NFL Week 7 Expert Best Bets: Back the Saints Off of a Bye

8-1 against the spread off of bye weeks since 2009, the underdog Saints are a strong play at Baltimore on Sunday. Who else do our experts like to cover?
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Our experts are backing a wide variety of quarterbacks this week, from the all-time passing leader to a rookie who just topped 1,000 career yards last week. Read on to see their best bets against the spread in Week 7.

Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles (-4.5)

Sun. 10/21, 1:00 p.m. ET

Pick: Philadelphia -4.5

The Panthers come into this one having gone 0-4 both straight up and against the spread over their past four regular-season road games since the start of last December, and they’ve been outscored by an average of 27 to 18 in those games despite not having been an underdog of six or more points in any of the games. Philadelphia, meanwhile, is 9-0 ATS at home when coming off an ATS win under current head coach Doug Peterson, and the Eagles are 5-1 both straight up and ATS at home against NFC South opponents since the start of the 2014 season. A strong betting system that backs the Birds is the fact that home favorites of between 3.5 and 10 points are 24-5 against the spread since the start of the 2009 season when coming off a game in which they committed no turnovers and are facing an opponent coming off a game in which it had a turnover margin of -3 or worse. The average margin of those 29 games has been 13.9 despite the fact that the average point spread has been 6.6. — Scott Gramling

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-4.5)

Sun. 10/21, 1:00 p.m. ET

Pick: Jacksonville -4.5

It’s hard to believe that either of these teams is 3-3. Jacksonville began the season 3-1 with a win over the Patriots; Houston started the year 0-3 with a loss to the Giants—New York’s only victory so far. But while the Jaguars’ slide can be explained quite simply—they lost to a Super Bowl contender in Kansas City and were unprepared in Dallas—the Texans’ ascent needs to be put into proper perspective. The Texans escaped the woeful Colts in overtime, edged the Cowboys in overtime thanks in large part to head coach Jason Garrett’s ill-fated decision to punt from Houston’s 42-yard line, and only beat the Bills because of Nathan Peterman, the crime against sports who gives away games like philanthropists give away money.

At home, Jacksonville has covered five of its last seven games, including a 45-7 victory over Houston last December. On the road, Houston has covered just one of its last six. Recency bias has dropped this line to about a field goal less than it should be. — Ed McGrogan

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Minnesota Vikings (-3) at New York Jets

Sun. 10/21, 1:00 p.m. ET

Pick: NY Jets +3

Like any rookie quarterback, Sam Darnold has seen ups and downs over the first few weeks of his career. Over the past two weeks, though, Darnold appears to have taken a significant step forward in his development, and the Jets offense has thrived as a result. Between a 34-16 win over Denver and a 42-34 win over Indianapolis, Darnold threw five touchdowns and averaged 9.2 yards per attempt through the air. To be sure, he got plenty of help: 318 rushing yards from his running backs against the Broncos and a defensive touchdown against the Colts. Those are the boosts that first-year QBs need from their teammates to win games.

Given that Denver and Indy field two of the league's weaker defenses, no one's expecting these types of performances from Darnold on a weekly basis. But playing at home for the third straight game this Sunday, he gets another weak pass defense when the Vikings come to town. Minnesota's D entered the season with a sterling reputation after a monstrous 2017-18 campaign, but this year's unit has been a shell of its former self in allowing 8.4 yards per pass attempt to opposing QBs, ranking 29th in the NFL. (Indianapolis and Denver each allow at least a full yard less.) Cardinals rookie Josh Rosen easily set career highs for completion percentage (67.7) and passing yards (240) against the Vikings last Sunday, and their secondary got weaker still when first-round draft choice CB Mike Hughes suffered what may be a torn ACL.

With a strong passing attack led by Kirk Cousins, Minnesota should be able to score plenty itself. But the Jets have posed a surprisingly stiff test to opposing passers, ranking among the top 10 in the NFL with only 6.6 yards allowed per attempt. Take the points for a Jets team that hasn't yet had to leave the comforts of beautiful New Jersey in the month of October. — Sam Chase

New Orleans Saints at Baltimore Ravens (-2.5)

Sun. 10/21, 4:05 p.m. ET

Pick: New Orleans +2.5

There’s no denying that the Ravens are playing some good football this season, but the wrong team is favored in this game. Since suffering a stunning 48-40 loss to the Buccaneers in Week 1, New Orleans has won its past four games by an average of 12 points per game. Drew Brees has been unstoppable this season, throwing for 1,658 yards with 11 touchdowns and no picks. Things won’t be as easy against a Baltimore defense that is allowing only 215 yards per game through the air, but I’ll take a great offense over a great defense any day. And while New Orleans’ defense is easily beatable, the Ravens don’t have the offensive firepower to take full advantage. They like to win low-scoring contests, and it’s going to be difficult to make Sean Payton’s team play that type of game.  

There’s also the fact that the Saints are coming into this game off a bye. Since the start of the 2009 season, New Orleans is an incredible 7-2 straight up and 8-1 against the spread when having an extra week to prepare. It’s extra important that the Saints had their bye week before this one, as Payton and Brees will have more time to come up with a plan to beat a strong Ravens defense. The Saints are going to win this game outright. — Zachary Cohen