Two weeks down, 15 to go. That’s right, just a sliver of the NFL season has gone down, and already people are saying teams are in trouble. I’ll tell you one guy not in trouble, that’s me. I haven’t killed it with any undefeated weeks or anything, but two straight winners and a 19-11-1 record stares at me when I look in the mirror, and that’s not a bad way to start. Let’s see if I can make it 3 for 3 with this week’s free picks… Enjoy! Oh, and feel free to donate if I make you some dough. Ha.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Atlanta Falcons (-4): This line has to be climbing up, as the Chiefs are likely to start Tyler Thigpen at quarterback and they are going up against a better all around team in Atlanta. The Chiefs can’t stop the run, and Atlanta is going to hand the ball off 40 times this weekend. That doesn’t bode well for the Chiefs attempts to get that first win of the season. KC isn’t a good road team, they aren’t a good team in the first place, and they have a bad match-up against a strong running team this week. Take Atlanta.
Oakland Raiders (+10.5) @ Buffalo Bills: Oakland’s defense has shown me that they are solid. Sure, Jay Cutler carved them up, but who isn’t that guy destroying? Oakland can run the ball effectively and has a quarterback that can really fire a pass if need be. I think Oakland is better than many give them credit for, and the Bills aren’t quite the 10.5 point powerhouse at home. Take the points and the Raiders here. Expect JaMarcus Russell to have a two touchdown game, and the Raiders to stay close in Buffalo.
Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans (-5): I don’t think Houston’s run defense can slow down the Titans rushing attack enough to cover in Tennessee. Houston is in a tough spot having to go heads up against the Steelers last week, missing a home game against Baltimore, and then walking into Tennessee to see what they can muster against a very good TItans defense. I like the Texans, but see this as a tough spot for them. Look for Kerry Collins to do just enough, get the ball to Justin Gage and Algae Crumpler, and let Chris Johnson do work on Houston’s front 7.
Cincinnati Bengals @ New York Giants (-13): Until the Bengals show me that they are more together than a bucket of busted Legos, I’m not even considering taking them at anything less than +17. Carson Palmer hasn’t gotten the time of day from his offensive line, and receivers seem to be running bad routes. New York’s pass rush won’t help his cause, that’s for sure. I bet he’s sweating bullets just thinking about Justin Tuck and company. The Giants have impressed me thus far, and while I don’t think they are the best team in the league, certainly not as good as they’ve played, they should still dominate a BAD Cincinnati defense and hold that stagnant offense in check.
Arizona Cardinals (+3.5) @ Washington Redskins: I understand that the NFC East hasn’t lost a game out of their own conference this season. It’s only been two weeks, but it is definitely the scariest conference in football. Still, the Redskins had to pull some magic tricks to break off a win against the Saints last week, so much so that I’m betting not much momentum rides into this week’s home tilt against the Redskins. Arizona has played frighteningly good defense thus far, and that athletic secondary should be able to slow down Zorn’s west coast passing attack. Washington will find it hard to slow down Kurt Warner and company without a strong pass rush. If the Cardinals can keep Jason Taylor out of the backfield, and double teams will help, they should have plenty of time to pick apart the Skins all day long. Take the road dogs here.
Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots (-12.5): This is going to be one of those Patriotic blowouts. Miami is still one of the worst teams in football and despite Tom Brady’s absence, the Patriots are still one of the best. Miami allows big plays in the secondary, and they don’t have a stout rush defense either. It may be an awkward group of backs for New England, but Sammy Morris, LaMont Jordan, and Kevin Faulk will have answers on the ground. I’m betting on New England feeling free and easy after taking down the Jets last week, and parlaying that into a big offensive day for Randy Moss and company.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3) @ Chicago Bears: I know the Bears are 2-0, but I still don’t see them as a good team. Maybe that changes this week if they can fend off the Bucs, a solid team all around, but my bet is that doesn’t happen. I like Tampa to effectively run the ball against a Bears front 7 that hasn’t given up much on the ground this season. Brian Griese has his ups and downs, but he has what it takes to find open receivers and speedy backs. I’m guessing this game is one of those 13-7 contests, or maybe it even gets to the 30’s, but a high scoring affair it won’t be. Tampa should shut down the Bears solid rushing game and do enough to pull the slight upset in Chicago.
Carolina Panthers @ Minnesota Vikings (-3): Carolina sure has found a way to win the first few weeks, and now they get back their own personal Vikings killer, Steve Smith. That’s right, Steve does work against the Minnesota boys and he’s back from his two game hiatus. But I don’t think that will be enough. I don’t see Carolina’s rushing attack working too well in Minnesota, and I do think their offensive attack and winning chances depend on that. Gus Frerotte starts this week in Minnesota, so the Panthers will have more to worry about through the air. We’ll see, but I have to believe that the Vikings don’t start the season 0-3. Take the Vikes to get their first win and by just enough to cover at home.
