More last-minute predictions guaranteed wrong or your money back.
Atlanta (+2.5) at Buffalo
It’s a defensive struggle, which favors either the home team or the team without the inexperienced quarterback. So there’s no picking this one right. But I’m looking for J.P. Losman to throw a couple of picks and hand the game to Atlanta. Take the visitors and the points.
Carolina (-3) at Miami
If you can beat the Patriots, you ought to be able to be the Dolphins, no matter where the game is played. Carolina’s defense has a bigger day than Miami’s, while the Fins offense sputters. Take the Panthers and give the three.
Cincinnati (-3) at Chicago
Here’s a likely place for an upset. The Bengals are probably a much better team than the Bears. In fact, Cinci could make the post-season while the Bears likely will crash and burn. But right now, in Chicago, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ced Benson comes on and the Bears pull off a win. Not picking it that way, though. I think Carson Palmer throws for 300+ and the Bengals cruise to a touchdown or better victory.
Cleveland (+13.5) at Indianapolis
If I had a nickel for everyone who brought up the whole “Romeo has Peyton Manning’s number” thing in conversation with me this week, I’d have easily 20 cents. Which is about what that observation is worth, incidentally. Yes, it could be true that it’s been former Patriots assistant Romeo Crennel, now head coach of the Browns, and not Bill Belichick, who’s had Manning’s number these last few years, but that’s neither here nor there as far as this game is concerned. Romeo hasn’t been in Cleveland long enough to establish his system or get the right personnel lined up. And his offense might have fared well against the sinking Packers last week, but it’s not gonna challenge the much-improved Indy D. I see a big week for Peyton (finally; my fantasy team needs it) and the Colts. Take Indy straight up, but, of course, never, ever bet on an NFL game with a double-digit spread.
Jacksonville (+2.5) at N.Y. Jets
The only way this isn’t the low scoring game of the week is if each D puts up a pair of touchdowns. The Jets can’t get it going on O, what with Chad Pennington’s obviously still hurting shoulder (Curtin Martin’s bad knee won’t help this week). And the Jags continue to have a Swiss cheese offensive line. Jacksonville’s D has looked a bit tougher to me, so, injuries aside, I’m looking for the upset here. Take the Jags and the points. And bet the under.
New Orleans (+3.5) at Minnesota
There’s no reason to expect that a Minnesota offense that’s been nothing but terrible over the first two weeks of the season will get any better with its #1 wide receiver, Nate Burleson, on the sidelines. Then again, there’s no reason to believe any NFL team can win in its third straight week on the road (last week’s “home game” in Giants stadium notwithstanding this is the traveling Saints’ third consecutive trip into a hostile arena. And the thing is, Travis Taylor’s been a better receiver than Burleson so far this season anyhow, and Mewelde Moore, who’s starting at running back in place of the healthy but unimpressive Michael Bennett, is the kind of slippery little back the Saints have a hard time stopping. So I’m going with the home squad to turn it on, if only temporarily. Take the Vikes and expect them to win by double the spread.
Oakland (+8) at Philadelphia
If the Raiders had played semi-decent football over the first two weeks of the season, this game might have had big billing: T.O. vs. Randy Moss in the asshole bowl. But no such luck. The Eagles are too good and the Raiders are too sloppy. Though it pains me to say it, take the Eagles and give the points. It’s gonna be a blowout.
Tampa Bay (-3.5) at Green Bay
Think about how bad the Packers have to have been playing for a Bucs team that’s made an art of losing at Lambeau to come in as a field goal-plus favorite. Still, you can’t argue with the math. The Packers have stopped nobody. The Bucs have played well. Cadillac Williams is looking more and more like the probable offensive rookie of the year. Brett Favre, while playing well, will probably be hearing calls for his retirement before the season’s a quarter of the way through. I see Williams and the Bucs’ rookie tight end, Alex Smith, having big days against a Pack D that is soft on short yardage plays, and the Bucs winning and covering.
Tennessee (+6.5) at St. Louis
Did these two teams really meet in the Super Bowl just a few years ago? Holy cow. What happened? Yeah, so the Titans have looked like they might be better this season than we all thought they’d be. The Rams, too. Me, I’m not so sure. I think both results last week were flukes. I think we’ll see a lot of ineptitude at work today. And I think the Rams will manage a victory, but not by a touchdown.
Arizona (+6) at Seattle
I suppose it’s possible that I could care about this game a little bit less, but I’m not sure how. Either of these teams could end up winning the NFC West this season (assuming Dennis Green gets the fully cooked Kurt Warner out of his starting lineup sooner than later). And both of them could end up 6-10. Neither will be playing past mid-January. The advantage here goes to the home team/the team with Shaun Alexander, but probably not by more than four.
Dallas (-6.5) at San Francisco
The Cowboys have gotta be pissed about Monday night. You play a mostly great game, giving up three decent plays to your opponents’ offense over the course of the evening and two of those go for touchdowns, which is exactly as much as the other team needs to beat you. That’s gotta hurt. It’s also gotta breed the kind of frustration you’re glad to take out on your next opponent if you get the chance. Today, the Cowboys get the chance. Take Dallas and give the points.
New England (+3) at Pittsburgh
Forget about all the stuff about Tom Brady having big games right after losses. Brady could have a good day here, but it won’t be because of what happened in Carolina last week. It’ll be because the Pittsburgh DBs don’t have the speed and stamina to keep up with New England’s receivers. Forget about the stuff about how long its been since the Pats lost two straight. That’s a streak that will be broken eventually, and it could as easily be here as anywhere else. But you can also forget about the stuff about how Pittsburgh’s better than last season and the Pats aren’t as good. Neither of those things have been established and at least one of them is very likely untrue. Here’s what to consider: 1). The blitz becomes less effective as the season goes on and offenses start to click. It’s especially ineffective against a good O that knows it’s coming. The Steelers’ D relies on the blitz, and the Pats’ O knows it. 2) The key to shutting down the Steelers O is not to blitz. Ben Roethlisberger will eat you up with short passes if you do that. The way to beat the Steelers O is to take away the run, keep your DBs back, and make Roethlisberger throw into coverage. He makes mistakes when you do that. 3) The key to last week’s Panthers victory was this: the Panthers cracked the Pats silent count code. And New England didn’t know it. That’s why Carolina defenders were in the backfield on every other New England offensive play. The O line needs a half-second advantage on the D to make good blocks (that’s why you don’t just snap on three every time in real football), and they didn’t have it. That won’t happen again, and if it does, the Pats will be looking for it and they’ll make the adjustment. Take the Patriots and the points.
N.Y. Giants (+6) at San Diego
Imagine traveling all the way from New Jersey to Southern California just to experience a good old fashioned Bronx cheer. Have fun, Eli. You brought this reception on yourself. The winless home team stomps the undefeated visitors. Give the points.
Kansas City (+3) at Denver
I’m not sure the Chiefs are as good as their record. The Jets aren’t a good team. And as sloppy as the Raiders played last week, Kansas City should have walked away with a 21-point victory (well, that might be overstating the case, but you get the point). Of course, neither have the Broncos looked terribly good. Yeah, they came back to beat San Diego, which is impressive, but there’s still that opening week loss to Miami to keep you wondering. Like every other game the Broncos play this season, this one will have a lot to do with whether the good Jake Plummer or the bad Jake Plummer shows up. Against a much-improved KC defense, I’m sort of expecting the band one. I like the Chiefs in the upset, but I’m not betting a dime on that.