really strong weeks in a row. The Giants have covered in their last seven against the Rams and I will back them to win in England this week.

Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals Pick: There is no doubt that the Cincinnati Bengals are under some intense pressure in the AFC North, although a win could start to turn things around with Ben Roethlisberger banged up for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dropping to 2-5 would actually start to raise some questions for Marvin Lewis as Head Coach, especially if they were to lose to the winless Cleveland Browns in Week 7 and at home no less.

This does look a lot of points for the Cincinnati Bengals to cover considering they have lost four of their last five games and are under pressure for a win. Any win would do for the Bengals at this moment, while the Cleveland Browns also have some inside knowledge with Head Coach Hue Jackson the former Cincinnati Offensive Co-Ordinator.

It looks like Cody Kessler will be getting another start at Quarter Back for the hapless Cleveland Browns and Jackson should be able to give him some insight into what to expect from the Bengals Defense. Kessler hasn't played badly for Cleveland but he needs some support to help the Cleveland Browns finish effectively in the Fourth Quarter where they have been let down too often.

This looks a good chance for Cleveland to give Kessler some support with the opportunity to establish the run having struggled to do that in recent games. To be fair to the Browns, they have played two tough teams against the run, but the Cincinnati Bengals have struggled to stop teams on the ground and so Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson should have some success as long as Cleveland are still in the game and not being forced to recover a big deficit.

Getting Crowell and Johnson going should make things a little easier for Kessler at Quarter Back and ease concerns about the number of hits he has been taking. The Bengals certainly have the pass rush to get to the Quarter Back, but Cleveland can have success if they are keeping the team in third and manageable spots by getting the run going. That should also mean Kessler having the time to make plays against a Secondary that have had difficulty stopping teams throwing the ball against them.

I can see Cleveland moving the chains when they have the ball in this one and I think they can be strong at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball that should give them a chance to stay within this number. The Browns Defensive Line have actually been decent against the run and Cincinnati have Jeremy Hill banged up and Giovani Bernard hasn't filled in as effectively as they like.

It has heaped the pressure on Andy Dalton to make plays with his arms in tough spots and behind an Offensive Line that has struggled to protect him effectively. The Cleveland Browns have not really been able to get to the Quarter Back on a consistent basis though and that has meant the Secondary have struggled to contain Receivers which has led to big passing numbers against them.

Dalton already has a big time Receiver in AJ Green, but the passing game could be bolstered by the return of Tyler Eifert who potentially returns in Week 7. The Bengals have been able to move the chains through the air, but Dalton would love to find some balance on the Offense and not have to deal with third and long situations all day.

I think it would be a big surprise if Cincinnati were to be upset, but covering double digits is a big ask when you think the Browns should be able to move the chains too. Cleveland have found special ways to lose games, but they have been competitive more often than not and should be able to stay with Cincinnati through to the Fourth Quarter unless Kessler is knocked out of the game like he was against the New England Patriots.

Cincinnati did blow out Cleveland twice last season, but I expect the Browns to be more competitive this time against a Bengals team that have not been at their best. The underdog has gone 13-4-1 against the spread in the last eighteen games in this series and I will take the points with Cleveland.

Minnesota Vikings @ Philadelphia Eagles Pick: Go back a couple of weeks and you might have been seeing a game between two of the leading teams in the NFC. Things have begun to change for the Philadelphia Eagles though as they have dropped two games in a row which leaves them a couple of games behind the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East.

It won't be easy for the Eagles to get back on the winning trail when they host the rested Minnesota Vikings who are the only unbeaten team left in the NFL and who are also coming off that bye. Anyone who thinks the Vikings might not be motivated or focused on this game will have to be told that Minnesota will have seven full days to recover before they play again and that Philadelphia are in the middle of a stretch of games where they play Divisional rivals.

There is also the small matter of Sam Bradford returning to Philadelphia where he was clearly not wanted as soon as the Eagles made moves to bring in Carson Wentz in the Draft. Bradford has landed on his feet by being traded to the Minnesota Vikings days after Teddy Bridgewater went down with a season ending injury and this has not been the mistake that some believed it was with Bradford quickly picking up the play book.

