NFL a mixed bag of winners, losers

Sep 15, 2009 5:00 PM
Pigskin Picks by Andy Iskoe |

The first week of NFL action is almost compete as we go to press just prior to Monday night’s doubleheader. And as is almost always the case, the first week of play had its usual share of upsets as well as games that went pretty much according to form.

Three home favorites of more than a field goal: Arizona, Cincinnati and Houston: each lost outright. Pittsburgh was taken to overtime in last Thursday’s kickoff game but the Steelers prevailed in the extra session to dispatch Tennessee.

There were also a few dominating performances as Philadelphia, New Orleans and Seattle each won by more than 17 points. The Eagles were especially impressive, winning on the road. But the win may prove costly as QB Donovan McNabb suffered a cracked rib and may be sidelined for several weeks pending further tests early in the week.

Double digit favorites got off to a fast start last Sunday as both Baltimore and New Orleans covered against pesky foes. The Ravens dominated Kansas City in the stats and the Saints did likewise to the Lions. But neither cover came all that easily.

Recall that double-digit favorites got off to a horrible start in 2008, going 0-9 ATS (Against the Spread) through the first 6 weeks of the season and were just 1-17 through 11 weeks. These big favorites went on a mini run of 6-1 over the next three weeks before finishing on a 3-4 run to end the regular season at 10-22.

In the Playoffs, there was just one double-digit favorite and that team not only failed to cover but they lost outright as 10 point favorite Carolina fell on their home field to Arizona in the Divisional round.

Both New England and San Diego were double digit favorites hours before their Monday night clashes against Buffalo and Oakland respectively.

Week One play generally raises more questions than answers. And while you should not overreact to what occurred in a team’s first game nor should you fail to react.

Keep in mind that when two good football teams meet, one good team must lose.

And when two bad football teams meet, one bad football team must win.

The challenge over the next few weeks is in determining and separating the good teams from the bad.

Here’s a look at the 16 games to be played this week.

Oakland at Kansas City (No Line): Oakland played on Monday night and has the shorter week +travel time to prepare for their long time bitter rival. Preference is for KANSAS CITY.

Houston (+7) at Tennessee (Over/Under 41): Both teams are off of losses in their opening games but Houston’s loss at home to the Jets was more of a shocker than was the Titans’ loss at Pittsburgh. Preference is for TENNESSEE.

New England at New York Jets (No Line): The Patriots are off of a Divisional Monday nighter against Buffalo. The Jets were impressive on both sides of the football in dominating Houston last week in coach Rex Ryan’s and rookie QB Mark Sanchez’ NFL debut. Preference is for the OVER.

Cincinnati (+9) at Green Bay (42): As poorly as Cincinnati’s offense played last week, the defense was outstanding and but for that weird tipped ball in the game’s final minute the Bengals would have had a 7-6 win. Preference is for the UNDER.

Minnesota (-10) at Detroit (46½): QB Brett Favre had a steady game in his debut against Cleveland last week, relying on the ground game and defense to earn a solid win. Preference is for DETROIT.

New Orleans at Philadelphia (No Line): The uncertain status of Philly QB Donovan McNabb probably keeps this game off the boards for much of the week. Preference is for the UNDER.

Carolina (+6) at Atlanta (43): Heads are shaking in Carolina as QB Jake Delhomme had another poor game last week that reminded many of his Playoff disaster last season against Arizona. Preference is for ATLANTA.

St. Louis (+10) at Washington (37): Rams won just twice last season and one was a 19-17 win right here over the Redskins. Preference is for ST. LOUIS.

Arizona (+3½) at Jacksonville (42½): Both teams are off of close losses to Divisional foes. Preference is for ARIZONA.

Seattle (+1½) at San Francisco (40): Both teams beat Divisional foes to open the season. Seattle was the more impressive but did play the far weaker foe in beating St Louis at home while the Niners won at Arizona. Preference is for SEATTLE.

Tampa Bay at Buffalo (No Line): Buffalo is off of Monday night’s game at New England. Tampa lost at home to Dallas but even in that loss the running game flourished, gaining 174 yards on 31 carries using a trio of running backs. Preference is for the UNDER.

Cleveland (+3) at Denver (38): Both teams have new coaches and new starting quarterbacks. Preference is for DENVER.

Baltimore at San Diego (No Line): This is the week’s most attractive game as San Diego’s high powered offense challenges Baltimore’s outstanding defense. Preference is for BALTIMORE.

Pittsburgh (- 3) at Chicago (38): Chicago’s defense was dealt a severe blow as LB Brian Urlacher was injured Sunday night and is out for the season. The lack of Pittsburgh’s running game in their opener is a concern. The preference is for CHICAGO.

New York Giants (+3) at Dallas (44): This game marks the much ballyhooed official opening of the Cowboys’ new stadium, low hanging scoreboard and all. Both teams won their opening games with Dallas relying more on their offense and the Giants more on their defense. Both teams run the ball very well and that suggests points aplenty as has been the case when these two have met since Eli Manning and Tony Romo have been their teams’ signal callers. Prior to last season’s 29 pointer late in the season, the teams averaged over 56 points in their prior 5 meetings. Preference is for the OVER.

MONDAY NIGHT

Indianapolis (-3) at Miami (42): This game has the makings of a Colts with the Over or the Dolphins with the Under result. Indianapolis has a decent defense but still relies on their offense as their trump card. Miami is more reliant on their defense to keep them in games while their offense is pedestrian. Both offenses were victimized by turnovers last week while both of their foes played error free football. The play of both defenses appears to be ahead of the offenses and the total is above the key number of 41. Preference is for the UNDER.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Andy Iskoe