Sure thing: Carolina v Tampa (-1) at 1.88
The Bucs are playing well enough to win even if they're giving up a point. Douglas Martin has solidified their running game, which is allowing Josh Freeman to thrive on more makable situations on second and third downs. Greg Schiano may not have won many friends around the league with his 'hot dog' tactics - like blitzing the other team's victory formation - but he has also got the Tampa defence playing solid ball, and if you can begin to pressure Cam Newton, the Panthers' offence falls apart. This is the NFL, and you can't really channel your whole run game through your quarterback; the option is a weapon, not the weapon, and even the best running QBs can quickly become one-dimensional (please take note Mike Shanahan and RG3).
Underdog: New England v Indianapolis (+9.5) at 1.85
The Colts are capable of giving up a lot of points: they've benefited in past weeks from playing some teams that are offensively challenged, so on the face of it that point spread may be right. But the Pats are also capable of surrendering points in bunches, as they showed in the second half against the Bills last week, and if they build a big lead it may be easy for Andrew Luck and company to whittle it down to within ten before the game ends. Watch for the Pats' fans to be keeping as close an eye on the spread as on the scoreboard - and a groan if a late score pulls it below 10.
Value bet: Detroit (+3.5) v Green Bay at 1.81
If you want to consider this the best bet and pass on betting the Bucs I'd understand. Normally, I'd like the Packers in this match-up but this year they are really battered, on both sides of the ball, and I'm not convinced they can keep pulling rabbits out of the top hat they have sitting at the end of their bench. Again, normally I'd say "OK they've had the bye week to do extra preparation", but instead they lost Clay Matthews to a hamstring injury sustained while he was filming a TV commercial. This sort of thing doesn't happen in the Premier League. The injury factor also figures into the fact that the Steelers are 3.5 point home dogs to the Ravens; if it's raining in Pittsburgh that might be a good bet. If it's a nice night, stay away.
One to avoid: Washington v Philadelphia (+3.5)
Call me conservative or call me chicken but I'd stay away from anything regarding these two teams, who both seem to be out of control in different ways. Straight up I picked the Skins, thinking their offence ought to be able to get re-tracked with an extra week to prepare with Robert Griffin, but thinking back to the Washington defence allowing that horrible late TD to Victor Cruz to lose the Giants game, anything is possible. The Skins' injuries up front have hurt their pass rush, but the Eagles' O line has been decimated by injury, so that should be, at worst, a wash. And while the Skins' secondary is awful, the Eagles have been completely unable to unleash their downfield weapons: perhaps Andy Reid was wrong to invest so much in DeSean Jackson. A few years ago an Andy Reid-Mike Shanahan match-up might be a classic. Not anymore.