Week 7 of the 2022 NFL season is upon us, and there are still several questions about which teams that have started fast are for real and which struggling teams will bounce back.
But what does this all mean from a betting perspective? And what are the best plays to help you make smart wagering decisions?
Betting analysts Doug Kezirian, Tyler Fulghum, Joe Fortenbaugh, Anita Marks; fantasy and sports betting analysts Eric Moody and Andre Snellings; ESPN Stats & Information's Seth Walder; and Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz offer their insight into the games with tips and picks.
Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise indicated.
What is your biggest betting storyline entering Week 6?
Kezirian: From a betting standpoint, the biggest storyline that still resonates with me is how many games are still cashing the under. We currently sit at 60.2%. After two weeks of unders hitting at a 68% clip, the market reacted heavily to the league's lower scoring and seemed to have righted the ship. But it really hasn't. Half the league has quarterback issues or key offensive injuries preventing teams from scoring at a reasonable rate. Plus, a change in defensive coverages this season in the red zone is preventing touchdowns. I do not expect scoring to all of a sudden increase. The question is whether the oddsmakers have adjusted appropriately.
The NBA season is here. Sign up for ESPN Fantasy Basketball today! Play for free
Marks: Kansas City vs. San Francisco is the best game on the slate this week. I like KC -2 and love that the line has gone down since the McCaffrey trade. Word is he will arrive in the Bay area on Friday, and will be utilized in a few red zone packages -- so if you want to play CMac anytime TD -- go for it! However, he doesn't play defense, and this 49ers defense is dealing with a number of injuries. The 49ers play zone coverage 84% of the time and Patrick Mahomes averages nine yards per pass attempt with a 79% completion percentage against zone. I'm excited about the McCaffery trade -- but it's a quick three day turnaround. I still will take the Chiefs and lay the two.
The 49ers acquired Christian McCaffrey late Thursday night. What are your thoughts on San Francisco's futures after the move? (Div: +105 to -105, NFC +700 to +600, Super Bowl +1800 to +1400)
Kezirian: For me, Kyle Shanahan gets deference. He will make it work. This team has been a little hit-or-miss this season but some struggles came with Trey Lance and also with George Kittle injured. I feel like the ceiling is still pretty high and ultimately they will have a good chance to make a deep playoff run, especially because the usual NFC contenders have some issues. Tampa Bay and Green Bay's struggles speak for themselves, while the Eagles have certainly entered the discussion. I would play San Francisco to win the division.
Fortenbaugh: One of the most injury-prone teams in the NFL acquired one of the most injury-prone running backs of the last decade. What could possibly go wrong!? Jokes aside, this offense will be very difficult to defend with a healthy and up-to-speed McCaffrey, but the acquisition doesn't make me like them any more or less now than I did prior to the transaction. The guy has missed 23 of his last 39 games. That absolutely cannot be overlooked. 49ers to win the division is worth a play. Outside of that, I'm passing.
Marks: Looking at future odds on the 49ers after the McCaffrey trade, I like the 49ers to win the division. This move was a big splash for a team, who when healthy, is ready to make a run at a Super Bowl title. McCaffrey joins a crowded backfield, but his skill set allows Kyle Shanahan to utilize him in a variety of ways -- especially in the passing game. He has experience playing in an outside zone-heavy scheme -- and adding him to the mix with Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk make the 49ers offense very dangerous for opposing defenses. I can envision a 49ers-Eagles NFC Championship game in the city of brotherly love, but I still have the Eagles advancing to the Super Bowl.
Walder: Can I bet against the 49ers to win the Super Bowl at 1-14? I get that Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, but I'm wary of an injury-prone veteran running back moving the needle that much, even one as good at receiving as McCaffrey.
Fulghum: I had already picked the 49ers to win the division and this only strengthens that conviction. Obviously, they need some better injury luck to break their way in December/January, but the top end talent on this roster can stack up with anybody else's in the league. What is kind of funny is that the Shanahan zone run scheme does not require elite level talent at the RB position to be wildly efficient. In fact, most of the success stories are players that were draft afterthoughts (Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Raheem Mostert, Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson Jr.), but having someone like CMC to pair with George Kittle and Deebo Samuel cannot be ignored. This team can beat anyone in the league on any given Sunday if they play their "A" game. I wouldn't fault anyone for betting them to win the NFC West, NFC, or the Super Bowl.
The Chiefs now welcome the 49ers to GEHA Field on Sunday and were only a 2.5-point favorite on Thursday. What are your thoughts on this game (48.5 total) and which side would you take?
Schatz: I'm just too scared off of the 49ers by the injury bug. Talanoa Huganga, for example, has been hugely important to that defense, but now he's in concussion protocol. Charvarius Ward is not practicing due to a groin injury. Nick Bosa might be back, but will he be 100%? If everyone was healthy, I could see the 49ers slowing down Mahomes. The way things are now, I don't. And while the Chiefs defense is poor by DVOA, ranking only 28th in the league, some of that has to do with yardage given up when the Chiefs are leading big. The Chiefs have a tendency to fool our numbers because they "shut it down" with a lead in a way other teams do not. So give me the Chiefs -2.5 here.
