Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Week 7: Picks and preview

Week 7 of the NFL season marks the debut of Le'Veon Bell in Kansas City, and brings the league one week closer to Antonio Brown's reinstatement, an event that already has potential suitors lining up. The Cardinals, fresh off a drubbing of the Cowboys, get a chance to show that they're for real in the NFC West when they take on unbeaten Seattle, while the Patriots try to even their record at 3-3 and build momentum after an uneven start that has them looking up at the majority of the AFC. Tom Brady gets a Monday night showdown with Jon Gruden, while the Steelers and Titans meet in a battle of unbeatens, with the victor gaining the inside track to the AFC's number one seed. All members of the NFC East are also playing games this week, too, but wouldn't it just be best if we tried to avoid that fact altogether?

(BYE: Indianapolis, Miami, Minnesota, Baltimore)

Point spreads are from BetOnline.ag, and are current as of 11 a.m. ET Thursday.

NOTE: Pick with spread is in bold. 

Last Week: 6-8    Season: 46-44-1

 
1 of 14

NY GIANTS (1-5) AT PHILADELPHIA (1-4-1) (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)

NY GIANTS (1-5) AT PHILADELPHIA (1-4-1) (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
Jerry Habraken via Imagn Content Services, LLC

TV: NFL NETWORK        Line: Philadelphia -4.5


What you need to know:  There isn't much to say about the Giants, who got their first win of the season last week against Washington. The offense is still anemic, but if you're a glass-half-full type, it is worth noting that the defense is playing well of late, particularly against the run; three of the Giants' last four opponents have failed to crack 100 yards on the ground. The Eagles gave a good accounting of themselves against Baltimore, very nearly pulling off a stunning comeback after falling behind 17-0, but they didn't, and now find themselves at 1-4-1 on the year. Incredibly enough, that's good for second in the NFC East, and well within striking distance of the Cowboys. Now that Dak Prescott is out, the Eagles ought to win the division, but for that to happen, Carson Wentz has to re-establish himself as one of the league's better quarterbacks.

On the spot: Giants TE Evan Engram . Engram has caught just 57 percent of his targets this year, and has yet to catch a touchdown. That's not good enough for someone thought to be one of Daniel Jones' most dynamic targets.

Eagles QB Carson Wentz: Wentz wasn't great against the Ravens, but overall he played by far his cleanest game of the year. For the Eagles to turn their season around, Wentz has to find a way to bring his "A" game every week.

The pick: Eagles 27, Giants 16

 
2 of 14

DETROIT (2-3) AT ATLANTA (1-5) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

DETROIT (2-3) AT ATLANTA (1-5) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

TV: FOX        Line: Atlanta -1


What you need to know:  The Lions are lingering around the edges of the NFC playoff picture, and a win in this game would put them in good position to challenge for a wild card spot, with over half the season remaining. Detroit's problem, in a word, is consistency. The Lions look great to start games, but can't finish; even individual players have it happen. D'Andre Swift, who went over 100 yards last week, dropped a sure touchdown pass that cost Detroit a win in Week 1. Matt Patricia needs to find a way to bring out the best in his team week after week, or else it will be a typical lost season for the Lions. Atlanta might not be quite as bad as their record suggests, but they are still massively deficient on the defensive side. The Falcons are particularly bad against the pass, which means that this game could also feature a Matthew Stafford breakout. Atlanta already doesn't have much to play for this season, barring a sudden dramatic turnaround at the top of the NFC South, 

On the spot:  Lions RB D'Andre Swift. Swift reached 100 yards last week in minimal action, but Atlanta is strong against the run. Swift is starting to siphon carries away from Adrian Peterson, and if he plays well again, could start to put a tight grip on the starting running back gig.

Falcons RB Todd Gurley: Gurley has looked solid, if unspectacular, this season. He's coming off his worst game of the year, however, and if the Falcons are going to make some sort of midseason push to respectability, he needs to be at the forefront.

