Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans
This is an important divisional contest in the AFC South, with Indianapolis (2-3) knowing a win puts them level with Houston (3-2). That won't be easy though, given the Colts have lost both road games this season while the Texans have three wins from three at the NRG Stadium.
This game could hinge on who wins the battle between Indy's passing attack and Houston's defense. The Texans currently rank top of the league against the pass. But that current appraisal looks bogus to me given Houston have yet to face a truly dangerous attack.
Tennessee and Kansas are distinctly ho-hum through the air. Minnesota are average. Chicago's high rating is arguably false, based on garbage-time yards gained in defeat. And while New England have great receivers, they were quarterbacked by Jacoby Brissett. He's since been exposed as below NFL standard, yet somehow humbled Houston 27-0. Just think, if somebody like Jacoby Brissett can orchestrate the dismantling of Houston's defense, then what damage might Andrew Luck do?
Luck has thrown 10 TDs and just three interceptions, but against mediocre defenses, with only Denver's credible. And even then, he was under tremendous pressure, sacked a league high of 20 times. He has a plethora of catchers to aid him though, with TY Hilton by far the most productive. Tight ends Jack Doyle and Dwayne Allen are both popular red zone targets though, with two scores each.
Indy have scored an average of over 27 points per game. Houston have allowed an average of 22. I fancy Indy's output here will end up somewhere between the two, with Luck put on the seat of his pants several times.
Houston's offense meanwhile has been a huge disappointment. Brock Osweiler's looked nothing like as good he did at Denver without the Broncos O-Line to protect him. He's thrown more picks than TDs and his average of six yards per completion is last but one in the NFL. Consequently, the output of Houston's top receiving weapon, DeAndre Hopkins, has plummeted. 'Nuke' is currently on course for just half the number of receptions and yards he hauled in last year, though with three TDs he is still the Texan's leading scorer.
The Colts haven't fared well against the pass, but then they have faced some pass-heavy teams, led by the likes of Stafford, Rivers and Bortles, each of whom is more proven than Osweiler. By comparison, this should be an easier prospect for Indy.
Neither ground game looks strong. Houston have yet to score a rushing TD, with Lamar Miller gaining just 3,7 yards per attempt. With four scores and four yards, that gives Indy's Frank Gore the edge.
7pts Indianapolis to win @ 2.305/4
5pts Indianapolis (+1.5) to beat Houston at half time @1.9620/21
5pts Andrew Luck pass completions to be More Than 21.5 @ [5/6] (Sportsbook)
3pts TY Hilton passing yards to be More Than 73.5 @ 1.9620/21
1pt Dwayne Allen to score 1st/anytime touchdown @ 15.014/1
1pt TY Hilton to score 1st/anytime touchdown @ 8.07/1
New York Jets @ Arizona Cardinals
As we saw with Cam Newton and Carolina, some quarterbacks carry a team. Not so though Arizona, who still performed under Drew Stanton last week to beat the 49ers. Regardless, Carson Palmer has been back on the practice ground and looks good to return from his concussion.
With Palmer under centre, Arizona's receivers become even more deadly. Larry Fitzgerald has looked born again, snaffling five of the Cardinals' eight passing TDs. John Brown and Michael Floyd help with much of the heavy lifting, but it's Fitzgerald who usually takes the glory.
It's Arizona's improved ground game that gives them a real Super Bowl shot though. David Johnson has been every bit as good as the Cardinals hoped he'd be when drafting him in the third round in 2015. He's gained five TDs, five yards per rush, and single-handedly ruined the 49ers last week.
This game may not be Johnson's finest though. The Jets are stout against the run, having allowed just one score in five outings. But they've been porous through the air, conceding in excess of 300 yards to all but one of the quarterbacks they've faced. Even the short-armed Alex Smith managed a respectable 237.
Palmer and co could run riot against the Jets secondary. And this could get out of hand quickly, with New York not possessing the firepower to respond. The Jets could make progress on the ground, but not quickly enough to match the quick gains Arizona should enjoy. So they'll turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick to save them, a player who's thrown 10 interceptions and five touchdowns this season. It's not a ratio that inspires confidence. Now consider that Arizona's defense is one of the NFL's best, with seven picks and 18 sacks, and this starts to look mission impossible for the men in green.
7pts Arizona (-7.5) to beat New York Jets @ 2.0621/20
7pts Arizona (-3.5) to win at Half Time @ 2.01/1
2pts Larry Fitzgerald to score 1st/anytime touchdown @ 10.09/1
1pt John Brown to score 1st/anytime touchdown @ 12.011/1