If I were a betting man, you know I'm always inclined to include the Monday night game in parlays for hedging purposes, so it's no surprise I'm including the Niners -3.5 in a good matchup. I'd throw them in with New England -2.5 and Pittsburgh +1.5.
Indianapolis -2.5 at Houston
This was a little tough for me at first due to the history of home field advantage on TNF, but like I tweeted, I couldn't use that as an excuse to go against Andrew Luck. He's just playing on another level right now, and his favorite weapon, T.Y. Hilton, kills the Texans every time.
|Uh oh defenses: Gronk's healthy.|
New England -2.5 at Buffalo
The Patriots looked more like the team we're used to seeing in prime time, and I think they'll keep it up despite playing in a hostile environment. The Bills' pass rush worries me a bit, but New England's offensive line seems to be hitting their stride. The pass protection has gotten some help from the tight ends since they've gone back to more 12 personnel sets as Tim Wright has become more acclimated alongside Rob Gronkowski, and they should have nice matchups in coverage, as well.
Carolina +6.5 at Cincinnati
The team the Pats beat on Sunday night is now without their best player due to A.J. Green's troublesome toe. I still think they'll grind out a win at home with Vontaze Burfict coming back to solidify the defense, but this is too big of a spread. Cam Newton may not be running like he used to for a variety of reasons, but he's enjoying the finest passing stretch of his career with a career high 245.8 yards per game and just one interception in four games.
Pittsburgh +1.5 at Cleveland
These teams met just five weeks ago in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers needed a last second field goal after blowing a 27-3 lead. I admired Kyle Shanahan staying committed to the run, finishing with 191 yards on 31 attempts, despite falling behind in that first game, and sticking with that strategy should continue to give them a chance. However, I don't think Mike Tomlin's squad will take their opponents lightly this time, and Big Ben, a Findlay, Ohio native, is 18-1 against the Browns in his career.
Denver -9.5 at New York Jets
I took the points last week with some faith that the Jets run defense would keep them from being blown out by the Chargers and that the Broncos' inability to run the ball would keep them from running away from the Cardinals. That didn't work out so well. The fact that this game is in New York changes things a bit, but Peyton Manning should feast on a bad secondary. New York's vaunted rush defense was just killed by a small, fast runner in Branden Oliver, so Ronnie Hillman could have similar success as he fills in for the disappointing Montee Ball.
Minnesota -1.5 versus Detroit
Matthew Stafford's reputation of not being the same quarterback without Calvin Johnson is a bit exaggerated, but Megatron's absence is enough to tilt this game in the Vikings' favor, especially at home. Teddy Bridgewater's ankle should be healthy after taking last week off, and his mobility could be the difference against a defense that's playing as well as any unit in the league, ranking first in yards per game (282.4) and second in points per game (15.8).
|Cordarrelle Patterson will need to get open to exploit this secondary.|
Green Bay -3 at Miami
Both teams are coming off blowout wins and extra days of rest, and this line is fair considering the game is in Miami. With Knowshon Morenos's surprisingly early return to join Lamar Miller, the Dolphins should have the better day running the ball, and they could get a good amount of pressure on Aaron Rodgers, defensively. However, with 7 touchdowns in his last two games, Aaron Rodgers is locked in and facing a weaker secondary than the one that Ryan Tannehill will be facing.
Jacksonville +4 at Tennessee
Could this finally be the week the Jaguards get in the win column? They won't have many easier opportunities than facing Charlie Whitehurst, albeit on the road. With Toby Gerhart's nagging foot injury keeping him out of this one, rookie Storm Johnson could establish himself as a workhorse back against a soft front since Denard Robinson and Jordan Toddman are better suited in change of pace roles.
Baltimore -3.5 at Tampa Bay
This line scares be a bit since the Ravens are on the road, missing left tackle Eugene Monroe, and might be without left guard Kelechi Osemele. I'm counting on their defense getting after Mike Glennon in a low-scoring affair that the better team wins. Jimmy Smith is turning into a shutdown corner and has the size to matchup with Vincent Jackson, whom Glennon has been targeting relentlessly.
San Diego -7 at Oakland
|Expect a lot of Matt Forte in this one.|
Coming off of a bye and a head coaching change, I'm tempted to take the points with the Raiders at home, but the Chargers are playing too well right now, ranking third in yards per game (290.8) and first in points (12.6) defensively while still ranking in the top third of the league in those categories offensively.
Chicago +3 at Atlanta
Even though the Falcons are a different team at home, I still don't think they can get stops when they need to. Of course, the Bears are coming off of back to back second half collapses, so they don't exactly inspire confidence, either. I like the Bears in this one due to their stronger pass rush and more consistent running game.
Dallas +8.5 at Seattle
The vaunted Seahawks defense has shown some chinks in the armor, and while I don't expect the Cowboys to win on the road, their ball-control offense should keep them in the game. Of course, the Dallas defense is beginning to look as bad as everyone thought they were coming into the season, so Russell Wilson is poised to rip them apart like he did against a putrid Washington defense on Monday. Altogether, I think the points are too much to resist.
Arizona -3.5 versus Washington
I've gone back and forth on this game and ended up taking the home team despite the points. I would feel a lot better if I knew for sure that Carson Palmer was attacking this secondary, but Drew Stanton being cleared from his concussion is enough for now. I'm not the biggest fan of this Arizona defensive front, but they should be able to slow down Alfred Morris and Washington's running game.
Philadelphia -3 versus New York Giants
The defensive and special teams touchdowns aren't likely to continue, but I'm going with the home team in this one, as well. I do think Eli Manning will have a good game, and rookie Andre Williams could run away with the full time running back gig. However, the Eagles offense is ready to explode in one of these games, and the bright lights of Sunday Night Football might be their stage.
San Francisco -3.5 at St. Louis
It's a funny coincidence that the Niners are in town the same weekend that the Giants and Cardinals face-off in the National League Championship Series, and it brings up the question I always get about why I'm a fan of the Cardinals but not the Giants in baseball if I'm a San Francisco fan in football. I've written about it a bit, and it's just the way I grew up. While I'm have my doubts about the Red Birds due to their recent history in the NLCS against the Giants, I'm pretty confident in the Niners on MNF. They should be able to move the ball consistently on the ground and make some big plays in the air, as well. Austin Davis has made some plays, but if their offense becomes one-dimensional due to San Francisco's run-stuffing defense, he could be in for a long day.
|Frank Gore has 15 TDs against the Rams, the most against any of his opponents.|
Last week: 10-4-1
Season total: 37-37-2