The bye weeks are over, so
it is back to sixteen games a week for the rest of the season.
Chicago at Miami
The Bears rocked the Vikings at Soldier
Field on Sunday, as Jay Cutler and Brett Favre staged a shootout akin to
watching two drunks fighting, each desperately trying not to hit themselves in
the face. The Dolphins, on the other hand, are rapidly running out of offense.
Chad Pennington's first start in thirteen months lasted two plays. Former
starter and Sunday's backup Chad Henne was also knocked out of the game. Left
tackle Jake Long also left the game (although presumably not to find out why he
has his own name tattooed on his arm, something which has always baffled me)
and all three are rumoured to be done for the season. This leaves the Dolphins
with Tyler Thigpen as starter, no backup and a weakened O-line. Even Chicago
should beat that.
Miami are just favourites for this at 4/5,
with Chicago at 21/20 (Bet365)
Baltimore at Carolina
It is hard to see how Carolina can make
anything out of this game. Both first choice running backs injured, latest
starting quarterback concussed, and an opponent needing a win after a narrow
loss in Atlanta last Thursday. Not to mention a defense that has gone from 4th
to 14th in the NFL in two weeks, giving up close to 900 yards to
their opponents in the process.
One thing that the Panthers do seem to be
good at is picking up an early field goal. You can get 4/1 on that being the
first scoring play of the game at Paddy Power.
Houston at Jets
It is fairly easy to see how this one is
going to go. The Jets won their second consecutive overtime game on the back of
Matthew Sanchez's newfound understanding with Santonio Holmes (and certainly
with no thanks to Nick Folk, who put in the worst game by a kicker since I
started remembering such things). The Texans have the worst defense against the
pass in the NFL. Would you like to bet on what is going to happen here?
The Jets are odds on at 1/3 with Paddy Power, who have the Texans at 2/1
Buffalo at Cincinnati
The Buffalo revival stops here. The Bengals
have begun to look like a team again over the past fortnight. Yes, they managed
to turn the ball over twice in 14 seconds of possession on Sunday, but with
Terrell Owens one week and Chad Ochocinco last showed that the egocentric receiver
corps is finally coming together. The Bills, meanwhile, managed to scrape past
another mediocre side, but lost running back CJ Spiller in the process and
still are not showing much sign of learning how to defend.
It is not often this season that the
Bengals have been favourites, but Ladbrokes have them at 2/5 and their
opponents at 2/1
Oakland at Pittsburgh
The Steelers had another bad day at the
office last weekend. The Raiders are somehow coming off a bye week with people
talking more about their options at quarterback than they were before the week
off. Jason Campbell probably is one game away from being benched again, whilst
in Pittsburgh the Roethlisberger revival appears to have ended. Injuries to the
Steelers' offensive line have left it seemingly as porous as sandstone and
Hines Ward's concussion will not help them (he says he is going to play, but
you'd expect the toughest man in the NFL to say that, wouldn't you), either.
This could be a victory for the Raiders which they could not have anticipated
at the start of the season.
If you fancy the Raiders to win this, they
are 3/1 with Bet365.
Cleveland at Jacksonville
The best thing that you can say about both
of these sides is that they keep winning when you least expect them to.
Jacksonville pulled a last gasp win out of the hat on Sunday, whilst Cleveland
have beaten some of the best teams in the NFL this season, despite having to
play with a rookie quarterback and a bunch of discards from other teams. Peyton
Hillis has been the offensive revelation of the season and it will be
interesting to see what game plan the Jags install to counter him. On the other
side of the line, Maurice Jones-Drew is gradually returning to his best form
and you somehow suspect that this game will be won by whoever does the best job
of stopping their opponents starting running back.
This is going to be a tight one, and you
can get 7/2 at Bet365 on either side winning by less than 7.
Arizona at Kansas City
Two teams who didn’t just lose at the
weekend, but who got absolutely and rather surprisingly thrashed. Denver’s bye
week did the Chiefs absolutely no good at all, as the Broncos used them to
bounce back to form after two very poor displays in their last two games. The
Cardinals, meanwhile, somehow allowed Seattle to score 36 points against them.
Everyone knows that the Cardinals’ entire defense is feeble, but allowing the
Seahawks to score that many is just criminal. Even though there is still a long
way to go in this season, the Cards look like they have decided that it is not
their year. Kansas, on the other hand, have rebounded every time they have been
knocked down in 2010 and I expect them to do the same here.
Ladbrokes are bucking the market by making
the Chiefs 21/20 and the Cards favourites at 4/5.
Washington at Tennessee
In the end, it was not about the Redskins’
offense at all. All the talk about Donovan McNabb being benched for Rex
Grossman, then about him being given a new five year contract, was rendered
meaningless as their defense and special teams units simply failed to show up
for Monday night’s game against the Eagles. Quite where you go when someone has
run up 59 points against you I do not know. The Titans have been pretty
unspectacular (and at times uninspired) this season, but I can’t see a Redskins
win here no matter who they put under center (for the record, and in case you
were not paying attention, or in case you don’t like watching late night horror
stories, it was McNabb last night).
Paddy Power have the Redskins at one of the
longer bets of the weekend, 12/5, with the Titans 1/3.
Detroit at Dallas
On paper, this looks like a game between
two not-very-good sides. In practice, it could be one of the weekend’s more
interesting contests. Dallas shocked a lot of people – including themselves –
by not only beating the Giants, but beating them well and with a very
professional performance. Detroit, on the other hand, managed to give Buffalo
their first win of the season. The question is whether that will be a
sufficient shock to the Lions’ system to inspire them to start turning in the
sort of performances that they were giving in the early part of the season –
which would, on form, be enough to win this game. On the other hand, just how
long can the Jason Garrett effect last in Dallas? Will the huge effort that his
side made to win over their new coach continue for another game, or will it be
back to the bad old ways? Dallas to shade this, but it will be a lot closer
than you might think.