He has been smart too by limiting the mistakes he makes throwing the football and leaning on arguably the best Defensive unit in the NFL. Bradford's knowledge of the Eagles locker room has to be huge in this game and Mike Zimmer admitted he has spoken to Bradford for any insights he can offer. The Eagles have played well when it comes to defending the pass, but Bradford may have his full complement of Receivers back and can make some plays.

Bradford might not need to do too much if the Eagles play the run as badly as they did in their loss to the Washington Redskins in Week 6. Adrian Peterson is another big playmaker for the Vikings who is missing, but Jerick McKinnon has shown some life and I can imagine Zimmer has had his Offensive Line working on creating holes for a fast Running Back.

It might not be consistent, but Minnesota should be able to move the chains and the big challenge for the rookie Quarter Back is being able to do the same. After all the headlines he grabbed in the first three games, Wentz has just struggled the last couple of games and now faces the pressure of facing the Quarter Back he ousted as well as this very strong Defensive unit.

Wentz has not been helped by one of his better Offensive Linemen being suspended as Lane Johnson continues to sit, and that also means he is likely to be under immense pressure from the Minnesota pass rush. While the rookie has avoided the big turnovers for the most part, that pressure up front can lead to mistakes and it is going to be difficult for Wentz to complete a lot of passes in this one.

He will be wise to hand the ball to Ryan Mathews and hope his Running Back can at least ease the pass rush and also keep the Offense on third and manageable. Running the ball hasn't been that easy for teams against the Minnesota Defensive Line either and it just feels like it could be a long day for Philadelphia who have big games against Dallas and New York Giants to come with both of those opponents also off the bye.

I expect Mike Zimmer has put together a solid Defensive plan for Wentz and Bradford's knowledge should help organise a solid Offensive plan too. The Vikings have been solid in the small sample of being a road favourite under Zimmer and I like Minnesota to continue to prove they are a genuine Super Bowl contender with a solid win on the road this week.

New England Patriots @ Pittsburgh Steelers Pick: The AFC looked like being a Conference that could potentially be decided by a New Englands Patriot and Pittsburgh Steelers Championship Game. Both teams have already had to overcome some adversity this season to produce winning records, but this game could have had a much more exciting feel if not for the injury to Ben Roethlisberger.

So instead of Big Ben vs Tom Brady at Quarter Back, Landry Jones will be getting the start after Roethlisberger was ruled out until Week 9 at the earliest. Now it has to be said that Pittsburgh have a really solid record against the spread when Roethlisberger has had to sit out, but Jones didn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence in relief in 2015 and I am not sure he is a serviceable back up.

Jones still has some of the best playmakers in the NFL in Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell to call upon, but this is a very tough match up for him against the New Englands Patriots Defensive unit who have played very well through the season. They have been able to shut down the run so the best Bell can hope for is maybe catching a few balls out of the backfield rather than any consistent running room on the ground.

That will keep the Quarter Back in third and long spots and it is tough for Jones to make plays with the pressure that is likely to be around him. While he should still make some balls to Brown, it is going to be very tough for the Steelers to find the consistency to move the chains in this one and that could be a problem if Brady is playing anything like the level he has produced the last two weeks.

Any hopes for the rest of the NFL that Brady might have suddenly aged in the off-season or perhaps even been a little rusty have been erased the last couple of weeks. A few years ago you would have said the match up with the Steelers Defensive unit is far tougher than what Cleveland and Cincinnati would have challenged Brady with, but that does not look to be the case this season.

While Pittsburgh have gotten some pressure up front, the Secondary have been guilty of allowing some big plays. I don't think they will have an answer for both Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski, while Brady has also made use of Chris Hogan down the field and New England should be able to get the ball down the field with some regularity.

Even if Brady doesn't want to throw all day, New England are facing a Pittsburgh team who were trampled by Jay Ajayi and the Miami Dolphins in Week 6. LeGarrette Blount can wear down Defensive Lines and James White has the speed which should keep New England in third and manageable spots and allow Brady to make some big plays as he continues torching teams in the NFL.

