At first glance this week’s NFL schedule looks a bit lacking but on closer inspection there are a few dandies to keep an eye on.
As well as divisional matchups between the Giants and Redskins (take New York Blue), the Steelers and Bengals (Steelers), and the Lions and Bears (Bears), here are some of those worth more than a little of your attention this weekend.
Baltimore Ravens @ Houston Texans
Houston (5-1, 2-1 home) took a body blow last week as the Packers came into town and asserted their dominance. Baltimore (5-1, 1-1 road) could hit the Texans with a set-up jab this weekend, leaving all to wonder just how good Houston really is this season.
The Texans’ 5-0 start comes with a big fat asterisk. In that five game spell, the team played what could at best be described as a moderate schedule.
The Ravens meanwhile have compiled an identical 5-1 record, with the one loss coming early to Philadelphia. By no means is this Baltimore side as dominant as some might have thought – five of six games have been decided by a touchdown or less – but John Harbaugh’s team has found a way of winning.
Odds: Houston opened as four-point favorites in this one and betting action has seen that number rise to seven ahead of kickoff. The over/under is 47.
Take: Baltimore – This is a real chance to pick an underdog this week. All of the so-called experts are going with Houston but let us not forget the Texans have never beaten the Ravens. Certainly this is the team’s best chance, particularly with Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs out, and nobody would be surprised to see Houston take the W. But this Ravens side isn’t about to roll over for anybody. Take the under; this is likely to turn into a defensive struggle.
New York Jets @ New England Patriots
Last week New England (3-3, 1-1 home) was stunned by Seattle while the Jets (3-3, 1-1 road) convincingly beat the Colts. It was just another surprising day in the oh so wacky world of the AFC East.
This week the two sides collide both looking to start putting some distance between themselves and the rest of the division. In reality, by the end of Week 9 we’ll probably have four teams tied at 4-4 (and yes, that is possible – check your printable schedules).
The Jets continue to be banged up. New England has created a legacy picking on opponent’s weaknesses, so it doesn’t look good for the Jets and their loud-mouthed coach, Rex Ryan. If they’re to make anything of this game they’ll need Shonn Greene to put in the type of running performance he had last week against the Colts. That’s a tough ask though as New England has limited teams to just 83 yards on the ground this season.
Jets fans felt a few butterflies in the tummy when Mark Sanchez was listed as ‘probable’, but expect the starting QB to take the field before Tim Tebow gets a look in.
Odds: The Patriots are 11-point favorites heading into this showdown at Foxboro. The over/under is 47.
Take: New England – There’s no question that the season so far hasn’t gone according to plan for the Patriots – who have drop games to Arizona, Baltimore and Seattle – but don’t put your money against Brady and Co. when the Jets are involved. The Jets have been a car wreck this season, and last week’s demolition job of Indianapolis does nothing to suggest this game will not follow the blueprint set out in losses to San Francisco and Houston previously. The total has gone OVER in four of last five New England games so the smart money’s on taking the over.
New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New Orleans (1-4, 0-2 road) has had an extra week to rest having finally picked up a win (against San Diego) in Week 5. Now the Saints will look to build some momentum with a first road victory of the year.
Tampa Bay (2-3, 2-1 home) has looked poor for much of the season, but last week’s performance against Kansas City suggested it might not be time to write off the Buccaneers just yet. But then again, a win over the Chiefs comes with few bragging rights (although New Orleans would love to be able to say the same right now.
Tampa has fared well stopping the run, but the Saints have been unable to run the ball anyway. Expect this one to feature Drew Brees’ arm early and often.
Odds: New Orleans is favored (-3) over the Buccaneers, but the Saints have struggles (1-3 ATS) when preferred this season. The over/under is 49.
Take: New Orleans – At 0-4, the Saints were never going to be out of it, and you only had to look at that matchup with Green Bay to see just what the team post-Bountygate is capable of. Tampa Bay always (always) plays New Orleans tight, and it’s been more than six years since the Saints won two in a row against the Bucs. Still, expect New Orleans to put some points on the board in this one, beating Tampa Bay and the spread. Take the OVER on the total.
Week 7 Schedule
Thursday: Seattle 6-13 San Francisco
Sunday: (1 PM ET) Tennessee @ Buffalo | Dallas @ Carolina | Baltimore @ Houston| Cleveland @ Indianapolis | Arizona @ Minnesota | Washington @ NY Giants | Green Bay @ St. Louis | New Orleans @ Tampa Bay; (4:25 PM ET) NY Jets @ New England | Jacksonville @ Oakland; (8:20 PM ET) Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
Monday: (8:30 PM ET) Detroit @ Chicago
Bye: Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia, San Diego