Look between the lines: Handicapping NFL's Week 7 slate
James Hernandez has more than 15 years in the sports handicapping industry and will contribute weekly for FOXSports.com as our betting expert. Have comments or questions? Make sure to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.James Hernandez, Contributor to FOXSports.com During the NFL season, I will attempt to guide you to the winner’s circle more often than not. I consider a combination of statistical trends, my own personal player ranking system, and meticulous attention to various wagering techniques that allow me to analyze and formulate a plan of attack each week. Each week I will post my five favorite plays in order of preference, best on top and so on. All right, let’s get into itChicago Bears/ Washington Redskins over 50 Both of these teams have had issues stopping the big play this season. The Bears come limping into this contest with as many as three defensive linemen questionable to suit up and yes, one of them is Julius Peppers. This news must have Alfred Morris and RG3 having flashbacks to last season when they took the league by storm running the read option all the way to a NFC East division title. With Griffin looking as healthy as he has all year, Washington fans are hoping this is the week they will see the dual threat return — not the pocket passing imposter that has been unable to kick it into that next gear when it matters most. Even if Griffin struggles running the rock, Morris and his 5.2 yards per carry should have no issue breaking to daylight and getting to the second level all afternoon, allowing for the ‘Skins receivers to benefit from some effective play action passing down the field. On the flip side, swiss cheese thinks the Washington defense has too many holes. Marc Trestman should be the perfect person to devise a game plan that will effectively balance his offense and create scoring opportunities early and often. It appears as if Brandon Marshall has gotten over his mini rut. It was nice to see him get back on the same page with Jay Cutler last week as they were able to hook up twice last week for scores. While the emergence of Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett in the passing game may cramp the style of reception beast Marshall, this Bears offense is the most balanced Cutler has ever had in the Windy City. As long as Matt Forte can stay healthy and remain a regular contributor, there is enough talent for this offensive unit to flirt with a top-10 ranking all year. The pigskin will be flying all afternoon in the nation’s capital and when the dust settles both teams should have pushed the game total well past 50 points. New England Patriots (-4) over New York Jets
With a 5-1 record and holding a 2-game lead in the division, you would think The Hoodie and The Golden Boy are secretly gushing over each other’s excellence as they keep the ship on course for another double digit win season.However, nothing is as simple as it seems. The new soap opera around Foxborough titled "As the Gronk turns" has left the Kardashians and The Real Housewives of Wherever wondering if it’s time to call their agents to see if they still have time to get a guest spot next to the one man frat party. Unfortunately this time the lovable Gronkowski is making headlines for not getting on the field instead of for his now legendary off-the-field antics and that has some people in his own locker room questioning his commitment to them and the task at hand. You know it’s serious when Gronk's mom was so irritated she jumped in front of the camera and insisted her son was doing all he could to return to the field as soon as possible. Somewhere Rex Ryan is grinning ear to ear as his arch enemy Bill Belichick is now the target of the media circus that has generally been reserved for his Jets. Despite all the distractions and regardless if Gronkowski suits up or not, the Patriots will still be able to win by exposing the -11 turnover margin (2nd worst in the AFC) of the Jets and you have to believe Bill Belichick will have a plan in place to neutralize and expose Rex's rookie signal caller. Over the past three seasons, New England has beaten New York by deficits of 30, 21 and 42 points. Look for Brady to continue his mastery of the Jets (18-4 career record) and even if Gronk doesn't contribute on the field, he will definitely liven up the post-game festivities and maybe even hit a teammate or two with a Jake "The Snake" Roberts DDT for good measure. Pats win this one going away and easily cover the 4. Denver Broncos/ Indianapolis Colts over 56
With all the hype surrounding the return of the king to Indy, Andrew Luck and his neck beard must be counting the seconds until he can get on the field and prove himself against the man who he will inevitably be compared to the rest of his career. Despite Luck's early success to start his career, this game is all about Peyton Manning and his beloved relationship with the city of Indianapolis and the Colts fans. We all know the Broncos are scoring at a record pace and playing in the house that Peyton built will be sure to put Manning in the kind of zone that may have his team up 28 at halftime. While the return of Von Miller will boost the Broncos pass rush, he still needs to work himself into game shape. Luck should be able to make some plays against a middle-of-the-road secondary as he continues to build a rapport with TY Hilton, Reggie Wayne and Trent Richardson. Anyone who has been keeping up with my picks knows that taking the over in the Denver game each week has become a staple play of mine and the next time it doesn't hit, will be the first. In a league as unpredictable and competitive as the NFL, it is necessary to recognize trends in betting that are paying dividends and even more crucial to capitalize while the trend continues to work in your favor because it can reverse course at any time. With the Broncos still averaging 44 points per game and the Colts putting up 27 plus, the big plays should come in bunches as both offenses move the ball up and down the field. Both teams should easily score 30 or more pushing the game total into the mid to high 60's leading to another easy cover on the over in a Denver Broncos game. San Francisco 49ers (-4) over Tennessee Titans
Just when San Francisco was looking vulnerable, head coach Jim Harbaugh once again proved his worth by rallying his troops to three consecutive wins straight up and against the spread. By scoring over 30 in all three contests, it seems as if Harbaugh has rediscovered the running game that made San Francisco the team to beat the last two years in the NFC. With Colin Kaepernick seemingly stuck in a sophomore slump and his playmakers going down like the real estate market, it was up to a veteran defense to pick up the intensity and once again become the dominant unit that shut down offenses the last two seasons. By doing this they allowed their young quarterback to work through his slump without the added pressure of having to carry the load himself. Aldon Smith's absence hasn't nearly created the pass rush void most experts originally predicted, in fact since his suspension the defense has had eight sacks in three games. Does anyone know what happened to CJ2K? I’m being serious here. I know the Titans have a guy wearing number 28 with Johnson on the back of his jersey, but this imposter can't be the real Chris Johnson can he? Three-hundred twenty seven yards rushing this year on 106 attempts (3.1 ypc) is below average, but as long as he is hitting pay dirt it should make up for it right? Oh, that’s right Johnson is yet to record a rushing touchdown this year and even his most loyal fans can no longer use the excuse that the season just started because it’s nearly half over! Unfortunately it won’t get any easier against a stingy 49ers defense and without the dual threat of Jake Locker to neutralize the pass rush, look for San Francisco to make life miserable for Fitzpatrick and company as they cruise to another road victory and cover. San Diego Chargers (-7) over Jacksonville Jaguars
Coming off a huge win Monday night against the Colts, San Diego is now looking at a classic trap game having to travel across the country and play the morning game against the Jags. Of course that only applies if you believe Jacksonville poses a legitimate threat to win a game and with what they have showed up to this point, why would you? When you only average 11.7 points per game and allow 33 it’s hard to imagine a scenario where this team can compete with a resurgent Chargers team that could easily be 5-1 instead of 3-3. Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates have returned to vintage 2010 form. Rookie wide out Keenan Allen’s emergence has been surprising. And Ryan Mathews finally being healthy enough to ignite the running game, all add up to Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt quietly piloting a top-5 offense that can score with any team in the league. Unless Justin Blackmon can repeat his herculean effort from a week ago and MJD can hit the way back button there is no way the Jaguars will be able to keep pace offensively in a game where the Bolts will dictate the pace of action and should cruise to an easy double-digit victory. The four teams who have the dubious distinction of going an entire season without a win better make some room, they are only a few months away from welcoming a fifth member to this shameful club. Questions? Comments? Send them to email@example.com and we might respond in our weekly mailbag!