One week of seeming sanity, with both the Niners and Saints justifying my straight-up confidence, and we're back to home dog week again, with nine of the 15 teams playing at home Sunday and Monday receiving points, and a tenth, Cleveland, in a pick 'em situation with Chicago.
So there's a game where you can exercise your judgement fully, remembering that normally home-field advantage is worth just short of three points, so in effect what's being said is that, although we don't like the Browns to win, we're not confident in the Bears either. Chicago will start Jay Cutler at QB now that he's back from injury, although Josh McCown has had relative success in coach Marc Trestman's system, and they're 7-6 because of that success, as their injury-riddled defense hasn't been able to stop much. With the Browns you need to stop Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, which will be a challenge for the Bears.
Sure Thing: San Francisco (-5) over Tampa at 1.97
The Bucs can play defense, and if Michael Crabtree is out or limited this week, the Niners' offense suffers. But I think last week showed how their D can keep them in games, and the Bucs' offense isn't the threat that Seattle's was. You might look at Seattle (-7) at the Giants as a more dangerous version of this game; the Seahawks aren't the same team on the road, but they now may feel they have something to prove, although the Niners' win didn't really change anything in terms of winning their division, and they still seem safe as top play-off seed in the NFC.
Outside Bet: Houston (+5.5) over Indianapolis at 1.87
The Texans are in chaos, with Wade Phillips not the most inspirational guy to be standing in as interim head coach, and Case Keenum still due his first win as an NFL QB. But Indy have clinched their division, can win nothing else, and are a team full of holes that a good start to the season have covered up. If you think it's going to be tight, the match bet, Houston at 3.00 might be better value. Or Jacksonville (+2) over Buffalo at 1.95: It's hard to guess which Bills will show up, and potentially they are explosive on offense. The Jags have been winning games ugly, but those are just the sort of games the Bills have been losing, and again, the match bet to the Jags is 2.10.
Value Bet: Pittsburgh (+2.5) at 2.00 over Cincinnati
Do you have faith in the Steelers' ability to rise to the occasion at home? Big Ben to throw a couple of long strikes to Antonio Brown, or Troy Polamalu to force a big turnover on defense? Brown was just one touch of the sidelines away from winning last week over Miami, and though Cincinnati are a better team than Miami, they are still vulnerable. 2.5 isn't three points, which is what you'd like ideally, but if you have faith in the Steelers the match bet is 2.20. Ask not for whom Big Ben tolls...
One To Avoid: Atlanta (-7) at 1.95 over Washington
The chaos in Houston is nothing like what's going on in Washington, where Mike Shanahan has shifted the blame by shutting down Robert Griffin, and will start Kirk Cousins at QB. Against Atlanta, whose defense is suspect, Cousins, who has some talent, could shine, especially if the Redskin receivers remember the rule that it isn't a catch unless you hold the ball. They're getting seven, which is tempting, and the match bet is 3.45 for Washington, which I was even more tempted to try as a value bet, but there's something about the aura of Richard Nixon around Shanahan right now, and I suppose an each way on Tricky Dick was sometimes a decent shout.
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