If you believe a subpar NFL slate is better than no NFL, that theory will get put to the test this weekend.
Simply put, Week 7 does not feature a very appetizing schedule of games, between bye weeks for contenders and some massive double-digit spreads for the good teams actually playing.
Yet, that’s not enough to keep us from making against-the-spread picks for each and every game this week — and every week. NESN.com’s Mike Cole and Ricky Doyle will give it their best to find winners in a very tricky week of NFL action.
Here’s how they fared last week.
Here are their Week 7 picks, with betting lines from DraftKings Sportsbook.
THURSDAY, OCT. 21
Denver Broncos at (-2) Cleveland Browns, 8:20 p.m. ET
Mike: Browns. Cleveland’s injury issues — Baker Mayfield being out chief among them — are obvious. But maybe they’ll be better with a healthy Case Keenum? The Broncos, it seems, are just bad, and Teddy Bridgewater is dealing with a foot issue of his own, too.
Ricky: Browns. Honestly not ruling out Mike’s point about Cleveland potentially being better with a healthy Keenum, largely because the Browns are built to win with quarterback play that doesn’t proactively hurt them.
SUNDAY, OCT. 24
New York Jets at (-6.5) New England Patriots, 1 p.m.
Mike: Patriots. Don’t really like either side here, but the Patriots were 5.5-point favorites against the Jets in Week 2 — on the road. Not much has changed since then. The biggest issue either team faces feels like New York’s inability to block for Zach Wilson, which the Patriots should be able to expose again.
Ricky: Patriots. Perfect get-right spot for the Patriots after last week’s heartbreaker against the Cowboys, a game in which New England hung tough against a top-tier team before falling in overtime. The Jets still have serious offensive issues.
Washington Football Team at (-8) Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Football Team. The line has yo-yo’d a bunch already, but it hasn’t dropped enough to take Green Bay. The Packers have a Week 8 showdown with the Cardinals on Thursday night, which makes this an obvious trip-up spot. Still not entirely sold on the Packers’ offensive line, which will get another stiff test here.
Ricky: Football Team. Washington’s defense has been really bad — what the heck happened? — but Green Bay’s offense still feels a little off whenever Aaron Rodgers has trouble chucking it up to Davante Adams a bunch of times. That floor for the Packers makes this spread a tad too hefty.
Cincinnati Bengals at (-6) Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bengals. The number feels too high, especially against this Bengals offense that should be able to put up some points against a questionable Ravens secondary. Baltimore also loves to blitz (No. 4 in blitz rate), but it should think twice about that this week against Joe Burrow, who has a 136 passer rating versus the blitz.
Ricky: Bengals. Not only does Cincinnati have the offensive depth to cause problems for Baltimore. The Bengals’ defense also has been a revelation this season, ranking fifth in DVOA (No. 4 in rush DVOA and No. 8 in pass DVOA), per Football Outsiders.
(-5.5) Kansas City Chiefs at Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m.
Mike: Chiefs. It’s possible Derrick Henry goes off against an iffy KC defense, but it’s more likely Patrick Mahomes and Co. get really right against a secondary that is now down two starters after Caleb Farley tore his ACL on Monday night.
Ricky: Chiefs. Less than a touchdown against a ho-hum opponent with a shaky defense? This is a spot where I’m absolutely comfortable backing the Chiefs despite their volatility to this point. Kansas City has the offense to compensate for its defensive flaws, whereas the jury still is out on Tennessee’s offense despite the Titans taking advantage of a classic letdown spot for the Bills in Week 6. The Chiefs rank fourth in nets yards per drive, while the Titans rank 17th.
(-3) Carolina Panthers at New York Giants, 1 p.m.
Mike: Panthers. It might be a square pick, but the Giants are last in the NFL in combined quarterback knockdowns and sacks, meaning they’re not really getting near the QB. Sam Darnold, no stranger to the Meadowlands, has a passer rating 40 points higher when clean than under pressure.
