MIAMI (+1½) over Buffalo: Miami is an attractive home underdog in this battle of division rivals. Take away a poor interception last weekend by Chad Pennington against Baltimore, which was returned for a touchdown, and the Dolphins could have stolen a win. Meanwhile, the Bills hung on against the Chargers as Philip Rivers imploded and threw an interception in the end zone late in the fourth quarter. Sure, those plays are part of the game, but this matchup favors Miami. Unlike in their contest with the Ravens, the Dolphins will be able to run the ball. They are also capable of forcing Trent Edwards (above) to throw downfield if he has to play from behind, which is not Edwards’ strong suit. Buffalo is off to a great start and may prove to be the class of the AFC East, but it’s time for things to even out. Miami will win at home.
PHILADELPHIA (–9) over Atlanta: This is a lot of points to lay on an upstart Atlanta squad, but I think Philly can pressure the Falcons enough on both sides of the ball and end up with the cover. Eagles back Brian Westbrook has been out with broken ribs but is expected to return. I feel the same way about this game as I have about a few of Atlanta’s contests: if the Eagles are able to contain Falcons running back Michael Turner — and I think they can — it’s going to be a tough day for rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. Nine points will look a lot bigger at the beginning of the game than it will at the end.
CAROLINA (–4½) over Arizona: A classic matchup: the league’s top scoring offense (Arizona) against a Carolina defense that allows just 14.9 points per game. I’ll go with Carolina because its offense, though not nearly as proficient as Arizona’s, is still capable of scoring points, particularly against the Cardinals’ mediocre defensive unit. Carolina is 3-0-1 against the spread as a favorite and has a balanced rushing attack behind Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. Those two will help keep the ball away from Kurt Warner and allow Jake Delhomme, Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad to make the big plays.
Cleveland (+6½) over JACKSONVILLE: The Jaguars are 0-3 at home against the spread, and this is another case in which they are overvalued. The Browns are a complete mystery (after looking great offensively against the Giants, they struggled moving the ball — again — against the Redskins) but they did show some signs of life when they were desperate on offense against Washington. Interestingly, Cleveland has yet to be favored this season and is 4-2 as an underdog. Neither team has shown an ability to put points on the board, but Jacksonville’s defense is middle of the pack. These points are a gift.
SAN FRANCISCO (–5½) over Seattle: San Francisco has lost four in a row, but its opponents have been tough: New Orleans, New England, Philadelphia, and the Giants. The 49ers committed 13 penalties against the Giants and are also one of the NFL’s worst in turnover ratio, at minus-8, which is probably part of why coach Mike Nolan lost his job. But Seattle does not force turnovers, either, and San Francisco somehow committed all those penalties against New York and still hung in. The 49ers have probably forgotten how to win in San Francisco, but with Seattle coming in, they’ll remember quickly.
Cincinnati (+10) over HOUSTON: I’m not convinced Cincinnati can win this game, but I’m also not convinced that Houston should be favored by 10 points over anyone, or that it will win three in a row. I do think the Texans are capable of beating bad teams, but their defense is not what you’d call stout. The Bengals are a mess; running back Chris Perry has been benched in favor of Cedric Benson, and Carson Palmer is injured and could end up shutting it down for the season. But the Bengals have hung with teams and haven’t quit. They often wear down in the fourth quarter, but Houston doesn’t play that grind-it-out style of football. Expect a close game.
The rest: Good luck to JaMarcus Russell and Oakland as they head into BALTIMORE (–7) … Someone is going to give me a 13-point head start over the JETS? Yes, please, even if they are playing Kansas City (+13) … San Diego and New Orleans are in London, but most important, both are desperate for a win and an enjoyable flight home. I’m betting this game will stay close and NEW ORLEANS (+3½) can cover … DALLAS (–3½) has not covered in three weeks, but that changes against Tampa Bay … St. Louis (+7) can run the ball, sometimes, and stopping the run is not exactly NEW ENGLAND’s strength … Washington is better than DETROIT (+8), but the Redskins don’t blow anybody out … It’s going to be a long day in PITTSBURGH (–3) for the Giants … As good as TENNESSEE is, Peyton Manning is not going to gift-wrap two interceptions for touchdowns two weekends in a row. Indianapolis (+4) lives another week.
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This week's OT cover
OT beat writersMaureen Mullen brings you Red Sox information and insights.
Tom Wilcox covers the Patriots.
Scott Souza is all over the Celtics.
Danny Picard is on the ice with the Bruins.
Mike McDonald takes a look at the humorous side of Boston sports