Each week during the 2021 NFL season, TheLines will examine how the coming week’s NFL lines have changed relative to preseason or prior expectations. Often, early lines can give an objective look at teams’ relative talent levels, absent week-to-week recency bias when the weekend results take hold. Let’s take a look at NFL Week 7 spreads and see which numbers have changed and, potentially, why.
Two Massive NFL Week 7 Spread Moves
Two NFL Week 7 spreads shifted hugely, but for very different reasons. One has been a common theme in this weekly article: a QB injury. In the other game, situational factors centered around rest and travel have conspired greatly in one team’s favor.
|Game||Look-Ahead Line||Oct. 20, 1 p.m. ET|
|Denver Broncos at Cleveland Browns||Browns -6||Browns -2|
|Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins||Dolphins -2.5||Falcons -2.5 (-114)|
Broncos At Browns
The injury toll has gotten rather brutal at this point for Cleveland.
The team’s two starting tackles, Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin, both missed last week’s game, the second straight absence for Wills Jr. Their availability for this week remains in question. RBs Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb are both already out, the former on IR. Exciting rookie LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah also hit IR. Starting WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry seem to be coin flips at best this week.
The biggest blow yet came on Wednesday with QB Baker Mayfield announced out. He aggravated an already painful shoulder injury in the loss to Arizona.
If the team played on Sunday, or better yet Monday, maybe some of these guys would have time to heal up and get on the field. But, they play on Thursday Night Football so they have even less time than normal to get right.
So, despite Denver’s three-game slide, the market has come crashing down from the look-ahead of Browns -6 to .
Luckily for Cleveland, Case Keenum is likely one of the best backup QBs in the league. He has about four seasons worth of starting experience and has tossed 75 TDs versus 47 INTs in his career. If some of his talented teammates can find their ways close to 100%, he’s not in a bad spot even against a tough Denver defense.
Falcons At Dolphins
Usually, rest advantages in the NFL are relatively minor. At the absolute most — Team A comes off a bye and hosts Team B, which played on Monday Night Football — they might nudge the line a couple of points if Team B has a particularly long travel or is on a multi-game road trip.
However, a unique spot has popped up here in Week 7 and the market has taken notice.
Still, a five-point line move seems rather extreme. Other factors must have a hand as well.
Certainly, the Dolphins managing to become the first team to lose to Jacksonville doesn’t help matters. The Jags had only even met market expectations once. Their defense has unseated the Chiefs for the title of worst in the world according to both EPA and DVOA. Taking an L from that team is truly the NFL version of the scarlet letter right now.
The Falcons offense also gets a boost with WRs Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage returning. The trick will be reintegrating them while still keeping ascending star TE Kyle Pitts a focal point.
If you think the massive correction is unwarranted, keep an eye on the market and see if and when the key number of +3 hits the board.
Other NFL Week 7 Spreads Moving On And Off Key Numbers
While not quite four- and five-point moves — OK one of these is close — a few other games saw notable movement on and around key numbers as well. Let’s see where the market has exerted its will.
|Game||Look-Ahead Line||Oct. 20, 1 p.m. ET|
|Washington Football Team at Green Bay Packers||Packers -7||Packers -8.5|
|Carolina Panthers at NY Giants||Panthers -2.5||Panthers -3 (-105)|
|Houston Texans at Arizona Cardinals||Cardinals -14.5||Cardinals -17.5|
Football Team At Packers
Since the opening-week disaster against New Orleans, the Packers have played five games. They went 3-2 against the spread in winning all five games, but a closer look at the games tells you they likely should have exceeded market expectations all five times.
Against the 49ers, they dominated in yards per play, 7.4 to 5.3. The game was only close because they failed on a fourth-and-goal from the 3 and also allowed a 68-yard kickoff return to close the first half that ended in a Niners TD on the final play.
Against the Bengals, they again dominated from scrimmage, 7.4 to 5.6 YPP. That time, they allowed two critical fourth-down conversions while their kicker also went 4-for-7 on field goals and missed an extra point.
