Pretenders no more.
Last week, I suggested some of the match-ups were contenders vs. pretenders. If so, at least a couple of the implied pretenders did not play that role. Cincinnati and Denver both won in similar fashion, with late-game heroics vanquishing Baltimore and New England, respectively.
No matter where they were expected to be at this point, they both have established themselves as teams to beat in their divisions.
Except for the Giants/Saints, this week’s Sunday daytime schedule is rather unexciting. Chicago at Atlanta Sunday night and Denver at San Diego Monday night may be worth staying up late for.
Bye weeks for Indianapolis, Miami, Dallas and San Francisco.
Last week 6-8 vs. spread, though one of the losers was technically off the board, 33-43 for the season. 8-6 straight up, 48-28 overall. We can, we must do better. Home teams in all caps.
Sunday, Oct. 18
WASHINGTON 6 1/2 over Kansas City: The 0-5 Chiefs are almost the more stable outfit here. Skins coach Zorn is seemingly days away from being ex-coach, former players are taking pot shots at current front office types, coaches and players alike. The jittery, pint-sized owner only adds to the circus atmosphere. So don’t bet on these guys. Washington 17-13.
CINCINNATI 5 1/2 over Houston: The one team here we have already alluded to keeps finding ways to win. The other team…just the opposite, like when the Texans were stuffed on three straight plays from Arizona’s 1-yard line while attempting to score the tying TD with time running out. Still, their potent offense makes it tempting to take those points. Cincinnati 24-21.
PITTSBURGH 14 over Cleveland: Eleven straight victories for the Steelers over the Browns. If these two were boxers it would have been stopped long ago. Steelers have yet to resemble their Super Bowl selves, but get Polamalu back this week and that should help. Pittsburgh 27-6.
MINNESOTA 3 over Baltimore: Ravens defense not traveling quite as well this year as increased emphasis on passing game has put added pressure on the stop unit. Vikings still perfect though haven’t played toughest schedule so far. As long as Favre remains effective, not much missing in the Northland. Minnesota 23-17.
JACKSONVILLE 10 over St. Louis: Third straight non-sellout for Jaguars and it figures to remain that way rest of the year so don’t blame the Rams. Judging by last week’s no-show in Seattle, Jags fans who exist would probably rather watch another TV game anyway. Rams have still not begun to compete. Jacksonville 24-10.
NEW ORLEANS 3 over New York Giants: With 19 wins in last 22 road games, G-men tough to buck in any venue, even in this battle of unbeaten’s. Saints’ opportunistic defense has been just as responsible as Brees-led offense for their success. I’ll stick with Giants until there is a reason not to. Giants 20-17.
Carolina 3 over TAMPA BAY: And now we have the opposite situation, searching for bright spots in a sea of darkness. Last year’s 12-win season seems so long ago for the Panthers, who needed plenty of good fortune to post first win against Skins last week. Delhomme remains mistake-prone, the running game sputtering. And then we have the Bucs. Yeahhhh….Carolina 16-10.
GREEN BAY 14 over Detroit: Not sure who plays QB for Lions, though Stafford might return. Packers are coming off bye, but have had a fitful time protecting QB Rodgers with beat-up O-line. Lions will not go winless again this year, but have still given up more points than all other teams. Might hang within spread, if you feel daring. Green Bay 30-21.
Philadelphia 14 1/2 over OAKLAND: Another double-digit line, the difference here is HOME team is getting more than two converted TDs. What does Vegas have to do to get Raiders money? Probably more than this. Their QB is horrible, their defense has stopped trying. Only 11 more games, guys. Philadelphia 28-7.
SEATTLE 3 over Arizona: Seahawks a whole lot better with Hasselbeck than without him, and remain a threat to win division as long as he stays upright. Cards jumped to big lead last week, then barely held off Texans. Maybe the toughest call of the week but go with recent sucess. Arizona 30-28.
NEW YORK JETS 10 over Buffalo: Jets’ previously strong defense shredded in Monday loss to Dolphins, but that shouldn’t be a problem against bumbling Bills. Rookie Sanchez having his ups and downs but this one should be made to order. Jets 24-7.
NEW ENGLAND 9 1/2 over Tennessee: Hard to explain what has happened to Titans but it’s not turning around now. Collins still the starting QB but stay tuned, the second Vince Young era is nigh. Patriots having their own problems but plenty of time to work those out. Maybe not completely this week. New England 21-17.
ATLANTA 3 1/2 over Chicago: Bears off a bye, Falcons off thrashing of 49ers. Don’t want to get carried away by the latter but Falcons showing last year’s playoff run was no fluke. Cutler-fueled attack adds a new dimension to formerly stodgy image of Bears. Give edge to the home team. Atlanta 24-16.
Monday, Oct. 19
SAN DIEGO 3 1/2 over Denver: So will it continue? The Broncos’ improbable run to the top of the NFL that is. More to the point, can they continue to keep high-powered offenses down since their own offense has been merely pedestrian. That could change this week as Chargers score and Denver struggles to catch up. San Diego 27-17.