Minnesota Vikings (+4) @ Pittsburgh Steelers: This pick seems eerily easy. The Steelers have played too close with just about every team they’ve played, going so far as to lose some big games late because they couldn’t close out their opponents. Brett Favre has been dynamite, never more-so than late in games where he’s brought his team back from defeat, delivering in the clutch, Brett-Favre-Style if you will. But the Steelers are good, and they’ll be out to show Minnesota a thing or two about the kind of teams they’re going to have to beat to dethrone the Champs. The Vikings are 4-2 ATS this season while Pittsburgh has just one win against the spread in six chances. The Steelers are 7-2 ATS in their last 7 games against an opponent with a winning record, but in 6 games this year, they’ve played 0 teams that came in with a winning record, the Vikings will be the first. Pittsburgh won’t win any early-season strength of schedule competitions, as their four wins come against the likes of Tennessee, San Diego, Detroit, and Cleveland. Yikes. Their two losses? Chicago and Cincinnati. Hmm… The Vikings have faced a few good teams, including a last minute win against Baltimore last week. Minnesota is 3-0 ATS on the road this season. I love that I still get a win if the Packers lose by a field goal, and I’ll get a push if the Steelers win by 4 (also a common outcome). The value is good, two good teams, I’ll take the undefeated road dogs here.
New England Patriots (-14.5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It’s almost poetic. New England heads to plain old regular England as the “road team” against one of the worst teams in football, Tampa Bay. Wimbley stadium has proven to be a tough place to keep your footing, as it gets chewed up by the weather. But tough field conditions can only be a help for New England. After the Patriots laid a proper onslaught of touchdowns on the Titans last week, and shut out Tennessee 59-0 (in the snow), of course they are going to be big favorites overseas. But it’s justified. The Patriots have played a lot better defensively that I expected this season, and that’s not good news for Josh Johnson and company. I don’t think it’s fair that New England gets to play in a sort-of funky situation, long plane ride, probably a shorter week of practice, because Coach Belichick and company do such a good job of getting their team ready for every situation. Rookie coach, Raheem Morris will certainly have his hands full this week, slowing what looks to be a revitalized Patriots offensive attack. 14.5 is a lot of points, and I wouldn’t bet too much on the game, but if I had to lean one way or another, I’d lean on Tom Brady.
Buffalo Bills (+7) @ Carolina Panthers: I like how the world is waiting on Trent Edwards to see if they’re going to bet on the Bills, or even more, the books are waiting to post lines until that information comes out. Here’s a piece of advice for you, if you like the Bills, like I do here, wait until the news comes out that Trent will not be playing Sunday. If and when that happens, you’re likely to see this line jump up a little in Buffalo’s favor, and +7.5 is just that much sweeter than +7. That being said, I don’t see what the Panthers have done to be a touchdown favorite against anybody in the NFL. Was it last week’s win over Tampa where they barely pulled it off? Or was it the week before that when Washington had Carolina on the ropes 17-2 midway through the 3rd quarter? Or could it be when Carolina got beaten in ever single other game they’ve played this year? Listen, Buffalo doesn’t stop the run really well, but they do play close football games. Despite their poor record, 2-4, they’ve been in every single game they’ve played late, besides when Miami dominated them. If Carolina has yet to win by more than a touchdown and Buffalo has played just about everyone tough, how can you call Carolina -7 value? It’s not, not at all. Anything can happen, but the Bills have proven to me that they can keep it close. Carolina can’t put up a bunch of points fast, Buffalo covers in Carolina.