The pick: Lions 34, Falcons 31

 
3 of 14

CLEVELAND (4-2) AT CINCINNATI (1-4-1) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

CLEVELAND (4-2) AT CINCINNATI (1-4-1) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

TV: CBS        Line: Cleveland -3.5


What you need to know:  Baker Mayfield hasn't been good, despite Cleveland's 4-2 record. He was wretched against the Steelers, staring down Austin Hooper on what turned into a Minkah Fitzpatrick pick-six, and never looking comfortable in the pocket. At some point, and probably soon, Mayfield has to start playing better or Cleveland is going to have to confront the fact that their search for a franchise quarterback is ongoing. If Mayfield's play is worse than his team's record, there is an argument to be made that Joe Burrow is performing better than Cincy's 1-4-1 mark indicates. Burrow's numbers aren't great, and he hasn't thrown a touchdown in his last two games, but he's hanging tough despite taking plenty of hits, and still completing his fair share of passes down the field. Cincinnati isn't a good team, but the early returns on Burrow are more encouraging than not. 

On the spot: Browns QB Baker Mayfield. Mayfield's game against the Steelers was Pro Football Focus' third-lowest-graded performance by a quarterback this season. He has been totally ineffective in traditional drop-back settings, and if he doesn't turn things around fast, will deserve to be benched.

Bengals FS Jessie Bates III: Bates has an interception and is allowing just a 30.8 passer rating when targeted this year. If Cincy is going to spring an upset, they could use a splash play or two against a quarterback prone to giveaways.

The pick: Browns 31, Bengals 23

 
4 of 14

CAROLINA (3-3) AT NEW ORLEANS (3-2) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

CAROLINA (3-3) AT NEW ORLEANS (3-2) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

TV: FOX        Line: New Orleans -9


What you need to know:  The Panthers' offense went dormant against Chicago, and the normally ball-secure Teddy Bridgewater threw two interceptions. The sledding should not be as tough against the Saints, who come into the game 24th in points allowed this season, but the real question is whether or not Bridgewater and the Panthers' offense can score enough points against a Saints team that figures to put up plenty of its own. New Orleans might be without Michael Thomas again in this one, as he tweaked a hamstring on Thursday. If so, the Saints will have to continue to lean on Emmanuel Sanders as more of a featured target, with Alvin Kamara picking up a heavier workload, particularly in the passing game, as Drew Brees looks to him earlier in his progressions. This game is crucial for both teams, particularly with Tampa Bay looking strong after their demolition of the Packers.

On the spot: Panthers CB Troy Pride Jr. Pride has allowed a 132.2 passer rating when targeted this season, as well as two touchdowns, tied for most on the team. Brees and New Orleans figure to attack him whenever possible.

Saints WR Tre'Quan Smith: Smith had just two catches for eight yards against the Chargers, and if Thomas can't go because of his hamstring, Smith needs to step up and perform like he did the three weeks prior to the Los Angeles game.

The pick: Saints 28, Panthers 23

 
5 of 14

BUFFALO (4-2) AT NY JETS (0-6) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

BUFFALO (4-2) AT NY JETS (0-6) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
JAMIE GERMANO/ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE via Imagn Content Services, LLC

TV: CBS        Line: Buffalo -13


What you need to know:  Josh Allen's MVP campaign has cooled off significantly after two straight lackluster performances, and not coincidentally, two Buffalo losses. It should be abundantly clear now, if it wasn't already, that any chance the Bills have of winning the AFC rests squarely on Allen's shoulders. Even if Buffalo's defense plays fairly well, as it did against Kansas City, the team will go nowhere unless Allen plays like one of the league's elite. The Jets have been and continue to be a mess. The latest indignity? Defensive lineman Steve McLendon, traded to the Bucs after New York's humiliating shutout at the hands of the Dolphins, opted to rent a car and drive to Tampa rather than fly back to New York. Gregg Williams is sniping at Adam Gase, and pundits are only half-joking about Clemson's Trevor Lawrence staying in school another year to avoid having to go to New York. Other than that, things are great!

On the spot: Bills QB Josh Allen. The Bills still have plenty of time to right themselves after consecutive losses, but with two games against New England still on the schedule, they need Allen to have a get-well game against New York, so as to prepare him for battles to come. 

Jets DC Gregg Williams: Williams was the latest to take shots at Adam Gase, but it isn't like the Jets' defense has been anything to write home about, either. Williams bears nearly as much of the blame for this disaster season as the head coach he so clearly dislikes.