Fortenbaugh: I'm waiting for the +3 with San Francisco, but I'd also play the Niners in a 6-point teaser by moving the line from +2.5 to +8.5. I think this is too much to ask of Kansas City's defense. They just played a terrific game against Buffalo and now have to turn around and travel to a nonconference opponent who is very difficult to game plan for. Look for big games from both Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk against a lousy Chiefs secondary that has been torched by good receivers all year. Take note that San Francisco is 6-1 ATS over its last seven games when coming off a loss. Kyle Shanahan as a 'dog is always preferred over Kyle Shanahan as a favorite.
Fulghum: I lean to the under 48.5 in this game. San Francisco will have the benefit of its home crowd and will have a better chance at controlling game script and tempo than if this game was at Kansas City. Even though the 49ers are dealing with major injury issues on defense, the Chiefs are less equipped this year in terms of offensive personnel to make teams pay for that. I expect Shanahan to challenge his team to bounce back after the embarrassing loss against Atlanta, so I expect a typically physical, tough 49ers game environment, which guides me to the under.
Snellings: I'm rolling with the Chiefs -2.5. On the whole, they're just a better team that's likely not in the best of moods after losing to their big rival last week. Then there's the myriad of 49ers injuries, particularly on defense, that makes them more vulnerable to Mahomes and crew. Finally, the Falcons gave a clinic on how to exploit the 49ers' defense with the power run game. The Chiefs don't typically do that, but they've got runners that can move with power inside ... particularly against a 49ers front that will be loosened as they try to contend with the threat of Mahomes' arm.
The New York Giants are 3-point underdogs to the Jacksonville Jaguars this week despite being 5-1 against the spread. What are your thoughts on the side and total (42) for this game, and who do you like?
Schatz: I've been burned by the Giants all season; this is the team I was the most wrong about in the preseason. So I'm staying away from the spread in this one, but I really like going with over 42. Jacksonville's offense has been more consistent than its defense, which has a good rating primarily built on the 24-0 stomping of Indianapolis back in Week 2. The Giants rank 30th in defensive DVOA, while their offense is 13th ... and has been flying high the past couple of weeks. The Giants were the No. 2 pass offense by DVOA in Weeks 4-6! I think we're going to see more scoring than expected in this game.
Fulghum: The 5-1 Giants are 3-point 'dogs against a 2-4 Jacksonville team? Does it not seem like the books are daring you to take the G-Men? When I feel that, I go the other way. Strip away the records and the metrics tell you the Jaguars are a vastly superior team. They have a massive advantage at QB. Their offense is 11th in the league in yards per play; the Giants' offense is 22nd. The Jags' defense is ninth in the league in yards per play allowed; the Giants' defense ranks 23rd in that metric. The Giants have been a great story and I wouldn't be surprised if they steal yet another game, but I'm taking the home favorite here. Jaguars -3.
Marks: The wrong team is favored here, and no, I'm not drinking the blue Kool-Aid. Brian Daboll and Wink Martingdale have Big Blue rolling. Offensively, Saquon Barkley (140 touches this season) should take advantage of the Jags' poor defense against running backs in the passing game. I expect the Giants to stack the box and put the game in Trevor Lawrence's hands, where Wink's defense schemes will force at least two INTs this game.
Snellings: I'm riding with the Giants to cover on this one, as I have for the past few weeks. I picked them to cover against both the Ravens and the Packers because their brand of defense-first approach with dynamic running and just enough passing to keep opponents honest has been working in the NFL this season. The Jets and Cooper Rush-led Cowboys have been winning using this exact same formula. The Jaguars were successful with this approach the first couple of games but moved away from James Robinson pounding the rock and more toward the pass game and Travis Etienne's explosive abilities ... and lost three straight games. This should be an old-school, smashmouth game, and I'll take the team that has proven it can do that and win against tough competition. And the extra three points don't hurt.
What are the three most important things our analytics say?
Walder: I'll give you three takes on sides via ESPN's Football Power Index.
FPI prediction: Cowboys by 11.8
There was a time when the FPI almost couldn't get any lower on the Cowboys. Dak Prescott was injured, and the team had disappointed in Week 1 anyway. How the tables have turned. The offense held up with Cooper Rush at the helm, while the defense excelled, and now Prescott is back. Going forward, the FPI makes the Cowboys the seventh-best team in football -- and that hardly seems unreasonable. It remains extremely skeptical of the Lions because of their defense and thus believes Dallas wins in a blowout here.
Kansas City Chiefs (-2.5) at San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
FPI prediction: Chiefs by 6.9
Let me start by saying FPI's prediction is going to shorten here if Trent Williams and Nick Bosa, who both returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday, are able to play. That would be a big boost to the 49ers. But I'm sure the prediction will remain on the other side of a field goal from the line, and that makes it a worthwhile favorite to back for the FPI. Ultimately, the Chiefs are the best offense in football -- both in terms of efficiency thus far this season and what the FPI forecasts for the rest of the year -- and that's the most valuable attribute a team can have.
