Week 7 is a point in the season where team strengths and weaknesses grow clearer, numbers continue reverting to the mean and streaks end. Here are a few trends and angles supporting these themes worth considering this NFL Sunday.
The Bills, Chiefs, Jaguars, and Rams each have something in common entering Week 7: They are covering the spread by more than 5 points per game to begin the year. This number is rarely sustainable throughout the course of the season. For most, it will begin to retreat closer to zero the more contests they play. Expect it sooner rather than later.
All four teams are short-priced favorites of less than 4 points this weekend: Chiefs (-2.5) vs. Raiders, Bills (-3) vs. Buccaneers, Jaguars (-3) vs. Colts, and Rams (-3.5) vs. Cardinals. All four of their opponents are playing below the number for the season: Oakland (-3.5), Tampa (-2.1), Indianapolis (-7.5), and Arizona (-7). The market suggests these are classic overachiever-underachiever matchups. History suggests backing the underdogs in this spot.
When a team posting a positive ATS margin squares off against a foe with a negative one in Week 7 and is a short-priced favorite by 3.5 points or fewer, it is 13-28 ATS since 1990. The money line is 21-19-1 at -2.6 average odds.
Defense + Defense = More Defense
The Bengals and Steelers enter their divisional clash at Heinz Field with two of the best scoring defenses in the NFL. Cincinnati allows 16.6 points per game, second behind the Bills (14.8). Pittsburgh, meanwhile, surrenders 17.0 per tilt, fourth best in the league.
What happens when a pair of top defenses clash in Week 7? The trend points to not a lot of scoring. When two teams yielding fewer than 35 points per game combined on the season meet, the ‘under’ is 31-14 (69 percent) since 1992. The average score is 18.4-16.6, playing 3.5 points below a 38.5 total.
AFC North clashes tend to be ‘under’ machines as well. In the last decade, only one season (2011) has witnessed divisional matchups play ‘over’ for the entire year. The ‘under’ is 5-0 in 2017 with one team scoring 10 points or fewer in all but one game.
Fade Poor Passing Chalk
A team must pass the ball efficiently and effectively in the modern NFL to win. Studies have shown it’s nearly three times more important to claiming victory than rushing in the game’s current state. The Titans and Jaguars own two of the weaker pass offenses in the league to date and trends point to at least one struggling this Sunday.
Jacksonville averages 5.9 and Tennessee 6.7 yards per passing attempt. The most glaring stat, however, is their inability to find the end zone through the air; both rank in the bottom third of the league with less than 1.3 passing touchdowns per game. Now, they are punching it in with the running game, ranking in the top five for rushing touchdowns. History, however, shows this is neither viable nor sustainable. They will need a more effective passing game to stay ahead, particularly in tough road contests if asked to come from behind. This situation could present itself this weekend.
The Titans are 6.5-point favorites at Cleveland and the Jags laying a field goal at Indy on Sunday. Road chalk averaging less than 1.5 passing touchdowns on the year is 11-18 ATS in Week 7 since 2001. Backing home underdogs straight up has proven a better money-maker in this spot. They are 15-14 at +4.7 average odds.