Wed. Oct 21st, 2020

Week 7 NFL game picks, schedule guide, fantasy…

17 min read
Week 7 NFL game picks, schedule guide, fantasy...

The Week 7 NFL slate is stacked with great matchups. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and final score predictions.

Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a stat to know for each game, and the Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. ESPN Fantasy‘s Kyle Soppe and ESPN Chalk‘s Mackenzie Kraemer hand out helpful nuggets as well. It’s all here to help get you ready for a loaded weekend of NFL football.

Let’s get into the full Week 7 schedule, including a showdown between the AFC South’s top two teams.

Jump to a matchup:

Thursday: KC 30, DEN 6

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 75.2 | Spread: IND -1 (47)

What to watch for: Can the Texans hold off the Colts’ pass rush? The Colts have sacked Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson 15 times in three meetings, including the playoffs last season. They also sacked Patrick Mahomes, who has somewhat of a similar playing style to Watson, four times in a Week 5 meeting with Kansas City. Watson has been sacked 18 times in six games this season. — Mike Wells

Bold prediction: On that note, Watson is sacked five or more times. He was not sacked in either of his past two games, but the Colts have had success with their pass rush against him in the past. Houston’s offensive line had improved, but now it has a new right tackle after Tytus Howard partially tore the MCL in his left knee against the Chiefs. — Sarah Barshop

Stat to know: Houston running back Carlos Hyde put up 116 rushing yards in last week’s win over the Chiefs but has never had consecutive 100-yard rushing games in his NFL career. And despite only running the ball by design 38% of the time (15th highest in the NFL this season), the Texans have the NFL’s fifth-best rushing offense, averaging 139.8 yards per game.

What to know for fantasy: Indianapolis’ T.Y. Hilton has been a top-four receiver in his previous two games at Houston — but outside the top 25 at the position in his past two home games against the Texans. See Week 7 rankings.

Betting nugget: Watson is 10-2 against the spread (ATS) in his career as an underdog (6-6 outright). Read more.

Barshop’s pick: Texans 30, Colts 27
Wells’ pick: Texans 27, Colts 21
FPI prediction: HOU, 53.4% (by an average of 1.2 points)

Matchup must-reads: The incredible survival story of DeAndre Hopkins and his mom‘I’m not playing to tie’: How Reich’s call defined 2018 for Colts, TexansIn concussion protocol, LB Leonard watched Colts games at home in uniformTexans’ trades raised eyebrows on cut-down day, but they’re working

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 74.9 | Spread: MIN -2 (43.5)

What to watch for: The Vikings should focus on the ground game again, as Dalvin Cook looks to take advantage of a Lions defense that has given up at least 100 yards rushing every week. Cook could be in line for a monster day, perhaps as big as 150 yards and a touchdown or two. How Detroit handles Cook could be the key to a win or loss. — Michael Rothstein

Bold prediction: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will be sacked at least six times. Yes, his offensive line is better than last year, and yes, he’s been sacked only 10 times in five games and is averaging a career-best 8 yards gained per pass attempt. But it’s going to be another long day for the 11-year veteran QB against the Vikings defense, given he has few options for a quick out and not much to work with in the passing game beyond receiver Kenny Golladay. — Courtney Cronin

Stat to know: According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins has averaged 2.98 seconds to throw this season, the most in the NFL. The Lions have allowed opponents 2.99 seconds to throw this season, highest in the NFL, in part because they blitz on a league-low 9% of dropbacks.

What to know for fantasy: Cook and Christian McCaffrey are the only running backs this season with five games of at least 19 fantasy points. See Week 7 rankings.

Betting nugget: Minnesota is 0-6 ATS with Cousins in games where the line is at or within three points. Read more.

Cronin’s pick: Vikings 20, Lions 17
Rothstein’s pick: Lions 20, Vikings 17
FPI prediction: MIN, 63.3% (by an average of 4.7 points)

Matchup must-reads: Vikings’ offense will go as high as Diggs and Thielen push itBillboards protesting costly penalty against Lions appear in Detroit

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 62.1 | Spread: LAR -3 (54.5)

What to watch for: Since the defense still hasn’t figured out how to stop opponents on a consistent basis, the Falcons have to rely on their high-powered offense, which has surpassed 30 points the past two games even in defeat. A possible Julio JonesJalen Ramsey matchup could be fun, but the Falcons should be able to score regardless. — Vaughn McClure

Bold prediction: Jones, Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu will all have big days for the Falcons. The Rams receive a boost with the acquisition of Ramsey, though it’s uncertain how much he will play. But even a trio of Atlanta receivers stacking yards won’t be quite enough to defeat the defending NFC champions. — Lindsey Thiry

Stat to know: The Rams’ Cooper Kupp has 100 receiving yards in four games this season. Since 2006, only one Rams receiver has had five 100-yard receiving games in a season (Brandin Cooks, five in 2018).

What to know for fantasy: Atlanta’s Matt Ryan is the only quarterback this season with four games of 300 passing yards and three passing touchdowns. See Week 7 rankings.

Betting nugget: Over the past two seasons, Atlanta is 6-16 ATS, the worst record in the NFL. It has failed to cover in four straight games and is 1-5 ATS this season, tied with Washington for worst in the NFL. Read more.

Thiry’s pick: Rams 28, Falcons 24
McClure’s pick: Falcons 35, Rams 28
FPI prediction: ATL, 50.4% (by an average of 0.2 points)

Matchup must-reads: Steep price for CB Ramsey doesn’t fix Rams’ issues on offenseWith NFL-low five sacks, Falcons must find ways to generate more pressureGrading the Ramsey trade from the Jaguars to Rams: Who won?

