Week 2 gave us a poor lineup of games that actually turned out to be more exciting than any of us thought. This week has its fair share of stinkers too, which can you see by the long list of mile-wide point spreads. You've got the Colts at 49ers, the Raiders at Broncos and capping it all off is the Jaguars in Seattle with a 19-point gap.
Here's the thing about big spreads, though: The underdogs usually find a way to cover. According to OddsShark, underdogs are 8-3 against the spread in the last 11 NFL games with a 19-point gap or better. So grab the bull by the wallet and lay down a few bucks on the lowly Jaguars. Live life to its fullest for a change, why don't ya.
Ok, I can't in good conscience recommend that you bet on the Jags. As a tightwad, I really prefer you put that money in a Roth IRA or some kind of responsible financial move. But if you do choose to throw caution to the wind this week, THESE PICKS CAN'T BE WRONG.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Philadelphia Eagles (-3)
Andy Reid's time in Philadelphia offers the youth of America a good lesson about life in the workplace. It's important not to get stale in your job. At the end, Reid's Eagles were a green and white icon for disappointment. The "Dream Team" supplanted Dan Snyder as a cautionary tale about free agent spending. But all that's in the past now. Reid's rejuvenated the Chiefs, the undefeated Chiefs. Chip Kelly has done the same for the Eagles. His approach -- and I thoroughly enjoy it -- makes the Eagles a tough team to predict. The defense is not good, to be charitable. So this one comes down to how well the Chiefs handle the sped-up attack. One thing we can count on with Reid and Kelly: crazy clock management!
The pick: Philadelphia
Houston Texans (-2 1/2) vs. Baltimore Ravens
It's tempting to pick the Texans here. A defense headlined by J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing should have an easy edge against a Ravens offense lacking much firepower. However, left tackle Duane Brown is expected to miss this game with a case of turf toe. That's a real problem against Baltimore's defensive front. Start tallying up the other injured stars -- recently injured I should clarify -- and this looks like a low-scoring defensive battle. You should probably get used to those if you plan on watching many Ravens games this year.
The pick: Baltimore
New York Giants vs. Carolina Panthers (-1)
At least this game has shock value, two underachievers flailing at each other like drunken teenagers fighting behind the movie theater. One of these two teams will right its course ... eventually. I have more confidence in the Giants doing that first, at least without a wholesale change in leadership.
The picks: New York
Green Bay Packers (-3) vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Aaron Rodgers has thrown at least three touchdown passes in his last five regular season games, going back to last year. It's a good bet that he'll make it six this week. Cincinnati's offense isn't going to match that the way it's playing this season. The AFC North has really turned out to be underwhelming, so far anyway.
The pick: Green Bay
St. Louis Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys (-4)
DeMarco Murray ran for 253 yards the last time these two teams met, in 2011. St. Louis' defense has improved considerably since then. And Dallas would actually have to run the ball more than its current average of 19.5 times per game to have another shot at history. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones chewed up the Rams' secondary last week. Tony Romo and Dez Bryant could do the same, or it could be a five-interception meltdown. You never know which Cowboys team you'll see from week to week. The same can be said for the Rams.
The pick: Dallas
Cleveland Browns vs. Minnesota Vikings (-5 1/2)
One of these 0-2 teams is going to snap its skid this week. The oddsmakers believe Minnesota has the best chance at that. However, there's a clear formula for beating the Vikings: limit the damage from Adrian Peterson and make Christian Ponder do all the work. Cleveland has the defense to do just that. The Browns are allowing an average of fewer than 60 rushing yards per game and a scant 2.0 yards per carry. But then again, Cleveland's starting Brian Hoyer ...
The pick: Cleveland
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New England Patriots (-7)
I've seen more than a few picks for the Buccaneers this week. But that team looks like it's in free fall. Greg Schiano runs the ship like Captain Bligh. Darrelle Revis has already taken issue with it. And the rest of the team was reportedly unhappy about the way Josh Freeman was treated. Supposedly, it's all smoothed over now ... just like it was the last time Schiano tried to publicly keelhaul his quarterback.
New England is 31-3 in its last 34 home games. That's a big spread considering how poorly the Patriots offense played last week. Still, I'll take the Patriots to keep the Buccos from covering.
