Home teams in CAPS.
BET THE HOUSE AWARD
Seemingly, there are several candidates this week that reek of “gimmes.” For bettors, that’s a scary proposition. Even still, I must select a “sure thing,” and this week’s guarantee is…
Pittsburgh (-7) over HOUSTON
Ben Rothlisberger laughed right in the smug face of the Sophomore Jinx in Week 1, and going up against a porous Houston team coming off a humiliating loss to Buffalo, it’s hard to believe the Steelers won’t roll to an easy victory. The only concern here is the law of averages: Can Pittsburgh possibly play as well as it did last week? And can Houston possibly look as bad? The answer is yes. Take Pittsburgh even though its giving up 7 points.
TRAP GAME OF THE WEEK (The game a lot of people will get wrong)
Washington (+6) over DALLAS
Are the Cowboys this good? Really? One of the larger point spreads on the docket features a team with Drew Bledsoe at quarterback? Don’t be fooled by Dallas’ road win at San Diego last week – I know a lot of people will be. Look for the tenacious Redskins defense to hold down the Cowboys passing game. While Julius Jones will get his yards on the ground, the Washington defense is simply too strong. Even if Dallas wins, I find it hard to believe they’ll win by a touchdown. If Vegas is giving Washington points, take them.
WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE THEY THINKING? (Vegas making everyone’s lives easier)
St. Louis (+1) over ARIZONA
Look, I know the Rams are coming off a loss…to San Francisco. But two weeks in a row? To an Arizona team that lost by 23 points to the Giants?? Wow, for the life of me, I have no idea how Arizona can be favored in this game. Not a clue. The Rams win this one by at least 10.
AVOID THIS GAME
New England (-3 ½) over CAROLINA
I have no clue how this game will unfold. On one hand, you have the safe line of thinking (always bet on New England). On the other hand, you have a Carolina team many prognosticators had pegged as a Super Bowl contender, playing at home in as close to a must-win as you can have in Week 2. Even for the Patriots, that’s a volatile situation. Still, I wouldn’t have the guts to bet against the Pats. Gun to my head, I pick New England. But I wouldn’t go anywhere near this game.
THE BOUNCE-BACK TEAM
GREEN BAY (-6 ½) over Cleveland
There is no way Brett Favre and Co. is as offensively inept as last week’s 3-point clunker at Detroit. Always expect Favre, even on the downside of his career, to rise from the dead and deliver a sterling performance. Playing in front of a frenzied Lambeau Field home opener, coming off an embarrassing loss to Detroit, playing against the woeful Browns…Green Bay cruises.
THE LETDOWN TEAM
NEW YORK GIANTS (-3) over New Orleans
Can the Saints do it again? All New Orleans did last week was go on the road, beat a Super Bowl contender, become the feel-good story of opening weekend and provide the nation a great story amidst a troubling time. The Saints will get their chance to do it again, playing in the special Monday night game in the Meadowlands. Unfortunately, human nature compels you to believe the Saints will have a major letdown. Not only will they have trouble maintaining their Week 1 intensity, but the travel the team has endured will begin to show. Flying from San Antonio to Charlotte, back to San Antonio and now to New York will start to wear down the Saints. The Giants were extremely impressive in a 42-19 thrashing of Arizona, and they will prove too tough for the Saints.
BEST BETS OF THE REMAINING BUNCH
Minnesota (+6) over CINCINNATI
I don’t care how poorly Daunte Culpepper played last week. Do you honestly think he’ll commit five turnovers again? Of course not. Lest we forget, in some people’s hurried attempt to bury the Vikings, that Culpepper faced a pretty darn good defensive team last week in Tampa Bay. Last I checked, the Bengals are not quite in the same class at Tampa. The Vikes recover, and in the process, remind everyone not to forget about them in the NFC North.
San Diego (+3) over DENVER
The Chargers might be the toughest team in the NFL to figure out this season. Was last season an aberration? Does Antonio Gates mean so much to the team they can lose a home game to Dallas without him? Speaking of Gates, how effective is he in his first game back from suspension?
No one really knows the answers to these questions, but at least for Sunday, I’m betting that Drew Brees will be the happiest player in the league, as he regains the services of Gates. Even with the game in Denver, I find it hard to believe the Chargers are being given 3 points against a team that got crushed last week by a lightly regarded Miami team. My money is on San Diego flat-out winning this game, and with those 3 points, I’m even more confident.
Baltimore (-3 ½) over TENNESSEE
Yes, the Ravens got pounded, at home, by Indianapolis last week. But Tennessee got pounded by Pittsburgh. It’s still difficult to watch Steve McNair struggle like he does. Once one of the proudest and most respected NFL players, age has quickly caught up to McNair. Against a strong defense – that will be fired up following the loss to Indy – McNair could be like fresh meat.
MORE GAMES TO AVOID
SEATTLE (pick `em) over Atlanta
There’s a reason Vegas has this game at even money. It is simply way too difficult to call. I’ll pick Seattle, under the old, “A team coming off a huge, emotional home victory in front of a national audience on Monday night football now has to fly across country to play a team everyone now expects them to beat” formula. Then again, would anything Michael Vick does from this point on surprise anyone? I still like the Seahawks, but it’s a small, weak limb I’m standing on.
Detroit (-1) over CHICAGO
The Lions could challenge the Saints for the letdown team of the week. Coming off a dominating victory over Green Bay, a still-young team must check its emotions at the door, forget about last week, and venture into a hostile environment against another divisional rival. The Bears defense once again will hold fort, but the anemic offense will prevent Chicago from winning – a common refrain you can expect to see a lot this season.
Buffalo (+3) over TAMPA BAY
Besides the New England-Carolina game, this one has me running from it the most. Two impressive Week 1 teams battling it out: The vaunted Buffalo offense, led by Willis McGahee, taking on a Tampa defense that completely shutdown Daunte Culpepper and the Vikings. When in doubt, go with the underdog since they’re getting free points, but wow, I seriously would not wager a dime on this game.
AND FINALLY, THE “I MIGHT AS WELL PICK THESE GAMES AS WELL” GROUP
INDIANAPOLIS (-10) over Jacksonville
The Colts were scary good in their Sunday night drubbing of Baltimore. Perennial “this is our year to make the leap” Jacksonville heads to the dome this week to face Indianapolis. This won’t be as easy as Baltimore (I expect Byron Leftwich to find some holes in the Colts defense), but still, the Colts should prevail because the Jaguars won’t be able to match Peyton and the boys point for point.
NEW YORK JETS (-6 ½) over Miami
Miami was great last week, the Jets were not. Fear not, the rolls are reversed this week, for two reasons. One, the Jets are at home, and the crowd will have an impact on this game. And two, there is no way in the name of Gus Frerotte that Miami plays like they did last week.
Kansas City (-1 ½) over OAKLAND
The longtime rivals do battle in the Sunday night game. Expect plenty of offense from both teams. Trent Green and Priest Holmes are just more of a sure thing than Randy Moss and Kerry Collins. The Raiders may set records this season for points scored by a non-playoff team.
Last week against the spread: 0-0
Last week straight-up: 0-0
Season against the spread: 0-0
Season straight-up: 0-0