Last week’s picks reinforced two lessons - never count out Tom Brady and Bill Belichick no matter what is going on with them, and no team coached by Wade Phillips should be trusted. It was a frustrating week, but with these week 7 NFL picks and odds I hope that that frustration will be replaced with joy and success.
San Francisco 49ers (-3) at Carolina Panthers (Sunday, Oct. 24, 1 pm ET) - I have been very disappointed by the Niners this year - a team I had very high hopes for heading into this season. They are coming off a nice win last week, though, and I expect them to string together two in a row in a game that sets up very well for them.
The win over the Raiders wasn’t as good as it could have been, but it was very encouraging that Alex Smith managed two second-half touchdowns and showed more confidence that he has had in a while. He’s facing a defense in Carolina that is competent - and better than that at times - but which can certainly be exploited. The San Francisco offense has had some issues, but it is dramatically better than Carolina’s.
In a desperate move the Panthers have made their second change in starting QBs of the year - going back to Matt Moore after Jimmy Clausen proved he was definitely not ready for prime time. The Panthers are averaging just 10.4 points per game, and there is no reason to expect much more than that here. The best part of their offense has been their rushing game, but they face a decent rush defense in San Francisco.
Carolina hasn’t won, has covered just once, and just doesn’t have a lot going for it. San Francisco has also had troubles winning and covering, but they are the better team right now, and they are clearly moving in the right direction. The same can’t be said for Carolina. The Niners are the pick.
St. Louis Rams (-2.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, Oct. 24, 1 pm ET) - This is a battle between two teams that have significantly better records than anyone would have guessed at this point. No matter who wins, the winner is going to have a pretty nice record. In my eyes that team is quite likely going to be the Rams.
St. Louis has a young team with a very young quarterback and that can lead to real issues - like when they were crushed by the Lions two games back. They bounced back very nicely to beat San Diego last week, though, and they have won three of their last four.
They have yet to win on the road, but they came close in Oakland, and the Bucs are a vulnerable team right now. Tampa Bay has three wins and you can’t take that away from them, but those wins aren’t nearly of the caliber of those of the Rams - Cleveland and Carolina are lousy, and Cincinnati is a deeply flawed team. St. Louis is better than at least two of those teams, and they are on a good roll here.
Tampa Bay is very vulnerable against the run, and the Rams have shown that they can move the ball on the ground reasonably well.
Neither of these teams is flawless, or even close, and they are on the same path, but I think the Rams have shown that they are further down that path, and since they are available on the right side of the key number of three they are definitely worth a look.
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