NFL Week 7: Rams Can Cover Against Slumping Falcons15 min read
Lindy’s Sports’ UK editor Simon Milham looks ahead to a fascinating NFL Week 7, which includes some huge division clashes and a must win game for last season’s Superbowl runners up Rams.
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
Kansas City can’t get its defense off the field. Defending the run has been problematic – conceding at least 180 yards on the ground in their last four contests – and their does not appear to be a quick fix.
Yet better balance on the offense would help ease the time-of-possession woes. San Francisco’s attack uses a run-heavy game, without making chunks of yards, yet they kept a potent Rams’ offense off the field on Sunday and won as a result. Andy Reid is rarely criticised, but perhaps KC’s head coach should be taken to task for a game-plan that relies too heavily on the arm of QB Patrick Mahomes, who is also struggling with a leg injury and his mobility could be limited.
Having lost their previous seven against the Broncos, the Chiefs (4-2) now seek an eighth straight win over their AFC West neighbours on Thursday night and a fifth consecutive win in Denver. Chiefs are 3.0-point handicap favourites at BetVictor NFL odds of 9/10 and this is a tough call.
The Broncos’ defense has finally found its form, as we suggested it would at the start of the season, and blanked the Tennessee Titans in a 16-0 snore-fest, a week removed from holding the Chargers’ offense to 13 points.
The issue for the Broncos is they are having trouble moving the ball. They rank 26th in scoring (17.7 points per game) and 25th in yards per game, but you can bet that head coach Vic Fangio will have a run-heavy package for Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman.
The Chiefs must commit to the run more, as the Broncos are ranked fourth against the pass, allowing 196 yards per game. The Broncos’ run defense is not stellar, with a No. 18 ranking (111.8 yards allowed per game).
We take KC to bounce back, going against historic trends, more in hope than confidence.
Tip: Kansas City -3.0 points at
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
The Texans lost their first 13 trips to Indianapolis, but have since won three of their last four there, including last season’s 37-34 verdict. However, the Colts had their number in the playoffs and beat Houston twice last term on their own patch.
The outcome of this clash could go a long way to deciding the destination of the AFC South title and the Colts are marginal 1.0-point handicap favourites at BetVictor American Football odds of 10/11.
Tytus Howard’s knee injury means that Houston are scrambling to find depth on their offensive line. He is one of the most consistent tackles in the league and there is a drop-off to Roderick Johnson, who fills in.
Houston is also without its starting CBs, Jonathan Joseph and Bradley Robey, but the defense is ranked in the top 10 against the run, allowing 88ypg and conceding only three TDs on the ground and Colts’ RB Marlon Mack will have to earn every yard.
The Texans starting four defensive linemen have 15 sacks this season with J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus having five apiece, but with the correct play design – plenty of play-action passes on crossing routes, two tight-end sets, designed cut-backs and counters – Houston’s defensive front can be contained.
The Colts’ offensive line is one of the best in the NFL and their defense should be the healthiest it has been all season with the return of both Darius Leonard and Clayton Geathers, and if Justin Houston and company can rattle Deshaun Watson, the hosts can edge this.
Tip: Indianapolis Colts to win at
Los Angeles Rams at Atlanta Falcons
Arizona, Houston and Tennessee have all managed to hurt this Falcons’ defense, so despite a shaky offensive line and QB Jared Goff not quite making the leap many expected, is there any reason why this Rams team should not do the same?
The Rams will miss injured CB Aqib Talib, but Jalen Ramsey’s arrival from Jacksonville helps, and while Matt Ryan will get success against a shaky Rams secondary, the visitors’ front seven will cause plenty of problems for an offensive line that has been beset with injuries and inconsistent play.
While injuries have hurt the Rams – guard Joe Noteboom, safety John Johnston, LB Clay Matthews to name a few – this is the best rushing attack that the Falcons have faced and they also have the best defense the hosts have met.
Rams have lost seven of their last eight to the Falcons and their last four in Atlanta. Yet even if playing at their absolute best – something they have been a long way from doing this season – it is tough to see how the Falcons come out of this with a second win of the season. Take the Rams to bounce back in style and cover a field-goal spread.
Tip: Los Angeles Rams -3.0 points at
Los Angeles Chargers at Tennessee Titans
We thought the Titans (2-4) would be much better. The same applies to the Chargers (2-4), who were Super Bowl dark horses at the start of the season. Six weeks in, and Marcus Mariota’s days as the franchise QB in Tennessee appear to be over. Former Dolphins’ triggerman Ryan Tannehill starts against the Chargers on Sunday.
