Still in shockover Browns!

September 18, 2007 8:28 AM

6-8-1 12-17-2 41.4

The NFL season is fraught with challenges, but perhaps never as many as during the first few weeks of a new season.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was Cleveland’s offensive outburst in a 51-45 win over Division rival Cincinnati. This came a week after the Browns were embarrassed at home by Pittsburgh, so much so that they "fired" starting QB Charlie Frye, traded him to Seattle and replaced him with lightly tested Derek Anderson.

All Anderson did was tie the franchise record by tossing five touchdown passes.

The scoreboard showed six underdogs won their games outright and another five that lost on the field covered the spread. There was also a push so the only favorites to win and cover were Pittsburgh, Dallas and New England heading into Monday night.

Week 2 scoring was up by nearly a touchdown compared to opening day, which had produced an average of 38 points per game. his past Sunday’s 15 games saw an average of 44.2. The OVER held an 8-7 edge, far better than the 5-11 mark from the previous week when scores were down.

Here’s a look at this week’s games, the final week of full schedules before the Byes begin next week.

Sunday, Sept. 23:

Colts -5 at Texans (48): The defending Super Bowl champs are 2-0 and face a Texans team also 2-0 and playing very well on both sides of the football. Houston upset the Colts on this field late last season, but with a much weaker team. The Texans are riding a four-game winning streak over a two-year stretch. Look for both offenses to have success. Both matchups last year exceeded the posted total. OVER.

Chargers -4 at Packers (44): It has been conjectured that the coaching switch from Marty Schottenheimer to Norv Turner would be a downgrade for the Chargers. Judging from San Diego’s poor effort in the loss to New England, the negative impact has been felt much earlier than expected. San Diego looked very ill prepared for the Patriots. Meanwhile Packers QB Brett Favre is off to a strong start. OVER.

Vikings +2½ at Chiefs (33): Minnesota lost in overtime to Detroit in a mistake filled game last week, while the Chiefs lost their second straight road game. Vikings QB Tavaris Jackson struggled in his first road start and will face an aggressive defense. The Chiefs have historically been among the league’s best home teams. RB Larry Johnson continues to get back into shape. Laying a FG or less is fair. CHIEFS.

Lions +7 at Eagles (44½): Detroit is off to a 2-0 start facing a pair of above average defenses, Oakland and Minnesota. Philadelphia hosted Washington on Monday night looking for its first win after a sloppy effort at Green Bay. The Lions have shown improvement in running offensive coordinator Mike Martz’ offense. That could be troublesome for an Eagles defense that loves to blitz often. LIONS.

Bills +15 at Patriots (42): New England has beaten a pair of playoff teams from last season by identical 38-14 scores. The addition of WR Randy Moss has provided the expected boost to the Patriots offense, while the defense continues to make big plays. Buffalo plays fairly good defense, but the offense is still a work in progress as rookie RB Marshawn Lynch gets acclimated to NFL life. UNDER.

Dolphins +3 at Jets (35): The Jets face their third straight solid defense, but Miami’s is not quite as good as either Baltimore or New England. The offense had some success with backup QB Kellen Clemens, who may start again if Chad Pennington is not fully recovered. The Jets have more offensive firepower, have won 5-of-6 against the Dolphins overall and 8-of-9 on this field. JETS.

49ers +8½ at Steelers (38): The winner will be 3-0. Both teams have faced fairly weak competition. The Niners face one of the better defenses in the league. Pittsburgh has opened up the offense under new coach Mike Tomlin, making the Steelers a very dangerous foe at home. There’s also AFC/NFC thing that has been very much tilted towards the AFC in recent seasons. STEELERS.

Cards +7½ at Ravens (35): Arizona has been able to run the ball better in its first two games, but rush defense remains a strength of the Ravens. Baltimore allowed just 55 rushing yards to Cincy and 69 to the Jets. The Cards have also shown improvement defensively against the run, but they step up considerably in class here. Another AFC/NFC matchup between playoff contender and also-ran. RAVENS.

Rams +3½ at Bucs (38): The loss of lineman Orlando Pace for the season in Week 1 has clearly impacted the Rams offense. RB Stephen Jackson has been held in check and the running game has produced just 137 yards in two games. Getting more than a FG with the clearly better offense and a defense allowing 59 yards per game less the Bucs is attractive. Especially when that underdog is 0-2. RAMS.

Jaguars +3 at Broncos (35½): Jacksonville has been an early underachiever. The Broncos have put up some impressive numbers on offense running the football, despite managed just 38 points. The pass defense has been outstanding, but allowing over five yards per rush. Denver coach Mike Shanahan figures to have his team better prepared and more able to make adjustments than Jack del Rio. BRONCOS.

Bengals +3 at Seahawks (50): It will be interesting to see how Cincinnati rebounds after that horrendous defensive effort in Cleveland. Seattle has been one of the few NFC teams to compete on even terms with the AFC in recent seasons, splitting their 16 games since becoming a playoff team in 2003. The Seahawks have always been a strong home team and have the better overall defense. SEAHAWKS.

Browns +3 at Raiders (39): It’s rare for a team to play two outstanding games in a row when not a member of the league’s elite. So it would not be surprising if Cleveland struggles on offense, especially against an Oakland defense that was its strength last season. Cleveland is playing its first road game. The 0-2 Raiders face a team they led at home last season before blowing a 21-3 first half lead in a 24-21 loss. RAIDERS.

Panthers -4 at Falcons (36): Atlanta played well defensively in starting 0-2 with a bend but not breaking unit. The Panthers were shocked at home by improving Houston, again failing in their role as favorite. Carolina is 2-7 lifetime in Atlanta over the last nine matchups. FALCONS.

Giants +3½ at Redskins (40½): The Giants got a game effort from banged up QB Eli Manning last week, but still were blown out by Green Bay. The Giants have allowed 80 points and 846 total yards (621 through the air) in the first two games. Washington did fare well against a good Miami defense in the opener, running for 191 yards. The Giants appear to be a team in turmoil with their 0-2 start. REDSKINS.

Cowboys +3 at Bears (42): Chicago has a huge edge on defense that is all but offset by the Dallas advantage on offense. The Bears have really struggled on offense, totaling just 441 yards — a mark surpassed by Dallas in an opening win over the Giants. The Bears have also allowed just 544 total yards to a pair of AFC teams -- San Diego and Kansas City. UNDER.

Monday, Sept. 24:

Titans +5 at Saints (45): The surprise team of 2006 has become the shocking team of 2007, going 0-2 and being outscored 72-24. Granted, the two Saints losses have been on the road. The Titans performed statistically better against the Colts on both sides of the football than the Saints did. Tennessee has been an amazing underdog, covering 9 straight. At some point that amazing streak has to end. Let’s opt for the total. OVER.