Atlanta Falcons @ Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday September 14, 18:00
Live on Sky Sports
Both these teams came up with late victories last week, Atlanta edged New Orleans in overtime to seal a thrilling 37-34 win as QB Matt Ryan bolted out of the season's starting gate with a 448 yard, three touchdown performance. With wide-receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White both back fit and playing in tandem, these three will ask questions of every defense in the league. And for once, the Falcons also possess a twin running threat, with the healthy-again Steven Jackson backed up by the sparky Jacquizz Rodgers.
But while Atlanta look near full-strength on offense, it's not scoring points that's their problem. Despite possessing all these weapons, the Falcons were shot down seven times out of eight on the road last year. Outside the Georgia Dome, Atlanta struggle. And a trip to the Paul Brown Stadium is about as tough as road games get. Last season Cincinnati went 8-0 at home and covered the handicap on every single occasion. From a betting perspective that's gold dust!
So having shown their early season grit, with an impressive 23-16 road win in Baltimore, it's hard to imagine them then giving-up their tremendous home record to the travel-sick Falcons. The Bengal's main weapon, AJ Green, showed he's in good form, by pulling-in a 77 yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton in that win. Ever the threat, Green looks a near-certainty to hit paydirt against Atlanta's soft secondary.
Bengals running back Gio Bernard was subdued by the Ravens last week, but can flourish this time out, and he too has a big chance of finding the endzone in what looks set to be a high-scoring, but one-sided encounter.
Back Cincinnati (-4.5) to beat Atlanta @ 1.91 or better
Back Total Points to be Over 48.0 @ 1.91 or better
Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos
Sunday September 14, 21:25
Live on Sky Sports
Kansas were off their game last week. Their traditionally tough defense went AWOL, as did their main offensive weapon - running back Jamaal Charles - as the Chiefs slumped to a hugely unexpected 26-10 home loss to Tennessee. For QB Alex Smith to only just scrape over 200 hundred yards passing isn't much of a surprise, but the way the Kansas running game was snuffed-out with such ease was a real shocker. If he tries all season, Jamaal Charles will struggle to do worse than the 19 yards from seven carries that he posted on Sunday.
To be fair to the Kansas defense, they did lose linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive tackle Mike DeVito to achilles injuries, but it was still a surprise to see them picked apart by the likes of Jake Locker. Locker is nowhere near the class of Peyton Manning, and that's who lies in wait for the Chiefs defense in Denver this week.
Peyton was in imperious form as she fired the Broncos to a 24-0 first half lead over Indianapolis last weekend. Yes, the Colts rallied to within seven by the end, but I'd put that largely down to Denver easing-off prematurely, even giving back-up running back CJ Anderson a healthy share of the ball. And on the flip side, it gave Denver's newly beefed-up defense a chance to show what it's made of, as it held-off a late charge from Andy Luck, to suggest Denver may have what it takes to go one better this time than last year's Superbowl loss.
This looks like being a cruise for Denver, but given the way they eased off last week, and how Kansas struggled in possession, there's merit on backing the overall points being low.
Back Denver (-13) to beat Kansas @ 1.91 or better
Back Total Points to be Under 51.5 @ 1.93
Chicago Bears @ San Francisco 49ers
Sunday September 15, 01:30
Live on Channel 4
Chicago showed they look like producing another mercurially inconsistent season, when they began this year's campaign with a surprise 23-20 home loss to Buffalo. And key to that defeat was the Bears' inability to stop the run, as they gave up 193 yards rushing to the Bills.
By contrast, you might argue San Francisco looked much more impressive in their 28-17 win over Dallas. But I'm not convinced. The 49ers are unlikely to face much weaker defenses than the banged-up Dallas backline they overcame last week. And for the 49ers to put up just 28 points, for me, was a little underwhelming. Tony Romo was handing out interceptions like they were candy. San Francisco are unlikely to be treated to such generosity by the Bears.
Chicago will look to use running back Matt Forte as much as possible. And the league's number two RB last season could cause some big problems for a 49ers defense that's missing Bowman, Smith and McDonald. Forte produced 169 yards of total offense last week, and should prosper again against a Niners' defense that surrendered 127 running yards to the Cowboys.
With Frank Gore, supported by Carlos Hyde, likely to hammer away on the ground, the 49ers could make slow but steady progress in possession. But I give Chicago the edge through the air, with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery good enough to produce the big plays that could help Chicago to an upset win here at a very healthy price.
Back Chicago to beat San Francisco @ 3.70 or better
Back Chicago (+7) to beat San Francisco @ 1.91 or better