I looked at the schedule earlier in the week and realized there were a lot of games with heavy favorites. There are seven of the 13 games this week with spreads above six points. That doesn't happen too often. Last week there were a lot of games with lower spreads because there were more evenly matches games. This week only Dallas/Detroit, Pittsburgh/Oakland and Atlanta/Arizona have spreads that are three points or less. Two of those games feature teams with losing records, so it's not looking like a great week for close games. Of course it's the NFL, so you never know.
Before we get to this week's games, here are some thoughts on the Thursday night game.
Carolina 31 - Tampa Bay 13: I didn't watch that much of it because I was focused on the World Series game more. I did bet on the Panthers to win and cover, so that was nice. I saw a couple of the Panthers scores. Cam Newton has played really well in the last three weeks as the Panthers have won three in a row to sit at 4-3. Those wins were 35-10, 30-15 and 31-13 although the games were against the Vikings, Rams and Bucs so it's not like they were playing very good teams. Still, if you're a Panthers fan you should be happy with where your team is no matter who they play. Their defense is one of the best in the league and I think their offense has figured some things out too. They're definitely in the NFC playoff race. As for the Bucs, they're in the race for the top pick of the draft where they will likely get to pick their QB of the future. Even if they aren't last overall they should get a QB with a top five pick because it's a draft loaded with franchise quarterbacks.
Last week straight up: 8-7. Season: 65-42 (.620)
As mentioned above it was a tough week, so I took a step back. This appears to be a week with some obvious choices and I don't think there will be too many upsets. Of course in the NFL we never really know.
Byes: Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, San Diego, Tennessee
All game times are in the Eastern time zone.
San Francisco (5-2) at Jacksonville (0-7) 1:00 pm (in London, England)
I don't know what it says about American/British relations when the Jaguars are being sent over there. That's just mean, America! Nobody should have to watch the Jaguars. Nobody! Anyway, this should be an ass kicking because the Niners are coming off four straight dominant wins of 30+ points each time and the closest margin of victory was 12 in that stretch, so that's why I said they've been dominant. The Jags are atrociously bad. I don't think they've quit on the coach like the Bucs. I just think they don't have the talent. Maybe in a few years they'll improve, but it will be a long road. Look for the Niners to absolutely destroy the Jaguars in this game. 49ers 37-10
Cleveland (3-4) at Kansas City (7-0) 1:00 pm
Tough spot for the offensively challenged Browns, who have major issues at the QB position. It's so bad that they're starting Jason Campbell in this game. He's a guy that's been on a few teams after failing in Washington, so it's not an encouraging sign. The Chiefs have one of the best defenses in the league (I'd put it in the top three) and should feast on Campbell by forcing turnovers. Since the Chiefs are +11 in turnover differential (best in the NFL) I really like their chances in this game. The Browns do have a pretty good defense, though, so it may not be a blowout. It should still be a comfortable win for the only undefeated team in the NFL. Chiefs 24-13
Miami (3-3) at New England (5-2) 1:00 pm
The Dolphins won their first three games and have lost three straight since then. The Patriots lost a close game to the Jets last week that surprised me because I thought they were the better team. This is a good bounce back game for them. Miami's reeling a bit while the Patriots offense looked great with star TE Rob Gronkowski in the lineup. There are definite concerns with the Pats on defense, though. With DT Vince Wolfork and MLB Jerod Mayo out for the year plus CB Aqib Talib ailing (he may play Sunday) they have some serious depth issues. It may not hurt them too much against an average offense like the Dolphins, but they did give up 30 to the Jets last week, who are not a great offense. Where there's smoke there's fire. I think they're significantly better than the Dolphins and the Pats will win at home on Sunday. Patriots 31-23
Buffalo (3-4) at New Orleans (5-1) 1:00 pm
It's not an easy game for a young Bills team. The Saints are one of the best teams in the league and when they're at home they're even more dangerous. They're coming off a loss to the Pats and then they had their bye week. I expect them to come out very fast, build up a lead and win this game easily. The Saints offense could be hurt a bit if Jimmy Graham doesn't play (I get the sense they may sit him as a precaution), but I still think they can put up a lot of points. Plus, that Saints defense has played really well with Rob Ryan coaching the defense and they should make things difficult for an inconsistent Bills offense. Give me Drew Brees and company at home. Saints 34-20
Dallas (4-3) at Detroit (4-3) 1:00 pm
It's a game with two teams that are evenly matched. The Cowboys have won their last two while the Lions are coming off a tough home loss to the Bengals. It's hard to get a read on them. They're built the same way with strong passing offenses (both in the top eight) and run games that are just average at best (both in the bottom twelve). Defensively, Detroit is 28th against the pass while Dallas is 30th against the pass, so that suggests a high scoring game to me. I'm going to favor the Lions because I think their pass rush is a little bit better and they could force a turnover or two. With Calvin Johnson getting healthier every week that offense is tough to stop although Reggie Bush may be out this week too. I expect the Cowboys offense to have a big game, but I'll go with the home team in an entertaining shootout type game. Lions 34-31