Tannehill is a serviceable passer, but not a long-term answer, and it is a wonder why the Titans have not utilised Mariota in a similar style offense to the one he was so successful in at Oregon. Let’s be clear: The Titans failed Mariota, not the other way around.
Coodinator Arthur Smith and the offensive staff will likely no be around next year either and head coach Mike Vrabel is on the hotseat, too. They have managed seven points in the last two games combined.
Yet the Chargers also appear to have their problems. Some ugly slow starts have hurt them. They’ve been outscored 38-0 over the past two first halves, and QB Phillip Rivers had three turnovers in their 24-17 home loss to the Steelers.
Tennessee’s defense is permitting an average of 15.3 points per game, fifth best in the NFL, and to beat them, the Chargers need to get more production from RB Melvin Gordon. It is no fluke that since he returned from a hold-out, Austin Eckler’s production has dropped off (only 121 yards the past two games, having amassed 490 yards from scrimmage in the first four).
Chargers have a good record against the Titans, winning 11 of the last 13, including three of the last four at Tennessee, and with such a struggling offense, it is hard to see the hosts covering a 2.0-point spread at odds of 10/11.
TIP: Los Angeles Chargers to win at
New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears
Chicago started slowly in their defeat to the Raiders in London two weeks’ ago, but they may have caught a break this week, as the Saints could be a little one-dimensional with RB Alvin Kamara likely to be ruled out with a high ankle sprain.
The Saints’ offense goes through Kamara, and while they are still the best team in the NFC, the Bears’ defense will likely tee off on WR Michael Thomas.
Bilal Nicholls returns to the Bears’ defensive line and the linebackers are at full strength, so QB Teddy Bridgewater will have to be a game-winner, rather than a game manager for the Saints.
Whether it’s Chase Daniel or Mitchell Trubisky under center, the Bears struggle to move the ball. Chicago is 30th in both yards per play and total offense. The offense hasn’t produced more than 23 points in any of their five games and they perhaps should not be laying more than a field goal at home. As it is, they are asked to concede 3.5 points on the handicap at BetVictor NFL odds of 10/11. That is a red flag. When the odds don’t look right, it is usually with good reason.
The Saints have never won three consecutive trips to Chicago and the odds suggest the hosts will edge it. As is usually the case in Chicago when these two square off, there may be a few more points scored than anticipated. Let’s go against the recent trends, then.
TIP: Chicago to score over 21 points at
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
The NFC East is up for grabs with none of the four teams boasting a winning record. These two possess 3-3 records and both have injury concerns.
The Eagles could be without their top two linebackers after the release of Zach Brown and a knee injury to Nigel Bradham, who is struggling to be fit, and LT Jason Peters is also likely ruled out. Rookie Andre Dillard is set to start in his place.
The key for the Eagles this season was keeping QB Carson Wentz upright and having a raw rookie protecting his blind side comes with potential problems.
However, the injury carnage to Dallas is worse. WRs Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, LT Tyron Smith, RT La’el Collins, CBs Byron Jones and Anthony Brown, and DL Tyrone Crawford are all likely to be missing.
After three straight losses, the Cowboys are reeling. It would help if they did not start so slowly, so flat each week. That is a testament to a lack of leadership.
QB Dak Prescott will attempt to take advantage of a suspect Eagles’ secondary, which has skewed their second-best against the run defense stats, while Wentz will look to feast on a banged-up Dallas D. This all points to plenty of offense. The Eagles have not lost back-to-back games in Dallas since 2010, but a play on the points total is perhaps a safer option.
TIP: Over 49 total points at
New England Patriots at New York Jets
Just how good are the Patriots? They have covered four of six handicaps after padding their 6-0 record with easy wins over teams who have gone a combined 10-23. Could we be giving them a little too much credit?
Likewise, the Jets’ surprise 24-22 win over the Cowboys was their first of the season. Yet it came against an injury-hit squad.
The Patriots failed to cover the spread in beating the Jets 30-14 in Foxboro but this is a better Jets team than the one they put out in Week 3. QB Sam Darnold missed three games and in that time the Jets managed one offensive touchdown. He returned last week to record figures of 23-32 for 338 yards with two touchdowns and an interception against the Cowboys.
Jets will hope that LB C.J. Mosley returns along with TE Chris Herndon for the Monday night clash, where the Patriots could be vulnerable. New England lost LB Dont’a Hightower, S Patrick Chung, WR Josh Gordon, TE Matt LaCosse, and FB Jakob Johnson to injuries last week and if both Hightower and Chung are missing, the Patriots’ defense will be much more vulnerable than it has been.
Patriots have won 15 of the last 17 meetings, including the last three in New York, and while the spread is a lofty one, there is still a gulf in class and that is likely to be underlined.
TIP: New England Patriots -9.5 points at