The pick: Bills 35, Jets 6

 
6 of 14

PITTSBURGH (5-0) AT TENNESSEE (5-0) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

PITTSBURGH (5-0) AT TENNESSEE (5-0) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

TV: CBS        Line: Tennessee -1


What you need to know:  Pittsburgh scored a pyrrhic victory over the Browns, losing all-everything inside linebacker Devin Bush to a torn ACL. Bush was the Steelers' defensive quarterback, and though his numbers weren't gaudy, had played every defensive snap until his injury. In his place is Robert Spillane, a 2018 undrafted free agent who joined the team after being cut by the Titans midway through the 2018 season. If Spillane can't hold up against Tennessee, the Steelers might have to look outside the organization for help replacing Bush. The Titans survived the Texans thanks to a heavy dose of Derrick Henry and some brilliant late-game coaching by Mike Vrabel. Tennessee is unbeaten and more and more it looks like what happened for them in the playoffs last season wasn't a mirage, but a harbinger of things to come. Ryan Tannehill's play has been excellent again this season, making believers out of those who criticized Tennessee's decision to give him a big-money extension.

On the spot: Steelers LB Robert Spillane . All eyes in Pittsburgh will be on Spillane, who is solid against the run, and a big hitter, but very much a question mark against the pass. Tennessee's power running game and play-action passing should very quickly tell Mike Tomlin whether or not he has an adequate replacement for Devin Bush.

Titans LT Ty Sambrailo: Sambrailo looks like he will get the first chance to replace Taylor Lewan, out for the season with a torn ACL, and he'll immediately have a big test in the form of Steelers' outside linebacker Bud Dupree.

The pick: Titans 31, Steelers 27

 
7 of 14

DALLAS (2-4) AT WASHINGTON (1-5) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

DALLAS (2-4) AT WASHINGTON (1-5) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

TV: FOX        Line: PICK


What you need to know:  The Andy Dalton era started inauspiciously in Dallas, with Dalton and the Cowboys unable to get anything going against Arizona, and Dallas' defense characteristically unable to stop the Cardinals in the slightest. Washington should provide a much easier test for the Cowboys' defense, but whether or not Dalton is the right man to command the offense remains to be seen. If he struggles, Jerry Jones might get an itchy trigger finger and try to trade for another veteran, like, say, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Washington nearly had a win over the Giants last week, but because of a little-known clause dictating that every NFC East team must have at least one win this season, they were unable to come out on top. They should be overmatched against Dallas, at least on paper, but given the current state of the Cowboys, they should be able to keep this game close, and perhaps even win it. 

On the spot: Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy . McCarthy had to answer reports that his players didn't believe in the coaching staff, and didn't feel prepared enough to win games. If Dallas loses this week, the discontent will only become more public, the complaints even louder.

Washington Football Team DE Chase Young: Young is questionable with a groin injury, but if he is able to go against Dallas, he might be able to feast, given the Cowboys banged-up offensive line and general inability to get out of their own way at the moment.

The pick: Cowboys 26, Washington Football Team 21

 
8 of 14

GREEN BAY (4-1) AT HOUSTON (1-5) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

GREEN BAY (4-1) AT HOUSTON (1-5) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

TV: FOX        Line: Green Bay -3.5


What you need to know:  The Packers are licking their wounds after getting shellacked by Tampa Bay last week, but that game feels more like a bump in the road, albeit a large one, for a team that looked so good on their way to 4-0. The major concern for Green Bay has to be their ability to protect Aaron Rodgers. After he was sacked just three times in the season's first four games, the Buccaneers racked up four all by themselves last week. Houston nearly knocked Tennessee from the ranks of the unbeatens last week, and were criticized for trying to put the game away with a two-point conversion attempt that would have made it a two-score game. It's getting late early for the Texans, but it's also obvious that they aren't as bad as their record, and at the very least have the offensive firepower to stay with a team like Green Bay. 

On the spot: Packers RB Aaron Jones . The best way to take pressure off Rodgers is with a healthy dose of the run, and Houston gave up 263 yards on the ground to Tennessee last week. Jones should be able to feast in this game. 

Texans WR Will Fuller: Fuller may finally be starting to fill the role of number one wide receiver for Houston, as he has four touchdowns and 455 yards on the season. The big question, as it always is with Fuller, is whether or not he will stay healthy. 