St. Louis Rams (+11) @ Seattle Seahawks: Please. I know the Rams have been bad, but what have the Hawks done to gather an 11 point margin here? Both teams are winless, so there will be an old fashioned struggle to get things on the right track. I like St. Louis’s offense better right now, and no, Koren Robinson’s signing didn’t push me over to Seattle’s side. If the Hawks win it will be there defense that makes it so. My motto there is this, if you are betting on a defense to win you a football game, never ever bet on that team if the spread is bigger than a touchdown. The Rams will score and the Hawks will be lucky if they get out of Seattle with their first win.
Detroit Lions (+4) @ San Francisco 49ers: This game comes down to a couple things. A- the Lions are winless. B- Detroit’s players hate Mike Martz more than Mike Martz wants to prove his worth. And C- these are the freaking San Francisco 49ers and never should you ever take them as a favorite. Neither team is worth their weight in copper, but Detroit has more to play for, more to lose, and a better team than does San Fran – so I’ll go with the road dogs once again.
New Orleans Saints @ Denver Broncos (-4.5): New Orleans isn’t as good as people think they are – Denver is. The Broncos may have gotten a gift last week when Cutler fumbled away their chances only to get a piggy back from Ed Hachuli, a second chance, and a game winning touchdown and ballsy two point conversion to beat the Chargers – but what many people will forget is how the Broncos pretty much handles San Diego. That’s right, it’s not always the case that points tell the entire story, and this was one of those instances. The Chargers were magic late, and that got the game back on their side, but the Broncos were the better team on Sunday. That said, they are much better than a speed bump team from the NFC South. Take the Broncos to do whatever they want at home against New Orleans – pass, run, lateral – I don’t care, they are going to succeed. Take Splinter’s little ninja horses to cover.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Philadelphia Eagles (-3): Everyone and their mother seems to like the road dogs in this one, but I’m not so sold. Pittsburgh is a solid group, but Philly can really play some ball, and I think they should be getting more points at home against a Steelers unit that is a little dinged up. Ben Roethlisberger will have trouble dealing with the Eagles pass rush, especially considering that his shoulder is burning as I write this. The Eagles look very confident and though they did get some help to stay close to Dallas (thank you Tony Romo), they also showed their dynamic flavor in a big NFC East showdown last Monday night. Westbrook will be able to do enough on the ground to keep the Steelers honest, and that’s not a good sign for Pittsburgh’s secondary. In a tight match, I’m taking the Eagles by a touchdown.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+6) @ Indianapolis Colts: Bob Sanders’ injury wins me over to the dogs in this one. I think the Jaguars will run all over the Colts on Sunday. This is a pretty big game for both teams, and Jacksonville has looked anything but solid thus far, but my instinct is to trust my gut, and my gut tells me that Jacksonville has been playing well below their talent level, and that will stop now. At 0-2 there’s not much room to mess around, and I don’t imaging they’ll come out throwing all over Indy. Maurice Jones Drew should get 15-20 carries and Fred Taylor will get his touches as well. If that happens, and I believe it will, the Jaguars and Colts will both be sitting at 1-2 after Week 3.
Cleveland Browns (+2.5) @ Baltimore Ravens: Free Money! It’s amazing that the Browns love has fallen this fast. I mean, even I was laughing at the “Super Bowl” chances given to the Brownies, but a 2 point dog to the rookie led Ravens? Please. Like Matt Ryan, it will be soon that Flacco learns the ups and DOWNS of the NFL. Cleveland lost a couple tough games to start the season, playing a great Cowboys team and taking a tough 10-6 game on the chin against a very good Steelers team – there will be better days, like, umm, Sunday – for example.
Dallas Cowboys (-3) @ Green Bay Packers: I hate to bet against Green Bay here, but even more so I hate to go against the Cowboys, a team I think is better than any other in football. My bet is this; the Cowboys will put a lot of pressure on Aaron Rodgers and really stymie the Packers rushing attack. Those two things will get them just over the top for a touchdown victory on the road against a very good Packers team. I also think the Packers run defense isn’t as good as it was last season. If that assessment is true, Marion Barber and Felix Jones will do some damage on the tundra in Wisconsin. Take the Cowboys here, the best team in football.
New York Jets (+10) @ San Diego Chargers: Alright, so the Chargers have been screwed around in Weeks 1 and 2, losing a pair of games on touchdowns in the last 30 seconds. They are definitely the best 0-2 team in football and they will win this week against the Jets. I’m just betting on this game being one of the 17% in which the team that wins doesn’t cover. Brett Favre will do enough in his 3rd game to hit the Chargers where it hurts, their secondary. I expect this to be Brett’s best game in Jet-green, and while I’m thinking the Chargers see the luck turn and win, I do think Brett has a chance. That chance will be good enough to stick within a touchdown and a field goal of the Chargers on Monday Night Football.