Cincinnati Bengals vs Cleveland Browns: CIN -3
However, they remain my pick to win the AFC North and I like them to keep the winning trend alive vs a CLE team that plays hard, but can't pull out the wins. The Browns will once again have a hard time passing on a good CIN defense. Neither team is very good on 3rd down this season, but CIN have enough weapons to overcome this while the Browns do not. Both quarterbacks should have time to pass the ball in this game, but CLE can't sustain drives, turn the ball over, and continue to lose the ball possession battle. Their only real advantage this week will be on kick coverage. At the end of the day, CIN is proving they know how to win in this league. The defense is carrying them while the offense plays catchup, but expect Palmer and company to improve as the year goes on. CIN swept the 'battle of Ohio' last year and it won't be much different this season. Prediction: Bank CIN.
San Francisco 49ers vs Atlanta Falcons: ATL -6.5
Most people were high on the 49ers coming into the season and after their performance on Monday night against the Saints, things were looking like they would eventually turn around. But after getting completely owned in KC, there is no doubt that SF has dropped down everybody's power rankings. I skipped this game because I expected them to have a tough time playing in a hostile environment and coming off a short week, but I also didn't anticipate them getting blown out.
In stark contrast, about everything that could go right has for ATL. They finally took the next step and won a huge game by taking out the Saints in OT. The truth is, they should have won the game in regulation because they dominated play on both sides of the ball. They are near the top of the league in several important categories and look for more long drives and ball possession on Sunday. ATL is taking care of the football and Ryan should have plenty of time to find his receivers vs SF. There is the danger of the team coming out flat after such a big win on the road, but SF isn't a team that can take advantage of that early. When all is said and done ATL should win this game by double digits. Prediction: Bank ATL.
Washington Redskins vs Philadelphia Eagles: PHI -6.5
All week people will be focusing on Mcnabb vs Vick. This is a great storyline that will sell a lot of papers and receive a lot of hits, but a closer look at this game reveals quite a few mismatches in PHI's favor. Perhaps the most important will be the PHI passing game against the WSH passing defense. A lot more was expected out of this defense this season, but so far they haven't shown up to play very often. There is still time to turn it around, but losing to a rebuilding STL team on the road is embarrassing.
Vick may get all the headlines after PHI win this game, but the real story should be their defense. Mcnabb will be alone on an island trying to exercise his demons. He'll be playing 11 players that have patiently waited a long time to see him in a game jersey instead of a red practice jersey. The blitzes will be coming every other play and Mcnabb will wish he had half the escapability that Vick does. They will also be praying that LT Williams is healthy enough to start. If not, Mcnabb's blindside will be overloaded all day. Prediction: Bank PHI.
Carolina Panthers vs New Orleans Saints: UNDER 45
For the Saints, I expect them to dominate this game, but they won't be putting up 40+ points. I am very high on this team for obvious reasons, but losing Bush hurts them more than people might think. He was a player who could be counted on to come up with key first downs or help change field position in a game. Beyond that, he also helped Brees identify coverages because defenses would have to show their hand depending on where Bush lined up. Now Thomas is banged up and suddenly the Saints are thin in the backfield. They also have a kicker issue, which is exactly what you want to hear if you are playing the under. The Saints also might come out a bit flat after losing a huge game against ATL in week 3. They will still win the game, but it won't be a shootout. 45 is above the key number of 44 so I feel great about this pick and look forward to getting back on the winning side of totals. Prediction: Bank UNDER.
Indianapolis Colts vs Jacksonville Jaguars: IND -7
This game came out with an overnight line at -7 and quickly moved up to -9 as all the money poured in on IND. The public love to bet teams like IND, but the sharps also jumped on this spread. However, most people woke up on Monday to see -8 or -9 so I didn't recommend the pick. It has come back down to -7.5 though and I bought the half point and took them at -7. Giving up more than this on the road is risky regardless of the opponent. Last week was a great example of this because I included both BAL and NE in my teaser, but didn't play either in a straight bet. As it turned out they both covered for the teaser, but not the vegas spread.
If you analyze this game based on history there's no way you would lay 7 points on the road. This has traditionally been a tough matchup for IND because JAX played stingy defense and controlled the clock with the run game. You can throw all that out the window this year because JAX is scary bad in their secondary and Peyton is off to his best start since his record breaking season. Garcon did some light practice on Monday so if he returns for this game JAX will have that much more trouble keeping IND off the scoreboard.