Sure thing: Jacksonville v Chicago (-4.5) at 1.88.
I am not jumping on the Bear bandwagon just because they kicked Cowboy butts on Monday night. Normally a Monday night road team having to travel again on Sunday would send up more red flags than a scab ref crew in San Francisco, but this time they are travelling to Jacksonville, where Blaine Gabbert and the Bear defence are a marriage made in the Lovie Smith wedding suite. Jay Cutler now appears to be giving offensive coordinator Mike Tice the cold shoulder, like an ill-suited couple in their Vegas hotelroom after they've been married by a guy dressed as Elvis, but that kind of thing ought to make Tice more eager to please. He'll concoct schemes that keep Cutler from being used as a tackling dummy by the Jags' D line. Chicago's offence managed to keep Cutler alive against Dallas, and the Cowboys present more of a rush threat than the Jags will.
Underdog: New York Jets (+9.0) v Houston at 1.81.
Yes, the Jets are a perpetual sideshow, a small-town carnival landed on the midway of the biggest media market in America, but nine points is a lot to give against a team who would be content to run the ball, and whose offensive patterns are something Rex Ryan ought to be able to plan against. More crucial might be the question of whether he can protect his quarterback, Mark Sanchez, or whether Sanchez can manage to put a ball in the path of a downfield receiver. He can't really do it consistently, but it might be worth a small flutter to see if he can do it often enough to keep the Jets within two scores.
Value bet: New England v Denver (+6.5) at 1.95.
This one comes hyped as yet another Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady match-up, but the reality is that neither of these teams has impressed consistently. The Pats' maniacal second half last week came, after all, against a Bills team that invited them to run the ball (and refused to tackle them when they did), so this could go in almost any direction. My feeling is that the Pats will feel the pressure of letting this one go to script, which suggests that Denver might keep it within a touchdown.
One to avoid: New Orleans v San Diego.
I can't think of another time when an 0-4 team would be better than three-point favourites against a 3-1 team, but these are Norv Turner's Chargers, who run hotter and colder than a British shower. Also, those are the Saints, who've been running around like chickens with their heads cut off in a weird Sean Payton voodoo ritual aimed at cursing Commissioner Roger Goodel. The Chargers ought to be able to score points against the Saints' D, which is unsuited to the kinds of schemes new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo likes to run. Of course, we said that about Spags for three years in St Louis. The subtext of this game, however, is that Drew Brees is the QB that Chargers general manager AJ Smith discarded to go with Philip Rivers, and Darren Sproles, who may have cost the Saints a win against Green Bay last week, was dumped by Smith too. I've decided the jilted will have their revenge this week, but I'd advise staying away from the spread!