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New Orleans (-3) vs Atlanta; 1pm on FOX, DirecTV 705
The Saints are a three point favorite on the road against the Falcons. Atlanta has Lamar Holmes starting at right tackle for the injured Sam Baker. Holmes will be blocking Pro Bowl defensive end for the Saints Cam Jordan. I don’t believe the Falcons defense will have an answer for Jimmy Graham across the middle nor will they be able to produce pass rush against the Saints. New Orleans 31, Atlanta 24. The Saints will win outright.
Minnesota vs St. Louis (-3 1/2); 1pm on FOX, DirecTV 707
I don’t trust Minnesota’s QB, Matt Cassel. I don’t trust the Rams’s QB, Shaun Hill. The Vikings do have Adrian Peterson and the Rams have an excellent front seven, led by Robert Quin and his defensive line. I like the Rams to win 17-13. Rams win and cover the spread.
Cleveland vs Pittsburgh (-7); 1pm on CBS, DirecTV 714
The Browns come into this game with no Josh Gordon for the season, Brian Hoyer as QB and a threat of Johnny Manziel coming in to run the spread option. None of it will matter because the Steelers are flying under the radar and won’t look ahead to their rivalry game next week versus Baltimore. Big Ben Roethlisberger is ready to roll and Pittsburgh will win 31-13. Pittsburgh will win and cover the spread.
Jacksonville vs Philadelphia (-11 1/2); 1pm on CBS, DirecTV 713
The Jaguars are [by most accounts] the worst team in the National Football League. They won’t be any better because they won’t start their 1st-round pick, Blake Bortles. The Eagles will win, 34-13 and will cover the heavy spread.
Oakland vs NY Jets (-5); 1pm on CBS, DirecTV 712
The Raiders have improved their QB situation by starting Derek Carr. I must say they got that one right! However, the Raiders are lacking everywhere else. I don’t believe their offensive line will do anything against the Jets defensive line. I like Chris Johnson, Chris Ivory and the Jets’ running attack to demolish the Raiders. This is a put-up-or-shut-up season for Rex Ryan. I like the Jets winning big, 24-10. Jets win and cover the spread.
Cincinnati vs Baltimore (-2); 1pm on CBS, DirecTV 709
Ray Rice isn’t playing for the Ravens this Sunday and will definitely miss his presence. The Bengals have potentially one of the league’s dynamic offenses with Andy Dalton calling the signals, AJ Green at wide receiver and Gio Bernard at running back. Typically, the home team gets 3 points because they’ve got home field advantage. This is a pick-em game and I choose to go the other way. I like the Bengals on the road! 20-17, Bengals win outright!
Buffalo vs Chicago (-7); 1pm on CBS, DirecTV 708
I like the Bears in this one. Buffalo has lots of internal strife and turmoil amongst their coaches. Chicago’s offense looks ready to roll and I like Brandon Marshall to make a statement in this game. Bears 37, Bills 13.
Washington vs Houston (-3); 1pm on FOX, DirecTV 706
This game is hard to handicap because no one knows what the Texans will look like. Will they be the team of 2012 or the team of 2013 that wet the bed and fell on their faces? The Redskins have added DeSean Jackson and have a new offense with Jay Gruden becoming their head coach. I don’t see either team doing much, but I do like Houston to win 17-14. They win and will not cover.
Tennessee vs Kansas City (-6); 1pm on CBS, DirecTV 710
The Titans have a solid team this season. If you don’t include quarterback Jake Locker. Locker hasn’t been able to stay healthy during his brief career and his absences have caused Tennessee much distress. Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles will pound the Titans into the ground and Alex Smith will do just enough. I like Kansas City going away in the 4th quarter, 24-13. The Chiefs win and cover the spread.