That’s a long-winded way of saying the market seems to undervalue the Packers this year. Perhaps that realization has hit some influential market forces, as the Pack could be found as high as -10 at some spots this week against Washington. They’ve since settled a bit lower.
Washington’s own poor performance over the weekend deserves some notice. Facing the putrid Chiefs defense, Taylor Heinicke underwhelmed yet again, this time managing 4.7 YPP on dropbacks and allowing KC to author a second-half shutout. On the road in negative script does not figure to be a good look for him here.
Panthers At Giants
If the Broncos have fallen from grace after a 3-0 start, the Panthers want to at least make sure nobody piles on too hard. They’ve probably been even worse.
The offense hit a new low this past week. Only multiple short Vikings field goals (plus two misses including the potential game winner), a 20-yard TD drive after a Vikes fumble and a blocked punt for six kept this from a blowout. Minnesota thoroughly dominated Carolina from the line of scrimmage.
Sam Darnold looked horrible again and the receivers gave him zero help. The line remains an ongoing issue, bottom 10 in adjusted sack rate, adjusted line yards and stuffs allowed.
Yet, the market likes them more than the Giants, reeling at this point with three rotation offensive linemen on IR and multiple key weapons questionable at best for Week 7. The Rams handed them a massive beating, and the Giants have met market expectations just twice all season.
Still, if Daniel Jones can return to the level of play he showed prior to his injury against Dallas, they do have much the better QB here.
Texans At Cardinals
Is 17 a key number? We suppose it could be in a game that the market expects to be decided by three scores or close.
When the Texans have gotten beaten this year, they have often gotten their money’s worth. Four of their five losses have come by double digits and two of those had combined final scores of 71-3, which isn’t that easy to accomplish in the formerly parity-filled NFL.
The team ranks 31st in offense DVOA and even the respectably-ranked pass defense got thumped by the Colts as Carson Wentz went for 9.7 YPP.
Now, they get the red-hot Arizona Cardinals. On the road, no less, and Tyrod Taylor reportedly won’t walk through that door yet. It’s Davis Mills once again, and the market’s opinion of this offense has hit a new low. The Cardinals have the ninth-best pressure rate in the league, so Mills will have to make it happen under duress.
The market felt more than two touchdowns was not near enough here, and it’s hard to argue given how poor the Texans have looked since Mills took over.
NFL Week 7 Spreads, Movement Tracker
|Game||Look-Ahead Line||Oct. 20, 1 p.m. ET||Oct. 22, 8 p.m. ET|
|Denver Broncos at Cleveland Browns||Browns -6||Browns -2||N/A|
|Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens||Ravens -6.5||Ravens -6 (-114)||Ravens -6.5|
|Carolina Panthers at NY Giants||Panthers -2.5||Panthers -3 (-105)||Panthers -3 (-105)|
|Washington Football Team at Green Bay Packers||Packers -7||Packers -8.5||Packers -7.5|
|Kansas City Chiefs at Tennessee Titans||Chiefs -3.5||Chiefs -5.5||Chiefs -4.5|
|Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins||Dolphins -2.5||Falcons -2.5 (-114)||Falcons -2.5|
|NY Jets at New England Patriots||Patriots -7||Patriots -7 (-114)||Patriots -7 (-106)|
|Detroit Lions at LA Rams||Rams -13.5||Rams -15.5||Rams -16.5|
|Philadelphia Eagles at Las Vegas Raiders||Raiders -2||Raiders -3 (-105)||Raiders -2.5 (-118)|
|Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Buccaneers -10||Buccaneers -12.5||Buccaneers -11.5|
|Houston Texans at Arizona Cardinals||Cardinals -14.5||Cardinals -17.5||Cardinals -18|
|Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco 49ers||49ers -5.5||49ers -4 (-114)||49ers -4.5 (-105)|
|New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks||Saints -3.5||Saints -5.5 (-105)||Saints -4.5|