N.Y. Giants (1-6) at Philadelphia (3-4) 1:00 pm
The Eagles offense looked awful last week without Michael Vick. They were fine the two previous games, but last week it just fell apart. Now that Vick is back I think they should put up a lot of points against a Giants defense that has been awful this year. Don't let a win over the hapless Vikings fool you. The Giants are a really bad team. Of course they could win this game because the Eagles defense is pretty bad, but I think Philly will rely on star RB LeSean McCoy a lot and he'll carry them to victory. Eagles 35-23
N.Y. Jets (4-3) at Cincinnati (5-2) 4:05 pm
Neither team is exciting to watch, but they play good defensive football that allows them to stay in every game. I like the Bengals at home because I think they can make more plays down the field, can sustain drives and can confuse the Jets rookie QB Geno Smith, who impresses me a lot. Hopefully the Bengals realize they need to get it to AJ Green and it will open up the rest of the offense. He's a difference maker. I see the spread at 6.5 for the Bengals. I think the Jets will keep it closer than that. Bengals 27-24
Pittsburgh (2-4) at Oakland (2-4) 4:05 pm
It appears as though the Steelers have righted the ship with two straight wins after their bye. Unfortunately for them, that happened after four straight losses. They have the defense that could allow them to string together a bunch of wins, but I think getting in the playoffs is still a long shot. The Raiders are a bad team like usual although they have a 2-1 record at home. I think they'll be competitive. Steelers are better, though. Look for a rookie RB Le'Veon Bell to have a nice game for the Steelers and that should open up the pass game for Roethlisberger to hit Brown, Sanders Miller and company. I have been impressed at times with Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor, but I don't know if he has enough to beat this defense. Steelers 26-17
Atlanta (2-4) at Arizona (3-4) 4:25 pm
These games with two non-playoff teams don't interest me too much. Obviously these teams can get in the playoffs if they go on a run and other teams falter, but I don't believe there's enough talent to get there. The Falcons have too many injuries. The Cardinals have poor QB play plus an awful run game. The Falcons may not be great in any area anymore, but they still have a great QB in Matt Ryan and that's more than the Cards have these days. Falcons 24-20
Washington (2-4) at Denver (6-1) 4:25 pm
The over/under for this game is 59.5, which is the highest of the week and one of the highest numbers you'll see all year. Why is it so high? Because both teams can score. Both teams also give up a lot of points. With the Redskins offense looking as good as ever last week due to RG3 looking healthy again, they put up 45 points in a win against the Bears. Meanwhile, the Broncos put up 33 (their lowest total this year) in losing to the Colts last week. Why did they put Ronnie Hillman in the game late in the 4th and give him the ball? His fumble cost them the game when they had a chance to come back. Anyway, I expect Peyton Manning to have a 4 or 5 TD type of game as they take out their frustrations on a bad Washington defense. I fully expect the Washington offense to have a good day too, but I don't think they can slow down the Broncos enough to win the game. Broncos 45-31
Green Bay (4-2) at Minnesota (1-5) 8:30 pm
It seems like an easy pick since the Vikings are one of the worst teams in the league and have to go back to Christian Ponder at QB even though they really don't want to. With star RB Adrian Peterson having a bit of a down year (for him anyway), their offense is struggling. The Packers are playing well coming off three straight wins. I like the balance in their offense with Eddie Lacy running the ball and of course Aaron Rodgers is one of the best QBs in the league that is thriving even without Randall Cobb, James Jones and now Jermichael Finley as well. I expect the Vikings offense to continue to look awful while the Packers will control the clock to win the game. Packers 31-17
Seattle (6-1) at St. Louis (3-4) 8:40 pm
Oh crap. Those were the two words I said when I saw Sam Bradford tear his ACL last Sunday. Those words also sum up what I think about the prospects of Kellen Clemens starting at QB for my team. Also what's interesting about this game is that the people in St. Louis will probably be more focused on game five of the World Series also in St. Louis, so I don't really expect a raucous crowd at this game. The Seahawks have owned the Rams in the last eight years. They've gone 14-2 against the Rams in that time although the Rams did beat them in St. Louis last year. That was then. This is now. The Seahawks are coming into this game with a dominant defense, a great run game and Russell Wilson is playing at a very high level. I feel like they're going to do whatever they want against the Rams. Maybe the Rams defense shows up a bit, but I'm so worried about the offense doing so poorly that it will tire out the Rams defense and the Seahawks will open it up from there. Seahawks 27-13
I know I picked a lot of favorites. I think it's a predictable week. Good luck finding some upsets.
Five Favorite Bets of the Week
You know what? I'm waving the white flag. After a 1-4 week and going 11-23-1 on the year I'm just going to drop this part of the column. It has not been a good year for me against the spread - probably the worst I can ever remember. Lucky for me (or unlucky for me) I don't have a lot of money to gamble with and barely bet anyway. I just don't see the point in offering picks against the spread if I'm going to get destroyed week after week. My apologies to those that enjoyed watching me make awful picks here in this spot!
That's all for me this week. Enjoy the games and good luck to you.
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