Last week: 13-2-1. Season totals: 13-2-1, Pct. .844. Best Bets: 3-0, Pct. 1.000.
Home team in capital letters; point spreads (opening line) in parentheses after underdog team; selections with point spreads in bold.
N.Y. JETS 14, Jacksonville 6 (+10)—Until Blaine Gabbert is ready to step in the Jaguars will probably be involved in a lot of games like this because everybody is going to play "not to lose" against them—and Mark Sanchez's progress remains distressingly slow, and Jacksonville has covered six straight against the Jets, even winning five of them outright, so there is absolutely no reason to lay this number.
Oakland 20 (+4), BUFFALO 17—For the second time in as many weeks the Raiders find themselves installed as underdogs to a team they finished four full games ahead of a year ago—although in this case the fact that they have lost 15 consecutive games on artificial turf may have something to do with it. Yet interestingly, their last win on a carpet did come at Buffalo, on Oct. 6, 2002; and even if Oakland doesn't win outright, the Bills can always win by a field goal and not cover.
WASHINGTON 27, Arizona 20 (+4)—Can't see Rex Grossman having back-to-back 300-yard games, even facing a defense that allowed a 400-yard game to a rookie making his first NFL start. But the Cards have lost seven in a row to the Redskins, with a 2-4-1 spread record in those seven losses.
PITTSBURGH 28, Seattle 7 (+12 1/2)—It's the Seasickhawks on natural grass again this week—and presumably the Steelers won't turn the ball over seven times again this week.
Green Bay 34, CAROLINA 27 (+10)—A classic "trap" game, with the Packers coming off a nail-biter over what many regard as their closest pursuer in the NFC, and next up is, conceptually at least, their most important game of the regular season, at Chicago. And their defense looked mighty shaky against the Saints, while Cam Newton looked anything but shaky in his NFL debut on the road, and now he comes home.
DETROIT 28, Kansas City 14 (+8)—Kansas City might be a suitable destination for David Garrard, as Matt Cassel won't hold the starting job much longer if he keeps on playing the way he has, including last week in a game that actually counted. This is Detroit's heaviest opening-line favoritism since Christmas Eve of 2000—but KC is 4-10-1 against the line inside NFL domes since 1998, and when the Lions lost 25 of 26 games from mid-2007 through early 2009, their lone win was—you guessed it—at home, over the Chiefs.
Cleveland 16, INDIANAPOLIS 3 (+1)—Oh, don't worry, Peyton will have an awesome game—Peyton Hillis, that is, running all over the diminutive Indy front seven; and while the Cleveland Browns Version 2.0 have yet to defeat the Colts in five tries, they covered the spread in three of the games, and that other Peyton started in all five. Best bet even if rain or excessive heat doesn't force the closure of the retractable roof at Lucas Oil Stadium, in which case the New Browns 8-2 lifetime spread record indoors also comes into play.
Baltimore 20, TENNESSEE 10 (+4)—I suppose the Ravens could have a letdown after their big win over the Steelers, but Joe Flacco is 13-5 both ways on grass and Baltimore has won five of the last six in the series, covering in four.
Tampa Bay 24 (+3), MINNESOTA 13—A couple more games like Donovan McNabb had in his Vikings debut and Leslie Frazier won't have to do too much "pondering" about who his starting quarterback should be. And Josh Freeman has been automatic on the road: 11-2 against the spread as a starter, with one of the two non-covers coming in a game in which the Bucs were favored by two and won by one. It also figures to be a big day for LeGarrette Blount, with Kevin Williams suspended for one more week.
NEW ORLEANS 27, Chicago 24 (+7)—Our condolences go out to Brian Urlacher, whose mother passed away on Tuesday, and as a result, may or may not play—but even if he doesn't the Bears still have more defensive talent than what the Saints have to offer. This number is clearly too high, and Chicago has won the last four meetings.
Dallas 28, SAN FRANCISCO 17 (+3)—Dallas held on grimly for the cover Sunday night, a few hours after San Fran was extremely lucky to cover. If the Cowboys can stop Ted Ginn Jr.'s punt and kickoff returns, they should be the ones rewarding their backers this week.
NEW ENGLAND 34, San Diego 21 (+7)—Nate Kaeding may have done his share of choking in the playoffs, but he has been golden during the regular season, and now he's gone for the season—and the Chargers couldn't cover last week despite outgaining Minnesota by 220 yards, continuing a pattern they made an art form out of last year. And even if New England's offense regresses by 200 yards from Monday night's performance, the Pats can still cover this spread.
Houston 24, MIAMI 10 (+3)—If JFK were to come back and write a sequel to Profiles In Courage, it can be safely assumed that he won't include a chapter on the Dolphins from Monday night, giving up as they did a 99 1/2-yard TD bomb on the very next play after their offense had been stuffed at the goal line. They also haven't shown a whole lot of moxie when facing Houston, against whom they have taken an 0-for-5 lifetime collar, and the absence of Peyton Manning in their opening-day win over Indianapolis helps keep the Texans from being a credible letdown risk—plus Arian Foster, who did not play in that game, may do so here. This is certifiable best-bet material.
DENVER 17, Cincinnati 14 (+5)—The Bengals are one of three teams—Oakland and Philadelphia are the other two—who can go a long way toward punching their tickets to the playoffs with a win this week. Why? Because dating back to 1982, 19 teams have opened a season with two road victories—and 12 of them went on to make the playoffs, including four that reached the Super Bowl, with three winning it. But Andy Dalton might not play and Cincinnati hasn't won in Denver since 1975. Still willing to take the points though (the Bengals, while 0-8 at Denver over the aforementioned period, are 3-5 against the spread), for even if Kyle Orton has another 300-yard game he still might find a way to lose.
Philadelphia 27, ATLANTA 23 (+1)—While the outcome may not have been any surprise, the sheer physicality the Eagles showed in their opener was a huge surprise—why, they looked for all the world like Buddy Ryan's circa-1990 body-baggers! And the Falcons, for their part, show signs of not having yet recovered emotionally from last year's season-ending flame-out. So we'll side with Philly on the rug again—always an easy thing to do. And who knows? Maybe Michael Vick will do a victory lap around the Georgia Dome after the game the way Jeff George did when he went back there and led the Raiders to a win back in 1997.
N.Y. GIANTS 28, St. Louis 20 (+4 1/2)—With all their injuries on defense, the Giant offense is going to need to step it up, but they have the firepower to do just that—and the Rams, who may be without as many as half a dozen starters including Steven Jackson, have lost their last four to the Giants by a combined 63 points.
BEST BETS: CLEVELAND, TAMPA BAY, HOUSTON