NFL unfolding a number of surprises, both good and bad

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With only one game remaining to be played in Week 2 we can see the NFL season unfolding with a number of surprise teams, both good and bad.

On the positive side the Detroit Lions are living up to the hype with a pair of solid wins to open the season. Washington’s 2-0 start is also somewhat of a surprise and the Redskins sit atop the NFC East.

Buffalo’s 2-0 start is a surprise but the Bills are not alone atop the AFC East as both New England and the New York Jets have also won their first two games. The Bills will be tested this week when they host the Patriots.

Houston’s 2-0 start is surprising only to the extent the Texans have yet to prove they can play to their talent level. Thus far they’ve performed as expected, winning a pair of games when favored. This week they will be tested when they take on the underdog role at New Orleans.

One 0-2 team that has to be considered as having a better than expected start is Carolina as rookie QB Cam Newton has shown early leadership potential. Let’s see if this continues as teams make adjustments in coming weeks to confuse him, and learn his tendencies.

On the negative side, Kansas City has been totally inept in dropping its first two games, being outscored 89-10 in the process.

The 0-2 start by the Indianapolis Colts is not surprising but the total ineptness of the offense without Peyton Manning is more than expected. Veteran Kerry Collins has not been sharp and this week things get no easier when the Colts host the Steelers and their stout defense.

Through the first 31 games of the 2011 season home favorites stand 9-10-1 ATS (Against the Spread) with home underdogs posting a 6-4-1 mark.

After a 12-3-1 opening week, OVERs and UNDERs were 7-7-1 in Week 2, putting the season to date stats at 21 OVERs, 8 UNDERs and two pushes. It may take a few more weeks but don’t be surprised when UNDERs begin to outpace OVERs as defenses get into game shape and special teams’ coverage improves.

Here’s a look at the full schedule of games for Week 3.

SUNDAY

49ers +2 at Bengals (41): The Niners take to the road for the first time after struggling on offense behind QB Alex Smith. Cincy QB Andy Dalton has shown fine poise in his first two outings and the Bengals’ defense is above average. BENGALS.

Patriots -9 at Bills (52): The Bills offense appears much improved but clearly there are defensive concerns. And those concerns should be exploited by the Patriots and QB Tom Brady who has been sizzling. Pats will be prepared and will take very seriously this Division rival. PATRIOTS.

Texas +4 at Saints (53): Houston still has to show it can shoulder the expectations of now being favored to win the AFC South. The Saints continue to be one of the league’s top offenses and should be able to win a shootout. Laying points can be dangerous. This handicaps as the highest scoring game of the week. OVER.

Giants (NL) at Eagles: The Giants have been pointing to this game all off season as it was the Eagles and DeSean Jackson’s punt return in their last meeting that effectively cost them a playoff berth. Philly should be favored by from 4 to 7 points, making the Giants a take in a game that handicaps as being very competitive. GIANTS.

Dolphins +3 at Browns (41): Cleveland rebounded from a shocking home loss to Cincinnati with a win at Manningless Indianapolis. But the offense has not been impressive in either game. Miami’s offense, which put up some solid numbers in their opening loss to New England, failed to take advantage of opportunities against a vulnerable Houston defense. UNDER.

Broncos +7 at Titans (42): Both teams have defensive concerns, especially Denver, which suggests we should see each side able to move the ball, especially with capable running backs. OVER.

Lions -3½ at Vikings (45): Including the end of last season and this season’s preseason the Lions have won 10 straight games. The Vikes have an above average defense and an offense that should improve over the next few weeks as QB Donovan McNabb gets comfortable with his new offense. Minnesota seeking to avoid 0-3. Detroit is in position to regress. VIKINGS.

Jaguars +3½ at Panthers (42½): The Jags have a decent defense and the offense should improve in coming weeks, although rookie Blaine Gabbert may soon replace Luke McCown at QB. These are essentially a pair of weak football teams but Jacksonville has more in place than the Panthers. It’s hard to recommend laying points with rebuilding Carolina. JAGUARS.

Chiefs +14½ at Chargers (45): This is a huge number to lay for a team that rarely plays to its potential. But rather than hope for the Chiefs to get a back door cover after the Chargers build a seemingly comfortable lead, let’s look for enough improvement from the KC offense to have this game be higher scoring than expected. OVER.

Jets -3½ at Raiders (41): Oakland has performed better than expected in splitting their first two games, both on the road. The Jets are on the road for the first time and that could diminish the edge their defense normally enjoys. Oakland can run the football which should open up some passing lanes and we could see this game become something of a shootout. OVER.

Ravens (NL) at Rams: Clearly the Ravens were flat at Tennessee and it showed with three turnovers and a ground game held to just 45 yards. St. Louis is off of a Monday nighter at the Giants and a loss would drop them to 0-2. While improved, the Rams must show they can defeat an upper echelon team. Now they catch such a team off of a poor performance. RAVENS.

Falcons +1 at Bucs (45): Atlanta has been a strong home team in recent seasons but struggles on the road. Going from artificial turf to natural grass works against the Falcons’ team speed. Tampa Bay has a solid running game and the better defense. They are improved enough to end their five game losing streak to the Falcons, all of which have been competitive. BUCS.

Cards -3 at Seahawks (42): Seattle does have the better defense and catches Arizona in a second straight road game. Arizona is favored on the road largely due to perception but the reality is that at this stage of the season neither team has much in the way of edges and appears talent wise to be fairly evenly matched. CARDS.

Packers -3½ at Bears (45½): Chicago’s defense is solid and plays well at home. Getting at least a FG is attractive in a game the Bears are certainly capable of winning straight up as they done on this field against Green Bay in 3 of the last 4 seasons. BEARS.

Steelers -10½ at Colts (39):This line may not be high enough but as Green Bay showed last week, it’s not a good policy to lay double digits on the road. Rather, expect Indy’s troubles on offense to continue against a strong Steelers defense while the Pittsburgh offense should be content to just grind out the yards.on the ground once getting a two score lead. UNDER.

MONDAY

Redskins (NL) at Cowboys: Expect Dallas to be favored by from 4 to 7 points. Washington sits atop the NFC East after defeating both the Giants and Arizona as they take to the road for the first time. Washington is playing with newly found confidence and are the healthier team, making a FG or more an attractive take. REDSKINS.

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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