The Sultan of Sides has his swagger back after a scintillating 11-4-1 performance against the spread last week. That result, following a disastrous week 2, raises the column’s record to 24-23-1 ATS on the year. Apparently, using the Donald Rumsfeld “Known-Unknown” strategy works better in the NFL than the Middle East.
There hasn’t been a Super Bowl rematch since the early 1990’s when the Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys squared off in consecutive years. It’s early, but a Broncos-Seahawks rematch wouldn’t surprise. Both conference champions from a year ago head into their bye week at 2-1 after the Seahawks topped the Broncos in a thrilling overtime affair last Sunday.
The Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, and San Diego Chargers are three obvious contenders in the AFC behind Denver. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, or Indianapolis Colts could join that group by season’s end. As it stands, Denver is setting the pace in the AFC. The Bengals are perhaps the most intriguing threat to Peyton Manning’s return trip to the big game. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has famously flopped in his three previous playoff games, all Cincinnati losses, but if Cincinnati can claim home field advantage, a frigid, windy, hostile environment could be Manning’s undoing.
The race in the NFC behind Seattle is just as muddled. The New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, and San Francisco 49ers, teams expected to challenge the Seahawks, have all started the season poorly. The Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals have yet to lose a game, but neither team inspires confidence. Home field advantage will be critical for any team hoping to best Seattle in postseason.
Of course, it’s far too early to make any definitive statement, but it does appear like the cream is rising to the top of the NFL once again.
New York Giants @ WASHINGTON REDSKINS -3.5
I’m all in on Captain Kirk Cousins beaming up points by the half-dozen Thursday night when the Washington Redskins host the New York Giants. Cousins’ consistent play is quickly making Native American fans forget about Robert Griffin. The Giants are entering after their first triumph of year, a victory over the Houston Texans, but wins will be few and far between for Coach Tom Coughlin’s men this season. Redskins win 31-17
GREEN BAY PACKERS @ Chicago Bears +1.5
The 1-2 Green Bay Packers travel to Chicago to face the 2-1 Bears in a pivotal early season NFC North Matchup. Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers has gotten off to a slow start, but facing a depleted Bears secondary may be just what Rodgers needs to jumpstart the Packers offense. The Bears are riding a two game winning streak that seems destined to end. The Jay Cutler era Bears teams have been anything but consistent over the years. Packers win 27-20
Buffalo Bills @ HOUSTON TEXANS -3
Both the Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills enter this contest with surprising 2-1 marks. Which means at least one of the two teams will leave with a 2-2 record. That’s the kind of valuable insight you can expect from the Sultan of Sides! Remember this cardinal rule of NFL gambling. When you have no idea favor the home side. Texans win 24-17
Tennessee Titans @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS -7.5
Andrew Luck and the Colts routed the Jacksonville Jungle-Kittens a week ago posting their first victory of the year. Indianapolis’ luck should continue against a Tennessee Titans team that isn’t good at football. The Titans, led by inaccurate passer Jake Locker, will struggle to keep pace on the scoreboard against Luck and the Colts high-powered offense. Colts win 28-17
Carolina Panthers @ BALTIMORE RAVENS -3
Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers travel to Baltimore to battle Steve Smith and the Ravens. Smith is off to a fast start with his new team after playing in Carolina for over a decade. The veteran pass catcher has quickly developed into Joe Flacco’s most trusted receiver. The Ravens will go out of their way to get Smith into the end zone . The Panthers are riddled with injuries at running back, and Newton is still recovering from a rib ailment. Ravens win 24-13
DETROIT LIONS @ New York Jets +1.5
This is a terrible matchup for the paper airplanes. New York’s strengths are stopping the run and running the football. The Lions loathe rushing attempts and for good reason. With Matthew Stafford throwing to a bevy of talented receivers, most notably Calvin Johnson, Detroit’s offense is as explosive as any in the league. The Lions also feature a strong run defense which will force the wild armed Geno Smith to beat them with his wobbly arm. The hot seat is about to get hotter for Jets coach, Rex Ryan. Lions win 30-20
TAMPA BAY BUCS @ Pittsburgh Steelers -7
Siding with the lowly 0-3 Tampa Bay Bucs makes no sense at all. That’s why it’s a brilliant play! Fresh off a 56-14 shellacking in Atlanta the Bucs travel to Pittsburgh to face the 2-1 Pittsburgh Steelers. I don’t believe Tampa Bay’s players will quit on first year coach Lovie Smith. If the players in that locker room have any pride at all they will bounce back with a great effort this Sunday. Pittsburgh is banged up on defense. The team signed retired linebacker James Harrison this week out of desperation. Steelers win 17-14
Miami Dolphins @ OAKLAND RAIDERS -4
The Oakland Raiders are a bad football team, but I don’t expect the Silver and Black to remain winless in 2014. What better opportunity to post a victory than this weekend when the Miami Dolphins visit the black hole? The Fighting Fish are drowning, dropping two straight, after an impressive opening victory over the New England Patriots. There’s talk in Miami of finally pulling the plug on the Ryan Tannehill can play quarterback experiment. A long overdue move considering his inability to complete passes to his own team. Raiders win 23-20
Jacksonville Jaguars @ SAN DIEGO CHARGERS -13.5
Only the Jungle Kittens, high on cat nip, would continue to trot the obviously overmatched Chad Henne out there at quarterback week after week at the expense of top draft pick Blake Bortles gaining much needed experience. It’s inexplicable. The Chargers are really good. Traveling across the country and dominating the Buffalo Bills a week after defeating the Seattle Seahawks was very impressive. San Diego is positioned to challenge the Denver Broncos in the AFC West. Chargers win 34-16
ATLANTA FALCONS @ Minnesota Vikings +2.5
Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be under center for his first start when the Minnesota Vikings host the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday. His opposite? Matt Ryan and the high flying Atlanta Falcons, no big deal. I didn’t think Bridgewater was much of a college passer at Louisville. Odds are Teddy is going to find life in the NFL very challenging. The Falcons have flaws, but asking a rookie making his first start to keep pace with Ryan, Julio Jones, and company is a tall order. Falcons win 30-14
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ San Francisco 49ers -5.5
I’ve been saying it all season. Something gone awry with this 49ers team. Colin Kaepernick looks lost at times, and the defense, ravaged by injuries and father time, isn’t nearly as fearsome as it was just a few short years ago. The Eagles are 3-0, but have trailed by double digits in every game. That’s not a recipe Chip Kelly and the gang can rely on week after week. It’s hard to imagine San Francisco dropping this contest and falling to 1-3, but you can’t be comfortable siding with wine and gold right now. 49ers win 27-24
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ Dallas Cowboys +3
The Dallas Cowboys enter this matchup with a two game winning streak. If we’ve learned anything about the Fighting Jerry’s over the years it’s that the franchise is allergic to prosperity. Dallas will find a way to lose this game. Book it, Danno! New Orleans righted the ship last week effortlessly routing the hapless Minnesota Vikings. The Saints know they can’t start the year 1-3 and keep any realistic hope of claiming the top seed in the NFC playoffs. Drew Brees will be at his best this Sunday. Saints win 33-20
New England Patriots @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS +4
These aren’t your older brothers Patriots. The Brady Bunch has gotten off to a slow start this year. After blowing big lead at halftime in the opener the Patriots stumbled their way to two straight wins. Last week’s 16-9 victory over the Oakland Raiders is a great example of winning ugly. Kansas City is desperate to avoid a 1-3 start to the year, and Arrowhead is always a tough place to play. Chiefs win 20-17