The pick: Packers 34, Texans 28

 
9 of 14

SEATTLE (5-0) AT ARIZONA (4-2) (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

SEATTLE (5-0) AT ARIZONA (4-2) (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

TV: FOX        Line: Seattle -3


What you need to know:  Seattle has been connected to Antonio Brown, with the perennial Pro-Bowler set to be available after Week 8, but the Seahawks already have two premier targets in Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf. What Seattle really needs to shore up is a pass defense that ranks dead last in the league in yards allowed through the air, and 29th in net yards allowed per pass attempts. The Cardinals weren't all that efficient through the air against Dallas, with Kyler Murray going just 9-for-24, but he still threw for two touchdowns, and Arizona ran roughshod over the Cowboys, with Kenyan Drake going off for 164 yards. Seattle is seventh in the league in yards per carry allowed, however, so chances are that Murray is going to have to do more work through the air if he is to match Russell Wilson and Seattle's high-flying offense. An Arizona win would significantly alter the complexion of the NFC West moving forward.

On the spot: Seahawks CB Tre Flowers . Flowers is the worst player on the Seahawks in terms of passer rating against, as he is giving up a 123.2 rating when targeted this season. Arizona and Murray will likely target him early and often.

Cardinals WR Christian Kirk: Kirk leads the Cardinals with three touchdown catches, but still won't command as much attention as DeAndre Hopkins. He needs to make the most of that relative lack of defensive focus and help Murray win a likely shootout.

The pick: Seahawks 38, Cardinals 34

 
10 of 14

KANSAS CITY (5-1) AT DENVER (2-3) (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

KANSAS CITY (5-1) AT DENVER (2-3) (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

TV: CBS        Line: Kansas City -10


What you need to know:  Le'Veon Bell makes his Chiefs debut in this one, and he figures to be shot out of a cannon now that he's free of the Jets. What remains to be seen is the extent of Bell's role with Kansas City. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was outstanding against the Bills, and is clearly the featured option in Kansas City's backfield, so the real question for Andy Reid is one of division of labor; he needs to figure out the ideal number of touches for his new running back, though Bell's performance, or lack thereof, should offer clarity. The Broncos pulled off a surprise win against a rusty, sloppy Patriots team. Denver got six field goals in the victory, and while a win on the road against New England should never be discounted, there is still plenty for Denver's offense to work on. Their defense, however, was stout and dynamic, an encouraging sign for a team clearly still a year away.

On the spot: Chiefs RB Le'Veon Bell. Bell got his wish to get out of New York, and now he has to prove that he has something left in the tank, not only to try and win a Super Bowl, but to get one more significant contract.

Broncos QB Drew Lock: Lock was about as bad as a winning quarterback can be, posting a putrid 34.9 passer rating in the victory over New England. The best thing that could happen for Denver would be for their presumptive quarterback of the future to start putting up big numbers, even in losses.

The pick: Chiefs 30, Broncos 23

 
11 of 14

SAN FRANCISCO (3-3) AT NEW ENGLAND (2-3) (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

SAN FRANCISCO (3-3) AT NEW ENGLAND (2-3) (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

TV: CBS        Line: New England -2


What you need to know:  San Francisco went from duds to studs in the span of one week, delivering a command performance against the Rams, one that saw Jimmy Garoppolo throw three touchdowns, and the Niners' offensive line neutralize Aaron Donald like few teams have. San Francisco has a chance to further imperil New England's season and Garoppolo has a chance to get the drop on his former coach with a win over New England. Not only would a victory do all those things, it would also make clear the idea that despite their injuries, the 49ers aren't dead yet. New England was sloppy and nowhere near their usual selves against Denver, owing to a lack of practice time because of COVID issues. Bill Belichick needs to fix the issues that plagued the Patriots, and quickly, because another loss would put New England in a tough position, as they have two games yet to play against the Bills, and one against the Ravens.

On the spot: 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan . It was Shanahan's game plan that stifled the Rams' defensive push, and he'll have to be equally clever to keep Belichick and the Patriots off-balance, particularly with New England inching towards desperation.

Patriots RB Rex Burkhead: This designation could go for any of New England's backs, none of whom were able to run effectively against the Broncos. The Patriots can't keep using Cam Newton as their primary runner, so one back needs to step forward.