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 56.7 | Spread: GB -5.5 (46.5)

What to watch for: Which defensive front controls the game may determine who wins. The Packers’ pass rush, fueled by Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith, has combined for 13 sacks this season. The Smiths combined for 2.5 sacks in Monday night’s win against the Lions alone, and half of their season sacks have come on third-down plays. But the Raiders have allowed just eight sacks this season, fifth fewest in the league entering Week 7. — Rob Demovsky

Bold prediction: Raiders running back Josh Jacobs will set the tone early with a ground-and-pound attack that would make even Vince Lombardi smile, and he will finish with his second straight 100-plus-yard rushing day after going for 126 against the Bears in London two weeks ago. The Packers are giving up 124.5 yards per game on the ground, and the Raiders, sans a true No. 1 receiver, are transitioning into a smash-mouth-type offense. — Paul Gutierrez

Stat to know: Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has 23 wins against AFC opponents since the 2010 season, the most by any NFC quarterback. The Packers are also 15-4 at home against AFC teams since 2010, and have won three in a row.

What to know for fantasy: Raiders tight end Darren Waller has yet to score on his 42 targets. The other nine top-10 tight ends this season are scoring once every 20 targets. See Week 7 rankings.

Betting nugget: Since 2014, teams coming off a bye (Oakland) are just 2-7-1 ATS against teams coming off a Monday game (Green Bay). And since 1990, those teams are just 13-26-2 ATS. Read more.



Rob Ninkovich picks the Packers over the Raiders as long as they can stop the run and force QB Derrek Carr to throw.

Gutierrez’s pick: Packers 27, Raiders 21
Demovsky’s pick: Packers 28, Raiders 24
FPI prediction: GB, 72.3% (by an average of 8.1 points)

Matchup must-reads: Packers sign veteran receiver Grant amid spate of injuriesHow QB Carr’s epic 2016 season compares to his time under Jon GrudenRaiders sign TE Waller to multiyear contract extension

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 43.4 | Spread: SF -10 (41)

What to watch for: It’ll be a lot of rushing plays. The Redskins will try to run the ball against a defense that ranks 11th in yards per carry allowed. And despite the Niners playing only five games, just one team has rushed more times than them this season (Baltimore), and they will face a defense that ranks 28th in total rushing yards allowed and 23rd in yards per carry. Coach Kyle Shanahan’s revenge game will be won on the ground. — John Keim

Bold prediction: The Redskins will not score a touchdown. Washington is 30th in the league in points per game (15), and San Francisco’s defense is second in points allowed per game (12.8). The Niners’ defense is rolling, the Redskins’ offense is struggling, and it’s going to be hard for Washington to break through. — Nick Wagoner

Stat to know: The 49ers have allowed the fewest passing yards per game this season (150.2) and the lowest opposing Total QBR (15.7). They have allowed just five total touchdowns, and opponents are scoring points on just 58% of red zone trips (second in the NFL behind the Patriots). Oh, and they have yet to allow a running back to rush for 100 yards this season.

What to know for fantasy: Matt Breida‘s catch count has increased with each game this season, a nice trend to have for a running back averaging 5.8 yards per carry this season. See Week 7 rankings.

Betting nugget: Washington has lost seven straight home games, going 1-6 ATS in that span and 0-3 ATS this season. Read more.

Wagoner’s pick: 49ers 38, Redskins 6
Keim’s pick: 49ers 30, Redskins 10
FPI prediction: SF, 78.0% (by an average of 10.5 points)

Matchup must-reads: Turnover turnaround at center of 49ers’ early-season defensive surgeShanahan says he’s ‘moved on’ from Redskins dysfunctionNFL playoff risers: Barnwell on six surprising teams, and what’s next

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 35.8 | Spread: BUF -16.5 (40.5)

What to watch for: The Bills have yet to employ an offense that includes both Devin Singletary and Duke Williams, each of whom offers a dynamic element. Look for offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to get creative with his new-look offense against the Dolphins’ barely-there defense. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Bold prediction: To that point, the Bills rush for 250-plus yards. The Dolphins have the NFL’s second-worst run defense, allowing 170 yards per game. The game plan should be easy for Buffalo: Attack Miami where it hurts. — Cameron Wolfe

Stat to know: After last week’s win against the Redskins, FPI is giving the Dolphins an 88.5% chance to get the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL draft. The next-highest chance belongs to the Bengals … at 7%.

What to know for fantasy: Buffalo’s Josh Allen threw five touchdown passes last season against the Dolphins (59 attempts) and five against the rest of the NFL (261 attempts). See Week 7 rankings.



Victor Cruz believes the Bills’ defense will be too much to handle for the Dolphins who are still figuring out their QB situation.

Betting nugget: Miami is the second team since the 1970 merger to be an underdog of at least 14 points in four of its first six games of a season (1977 Seattle). Read more.

Wolfe’s pick: Bills 27, Dolphins 10
Louis-Jacques’ pick: Bills 35, Dolphins 7
FPI prediction: BUF, 94.3% (by an average of 21.5 points)

Matchup must-reads: As 17-point favorites, Bills flip script, make Vegas betting historyRosen benching clear sign he isn’t in Dolphins’ long-term QB plan

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 15.7 | Spread: JAX -4 (43.5)

What to watch for: The winless Bengals are down to a fourth-string left tackle and have the worst rushing defense in the league. Jacksonville, on the other hand, has Leonard Fournette and a pass rush led by rookie Josh Allen, who already has four sacks this season. — Ben Baby

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