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.
San Francisco 49ers (+3) @ Houston Texans: One down game from the 49ers doesn’t have me going away from them here. Now, I like both teams. I thin the Houston Texans are going to put up some wins this season, no doubt, their 3-3 record thus far isn’t a fluke, but the 49ers are too tough for them. San Francisco is coming off a bye, and an off week of feeling that Falcon blasting from Week 5 might just be the thing they needed to step up their play. This will be Michael Crabtree’s first NFL appearance, after he finally signed his rookie deal two weeks ago. But I don’t think Crab will be the guy that makes the difference here, that title goes to the return of Frank Gore. That’s right folks, the spoon that stirs San Francisco’s offense will be back and starting in this one, and that Houston front 7 (or 8 during this game) will have their hands full. I expect the 49ers to win in Houston, so taking them to cover here (getting a field goal free) is just bonus!
San Diego Chargers (-4.5) @ Kansas City Chiefs: I know KC is tough at home, and I know this game was very close twice last year (though San Diego won both, KC covered each) but I’m with the public in this one. I think most of the spreads this week are pretty tough, but I like the Chargers by a touchdown here. I actually think San Diego played very well last week against the Broncos. They allowed two kick return touchdowns to Eddie Royal (well one punt and one KO) and besides that they were stingy on defense. They held a pretty tough rushing attack to 101 yards on 33 carries, and the secondary made some nice plays. And that’s all against a very efficient offense that boasts one of the best offensive lines in football. Kansas City doesn’t have that. Offensively, Phillip Rivers and company moved the ball fairly well, and LT actually ran with solid effectiveness against a defense that has shut down the run all season long. There’s some questions in San Diego, no doubt about it, and Kansas City has played pretty decent over the last couple weeks, going to OT with Dallas and getting their first win of the season against Washington, but I have to go with the Chargers here. Four and a half isn’t crazy. The Chargers have played some close games with some good teams, and at 2-3 on the season with Denver at 6-0, they can’t afford to take the Chiefs lightly. I’ll take the road favorites here.
Indianapolis Colts (-13) @ St. Louis Rams: The Colts are too good to go against here. The Rams may have given Jacksonville a scare last week, and I know this is the NFL, so anything crazy can happen (see Philadelphia’s breakdown in Oakland last week) but does anyone really see the Rams having a chance here? I’ve never been a huge Peyton Manning fan, but I can respect the man’s work, and he does it perfectly. He has all the tools, the accuracy, and the know-how – not to mention the work he puts in to be great. And he’s going up against the Rams, a defense that doesn’t successfully stop anyone. Offensively, the Rams just aren’t good enough to oust the Colts. Not only are the Colts a team that makes you be efficient and methodically move the ball to stand a chance, but they have a front 4 that constantly puts opposing offenses in tough situations. And this week they will likely get Bob Sanders back. Yeah, that’s right, the Colts have done this all without their best secondary player, the human missile, Bob Sanders. Marlin Jackson (the best corner on the team) might also be back after missing the first handful of games. I know it’s a double digit spread, but if there’s ever a time to take a road favorite in this situation, it’s now. The Colts have a very quick strike offense with one of the best QBs of all time. They limit big plays defensively and get after opposing QBs. Marc Bulger is a turnover machine under pressure and he just happens to be quarterbacking the worst team in football. That’s all I’ve got, give me the Colts.
Iowa Hawkeyes @ Wisconsin Badgers (-2.5): Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of either team, but Iowa is way ahead of where they should be, and stuff like that has a way of working it’s way out sooner rather than later. They’re pretty lucky to be without a loss right now, a one point win against Northern Iowa to start the season, a 3 point win over Arkansas State two weeks ago, and a 2 point win over Michigan last week. You only get so many chances, and if the Hawkeyes were kittens, those lives would be getting down to go time, or shall we say no time. Football karma is real, and teh Badgers unranked and favored by nearly a field goal at home against the 12th ranked team in the country? There’s something to like there.
Ohio State Buckeyes @ Purdue Boilermakers (+14): The Boilermakers might not be the sexy pick, but I’m a firm believer in football karma evening out, and the Boilermakers have played a lot better than their 1-5 record shows. They’ve played in heaps of close games already, losing by just 3 to Notre Dame, 2 to Oregon, 6 to Northwestern, and a Touchdown to Northern Illinois. Now listen, the Boilermakers aren’t good, I just expect a couple things to bounce right for them against the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes aren’t the most explosive offense on the planet, and the Boilermakers historically give the Ohio State trouble. Now, OSU has beaten the Boilermakers in 5 of the last 6 contests, but Purdue has covered in 4 of the last 5, and this game has been close in the last 5 showdowns. The Boilermakers have lost by more than two touchdowns just once in the last 5 years, that was a 16 point loss in ’07. Two touchdowns is a lot to spot the Boilermakers, I’m thinking too much. I’ll take the points again!
Oklahoma Sooners (+3.5) @ Texas Longhorns: Now I seriously doubt the 3.5 will matter much when all is said and done, but the fact that I can win even if the Sooners lose by a field goal makes me feel just that much better about my selection. I like the Sooners here for a couple reasons. Coming into the season, I thought Oklahoma was the better team. Now they have already lost twice, and haven’t looked brilliant so far this season, but at least they’re battle tested. They’ve had a tough start to the year, but that’s because of injuries and some very good opponents. BYU is a very good veteran team, Miami has loads of talent and has played very well in some big games, and even Tulsa can play with most anyone in the country. That’s 3 games against better opponents than Texas has seen all season, and to be honest, I haven’t been that impressed with the Longhorns when I’ve seen them play. Colt hasn’t been nearly as sharp as he was last season, and the running game has some questions with injuries coming into this game. I also like that the winner of this game has been the road team 3 straight seasons. Now Texas has covered 4 straight, and ousted Oklahoma in 3 of the last 4, but this one has a little different feel. National Title hopes are basically out of the question for Oklahoma, while a win for the Longhorns would give them a leg up in the race for the Championship. Oklahoma has nothing to lose, and can only relish in the chance to upset the Texans and do their part in destroying their rival’s chance at glory. The underdog Sooners out to ruin it all, I kind of like them in that role. This should be a great one, but I’ll take the road dog and the points!
This week there’s a great Wednesday match-up in College Football. 5th Ranked Boise State plays a talented and fast Tulsa team looking to deliver a crushing upset to the Broncos. As many have seen, anything can happen mid-week in NCAA Football and this is my free pick.
Boise State Broncos @ Tulsa Golden Hurricane (+9): I like the Golden Hurricane to put up enough of a fight to keep this one close. Each of the last two meetings between these two programs have been close games. While Boise has won both, Tulsa has covered easily. Both defenses have a lot of speed and come second to their own offenses when people talk about these teams. It’s a Wednesday Night game, which makes me think it will be close. Tulsa can put up points, and they’ve done so in every single game besides their blowout at the hands of Oklahoma. I’m not sure they were ready for that game, but they will be for this one. Tulsa is 12-2 at home over the last couple seasons, and they always play well on their home turf. Both offenses are relatively mistake free, and I think that benefits the big home dog in this one. The Broncos haven’t really been tested yet this year, as even in their closest contest (an 11 point win over Oregon), they were in control all game long. Anything can happen mid-week on the road, and I expect this one to be a lot closer than Boise fans are expecting. That being what it is, I’ll take the home team and the points.