As the NFL season progresses, it starts to become more obvious which teams are contenders and which are pretenders.
There are a number of squads that have gotten off to good starts after coming into the season looking bad on paper. These teams still have a lot of prove, but the key to picking games against the spread is jumping on bandwagons before the lines catch up.
A few people were likely too excited about the Carolina Panthers prior to their 36-7 loss to the New York Giants on Thursday. However, there are plenty of great bets left available to make back some money.
Note: All lines are courtesy of Vegas Insider.
St. Louis Rams (+7.5) over Chicago Bears
The Bears have issues in the locker room as well as on the field after a 23-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked seven times and might have lost the respect of his team at the same time.
Meanwhile, the Rams have been playing well this season and should at least be able to keep the game close. Reserve running back Daryl Richardson stepped up against the Washington Redskins last week and should be able to do it again if Steven Jackson cannot play.
Dallas Cowboys (-8) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay could not keep a 27-13 second-half lead against the New York Giants and allowed Eli Manning to pass for over 500 yards in the process. Tony Romo should have a field day once he shakes off the bad performance in a letdown game against the Seattle Seahawks.
The loss will likely help the team regain focus as they start a two-game homestand.
San Francisco 49ers (-6.5) over Minnesota Vikings
The Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions could not keep the 49ers within seven points. A third NFC North team is unlikely to do any better, regardless of where the game takes place.
Christian Ponder has shown tremendous strides in his second season with the Vikings, but he has not faced a defense this intimidating. Minnesota will struggle to score and this should be a blowout.
Detroit Lions (-3.5) over Tennessee Titans
No team in the NFL has scored fewer points than the Titans in the first two games. What makes things worse is that their opponents, the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers, have not been known as defensive juggernauts over the past few years.
Detroit needs to get back on track after a tough loss to the 49ers, and the Titans seem like the perfect way to get the team going for the season.
Washington Redskins (-3) over Cincinnati Bengals
The biggest issue through the first couple of games for Cincinnati is its defense. In 2011, the unit was in the top 10 in the NFL against both the pass and run as well as points allowed. Unfortunately, it has allowed 71 points in two games, and it was picked apart by rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Fellow rookie Robert Griffin III has much more talent and should be able to continue his great start against a struggling team.
New York Jets (-2.5) over Miami Dolphins
It will probably be weeks before we know what type of team the New York Jets are. The drama in the locker room continues on the field as they have been incredibly inconsistent over the past few years.
Miami will win a few games this year, but they do not have the overall talent to keep it going. Reggie Bush certainly will not be able to repeat last week's 172-yard performance against the Jets defense.
New Orleans Saints (-9) over Kansas City Chiefs
Sean Payton is still not with the Saints, but the offense has too much talent to continue losing.
Neither side has been good defensively, as they are tied for the most points allowed this season. However, Drew Brees and company have the offensive power to explode at any time. Unless Jamaal Charles returns to form, the Chiefs cannot keep up with New Orleans on the scoreboard.
Cleveland Browns (+3) over Buffalo Bills
C.J. Spiller has been unbelievable for the Bills after Fred Jackson got injured, but the Browns can counter with a talented young running back as well. Trent Richardson had his first 100-yard game in Week 2 against the Bengals.
The Browns' defense is solid and the offense has shown that it can improve every week. Playing in Cleveland, where the team only lost to the Eagles by one point, should give the Browns a chance to pull the upset.
Indianapolis Colts (-3) over Jacksonville Jaguars
When these teams played the Minnesota Vikings, the Colts were able to keep Adrian Peterson in check while the Jaguars were not.
Jacksonville has arguably the best offensive player in this game in Maurice Jones-Drew, but the Colts have a more complete team. Andrew Luck already looks comfortable playing at home in Lucas Oil Stadium, and he should be able to stay undefeated after this week.
Arizona Cardinals (+3.5) over Philadelphia Eagles
Few expected both of these teams to start 2-0, but here we are after tough wins last week. The Cardinals defeated the New England Patriots on the road, and it was not a fluke. They had a solid defense and made few mistakes on offense.
The nine turnovers in two games will catch up to the Eagles as they travel across the country to a very tough environment.
Atlanta Falcons (+3) over San Diego Chargers
Although both teams are undefeated, the Falcons have had a more difficult time getting there. San Diego dismantled the Titans after beating the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football. However, the Falcons' hard-fought victory over the Denver Broncos showed the team's versatility.
Houston Texans (-1.5) over Denver Broncos
The Texans have not faced elite competition so far, but they are as complete of a team as there is in the NFL. The running duo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate is near impossible to stop, and the defense is outstanding. Even in the high altitude in Denver, the Broncos do not have enough to matchup with the talent from Houston.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-4.5) over Oakland Raiders
None of the trio played against the Jets, and the team was able to leave with a 27-10 victory.
Oakland has struggled on both sides of the field, especially in the running game. The Raiders were out-rushed 263-23 in a loss to the Dolphins. Things are unlikely to get better against the Steelers.
Baltimore Ravens (-2.5) over New England Patriots
A rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game creates probably the most exciting game of the week. Unfortunately, both teams are coming off depressing losses in Week 2.
The Patriots will miss tight end Aaron Hernandez, especially if the team continues to keep Wes Welker out of the game for extended periods.
If the Ravens give more carries to Ray Rice—he only has 26 in the first two games despite averaging 6.4 yards per carry—they should be able to control the game and avenge the loss from last year's playoffs.
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