NFL Picks Week 7: Greg Olsen, Undefeated Panthers Welcome Eagles

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Things are starting to get interesting.

On the football field, disappointing showings by the Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals have NFL experts rethinking their opinions of the league’s near-elite. In the picking booth, the same is happening to NESN.com’s pacesetter.

After blitzing through the first five weeks, NESN.com’s Ben Watanabe hit his first speed bump in Week 6. A poor week by our leader allowed the other competitors to gain ground for the first time this season, and suddenly we’re just one slip-up away from having a new No. 1.

Here’s how things stack up heading into Week 7:
Ben Watanabe: 51-38-2 (Last week: 5-9). Bet on dead-armed Peyton Manning and wild-armed Jay Cutler in the same week. Bad move.
Mike Cole: 47-42-2 (Last week: 6-8). Biding his time for a big strike?
Ricky Doyle: 47-42-2 (Last week: 7-7). Pulls into a tie for second with a rousing .500 showing last week.

THURSDAY, OCT. 22
(-6.5) Seattle Seahawks (2-4) at San Francisco 49ers (2-4), 8:25 p.m. ET
Ricky: Seahawks. Seattle’s in some trouble. That said, the Seahawks’ schedule hasn’t been easy. And while I’d side with most other teams in this situation, the 49ers — third-worst offense, second-worst defense — don’t give me much to hang my hat on despite being home and coming off a win.
Ben: Seahawks. The four teams Seattle has lost to have a combined record of 19-3. The ‘Hawks have also beaten the spread eight times in their last 10 matchups with the Niners. Go 12s.
Mike: Seahawks. To add to what Ben mentioned, the Seahawks are actually outscoring opponents by nine points this season, and two of their three road losses have been in overtime, with all three losses coming to teams better than San Fran.

SUNDAY, OCT. 25
(-7) Buffalo Bills (3-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5), 9:30 a.m.
Ricky: Bills. A sleep specialist predicted the Jaguars will lose “pretty badly” after looking at the team’s London travel plans. You know who else will lose “pretty badly?” Anyone who sets their alarm for this game. Recharge your batteries instead.
Ben: Bills. Buffalo has its own list of issues, most notably but not limited to its quarterback situation, but few problems in this world reach the heights of Jacksonville’s eternal struggle against the point spread.
Mike: Bills. This game’s in London, so it’s basically a crapshoot, but the Bills have covered in four of their last five games against the Jags, who — objectively speaking — stink.

(-2.5) Minnesota Vikings (3-2) at Detroit Lions (1-5), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Vikings. It was nice of the Lions to show up last week against the Bears. Now that they got their win out of the system, it’s time to return to their losing ways.
Ben: Vikings. Detroit defied Las Vegas last week by beating the Bears. Hooray! The only thing is, that’s the only time in their last six games the Lions beat the spread, and sources out of the Twin Cities tell us the Vikes are honing their “Golden Tate Non-Catch Defense” just for this matchup.
Mike: Vikings. If you’ve been betting on the Vikings recently, you’ve made a lot of money. They’re 9-2 ATS in their last 11 and 5-2 ATS in their last seven road games.

New Orleans Saints (2-4) at (-4.5) Indianapolis Colts (3-3), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Colts. I’d make a joke about the Colts’ silly fake punt attempt against the Patriots. But the fact is: it’d probably work against the Saints’ defense.
Ben: Saints. New Orleans is suddenly, strangely effective against the spread, going 3-1 in its last four games in that regard. It’s tough to overlook the Colts’ 11-4-1 ATS record in their last 16 home games, though.
Mike: Colts. I hate this game not only because of the spread, but it also feels like this has letdown game written all over it for the Colts after putting so much into the Patriots game last week. Still, the Saints are giving up 32 points per game on the road.

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-5), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Steelers. Pittsburgh ranks fifth in the NFL with just 18 points allowed per game, and Kansas City is coming off a 10-point output on the heels of Jamaal Charles’ season-ending injury. Plus, the Chiefs are 0-5 straight-up and against the spread in their last five games.
Ben: Steelers. Is it me, or is Landry Jones not terrible? Or does he just appear better because he was preceded at quarterback by Mike Vick?
Mike: Steelers. Was gonna mention that the Chiefs might have a shot since this game’s in Kansas City, and then I remembered they lost to Chicago at home.

Houston Texans (2-4) at (-4) Miami Dolphins (2-3), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Dolphins. I said last week the Dolphins would enjoy a nice two-game stretch before getting destroyed by the Patriots in Week 8. I’m not in the mood to backtrack.
Ben: Texans. Traditionally, Texas has owned this matchup, winning the last seven showdowns and beating the spread five times. The Fins are flying high, but the boost of adrenaline a new head coach brings only lasts so long.
Mike: Dolphins. Miami committed to the run game last week and was rewarded. Should be the same thing this week against a Houston team that’s allowing 128.5 rushing yards in its four losses.