Bet365 offer 6/1 on a Detroit win by 7-12
points, 4-1 on a Dallas win by the same range.
Green Bay at Minnesota
It is that time again – the Brett Favre
story of the week. It actually comes in three parts this week – another game
against the side that made his name (yawn), another injury that everyone talks
about but which won’t stop him playing (yawn yawn) and his statement to Steve
Mariucci that he definitely won’t play in 2011 (yawn yawn we’ll believe it when
we see it). Favre will, of course, play – it’ll take more than a sore shoulder
to keep him out of a game against the Packers. He may even play well (two of
his interceptions against Chicago came when the receiver slipped turning for
the ball, which suggests bad play calling in the conditions more than
inaccuracy). The Packers, coming off a bye week which has given them time to
patch up their weary offense, will win, though.
Unsurprisingly, the Vikings are outsiders
for this, but if you think they can't be as bad at home as they were in Chicago
at the weekend then Bet365 offer them at 6/4 for the win.
Seattle at New Orleans
Sometimes it is hard to remember that the
Saints are actually the reigning Superbowl champions, so inconsistent have they
been this year. Match that inconsistency against the fact that you are never
sure which version of the Seahawks will show up – the one capable of winning by
20 points, or the one capable of losing by the same margin – and this could
either be a memorable game, with two teams slugging it out touchdown for
touchdown, or a forgettable one littered with mistakes and penalties. New
Orleans should win this comfortably, but it is a risk following either side at
As something tells me that the Saints are
going to walk this, 11/2 on them winning by 19-24 points at Ladbrokes is a good
bet. But note also that ToteSport now make Seattle the 7/2 favourites to win
the NFC West.
Atlanta at St Louis
The Falcons continued their soft-shoe
assault upon the NFL with a win over Baltimore in the opening Thursday night
game of the season. They are fast becoming the most consistent team in the
league and Matt Ryan seems to enhance his reputation with every game. The Rams
lost a close game in overtime in San Francisco, largely because of some shoddy
defensive work, but also because they failed to protect Sam Bradford when they
most needed to. It is hard to see them being able to beat a team like the
Falcons, who seem to have everything going for them at the moment.
Paddy Power follow that theory, with the
Falcons at 4/7 and Rams at 7/5
Tampa Bay at San Francisco
The only storyline about this game is which
Smith will be under center for the Niners this weekend – Troy, who has led them
to two wins out of two, or the fit-again franchise quarterback Alex? The smart
money goes for Troy who, despite hardly going anywhere on offense for the
larger part of the second half on Sunday, produced the game-winning play when
it mattered. What may be significant for them, though, is that they lost
starting left tackle Joe Staley with a broken leg in that game, and the more
mobile Troy is likely to get the nod for that reason, too. Tampa spent Sunday
afternoon strolling to an easy win over the Panthers and will certainly find a
much tougher opponent in San Francisco. That said, Josh Freeman has been so
good this season that it is impossible to ever write them off completely. Go
for a 49ers win if Troy Smith plays, a Bucs one if Alex does.
If Alex Smith plays, therefore, the 5/4
that Paddy Power are offering on the Bucs looks good. Otherwise you get 4/7 on
Indianapolis at New England
If it is Thanksgiving week, it must be time
for the annual Brady v Manning matchup. This will be an unusual game, because
both teams have been so hobbled by injuries this season that it will feature
two teams who have had to throttle back their gameplans in order to make some
headway in the league. The Pats certainly showed that they are getting it
together with a victory over the Steelers on Sunday night, whilst the Colts
will have used their bye week to regroup and try and expand their horizons a
bit more than they showed in the weeks before. New England have the slight edge
Again, not often that you find the Colts
second favourites, but they are currently 33/20 at Bet365.
Giants at Philadelphia
The Giants were, of course, shocked by how
badly they played against the Cowboys. Can they bounce back against an Eagles
side who were brilliant against the Redskins and who, in Michael Vick, have the
leading quarterback in the NFL at the moment, both in terms of accuracy and in
terms of his ability to make plays from broken field situations. His offensive
line is going to come under the sort of pressure that they have not seen all
season, so this latter skill – an ability which people feared he may have lost
during his absence from the game – will be vital. For that reason alone, expect
the Eagles to win.
The Giants, from being on of the Superbowl
favourites a week ago, now find themselves at 31/20 against the Eagles (Bet365)
Denver at San Diego
Well, it finally happened. Tim Tebow threw
a touchdown pass. He gets into the game more and more nowadays, usually on
short yardage plays, and the Broncos have clearly found a way to get the best
from the Heismann winner. They also found a way to get the most from
themselves, at long last, surprisingly beating Kansas after two pretty poor
performances in the weeks preceding their bye. The Chargers themselves are just
coming off a bye week, so don’t expect too much Tebow action as the side which
led the NFL in touchdowns going into last weekend seeks to regain the crown.
With Vincent Jackson back after his holdout and suspension, and Antonio Gates
supposedly fit again, they should have too much firepower for Denver in what is
likely to be a high scoring game.
Two high scoring offenses means that the
even money points spread is at 51 on Bet365 (no-one else currently offers this
sort of bet on this week's games) and it doesn't seem unrealistic to expect
more than that to be run up in the offense-friendly warmth of San Diego.