The pick: New England
Arizona Cardinals vs. New Orleans Saints (-7 1/2)
How quickly could Rob Ryan fix the defense, after switching to a 3-4, was the biggest question for the Saints entering the season. That defense is a big part of why the Saints are 2-0 through the first two weeks of the season. Ryan's unit is holding opponents to an average of 15.6 points per game, despite a never-ending list of injuries. Small sample sizes help. So does a secondary that's keeping offenses to under 200 yards through the air.
The pick: New Orleans
San Diego Chargers vs. Tennessee Titans (-3)
Surprise of 2013: The Titans are fun to watch. No, really they are, even with Jake Locker.
The pick: Tennessee
Detroit Lions vs. Washington Redskins (-2 1/2)
It's the knee brace. It's rust. It's the coaches. There are any number of problems keeping RGIII from being the same quarterback that won the Rookie of the Year award in 2012. Yet, look, here they are favored ever so slightly over the Lions. The biggest problem Washington has with RGIII at something less than himself is that it has exposed the rest of the team, the one that won five games before drafting the Baylor quarterback.
The pick: Detroit
Atlanta Falcons vs. Miami Dolphins (-3)
The Dolphins favored over the Falcons? My how the world has changed. It's really not a huge surprise. Atlanta lost Steven Jackson, Kroy Biermann and Bradie Ewing last week against the Rams. Roddy White is still dealing with a balky ankle. Ryan Tannehill is off to a fine sophomore season, completing more than 65 percent of his passes.
The pick: Miami
Buffalo Bills vs. New York Jets (-3)
Haha, I skipped this game initially. Oversight or Freudian slip? [Thinks about mother issues, bourgeois things] Nope, just plain oversight. And I apologize for that. Fans of the Jets and Bills have suffered enough only to face one more trifling indignity for being left out of a weekly picks column by some guy on the internet.
The lines here are confused. Some book have the Bills as one-point underdogs; another one has the Jets as three-point favorites. Both of these teams have played better than expect. Geno Smith and EJ Manuel are taking the more traditional route of rookies throw into the fire, getting the dink and dunk treatment. Marty Mornhinweg's offense, so far, looks like a good fit for Smith (if only they'd abandon that stupid wildcat).
The most interesting matchup here is Rex Ryan and a darn good Jets defense (no, really) against Mike Pettine, Ryan's former defensive coordinator with the Jets and long-time ally from his Baltimore days. The chess match should be fun to watch. However, the Jets have an edge because of the secondary. Injuries have wrecked Buffalo's unit. Either way, this might be the most entertaining Jets game, or Bills game, you'll see all season.
The pick: New York
Indianapolis Colts vs. San Francisco 49ers (-10)
Jim Harbaugh reunited with his former quarterback at Stanford. Somehow I suspect Harbaugh in hyper-focused coach mode has as much sentimentality about the reunion as the rest of the world does. After all, it's not like he had much time or interest in a reunion with Richard Sherman last week, another one of his former players. On the Colts' side, it doesn't sound like Trent Richardson will be ready for a full-time role this week. This is another one of those giant spreads, which I've been warning you about. The 49ers should win this one outright, but I'm picking the Colts to cover.
The pick: Indianapolis
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Seattle Seahawks (-19)
Yikes, this game ... that spread! That's the biggest spread since the Patriots were favored by 20 over the Colts in December 2011. The Patriots won by a touchdown. Beware the big spread. Of the last 11 games with a spread of 19 points or more, the underdog covered eight times. I'm just not sure how Jacksonville's going to cover. Seattle didn't take its foot off the gas in the preseason.
The pick: Seattle
Chicago Bears (-3) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Beating the Steelers at home used to be a tall order for any team, especially NFC teams. Mike Tomlin owns a 15-1 record against the other conference at home. And the franchise itself is 5-1 at home against the Bears dating back to 1967. Times have changed, and for the Steelers the clock somehow wound forward especially fast over the last two years.
If this were the Lovie Smith-coached Bears, I'd pick the Steelers to win. Marc Trestman's Bears are different thanks to a belief that offense can in fact win games. One more record stat to throw at you: Jay Cutler is 2-0 against the Steelers. That should be 3-0 late Sunday night.
The pick: Chicago
Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos (-15)
The only question I have here is whether or not Peyton Manning can throw another seven touchdowns. I'd say John Fox should sit him in the second half, but there's not much risk of injury against the Raiders defense. But at least we'll get to hear Jon Gruden talk about Terrelle Pryor.
The pick: Denver