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3) vs. New York Giants
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, TIAA Bank Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla.
FPI prediction: Jaguars by 7.1
The FPI bought in hard on the Jaguars after their hot start and really hasn't cooled much during Jacksonville's fallow stretch since. Despite losing three straight games, the Jaguars rank in the top 11 in expected points added per play on both sides of the ball. Both teams here have a weakness in pass protection, but the Jaguars are in much better position to take advantage; they lead the league in pass rush win rate.
What is your best bet for Week 7?
Schatz: Baltimore Ravens -6.5 against Cleveland. Surprisingly, Football Outsiders metrics still have Baltimore as the second-best team in the AFC by DVOA, ahead of Kansas City. Cleveland is only 21st in DVOA, and worse, it is 31st on defense. The Ravens will be able to run on the Browns with impunity. Obviously, the problem with the Ravens has been giving up big fourth-quarter leads. But as Bill Barnwell pointed out in his column trying to figure out the No. 3 team in the AFC, teams that start the season by collapsing in the fourth quarter don't necessarily continue to collapse in the fourth quarter the rest of the year. The Ravens are ready for a dominating win in which everything works well together, and I think this is the week.
Fortenbaugh: Tennessee Titans -1 in the first half over Indianapolis. Tennessee is at home and coming off a bye. Additionally, the Titans rank in the top 10 in the NFL in both first-half scoring offense and first-half scoring defense. Conversely, the Colts rank 26th or worse in both first-half scoring and first-half scoring defense.
Fulghum: I'm sorry, until I see otherwise, I'm just going to keep expecting Denver Broncos games to feature about 30 total points. I'm going under the very low total of 38 vs. the Jets in Week 7. With Zach Wilson at QB, the Jets have won three straight games with a formula built on running the ball with Breece Hall and Michael Carter. It's very difficult to pass the ball against the Broncos' defense, especially when they're at home. Then there is Russell Wilson (if he plays) and the Denver offense. What inspires confidence that Nathaniel Hackett and that bunch can light up the scoreboard? I don't see it.
Marks: Titans -2.5 vs. Colts and Titans -1 first quarter (+125). Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is still dealing with an ankle injury, and even if he does suit up he will not be 100%. The Titans held Taylor to less than 50 yards in Week 4, beating the Colts 24-17. The Titans are coming off the bye, have Derrick Henry with fresh legs and have the best touchdown percentage offensively in the red zone. Mike Vrabel is 8-0 straight up and against the spread off eight days of rest. I love the Titans -1 in the first quarter. Tennessee OC Todd Downey has scored an opening drive TD in four of five games and is a creator of one of the best scripted game plans in the league. The Colts rank 28th in the league in points scored in the first quarter.
Snellings: I'm going New York Jets +1.5 over the Broncos. Both New York teams are underdogs, despite having played significantly better than their opponents over the season and past few weeks. The Jets seem to have found a blueprint that works, much like the Giants, relying on their defense and running game to control the action. The Broncos' defense has been wonderful, but their offense has been nonexistent. I'll take the Jets to continue their march toward respectability as the Broncos keep trying to figure out their path forward.
Moody: Atlanta Falcons +6.5 against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Falcons are underdogs for the seventh consecutive week and are the only unbeaten team in the NFL against the spread at 6-0. They have one of the most effective rushing offenses in the league, averaging 33.7 attempts (2nd) and 165.2 yards per game (3rd). Atlanta will test a struggling Bengals run defense that has allowed 156 rushing yards per game over the past few weeks. This matchup will be closer than people think.
What is your favorite player prop?
Fulghum: Josh Jacobs over 81.5 rushing yards. Jacobs is making me look foolish for fading his season outlook this year. He has been absolutely incredible. Josh McDaniels is feeding him the rock in both the run game (91 attempts for 490 yards this season) and passing game (17 receptions for 129 yards). He has caught at least five passes in each of his last three games. The matchup and game environment are about as good as it gets. Houston is allowing the most fantasy points to opposing RBs in the NFL mostly because they're allowing 164.8 rush yards per game.
Walder: Noah Fant over 2.5 receptions (-167). Sure, laying -167 isn't the most fun way to bet a prop, but Fant's a value even at this price. Fant has a 13% target share this season, and if we take Geno Smith's passing attempts line (34.5) and multiply by .13 we get an expected 4.5 targets for Fant. He has caught 70% of his passes in his career but 83% this year, so just looking at his averages alone we're looking at somewhere close to 3.5 expected receptions. But Fant is also coming off a seven-target game. When modeling out target share I found that the past game does carry additional signal, which is part of why I forecast a 15.6% target share for Fant on Sunday. Given all that, I think this is a fairly safe over, even at the price.
Moody: Austin Ekeler over 60.5 rushing yards. Ekeler has averaged 58.2 rushing yards on 12.5 attempts per game. It would be wise for the Chargers to have him more involved on the ground. The Seahawks defense has allowed the second most rushing yards per game this season(165.8) and there is no doubt that Ekeler should have a monster game.