I have to have some concern with the amount of money that has been pouring in on the New England Patriots by the public. They also could overlook Pittsburgh without Ben Roethlisberger to the big Divisional game in Buffalo next week, but Bill Belichick looks too smart to allow his team to lose focus in this one.

The Patriots look to have big edges on both sides of the ball in this one and I can see Belichick confusing Jones a couple of times for big turnovers which helps New England pull away in the second half. Pittsburgh can then head into the bye week hoping Roethlisberger can return in Week 9 and get the Steelers rolling.

Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals Pick: The Los Angeles Rams might hold wins over both the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks in the 2016 NFL season, but it is these two NFC West teams that are still expected to contest the Division against one another. The Seahawks are currently leading the Division with their 4-1 record and defeating the 3-3 Arizona Cardinals will certainly put the latter in a little bit of a hole.

This is the late Sunday Night Football game and I have to say I was very surprised that the Seahawks have been set as the underdog. The line has come in a little from where it once was, but that has nothing to do with the public money coming on Seattle which the tickets a little over 50% in favour of the Seahawks. Instead it looks like the sharp money is on the team I expected to be favoured and I will take the point being given to the road team.

It will be a competitive game though as the Arizona Defensive unit have been playing at a high level and Russell Wilson is perhaps not as big a threat in the run game as usual after being banged up early in the season. Christine Michael has not really been able to replicate the numbers that Marshawn Lynch had during his time with Seattle and I do think the Seahawks will struggle to establish the run in this one.

That is a bit of an issue for a Seattle team whose Offensive Line has not been playing to a high level. With the addition of Chandler Jones, the Arizona pass rush has come alive, but they did struggle to get to Ryan Fitzpatrick at times on Monday Night Football and even the limited movement of Wilson might be enough to find time and try and make some plays downfield.

It won't be easy for Wilson to do that either as Tyrann Mathieu has returned from a season ending injury in 2015 to help the Arizona Secondary look pretty good over the course of the last couple of months. Even some of the early holes have been covered up by the adjustments made to the starting line up, but Seattle do have players like Jimmy Graham who could be used more than usual this week with their distinct size advantage.

The bigger reason I am going to side with Seattle is I fancy Russell Wilson to find some plays from somewhere rather more than I think Carson Palmer can do the same. Palmer was banged up again in Week 6 with his hamstring issue keeping him out of practice although I think the veteran will go in this one.

It will be down to the Quarter Back to keep the chains moving as Seattle might be able to have enough success bottling up David Johnson despite how well the Running Back has played. The Seattle Defensive Line have simply not given up big plays on the ground and they will look to take away what Johnson is able to do and force Palmer to beat them through the air.

Unfortunately for Arizona, Palmer has either not had the desire to throw the deep ball that is so famed in Bruce Arians' Offensive schemes, or more worryingly Palmer has been unable to make those plays. The Offensive Line has also had some issues in protection and Seattle can take advantage of that and pressure Palmer which could lead to some mistakes which has been something the Quarter Back has been unable to avoid like he did for much of 2015.

The Legion of Boom have been able to turn the ball over with Interceptions and the will feel they can win the battles against the Wide Receivers Arizona have especially with Palmer not quite up to the standards he set in 2016. Being banged up makes him a little harder to trust in pressurised situations while Russell Wilson has shown in his career that he can make the big plays when most under pressure to do so.

Wilson is also 8-3-3 against the spread as the underdog in his career and led Seattle to a huge win here back in January. I like the Seahawks to win outright so I will take the point in this one on Sunday Night Football.

I wanted to see where a couple of the spreads moved to on Sunday afternoon and I have added a couple of picks below without the full breakdown.

MY PICKS: Chicago Bears + 7.5 Points @ 1.86 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
New York Giants - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Cleveland Browns + 10 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Minnesota Vikings - 3 Points @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
New England Patriots - 7 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Seattle Seahawks + 1 Point @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Indianapolis Colts + 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Miami Dolphins + 2.5 Points @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)

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