Don’t judge opening week results just yet

Sep 12, 2006 5:55 AM

After hitting at a 58 percent clip for the entire 2005 season, the favorites began this year covering just five of 14 games through last Sunday.

Road teams won nine games with two (Baltimore and Chicago) posting shutouts. Only two games were decided by a FG or less as most games were competitive into the fourth quarter.

Perhaps the most amazing stat was the distribution of ”˜over / under’ results. Only four exceeded the posted total. Three (Miami at Pittsburgh, Jets at Tennessee and Dallas at Jacksonville) figured to be low scoring.

Four playoff teams from 2005 (Carolina, Denver, NY Giants and Tampa Bay) each dropped the opening games. It’s tough to make the playoffs starting with two losses, so expect big efforts from these four and several other contenders losing in Week 1.

Here’s a look at the games to be played this weekend:

Sunday, Sept. 17

Raiders +9 at Ravens 35½: The Baltimore offense clearly clicked under new QB Steve McNair. Oakland might be overmatched here. RAVENS

Texans +13 at Colts (47): The Colts won both meetings last season by 14 and 18 points. COLTS.

Browns +10 at Bengals (42): Cincinnati may be the most talented team in the league. Cleveland was unable to gain 200 total yards of offense in losing at home to defensively weak New Orleans. BENGALS.

Bills (+7) at Dolphins (37): Buffalo nearly knocked off New England, taking advantage of an early turnover to build a lead. But the offense gained under 250 yards. Buffalo’s defense appears improved. It is Miami’s strength. UNDER.

Lions +8 at Bears (32): Chicago’s defense held the Packers without a point for the first time in 15 seasons. The improved Lions defense held Seattle without a TD, however the offense failed to score a TD. In this series, 11 of the last 16 have been decided by a TD or less. LIONS.

Panthers -2½ at Vikings (38½): Carolina lost as a home favorite on opening day for the third straight season. Of course they were without WR Steve Smith, who should play here. The Panthers followed up those losses with Week 2 wins the past two seasons and get Minnesota off a short week. PANTHERS.

Giants +3 at Eagles (42): Both offenses should be potent with a pair of solid quarterbacks aided by good running games and underrated receivers. Both games last season exceeded the total and each offense is at least as good this season. OVER.

Bucs +6 at Falcons (36): Already a key game for Tampa Bay which looked awful at home to Baltimore. Atlanta is improved on defense but not on a par with the Ravens. Atlanta has lost three in a row and 6-of-8 to Tampa since the teams became Division rivals in 2002. BUCS.

Saints PK at Packers (38): The Saints were surprise winners in Cleveland last week and rookie Reggie Bush had a great debut both running, receiving and returning punts. The Packers were shut out for the first time in the Brett Favre era. The Saints, though, have one of the league’s weakest defenses. PACKERS.

Rams -3 at 49ers (44): St. Louis upset Denver as kicker Jeff Wilkins booted six field goals. San Francisco was competitive at Arizona, but failed to convert a single third down. The offense should continue to improve as QB Alex Smith works more with new receivers Antonio Bryant and rookie TE Vernon Davis. Rams are aging. 49ERS.

Cards +7 at Seahawks (46 ½): Arizona opened its new stadium with an exciting win over improved San Francisco. The Cardinals scored 34 points, more than in all but one game last season. Seattle struggled on offense at Detroit, settling for three field goals and no touchdowns in a 9-6 win. Expect more from the Seattle this week. OVER.

Pats -6 at NY Jets (37): The Jets got a surprising win in Tennessee in a game between teams likely to contend for the top draft choice next April. New England was sloppy and needed a late safety to edge by Buffalo. The Pats have the edge since new Jets coach, Eric Mangini was on New England’s staff the past few seasons. PATRIOTS.

Titans +10½ at Chargers (41):The Chargers have a top notch defense and get to play a far easier schedule this season. Tennessee is still rebuilding on both sides of the ball. The defense allowed the Chad Pennington to pass for over 300. CHARGERS.

Chiefs +9 at Broncos (42½): Kansas City’s offensive line woes were evident in last week’s home loss to Cincinnati in which starting QB Trent Green was lost for several weeks. Denver QB Jake Plummer tossed three interceptions in a loss to St. Louis. We know coach Mike Shanahan will have an intense week of practice. BRONCOS.

Redskins +6 at Cowboys (37): Both teams have strong defenses and average offenses. Washington RB Clinton Portis should be healthy. These teams have played many low scoring, close games in the last few seasons before Washington won in a rout late last season. Look for both defenses to dictate the tempo. UNDER.

Monday, Sept. 18

Steelers PK at Jags (36½): The status of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is uncertain although Charlie Batch filled in well in the opener. Pittsburgh does have an edge with several extra days of preparation. The Jags won in Pittsburgh in OT last season. Both teams play excellent pass defense. The ”˜under’ was 7-1 in Pittsburgh road games last year. UNDER.