Ricky: Panthers. The injury bug just keeps chomping away at the Giants. While Carolina’s offense clearly isn’t the same without Christian McCaffrey, the defense still should be good enough to handle anything New York throws its way.
(-2.5) Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Dolphins. Tough scheduling spot here, with Miami coming back from London to face Atlanta coming off the bye, but I’m still hesitant to lay anything with the Falcons on the road. The Dolphins’ offense showed signs of life with Tua Tagovailoa back and throwing for 329 yards and two TDs in his return.
Ricky: Dolphins. Tagovailoa seems like a lame-duck quarterback right now based on the Deshaun Watson trade rumors. Maybe that provides an extra kick in the pants? After all, losing to the Jaguars — which the Dolphins did last week — is rock bottom in the NFL.
Detroit Lions at (-14.5) Los Angeles Rams, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Lions. Jared Goff was called out by his head coach last week and now goes back to face his former team. If he can’t muster a good performance here, yikes. He and the Lions rally to keep this just close enough.
Ricky: Rams. It’s weird. The perpetually bad Lions don’t feel as awful as their 0-6 record and overall talent indicates. Like, they’ve been pesky at various points so far this season. But you know both quarterbacks — Goff and Matthew Stafford — want to hang 40 points on their former team. And the Rams’ offense facing the Lions’ defense is a recipe for Stafford to actually accomplish that goal.
Philadelphia Eagles at (-3.5) Las Vegas Raiders, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Eagles. Philly has the most explosive rushing offense in the NFL, while the Raiders are one of the worst in the league when it comes to stopping big plays on the ground. This feels like a big Jalen Hurts game in front of a whole bunch of Eagles fans making the trip to the desert.
Ricky: Eagles. The Raiders are coming off an emotional road win over the Broncos following Jon Gruden’s departure. Reality will settle in this week, though, with the Eagles creating enough pressure up the middle to throw Derek Carr off his game.
Chicago Bears at (-12.5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Bucs. Leaned Chicago here initially because of Tampa Bay’s depleted secondary, but can Justin Fields really make it an issue? The Bears’ run game was effective last week, but this is a far stiffer test, and so I don’t think a one-dimensional Chicago offense can keep pace with Tom Brady.
Ricky: Bucs. No team blitzes more frequently than the Bucs (39%). And Justin Fields ranks 30th in adjusted completion percentage against the blitz (among 32 QBs with at least 30 blitzed dropbacks).
Houston Texans at (-17.5) Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Texans. I already hate myself for taking Houston, especially considering they just lost 31-3 to a worse Indy team. But it’s a lot of points, and Arizona could get caught looking ahead to Thursday night against the Packers.
Ricky: Cardinals. Told NESN’s own Sam Panayotovich after this week’s episode of The Spread: Don’t get too cute. So, I’m going to heed my own advice for this obvious mismatch.
Indianapolis Colts at (-4.5) San Francisco 49ers, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Colts. Indy’s offense, especially through the air, with Carson Wentz posting a 123.4 passer rating the last three games. The competition has been iffy, but I’m not sure San Francisco is a whole lot better, while the 49ers have some looming questions at QB.
Ricky: Colts. Indianapolis’ defense has shown an ability to stop the run, ranking first in rush EPA and second in rush success rate. That doesn’t bode well for a San Francisco offense dealing with serious questions at the quarterback position, as the Niners probably will need to air it out at some point.
MONDAY, OCT. 25
(-4.5) New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Seahawks. Is Geno Smith good? No, so that is a problem. But is Jameis Winston good? Not so sure on that one, either. So, it’s hard to lay points on the road in Seattle, even in spite of the Seahawks’ issues. As long as Seattle plays a responsible game and doesn’t do anything too dumb, the collective talent level is similar enough to keep it close.
Ricky: Saints. Keeping pace with the Steelers — which the Seahawks did in their Week 6 primetime matchup — is different than keeping pace with the Saints, who are coming off a bye, getting healthier and feature a defense that can fluster below-average quarterbacks. New Orleans’ defense ranks third in overall DVOA, trailing only Buffalo and Arizona.