New York Jets (4-1) at (-10) New England Patriots (5-0), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Jets. The Jets’ defense is one of maybe two units in the NFL — the other being the Broncos’ D — that could slow the Patriots’ high-powered offense. The Pats will win. Just not by 10 points.
Ben: Jets. This defense is for real, and the Pats’ injuries on defense and along their offensive line makes this the worst possible time for New England to run into its most bitter rival.
Mike: Jets. The Patriots have been favored at home by at least 10 points against the Jets five times since the 2006 season. They’ve covered once.

Cleveland Browns (2-4) at (-7) St. Louis Rams (2-3), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Browns. Todd Gurley’s a beast. And that scares me in this game. But I have a hard time picking the Rams, whose two wins have been by a combined five points, to cover by anything more than a field goal. Each of the Browns’ last three losses have been by exactly three points.
Ben: Rams. This one should be closer to a field goal, or at least the 4 1/2 points it opened at. Still, even a Nick Foles-led offense is a touchdown better than Cleveland as long as Aaron Donald’s on the other side of the ball.
Mike: Rams. The Rams are coming off the bye and Todd Gurley gets a chance to go up against the NFL’s worst rushing defense. So, yeah.

(-4) Atlanta Falcons (5-1) at Tennessee Titans (1-4), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Falcons. This spread seems like an overreaction to Atlanta’s loss last week in New Orleans. Those Thursday night games always are fluky, though. Falcons by a touchdown on the Lord’s Day.
Ben: Falcons. The Dirty Birds are on a two-game ATS losing streak, and it’s hard to be bullish on a team that just lost to the Saints. Regardless, we’re instituting a new rule against picking teams that were just embarrassed by the Dolphins and have beat-up quarterbacks.
Mike: Falcons. There’s rain in the forecast for Sunday in Nashville, which might turns this into a ground game. Advantage: Falcons.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) at (-3) Washington Redskins (2-4), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Redskins. The Bucs rank fifth in the NFL in yards allowed per game (322.8) and 31st in points allowed per game (29.6), so even they can’t make up their minds. For a game in which my interest couldn’t be lower, I’ll side with the home team, which should run the ball in its own barn against Tampa Bay’s mysterious D.
Ben: Redskins. All the numbers point to the Bucs here, which is why it’s amazingly dumb of me to side with the ‘Skins. But Temple alum Terrance Knighton will celebrate his Owls’ first top-25 ranking in 36 years by bottling up Doug Martin and the rest will be academic.
Mike: Buccaneers. The Redskins have allowed 397 total rushing yards in their last two games; Doug Martin has rushed for 229 yards in his last two games. 

Oakland Raiders (2-3) at (-4) San Diego Chargers (2-4), 4:05 p.m.
Ricky: Chargers. Philip Rivers’ arm might fall off by Week 10. Fortunately, the Chargers have a bye that week, so they’ll sew it back on in time for San Diego’s Week 11 game against K.C.
Ben: Raiders. The Chargers don’t cover at home. We repeat: The Chargers don’t cover at home. They’re 0-2 ATS this season and 1-7 ATS in their last eight at Qualcomm. The Raiders are also 7-3 ATS in the last 10 matchups between these division rivals. Just win, baby.
Mike: Chargers. The Chargers need a season-saving run. The good news? Their next five opponents enter this week with a combined 7-22 record, including this week against a Raiders defense that’s allowing 300 passing yards per game.

Dallas Cowboys (2-3) at (-3) New York Giants (3-3), 4:25 p.m.
Ricky: Giants. Matt Cassel under center and Christine Michael potentially leading the backfield? That’s enough to make even the biggest Dallas optimist dry heave.
Ben: Giants. Monday’s stink lingers, but I’m still taking the G-Men, because East Rutherford, N.J., is a comfortable enough distance up I-95 from South Philly. Plus, the Cowboys have dropped three straight against the spread.
Mike: Giants. The Cowboys are 1-4 in their last five games coming off a bye. How is that even possible?

Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) at (-3) Carolina Panthers (5-0), 8:30 p.m.
Ricky: Panthers. Carolina is getting no love this season. So until that changes, I’m rolling with the Panthers, whose defense is good enough to cause problems for the Eagles’ sporadic offense.
Ben: Panthers. These field-goal-at-home spreads for Carolina need to stop. The Panthers are 3-0 ATS this season when the spread is a three points or less. It’s just too damn easy.
Mike: Panthers. The surprisingly upstart Eagles defense matches up well here, but I just can’t take Sam Bradford on the road.

MONDAY, OCT. 26
Baltimore Ravens (1-5) at (-9) Arizona Cardinals (4-2), 8:30 p.m.
Ricky: Cardinals. Bad news for the Cardinals: They’ve lost two of their last three games after establishing themselves as NFC powerhouses over the first three weeks. Good news for the Cardinals: They beat up on bad teams and one’s coming to town Monday night.
Ben: Cardinals. Death, taxes and Arizona beating the spread seemed like to only certainties in life in September. Then they dropped two out of three ATS this month, which would give us pause if they weren’t hosting the hapless Blackbirds.
Mike: Cardinals. The Ravens haven’t covered since Week 1 and face a tough matchup against a Cardinals team looking to bounce back and build on an 8-2 ATS stretch at home.

Thumbnail photo via Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Aug 22, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (88) runs after making a catching a pass while Miami Dolphins linebacker Chris McCain (58) pursues during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

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