At least five attractive match-ups highlight this week’s NFL schedule, including that one on Monday when one of the quarterbacks has some sort of past connection to the team he is facing. And some people are worked up about it.
Also, the first of those pesky bye weeks has arrived. And that means two less games to choose from when looking for that sure thing. OK, there are still 14 of them. And it’s a bigger problem for those of you in fantasy leagues, forced to seek replacements for your star QB and RB.
But that is not our concern here. And the deeper you get into the season, the more teams establish their true identity, making our task a little more clear. There are five more home underdogs this week, a growing trend with some seemingly awful teams stinking it up thus far.
At least one of those dogs may have some bite this week, though, the way I see it.
Arizona, Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia do not play. Last week: 9-7 vs. spread, 24-24 overall. 11-5 straight up, 30-18 overall.
Sunday, Oct. 4
HOUSTON 9 1/2 over Oakland: Two one-win teams, one defensively challenged, the other with a very offensive offense. Texans plenty of talent when they have the ball, closing out games has presented a problem, like last week against Jacksonville. That alone might let the stumbling Raiders hang around. Houston 23-17.
Tennessee 3 over JACKSONVILLE: If the Jags won a home game and no one was there to see it, would it really count? No one in town will see it on TV, either, since the no-sellout blackout rule is in effect. If their fans don’t care about them, then why should we? Also, Titans gotta win some time. Tennessee 20-14.
NEW ENGLAND 2 over Baltimore: Marquee game of the week, or it would be if not for that Favre Bowl thing. Pats ran the ball to take heat off Brady last week vs. Falcons, but are they really all the way back? Ravens feasted on hapless Brownies, but continue to look like maybe the most complete team with Flacco improving by the game. No surprise if they continue to roll here. Baltimore 21-16.
Cincinnati 6 over CLEVELAND: Uh, Randy Lerner, we have a problem here. Oh…I see you’re watching your Aston Villa team play. You certainly seem popular with those English soccer fans. But over on this side of the pond, that Mangini cat you hired is ticking everybody off. Now he’s messing with the quarterbacks. Oh, yeah, the games are still selling out. Yeah, I guess that is the most important thing. Sorry to bother you. Cincinnati 27-13.
New York Giants 9 over KANSAS CITY: G-men not flashy, just efficient. First time these two have met up in four years. Chiefs’ offense looked decent in opener vs. Ravens, but not since. Lots of earth, wind and fire or whatever their running backs go by this year. Giants 24-10.
CHICAGO 10 over Detroit: Well, it finally happened. Yes, the Lions will not go 0-for-2009. They might even win a few more. This week? Not so much. Motor City men are 6-1 vs. spread last seven road game. Of course, they didn’t actually win any of those and lost a close one in Soldier Field last year. Gee, I spotted a trend. Chicago 21-14.
WASHINGTON 7 over Tampa Bay: So what happens to the coach who loses to a team that breaks a 19-game losing streak? Yes, the Jim Zorn watch is on in Washington, whose owner is not noted for patience. Well, the Bucs arrival in town couldn’t have come at a better time. Perhaps they are this year’s version of the ’08 Lions. Washington 17-7.
INDIANAPOLIS 10 1/2 over Seattle: The Colts certainly acquitted themselves well with a pair of coast to coast wins, now get Seahawks without QB Hasselbeck. With only win over Rams, tough to make a case for road team in this one. Maybe a flat spot for the Colts? Nah, not this week. Indianapolis 31-13.
NEW ORLEANS 7 over New York Jets: So how about this for game of the week? It’s the only one featuring two unbeaten teams. Defense travels, and the Jets certainly have defense from what we’ve seen so far. But in this setting, against league’s highest scoring team, it’s asking a lot. Jets should still get cover. New Orleans 24-20.
Buffalo 2 1/2 over MIAMI: Brutal schedule has chewed up Dolphins so far, now they will go rest of way without injured QB Pennington. Can it get any worse? Yes, but it might actually get a little better. Maybe even starting this week. Bills’ lack of attack was frightful vs. Saints, and now they have to deal with increasingly unhappy tower of ego known as T.O. Miami 20-17.
SAN FRANCISCO 10 over St. Louis: Can Niners be expected to cover double digits, even against Rams, with RB Gore sidelined? Rookie Coffee not impressive in his stead last week but will get chance to shine for next couple weeks. Rams might be better off with QB Boller, if beat-up Bulger can’t go. San Francisco 16-13.
Dallas 3 over DENVER: Wait a minute…a 3-0 team as a home underdog? Isn’t that what what we look for? Well, not in this case. We know all about the Broncos’ good fortune and easy schedule so far. That ends here. Marion Barber may return for Cowboys, who should put forth a more consistent effort than previous weeks. Dallas 23-14.
PITTSBURGH 7 over San Diego: Steelers looking less than Super since their triumph on the big stage last season, but still spotting a converted touchdown to a team that gave them all they could handle twice last year, including a playoffs shootout. Never pay a premium on defending champion. Pittsburgh 24-20.
Monday, Oct. 5
MINNESOTA 3 1/2 over Green Bay: Favre came up with some vintage magic on that last play to beat 49ers, adding to the buildup for this one. As if the whole soap opera scenario needed it. Might the other QB feel slighted? Could Rodgers possibly steal the show and make Favre look lke just another over the hill guy who stayed too long? Sure, why not. Green Bay 21-20.