This year has been pretty tough to bet on because of the parity the NFL has brought us. Every week seems to bring an upset and it doesn't look like its going to change much. Can the Lions go into the new Giants stadium and leave with a win? Can the Browns go to Heinz Field and renew a rivalry on Big Ben's return? There are a few possibilities out there and here I am to give you my picks for the week.
Both teams are coming off disappointing losses last weekend. I know it is hard to hear the words disappointing and loss in the same sentence talking about a Rams game, but it was against the Detroit Lions and it was by 38 points. The Chargers also took one on the chin in Oakland snapping the 13 game winning streak they had against the Raiders. After losing Mark Clayton to a season-ending knee injury, Sam Bradford has a new favorite target, Danny Amendola. I'm not sure I would even bet your money on that one-two combination, especially against the league's second best defense (246.2 ypg). Chargers win by double digits in this one.
The Saints are coming off an ugly loss in Arizona while Tampa Bay stole a win in Cincinnati. I'm not sure if the Saints have a Super Bowl hangover (if there is one place it could happen it would be in New Orleans on Bourbon St.) or what, but they do not look the same. Maybe Reggie Bush is a bigger part of the offense than people think? Either way all the focus on the game is on the Saints. I'm pretty sure Josh Freeman and the Bucs don't mind that at all. Tampa Bay is a lot more competitive than they were last year, and the Saints offense is hurting. Those signs add up to a low scoring, defensive battle (offensive struggle), with the Bucs covering this one.
It doesn't look like Michael Vick is going to be starting this game. It won't matter. This is going to be Kevin Kolb's breakout game and will stir up the controversy again about who should be the starting quarterback. Atlanta is very vulnerable to the pass and that's what Andy Reid can exploit most. The game that should be featured as the game of the night will be over in the early afternoon and will be won and covered by the Eagles.
The Pittsburgh Steelers get back their starting quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger while Cleveland loses both of theirs. Colt McCoy will make the first start of his career against the tough Steelers defense. You can expect a lot of blitzing and eight-man fronts. The more mobile McCoy will expand the defense a lot more than people think, not saying he is going to throw for a few TD's, but will keep the clock moving with a lot of dump off passes and slants. Cleveland has become a lot more competitive this year as the defense of theirs has gotten better. They haven't been blown out all year and I don't see it happening here. Steelers win, but the Browns cover.
This is not a must win for the Texans if they want to make the playoffs, but it is a must win for their morale. After getting blown out by the Giants last week and the Cowboys two weeks before, a win is absolutely necessary. Andre Johnson is a week healthier as is Arian Foster. The Texans aren't the Texans when those two aren't healthy and it shows. Do not underestimate one of the top defenses in the league with the Chiefs, but Matt Schaub will find a way to put up more than enough points to cover.
The Seahawks have a tough time playing on the road under new coach Pete Carroll. The Bears have had success when they play at home. This is a big game for Seattle though and they need to decide whether they are a good football team or just a team that likes to be competitive. The Bears on the other hand do not blow teams out. I don't even think they are anywhere near what their record indicates and could easily be 1-4. Look for the trend to continue in a close game with Seattle possibly sneaking out an overall victory here.
The Giants have saved Tom Coughlin's job by playing like the best team in football the past few weeks. Detroit looked like the Lions of old by laying the smack down on the Rams last week beating them 44-6. I don't plan on seeing anything like that again from them but it is a sign that the Lions are slowly getting back to being a team to talk about in the NFC. A double-digit point spread is too high here, I don't see the Giants playing great three games in a row. The Lions will do just enough to squeak out a cover this week.
The Patriots are looking for revenge from last year's loss to the Ravens in the playoffs. For the Patriots, getting rid of Randy Moss doesn't seem to help them out much this year but at least they had a bye week to work in the new receiving core. Not really sure it is going to matter this week against a top-five defense in Baltimore. The revenge factor is going to have to wait a little longer as the Ravens are just that much better even playing in New England. Ravens win outright in this game.
With Green Bay not knowing whether Aaron Rodgers will be in uniform this weekend, Vegas has not set a line for this game yet. I don't think it matters because I'm pretty sure Miami would be the underdog regardless. Miami has already gone into Minnesota and won this year, I don't see why they can't go into Lambeau Field and do the same. The one thing Miami has going for them is that it is not a nationally televised game on a Sunday or Monday night, rather an early afternoon game where not too many eyes will be on them. Look for Chad Henne to have a big game here as the Dolphins upset the Packers.
The 49ers are 0-5 this year and I'm not sure if Vegas got that memo. I am not sure if I have ever seen a team get so much love yet produce absolutely nothing. It isn't hard to take a decent Raiders team here because, well heck, they have at least won a game. Things are looking up for Oakland as they finally beat the Chargers for the first time in 13 games. I am going to take Oakland here on momentum alone, hopefully it won't bite me in the rear here.
The Jets are playing like they have something to prove...oh wait, they do. Despite the injury plagued year for them, they are still playing at a very high level. Denver on the other hand, has the best pass offense they have seen since the Elway era. Josh McDaniels has them playing hard and having fun at the same time and it shows. The record isn't all there but then again, they play in the AFC West, so you can finish with 10 wins and make the playoffs. This is a statement game for the Broncos and I see an upset here at Invesco Field.
This game should have had a lot more than "backs to the wall" to hype this up, but then again that is why they play the game. The Cowboys apparently need to run the ball more and the Vikings have issues with Brett Favre, yada yada yada, I'm tired of excuses just go play. The Vikings are supposed to win this game because they are at home and they have Randy Moss back against a poor Dallas secondary. That is the reason I am picking Dallas to win outright. The best thing going for the Cowboys is they are away from home and won't have to listen to excessive booing if they have a rough start. They will play relaxed and it will show on the scoreboard. Let the QB controversy begin with Favre and Tavaris Jackson.
The Colts are coming off a pathetic offensive performance against a pretty solid Chiefs D. The Redskins get back Albert Haynesworth, ok not like that matters anyways. The key here in this game is the Indianapolis running game and whether Joseph Addai or Donald Brown play. Actually, the way it went last week, it doesn't matter because Mike Hart played with heart and got the Colts the only TD of the game. Look for Dallas Clark to re-emerge this week and catch a few more passes than his past few performances. Colts win by double digits.
The Monday Night Football matchup we have all been waiting for! Not really, but I do think it will be a better game than advertised. The Jaguars play good at home and that is the only reason it should stay close. The thing that I am excited to watch is the running back show. Chris Johnson vs. Maurice Jones-Drew. Tennessee wins that battle on the sole fact that their defense is a little better against the run. In a close game I see the Titans covering with a good sweat.
I am a HUGE fan of the underdog this week and I hope that the winning continues. Any thoughts, questions, or debates you would like to send my way, I am available via Twitter @tbuxonsports.