NFL WEEK 7: It’s a new day in the NFL. It feels like it happened suddenly, then all at once– teams like the Patriots, Broncos, Titans, and Packers are among the league’s worst, while the Lions, Bills, Dolphins, and Jaguars are Super Bowl contenders. What is going on here? For those us who have been following the league for decades, it’s like we’ve entered some sort of parallel reality. But the new elite seems to be here to stay, and in 20 years we may be talking about Trevor Lawrence and the Jags in hushed reverence, like grandpa telling stories of Johnny Unitas and the Colts.

Lawrence kicked off this Week 7 by leading Jacksonville to a Thursday night win over the Saints, a victory which puts the Jags at 5-2 and in firm control of the AFC South. Saints fans are surely in panic mode after watching weeks of an impotent Derek Carr-led offense, but the defense is stout and Alvin Kamara is showing that he still has plenty of juice left, and with the degraded state of the NFC South all hope is not yet lost in New Orleans.

This Week 7 slate is a little light on marquee matchups, with one notable exception: the 5-1 Dolphins meet the 5-1 Eagles in Sunday’s late game and that one should be tremendous. Two teams with very different but highly effective styles, subplots galore (Tua vs. Hurts being the best one, if you know the backstory from their college days)… it’s the first time this season that calling a game a “potential Super Bowl preview” doesn’t feel like hyperbole.

I lean Miami in that game but haven’t yet decided if I’m going to bet it. These four, however, are already in play:

Detroit Lions @ Baltimore Ravens (BAL -3, 43)

Recommendation: Detroit +3 at 1.94

The Lions are legit. They’ve been getting it done on both sides of the ball, ranking 3rd in the NFL in total offense and 7th in total defense, and have now strung together 4 straight blowout victories, with each win coming by 14 points or more. I get that this is a tough spot… a road game against a playoff-caliber team with a dynamic quarterback… but I’m not sure the Ravens are up to the task, especially on offense, where they just don’t have many difference-makers surrounding Lamar Jackson. Rookie Zay Flowers is their top perimeter threat and they average just 194 pass yards per game, good for 24th in the league. The Lions lead the NFL in rushing defense, allowing just 64.6 ypg and 3.3 ypc, so this is going to be a stiff challenge for a Baltimore offense that has difficulty airing it out. I expect Detroit to win this one outright, but the Ravens seem to be in a close one every week, with 4 of their 6 games this season being decided by one score, so I’ve decided to take the 3 points at nearly even money.

Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks (SEA -8, 44)

Recommendation: Seattle -8 at 1.91

Arizona outperformed expectations over the first three weeks of the season, putting forth three competitive performances and pulling off an upset victory over Dallas in Week 3 despite having a roster that is almost totally devoid of big-name talent. It’s largely a bunch of underdogs, players who were overlooked and under-drafted, and for a while the chip on their collective shoulders was enough to keep things interesting. Over the last three weeks, however, reality has begun to set in, with the Cards losing by 19, 14, and 17 points. They now sit at 1-5, the limitations of the Josh Dobbs-led offense have been clearly exposed, and this week they go on the road to face an explosive Seahawks team that has posted 98 combined points in their three victories. The ‘Hawks are tough in the defensive front seven, too, surrendering a league-best 3.2 yards per rush, and I’m not sure the Arizona offense is equipped to exploit any deficiencies in the secondary. It feels like a blowout is coming here… look for Seattle to roll.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs (KC -5, 47.5)

Recommendation: Los Angeles +5 at 1.97

Is there a more confounding team than the Chargers? Elite talent on both sides of the ball, a quarterback that about 29 other teams would trade for in a second, better injury luck than they’ve had in recent years… and yet, here they are again with a losing record nearly halfway through the season. I think they’re a good value in this spot, however, because the Chiefs have issues that have been obscured by the fact that they keep on winning games. Travis Kelce continues to be the only real threat in the passing attack and as a result the offense has stagnated this season, producing 23 points or fewer in 4 of the team’s 6 games. While I do expect Patrick Mahomes to have success against a vulnerable Chargers secondary, his counterpart, LA’s Justin Herbert, always seems to torch the Chiefs and is off to a great start this season, with a QB rating of 101.7 and a TD/INT ratio of 9/2. You know what else always happens with these teams face off? The games are always close, with 5 of the past 6 meetings being decided by 6 points or fewer. Gimme LA and the points.

Green Bay Packers @ Denver Broncos (GB -1, 45.5)

Recommendation: Denver moneyline (to win) at 2.07

Sean Payton’s debut season in Denver has been nothing short of a disaster so far, with the Broncos winning only 1 game in 6 attempts thanks in no small part to a defense that ranks last in the league in yards allowed. That defense is coming off its best performance of the season, however, limiting the high-powered Chiefs to just 19 points last week, and now they return home to face a Green Bay offense that has cratered in back-to-back losses to Detroit and Las Vegas. Packers QB Jordan Love appears to be struggling with his confidence and has thrown 5 interceptions and just 1 touchdown in his last two starts, and the lack of dynamic playmakers on the perimeter isn’t helping. But the matchup here that’s going to really hurt the Packers is on the other side of the ball, where their porous run defense will be going up against a Denver o-line that is one of the best run-blocking groups in the NFL. This is just what the Broncos needed– a home game against a struggling, offensively challenged team that can’t stop the run. I think they get the job done.

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