I’ve got this weird feeling we may see a number of upsets this week. I have no scientific evidence to support that, mind you. It’s just that the picking seems too easy, too automatic. And that never seems to work out in professional football. Still, I can’t tell you where the big upsets are coming. Because when I look at these games … well, a lot of them just seem pretty damned easy and automatic. So I’ll lay it out straight and leave it to you to figure out where my reasoning is flawed.
Atlanta (+7.5) at Carolina
I was gonna start out by saying that I’m still not sold on Carolina. The Panthers are weak offensively. And while they’d appeared solid enough on defense for the first two weeks of the season, they were exposed last week, not by Adrian Peterson, but by Gus Frerotte. That doesn’t do much to recommend a D. But then I realized that I’m not sold on Atlanta, either. The Falcons look OK when they’re playing a Detroit or a Kansas City, but put them up against a real professional football team and things get ugly quick. And the Panthers aren’t the Bucs, but neither are they the Lions. So I’m splitting the difference, taking Carolina straight up, and the Falcons with the points.
Cleveland (+3) at Cincinnati
Every now and again, something happens in the NFL that exposes a rule so obscure that even the geekiest of the rule book geeks are left scratching their heads. If there’s a rule defining a way for both teams to lose a given game, this game seems likely to bring it to light. Otherwise, I’m taking the Bengals straight up (because they’re at home) and the Browns with the points (because I still suspect they’re slightly less awful than the home team). And I’m expecting we’ll see Brady Quinn lined up under center when the Browns come back from their bye two weeks from now.
Houston (+7.5) at Jacksonville
If it weren’t for the fact that last week’s huge victory still only got them to 1-2 on the season, you might expect to see a letdown game for Jacksonville here. But they are 1-2. So you won’t. But you also won’t see the Jags win by more than four.
Denver (-9.5) at Kansas City
The Broncos are gonna need to get more out of their D at some point this season. Probably. But not this week. The Chiefs don’t have an offense, so there’s nothing to stop. The Broncos, on the other hand, have what’s been rather a high-powered offense, which is bad news for the Chiefs, who balance their lack of an offense with a lack of a defense. Denver by three touchdowns.
San Francisco (+6) at New Orleans
Don’t be shocked if this one ends up in an upset. The 49ers don’t have much going for them, but they do appear to have a decent pass defense. And the Saints don’t have a running game. Now, don’t take that to mean I’m picking San Fran. I’m not. Because New Orleans ought to be able to get the job done. And the Saints are at home. But I’m not giving six. I’m keeping my money far away from this game. And I’m not gonna pass out if the Niners come out ahead.
Arizona (+1.5) at NY Jets
The Cardinals are the better team here, regardless of whatever’s up with Brett Favre’s ankle. But the Cardinals are also traveling two time zones to the east for the second consecutive week. And I may be crazy, but I’m not picking any team that’s doing that kind of traveling. Jets by three.
Minnesota (+3) at Tennessee
Great start aside, I’m still convinced the Titans are going to fade. (Of course, that’s what I thought about the Tampa Bay Rays.) But it’s not gonna start this week. This game is all defense, and the Titans are not only slightly better on that side of the ball, they’re at home. Tennessee wins straight up. Against the spread it’s a push.
San Diego (-7) at Oakland
I’m not sure anyone in Oakland is actually paying attention to football. They’re all too busy sniping at each other and fighting with newspaper columnists. And why not? At least they’re pretending to be entertaining. Chargers by 14.
Buffalo (-8.5) at St. Louis
Steven Jackson, who back to full health, apparently isn’t happy about his 0-3 team’s decision to make a change at quarterback. Jackson’s right in his assertion that Marc Bulger isn’t what’s wrong with the Rams. Unfortunately for Jackson, there’s so much that is wrong with the Rams, Bulger’s lack of culpability is almost entirely beside the point. Buffalo by 10.
Washington (+11) at Dallas
Yeah, you know what? I’m not getting into this game. There’s just not that much to say. Dallas is the better team. Dallas is the home team. Dallas wins by nine.
Philadelphia (-3) at Chicago
Brian Westbrook’s ankle doesn’t matter. The Eagles should have no trouble moving the ball against a Bears pass D that’s among the worst in the league. Philly by a touchdown.
Baltimore (+7) at Pittsburgh
A seven-point spread in this game? Seriously? Is there any real reason to believe that seven points will be scored between these two teams? OK, I don’t really mean that. I think they’ll combine for 16. Pittsburgh accounts for nine of those.