New England (-4) vs Miami; 1pm on CBS, DirecTV 711
This is the easiest game on the board. The Patriots have Gronkowski back, Tom Brady is back and they’ve added Darrelle Revis to the secondary. Even though this will be played in what might be a 95 degree heat index in Miami Gardens, I don’t see any issue with picking the Patriots big. I like New England winning 34-16. I love the Patriots covering the spread and beating the over of 47.
THE LATE GAMES
Carolina vs Tampa Bay (-3); 4:25pm on FOX, DirecTV 716
The MGM Grand sports book has installed Tampa Bay as a three point favorite. My philosophy is the home team automatically should be favored by a field goal because of a supposed home field advantage. With that said, this will be the one time Raymond James Stadium will be rowdy because it’s the home opener for the Buccaneers. Conversely, Panthers QB Cam Newton is questionable with a rib injury. Both teams like to run the ball and milk the clock. Carolina’s secondary has castoffs Roman Harper and Thomas DeCoud starting at both safety positions. I want to take the Panthers but I don’t trust their defensive backfield at all. I think Doug Martin will have a respectable game and Tampa will do just enough. I like the Buccaneers 16-13. Tampa wins and doesn’t cover.
San Francisco (-4) vs Dallas; 4:25pm on FOX, DirecTV 715
The only injury concern for the 49ers is wide receiver Michael Crabtree with a calf injury. He’s listed as questionable. The belief is the Cowboys will set the tempo and come out firing on all cylinders offensively. The belief is Colin Kaepernick will run the 49ers spread option attack with high precision. The belief is the Cowboys defense won’t slow down the 49ers rushing attack. The belief is San Francisco’s defense has so many missing and unknown parts they won’t be able to slow down Tony Romo. All of the above is true! However, the difference lies in head coach Jason Garrett! If the Cowboys can run the football effectively and Romo doesn’t have to win the game by himself, the Cowboys should win. I begrudgingly will take the Cowboys, 38-34. Bet the over on this one which is 51 1/2.
THE SUNDAY NIGHT GAME
Indianapolis vs Denver (-7); 8:30pm on NBC
Andrew Luck is an exceptional quarterback that is coming into his own as a leader in the National Football League. He makes all the throws, he’s more than functionally mobile. He has the arm strength pump passes down the field and attack every exotic defense thrown at him. However, the Indianapolis Colts have a very average team outside of Andrew Luck. Peyton Manning without Wes Welker should be able to move this offense down the field with surgical precision. The MGM Grand has set the over/under at 55 1/2. I like the Broncos winning 34-24. Broncos win and I suggest you take the over.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
NY Giants vs Detroit (-6 1/2); 7:10PM on ESPN
The New York Giants have struggled with installing their new offense. Eli Manning during the preseason hasn’t looked really good. New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has brought in a new scheme that’s got more critics than supporters. I don’t know if Reuben Randle will take the next step. I don’t know if the Giants will look good at all. I do know the Giants defensively will be good with the additions of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond in free agency coupled with a healthy Jason Pierre-Paul. The Lions on offense have a stable of Ferrari California’s in Matt Stafford, Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson. There is nothing offensively they can’t do… including throwing interceptions. If Stafford doesn’t turn the ball over, Detroit can win big. I don’t see that happening. I’ll take the Lions 27-23. Detroit wins, but won’t cover the spread.
San Diego vs Arizona (-3); 10:20pm on ESPN
The MGM Grand installed Arizona as an obligatory 3 point favorite and the line hasn’t moved much. It’s a pick-em game and I get the feeling San Diego might intercept Carson Palmer 3 times. I also get the feeling if the Cardinals can protect Carson Palmer, he will throw for 400 yards and 3 touchdowns. The question is will the latter come in a win or will Palmer produce those stats because the Cardinals have to play catch up? Cardinals running back Andre Ellington is doubtful with a foot; although NFL.com says he’s questionable. If Arizona cannot run the ball and Palmer has to throw it 40 or more times, San Diego will win easily and I believe that will happen. Give me the Chargers winning outright 34-26.