The Bengals are a three-point favorite over the Chargers in Cincinnati’s home opener. This line basically is saying these two teams would be a pick on a neutral field. I disagree with that and think the Bengals are better than the Chargers.
I’ve had some success picking for and against Andy Dalton, and I think this is a good spot for him. He’s at home after a nice road start last weekend and the Chargers defense has some question marks. It looks like he has a solid No. 2 target in Tyler Eifert along with A.J. Green, and Jeremy Hill in the backfield.
The Chargers dominated the stats against the Lions last week and needed a big comeback to win. Now they make the long trip for an early start. I’m picking the Bengals to continue their early season success.
Chargers (+1.5) over 49ers: The 49ers have nothing to play for and Jim Harbaugh has one foot out the door in San Francisco. The 49ers also played the Seahawks last week and teams struggle the week after playing Seattle. The Chargers need this game to stay in the playoff race.
Vikings (+7) over Dolphins: The Dolphins aren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs but they are pretty much done. Their coach also might be fired and the Vikings have been a covering machine.
Raiders (+7) over Bills: The Bills had a huge home win against Green Bay, and have held Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers without a touchdown pass the last two games. However, the offense has been terrible and their touchdown last week was a special teams score. The Raiders have shown up the last two times at home and won. I think they will cover this number and possibly spoil the Bills’ postseason chances.
Bengals (+3.5) over Broncos: The Broncos are winning games but something is wrong with Peyton Manning. It looks like Denver is locked into the No. 2 seed so I don’t think they will give a maximum effort on the road. The Bengals are in a must-win situation and I think they will be able to run with rookie running back Jeremy Hill. A successful running game will keep the ball out of Andy Dalton’s hands, which would be ideal for Cincinnati in primetime.
Ravens (-6) over Chargers: This line might be a little higher after Baltimore went into New Orleans and beat the Saints on Monday night. The short week isn’t an ideal situation for the Ravens but I think the win by double digits at home. The Chargers are 3-3 in their last six games and haven’t covered a spread. The Ravens are right in the AFC North race and face must-win games every week.
Bengals (-4) over Buccaneers: I think this line might be lower than I expected because the Bengals play the Steelers next week. However, Cincinnati can’t afford to look ahead as the Ravens, Steelers and Browns are right behind them in the division race. Tampa Bay is coming off a big game where they played Lovie Smith’s former team. Next week they travel to Detroit, which might also be an important game for Smith facing an old NFC North rival. The Bengals are a different team with a healthy Giovani Bernard along with Jeremy Hill and I think they win by a touchdown.
Saints (+4.5) over Steelers: The best thing for the Saints after three uncharacteristic home losses is to get away from New Orleans. I think they regroup especially with a division title to play for. I still think the Steelers can win this game but it will be by a field goal. Saints have played a lot of close games on the road where they just fell short.
Panthers (+3) over Vikings: The Vikings had a great effort against the Packers last week and I think they show up flat. The Panthers had a bye week to prepare and amazingly are still in the NFC South race. I think this will be a very low scoring game in Minnesota.
Broncos (-1.5) over Chiefs: The Chiefs have a great home field and this game is at night. I still think the Broncos should be the favorite in this game and the line should be closer to a field goal. Julius Thomas looks like he is coming back for Denver, which will cause matchup problems for the Chiefs defense. The inconsistent play from Kansas City receivers will catchup up to them and I think the Broncos win by at least three points.
The Chargers are the better team but I like the home favorite Buffalo Bills to win and cover the spread on Sunday. The scheduling situation is a big reason I like the Bills. The Chargers are traveling across the country for an early start time on Sunday. San Diego is also coming off a big win against the Super Bowl champions. Teams that play the Seahawks struggle the week after because Seattle is a physical team.
As I wrote about on my Thursday night preview, I’m reevaluating some of my preseason predictions. I was down on the Bills this season because of their quarterback play. I’m not sure E.J. Manuel is the solution in Buffalo but the rest of the roster has talent at almost every position especially running back and defensive line. It feels odd to think the Bills can be 3-0 by Sunday afternoon but I think that will happen.
I started the week 0-1 after picking the Steelers in the Thursday night game. I’m now 2-3 on the season and 6-11 overall in contest picks. I’m picking four more game this weekend including an over/under. Hyperlinks for analysis are provided below. For the other games I’ll provide a brief sentence or two on the side I would take in a contest.
Lions at Panthers (-3)
My line: Panthers -1.5
Analysis: It looks like Newton will play but he hasn’t spent much time with his receivers in the preseason. Lions are coming off a Monday night game playing at home so I wouldn’t pick them with confidence.
Hard to pick against the Seahawks right now but I’m going to do it against a Chargers team I trust to bounce back. The Seahawks convincingly won at home in their regular season opener against the Packers. Now they go on the road, where the Seahawks are a much different team compared to at home.
The Chargers defense stood tall for three quarters on Monday night in Arizona. Then they tired out as the offense failed to sustain long fourth quarter drives. I think the defense turns in another strong performance at home on Sunday.
There is value on the Chargers as I think the Seahawks should only be a field goal favorite. Also the Seahawks might be looking ahead to a Week 3 home date against Denver in a Super Bowl rematch. The line might be higher than I expected because of the shorter rest for San Diego. However, the Chargers played on Week 1 Monday night last season and then crossed three time zones to beat Philadelphia on the road six days later.