Wednesday, September 20, 2006

NFL Week 3 ATS: Contenders and Pretenders

We're off to a late start in our 2006 battle against the spread. Life gets in the way of "real life" sometimes. My preseason predictions for the entire season eventually got published elsewhere this year. To view my prognostications, with complete playoff and Super Bowl projections, go to http://www.sportsmemo.com/articles/archive/nfl/ and check out the submissions under "Staff Writer." I'm taking upside flyers on teams like the Chargers and Bills this year, though I don't see either making the playoffs. And the rough starts of the Redskins, Panthers and Buccaneers already have my playoff predictions looking like toast. But, as the estimable Tim Trushler, CEO of SportsMemo.com, says: "It's early yet." Thank God for that. Today's spreads come courtesy of FootballLOCKS.com.

1. NY JETS @ BUFFALO (-6) Two teams feeling good about themselves and their 1-1 records. Each of them has already played the Patriots tough. Under normal circumstances, the Bills might give three points as a prosaic home favorite, but someone thinks their road win versus Miami means maybe more than it does. They oughta win, but that spread is ticklish. Prediction: Jets.

2. CINCINNATI @ PITTSBURGH (-2) The World Champions can't even get a standard home-field nod of three points? Someone thinks Big Ben hasn't found himself yet—and he probably hasn't. But the Bengals got banged up physically last weekend, and the Steelers' D held the Jaguars to three field goals in Jacksonville. Prediction: Steelers.

3. JACKSONVILLE @ INDIANAPOLIS (-7) A tantalizing proposition here. Colts have looked good, and they're at home. But Jags have also looked good, and here's their chance to send a message to the league. Colts win, but Jags cover. Prediction: Jaguars.

4. TENNESSEE @ MIAMI (-11) If the 'Fins don't win, they might have to kiss the playoffs goodbye. Few teams start 0-3 and live to see the postseason. Yeah, they oughta take down the Titans, who are as bad as can be at the moment. Hmmm...11 points. It might not come easily, but if Nick Saban keeps the offense cranking just to get some practice in, they could win, say, 22-10. Prediction: Dolphins.

5. WASHINGTON (-4) @ HOUSTON I hate games like this. The Redskins look very lost, but their defense is still a serious entity. The Texans are at home and looking to get a break. But Houston's offensive line got worse (if that was possible) because of injuries last weekend. Tough call here, but look for 'Skins' D to make some big plays and cover. Prediction: Redskins.

6. CHICAGO (-3.5) @ MINNESOTA Vikings are 2-0 and have won each game by three points, one in overtime. Bears kicking ass with rejuvenated offense behind Rex Grossman. Rex means "king" in Latin. Prediction: Bears.

7. CAROLINA (-3) @ TAMPA BAY Wait a minute—which of these underachieving NFC South teams is the home team? Both are 0-2 and both have looked worse than wanting. True, the Bucs have looked the lamer of the two. Chris Simms is not showing the expected improvement over last year's good showing. I see a push on the numbers, so Panthers don't cover. Prediction: Bucs.

8. GREEN BAY @ DETROIT (-6.5) Two 0-2 teams already going nowhere. Brett Favre is the only possible sure thing in this game. Prediction: Packers.

9. BALTIMORE (-6.5) @ CLEVELAND The Ravens' D looks as destructive as Hurricane Katrina. Injuries to Browns secondary makes them even more vulnerable than they already were. And the Brownie offense is still trying to find itself. Prediction: Ravens.

10. ST. LOUIS @ ARIZONA (-5) Pretty interesting game here. Both teams capable of scoring. Both teams trying to establish a new era in defense. Cards might win, but covering the points is another matter. Prediction: Rams.

11. NY GIANTS @ SEATTLE (-4) Seattle D carrying the team at the moment. It would be a huge win for Giants, and they might very well cover. Tough, tough call for the punter. Factor in the jet lag. Prediction: Seahawks.

12. PHILADELPHIA (-6) @ SAN FRANCISCO Eagles shellshocked after blowing big lead and losing to Giants in Philly. Niners offense starting to develop, and they're getting some plays from defenders. Take McNabb and the chalk, but this spread is no gimme. Prediction: Eagles.

13. DENVER @ NEW ENGLAND (-6.5) The Broncos are 1-1 and have looked worse than that. Now they head into Foxboro to face a 2-0 Patriots squad that has won with moxie and a reworked running game that's been getting serious yards from rookie Laurence Maroney. The Broncos may not win, but if they don't even cover this spread, then they have bigger problems than most of us could have guessed. Prediction: Broncos.

14. ATLANTA (-3.5) @ NEW ORLEANS If you were trying to generate some action on this game, why would you only extend the lowly Saints three-and-a-half points? Oh yeah...the Saint are 2-0, after thumping the mighty Browns and Packers. And they won 'em both on the road. So the Saints come home with a perfect record to the cleaned-up Superdome with a marquee rookie (Reggie Bush) poised to make a big splash. It's a very, very nice story, but you'd have to give me more points than that against a Falcons squad that looks like they're taking a miracle drug. Prediction: Falcons.

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