The pick: 49ers 26, Patriots 23

 
12 of 14

JACKSONVILLE (1-5) AT LA CHARGERS (1-4) (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

JACKSONVILLE (1-5) AT LA CHARGERS (1-4) (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
Sam Greene via Imagn Content Services, LLC

TV: CBS        Line: Los Angeles -9


What you need to know:  The Jaguars look like they're in full-on tank mode, despite Gardner Minshew's average, passable statistics. The Jags don't have much of anything to offer defensively, and they've lost each of their last two games by double-digits. Myles Jack, their most useful defensive player remaining, is the subject of some trade rumors and might not be around much longer. After a surprise opening-week win, Jacksonville has regained their status as the league's least-interesting team. The Chargers aren't very good but unlike Jacksonville, they are interesting. Justin Herbert nearly pulled off a surprise win against the Saints, falling just short of a win at the end of regulation. All four Chargers losses are by a touchdown or less, and Herbert should finally get his first win as a professional against a team poised to offer less-than-stellar resistance. 

On the spot: Jaguars WR D.J. Chark . Chark is too good to be on the Jaguars, and while he probably figures into their long-term plans, it feels unfair that he's stuck as the best offensive player on a woebegone team. 

Chargers WR Keenan AllenAllen is once again putting up numbers, albeit not overwhelming ones, but his status as one of the league's most unheralded great wide receivers remains intact. He should have a big game against the Jaguars. 

The pick: Chargers 27, Jaguars 21

 
13 of 14

TAMPA BAY (4-2) AT LAS VEGAS (3-2) (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)

TAMPA BAY (4-2) AT LAS VEGAS (3-2) (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

TV: NBC        Line: Tampa Bay -3.5


What you need to know:  The Buccaneers flexed their muscles with a commanding win over previously unbeaten Green Bay, and while the defense's huge effort got plenty of deserved attention, it should also trouble the rest of the NFC that Tom Brady looked like his old self. The recipe for Tampa's offense is simple: Keep Brady clean, and reap the benefits as a result. Las Vegas has major issues with COVID protocols, specifically with their offensive line, so while their win over Kansas City last week stands as one of the more impressive triumphs of the season, it's fair to wonder whether or not Jon Gruden and his staff have done a good enough job conveying the gravity of the situation to their team. The Raiders have a very real chance to make the playoffs and possibly make some noise in the AFC, but while they have some flaws on the field, their real issues seem to happen away from it. 

On the spot: Buccaneers LB Devin White . White has a tall task on his hands, literally and figuratively, when it comes to Raiders tight end Darren Waller. If White wins the matchup, the Bucs likely win the game. 

Raiders WR Henry Ruggs III: The Bucs have a stingy run defense and the kind of speed at linebacker that will make it tough for the Raiders to sustain many drives. Ruggs' big-play ability will be crucial if the Raiders are going to score another upset.

The pick: Buccaneers 38, Raiders 27

 
14 of 14

CHICAGO (5-1) AT LA RAMS (4-2) (Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET)

CHICAGO (5-1) AT LA RAMS (4-2) (Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

TV: ESPN        Line: Los Angeles -6


What you need to know:  Chicago might be the worst 5-1 team in the league, at least offensively, but 5-1 is still 5-1, no matter how ugly it looks. Still, the Bears need to get something consistent going on that side of the ball, and sooner rather than later. Nick Foles has talked about preferring to win ugly rather than lose pretty, but Foles managing to channel his 2017 playoff self would be a huge boon to the Bears, and do more than anything else to legitimize them. Aaron Donald and the Rams laid an egg against the 49ers last week, and the fact that all four of their wins this year are against the NFC East raises questions about just how good they really are. Sean McVay's ability to scheme against a stout Bears defense might be the best thing Los Angeles has going in this game, though it also feels like the kind of affair where a defensive score could be in the offing.

On the spot: Bears QB Nick Foles. Fans may have been clamoring for Foles over Mitchell Trubisky, but since the Bears made the switch, Foles hasn't done much (albeit while winning) aside from a stirring comeback against the Falcons. He needs to be better if Chicago is going to hang around in the NFC North.

Rams DT Aaron Donald: Donald gets handled in a game roughly once every season, maybe once every two seasons. He's doubtless unhappy after last week, and that's bad news for the Bears.

The pick: Rams 23, Bears 14

Chris Mueller is the co-host of The PM Team with Poni & Mueller on Pittsburgh's 93.7 The Fan, Monday-Friday from 2-6 p.m. ET. Owner of a dog with a Napoleon complex, consumer of beer, cooker of chili, closet Cleveland Browns fan. On Twitter at @ChrisMuellerPGH – please laugh.

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