Lock of the week (sure thing): Lions (-7.5) v Rams, at 1.95.
Even with a one-touchdown start, the Rams won't have the weapons to challenge the Detroit secondary. Rookie tackle Riley Reiff will play sooner rather than later, and second-year receiver Titus Young could be poised for a breakout season. Lions circus-master Jim Schwartz goes up against his old mentor, Jeff Fisher, who's the new top Ram, but it's veteran Steven Jackson who does give them one thing the Lions don't have: a durable, dependable runner. But short of the Lions' D giving away 100 yards in unsportsmanlike penalties, Detroit should win comfortably at home.
Shock of the week (long odds, small wager): Buffalo (+ 2.5) v Jets, at 2.00.
I'm going with some road dogs for my other picks. The more I look at the revitalised Bills defence against the befuddled Jets offence, the more I see a real upset in the making. We all know the Jets will bring pressure against Ryan Fitzpatrick, and hope for him to make the sort of bad decisions he made during the second half of last season. But in Buffalo they're saying Fitz played that half with a broken rib, whereas now he's fully fit and ready to roar. Stevie Johnson has the best record of any receiver against Darrelle Revis, which may mean something. With all the fuss over the Jets' latest sideshow - Mark Sanchez and Eva Longoria - no one's noticed that Tim Tebow might be better off playing in Buffalo's pistol-formation offense than as the Jets' wildcat threat. I think the short spread reflects the idea that there is an upset in the making.
Hock of the week (best value bet): Bengals (+6.5) v Baltimore, at 1.92.
I'd like it better at 7.5, but that's why I don't make the lines. The Bengals ought to be able keep it close against the Ravens, whose offensive coordinator, Cam 'Cam' Cameron never seems to quite trust opening things up with Joe Flacco at QB. The Bengals might be willing to take more chances with Andy Dalton in his second year at the controls, and in AJ Green they have a receiver who can score quickly and often, from anywhere on the field. Otherwise you're looking at a Bengals team designed to compete with the Steelers and Ravens, which means slug it out in the cold, rain and mud, and beat the other team in the trenches. It's the kind of matchup I'd like to see in December rather than now, but that might help the Bengals, and you.
Schlock of the week (one to avoid): Redskins (+7.5) v Saints, at 1.85.
Sure, the Saints have gone through plenty of off-season turmoil, and it's been so quiet in Washington you'd think owner Dan Snyder had left the country. But despite the addition of high-powered rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III - for whom they mortgaged their next three drafts - the Redskins are still going to find the well-oiled Saints offence as hard to stop as a drunken tourist on Bourbon Street who wants a drink at 3am. The Shanaclan (head coach Mike and offensive coordinator-cum-son Kyle) need to find a running back, and they seem to be using the same method they tried last year: spin the smallest player on the team around on the turf while the candidates stand in a circle. Your guess is as good as mine, which is an excellent reason to avoid this one.