Betting Opportunities for Week 7 NFL Matchups

Each week during the 2021 NFL season, Sports Info Solutions will highlight the spread of three games including Monday Night Football.

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Philadelphia Eagles (+3) at Las Vegas Raiders

Las Vegas is coming home after a victory (in which the final score was closer than the game) over the division rival Broncos. They’ll face a slightly-more-rested Eagles team coming off a loss to the Bucs (in which the final score was closer than the game). This line smells a bit fishy as a consequence, so let’s see if there’s reason to bite on the Eagles.

Jalen Hurts is in the top five fantasy quarterbacks this season, but isn’t in the top half of starting quarterbacks in SIS’s Total Points, which measures his contributions (passing and rushing) to the team’s Expected Points Added. Only Jared Goff has had a higher percentage of his passing yards come from yards after the catch. That means Hurts is as reliant as anyone on a group of skill position players that doesn’t exactly jump off the screen, and that was before trading Zach Ertz to the Cardinals.

For what it’s worth, the Ertz trade doesn’t impact the way the Eagles’ offense operates as much as it might have in years past. Last year they came out in 12 personnel more than anyone, but this year not so much. That said, they have been more successful both running and passing out of 12 than 11 so far this year, ranking second-worst in Positive% (percent of plays with a positive EPA) when passing out of 11. More single-tight-end sets seems like a problem based on early returns.

These two teams contrast in their defensive approach. The Eagles use middle-of-the-field-open coverages as much as anyone, while the Raiders are sixth in the use of middle-of-the-field-closed coverages. Carr has both seen more of and performed better against the types of coverages the Eagles rarely use, while Hurts has been about the same regardless of the safety look, at least as a passer. If you enjoy playing the “which Derek Carr will we see” game, it might make sense to take the pessimistic angle. 

Falcons at Dolphins (+2.5)

This game is a test of the importance of scheduling. Atlanta is coming off a bye, while Miami has the misfortune of playing stateside the week following a London game, as rarity but something some teams have requested in recent years. 

The key thing that makes the Dolphins a live dog is that the Falcons probably shouldn’t be giving points on the road to anyone. Summing a team’s Total Points gives us a good sense of the overall quality of a team, and Atlanta leads only the Jaguars and Lions on a per-game basis. That they are considered favorites in this game suggests that quite a bit of value is being attributed to the rest factor.

The Dolphins’ poor statistical profile is largely the result of blowouts against two of the best teams in the league (Bills and Bucs) without Tua Tagovailoa on the field. Not that they’ve been world-beaters (or even Jaguars-beaters) with him under center, but the offense has been 7 EPA per 60 plays better with him on the field.

One thing to watch out for is Miami’s defensive gameplan and whether Kyle Pitts’s breakout continues. The Dolphins are clearly confident in their secondary, playing Dime personnel more than anyone and man coverage quite a bit, particularly single-high. The Falcons overall have been excellent facing man coverage (59% Positive%), with Pitts, in particular, being their most productive receiver, ranking fourth in the NFL in Total Points Earned per route against man coverage.

Neither team is likely to light it up on the ground in this one, but the matchup seems particularly ill-suited for the Falcons. Despite using six defensive backs as often as they do (and yielding 8 yards per carry when teams run against that personnel), the Dolphins hold teams to a pretty low rate of success on the ground. They’re in the top ten in Positive% allowed on the ground, and they rank fourth against zone blocking, which the Falcons use overwhelmingly more frequently.

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (+4.5)

The Saints come into Seattle with as much rest as you can get, coming off a bye on Monday night. The Seahawks have disappointed defensively, but we might not expect this version of the Saints (and of Jameis Winston) to exploit that. 

By Total Points, Winston has earned between 6 and 11 points as a passer in all but one start this year, numbers that range from “fine” to “pretty good” for a single game. In his last season in Tampa Bay, only two of his starts fell within that range, with three above and eleven below. The Payton offense has successfully tempered Jameis’s gunslinging in a way that caps the team’s upside but makes his performance more predictably good than in the past.

These two teams sit at the bottom of the pressure rate leaderboard defensively, and that’s great news for both quarterbacks. 

Winston currently trails only currently-elite Kirk Cousins in Independent Quarterback Rating and Total Points per dropback when kept clean. Well, unless you drop the playing time qualifier a bit…

…in which case you’d see Geno Smith at the top of the leaderboard. He leads the NFL in Independent Quarterback Rating when unpressured (minimum 30 attempts). On the flip side, Smith has somehow managed a negative Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt on limited attempts under pressure this year. Obviously we don’t expect that to continue, but even a muffled version of that trend suggests Geno could be facing the right opponent at the right time here.

Smith will have to make hay through the air, because he’s not going to have much to work with in the backfield. Chris Carson is on IR and Alex Collins came out of the Steelers game banged up. Teams haven’t tried to run on the Saints much this year, so we’ll see if the Pete Carroll run-first mindset breaks that mold despite ailing personnel.

The pass-catchers helped Smith out quite a bit in Week 6, as they produced 11 broken or missed tackles on 23 receptions. Through six weeks they have the highest rate of broken/missed tackles per reception in the NFL. Seattle will need that kind of effort against the defense that yielded ten missed/broken tackles to Saquon Barkley and Kadarius Toney a couple weeks ago but has otherwise tackled well.