NFL Picks: Week Seven

Before we dive into this week’s upcoming matchups, let’s look back on a fantastic sixth week in the NFL. Here’s what we know for certain:

The Los Angeles Rams are good. I mean really, really good.

Clearly the undefeated Rams are a premier team in this league, but it is shaping up to become one of the best teams of the century. When you think about great regular season teams like the 2007 New England Patriots (lack of a running game), 2012 Green Bay Packers (couldn’t get stops on defense) or the 2013 Seattle Seahawks (mediocre passing attack), none have the depth and roster balance of this Rams squad. A difficult schedule going forward makes 16-0 extremely unlikely, but pen them down as Super Bowl favorites nonetheless.

They are who we thought they were!”

The Patriots and Steelers have been frequent fixtures in the American Football Conference playoffs for the last decade, but aging quarterbacks and embarrassing results to begin the season raised doubts. In week six, these AFC juggernauts changed the narrative. “Big Ben” Roethlisberger directed a balanced Pittsburgh offense to a key win over divisional rival Cincinnati, putting it squarely back in the playoff picture. Additionally, superstar running back Le’Veon Bell is expected to return following the team’s upcoming bye week. Meanwhile, Tom Brady led New England to a 43-40 shootout win over Kansas City in the best game of the season so far, besting young MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes in a statement victory. Pundits and fans love to jump on early season storylines, but these are two veteran teams with Hall of Fame talent and excellent coaching. I expect to see both in the playoffs.

“It ain’t over until it’s over” … especially in Green Bay

The Green Bay Packers started rookie wide receivers Equanimeous St. Brown and Marques Valdez-Scantling on Monday Night. Never heard of them? Unless you play fantasy football in a 16-team league, you probably haven’t. And yet Aaron Rodgers was still able to throw for 425 yards, commit no turnovers and pull out a victory for his team in an extremely improbable scenario. With 4:13 left in the fourth quarter, the Packers punted the ball back to San Francisco, hoping to get one last shot to tie the game and send it to overtime. Not only was Rodgers able to tie the game, he then proceeded to gain 67 yards in the final four plays of regular time (with no timeouts) to set up a game winning field goal. Rodgers yet again showed he is the best player in this league, and if he is starting under center the Packers always have a fighting chance to win. I would not want to face this team in January.

With star talent including Rodgers, Antonio Brown and Russell Wilson on by this week, there are fewer marquee games. Here are the two most watchable games we have for this weekend.

Saints (+2.5) at Ravens

The 4-1 Saints entering this game as underdogs means exactly one thing; people still don’t trust its passing offense, and Drew Brees in particular, outside of a dome. In his only outdoor game this year, week three in New York, Brees had his lowest yardage total of the year and no touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Ravens are coming off a week where they broke the franchise record for sacks  11) in a shutout victory. Signals point towards Baltimore carrying over its momentum to a home win, but the Saints are significantly better and more well-rounded, and I expect that’s how the game will unfold. It’s like when we were ready to give “La La Land” Best Picture before everyone came to their senses and remembered “Moonlight” was unequivocally superior.

Saints 24, Ravens 20

Bengals (+6) at Chiefs

Fresh off his first career loss, Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs are headed back home with their chins up. While the team returns from Foxboro without a win, Mahomes battled step-for-step with Tom Brady, despite having just 18 years less experience. Mahomes four second-half touchdowns brought Kansas City within minutes of an upset and reaffirmed its spot among the AFC elite. But also heading into Kansas City is the Cincinnati Bengals, which looks more organized and determined that it has in previous years. After seasons of platooning Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, the Bengals have shored up its running game with dual-threat bell cow Joe Mixon. Following a tough loss in Pittsburgh, the Bengals need a statement win to stay in the playoff race (a virtual must for head coach Marvin Lewis to keep his job after a two-year playoff drought). I’d like AJ Green to expose a weak Chief’s secondary and take Cincinnati in an upset.

Bengals 31, Chiefs 30

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