(Home team is in caps.)
49ERS (-3) over Bears
I picked this game on Thursday morning. Nice work, Jay Cutler.
Jaguars (+7) over JETS
I don’t trust either one of these teams. The Jaguars are 4-4, but they’ve lost to the Seahawks (41-0) and Titans and have only beaten the Rams and Chiefs by a combined six points. Quarterback David Garrard has been average at best with an 81.8 quarterback rating, and, believe it or not, has only thrown six touchdown passes (and five interceptions). Maurice Jones-Drew does lead all running backs with 11 touchdown runs, however. On defense, Jacksonville allows 24.8 points per game (24th-most) and isn’t particularly good at stopping neither the run nor the pass.
The Jets, meanwhile, are also 4-4 and have an impressive early-season win against the Patriots. But they also have losses to the Dolphins (twice) and the Bills. Quarterback Mark Sanchez has played worse than Garrard, but that’s to be expected since he’s a rookie. Sanchez has a 67.6 quarterback rating and has thrown eight touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. The Jets’ running game has been effective, with Thomas Jones averaging about 88 yards per game; right now, he’s eighth among running backs in rushing yards (704) and tied for fourth in touchdowns (7). As for defense, the Jets are much better than the Jaguars. The Jets allow 16.8 points per game, fourth-fewest in the NFL, and they are the second-toughest defense to pass against, particularly aided by a strong pass rush and also by standout cornerback Darrelle Revis, a shoe-in for the Pro Bowl.
If not for injuries, the Jets would probably cover. But so far, they’ve lost key players like Kris Jenkins and Leon Washington for the season, and linebacker Vernon Gholston is doubtful with an injured hamstring. The Jets’ main focus will be to keep Jones-Drew from having a huge game, though that will be difficult to accomplish. But on the other side of the ball, Sanchez may make a few more rookie mistakes -- and that could be just enough to keep the Jaguars in the game. With two average teams, I’ll take the points.
Broncos (-4) over REDSKINS
If the Redskins had an offensive line to protect Jason Campbell, this would be a pretty even game. But they don’t, and Campbell will be pressured throughout the game -- and he’ll be lucky to escape without an injury. If you don’t believe me, go back and watch the tape of last week’s loss to the Falcons. Campbell was sacked five times in the first half, and even when he wasn’t sacked, he was hit time after time. Most quarterbacks would have mailed it in with a performance from an offensive line like that, so I’ll give Campbell credit: He finished the game and played very well. The entire offense will have their hands full, to say the least.
Bengals (+7) over STEELERS
Is it possible that the Bengals could beat the Steelers and Ravens a combined four times? Sure, but I don't think it'll happen. I think the Bengals keep the game close but that the Steelers pull out the win at home.
TITANS (-7) over Bills
The Titans have looked a lot better since making the move to start Vince Young. They haven’t beaten anyone very good (Jaguars and 49ers), but that’s still two wins in a row after starting the season off with six straight losses. Oh, by the way, the Titans also have the most explosive running back in the league: Chris Johnson. Johnson leads all running backs with 959 yards on the ground, and he averages nearly 120 yards a game. If that isn’t enough, the Bills’ defense allows the most rushing yards per game (173.6) in the league. I’m pretty sure that’s a significant advantage.
VIKINGS (-17) over Lions
Saints (-14) over RAMS
That’s a lot of points, but the Lions and Rams are terrible.
Falcons (-2) over PANTHERS
In the last four games, DeAngelo Williams has rushed for 548 yards. Williams is fifth in rushing yards (768), tied for fourth in rushing touchdowns (7), and tied for seventh in yards per carry (5.2). Unfortunately, Jake Delhomme is still the Panthers’ quarterback. In the team’s last four games, here are Delhomme’s performances:
vs. Tampa Bay: 9-17, 65 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 42.2 QB rating (28-21 win)
vs. Buffalo: 27-44, 325 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT, 55.6 QB rating (20-9 loss)
vs. Arizona: 7-14, 90 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 94.3 QB rating (34-21 win)
vs. New Orleans: 17-30, 201 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 77.2 QB rating (30-20 loss)
Besides the game against the Cardinals, Delhomme has been pretty awful. He turns the ball over way too much -- 13 interceptions, second-most in the league -- and the only quarterbacks with worse quarterback ratings in the league are Matthew Stafford, Josh Johnson, JaMarcus Russell, and Derek Anderson.
The Falcons’ defense is decent at stopping the run -- 11tth-best at 119.9 yards per game -- so at some point, Delhomme is going to have to make some plays. If he can limit the turnovers, the Panthers have a chance. I just don’t think that happens.
DOLPHINS (-10) over Buccaneers
The Bucs got their first win of the season last week against the Packers, who just can’t protect Aaron Rodgers. Rookie quarterback Josh Freeman started for the first time of his career in the win, throwing for 221 yards and three touchdowns. But he won’t look as good this week, and Tampa Bay will struggle to stop the Dolphins’ wildcat attack.
Chiefs (+2) over RAIDERS
You can side with JaMarcus Russell if you want. I’ll take the points.
CARDINALS (-9) over Seahawks
The Cardinals actually play better on the road, but the Seahawks have way too many injuries, especially on the offensive line, to be trusted against a better team.
Eagles (+1) over CHARGERS
Cowboys (-3) over PACKERS
Patriots (+3) over COLTS
I don’t really have a great read on these three games, so I’m going to lump them together. Eagles-Chargers is basically a coin flip, though the Chargers have looked much better lately. But Brian Westbrook is listed as probable, and his presence should help Donovan McNabb a bit.
I still think the Cowboys are a little overrated, but it’s hard to hate on them after winning in Philadelphia last week. If the Packers could block for Aaron Rodgers, they’d have a chance, especially since they’re playing at home. But they just can’t do that, and their loss to the Bucs is evidence enough that there’s something wrong with this team.
As for Patriots-Colts, who knows. It should be an extremely competitive game, though.
Ravens (-11) over BROWNS
The Ravens need this game, and the Browns are starting Brady Quinn. Enough said.
Last week: 7-6