Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals
This looks like being a fascinating contest between two teams who have more in common than you might think. According to their match statistics, the pair could be mistaken for twins. Offensive yards per game? Seattle 352, Arizona 368. And while it's Arizona who have more the reputation as a passing team, the facts don't bear that out, with the Cardinals producing 19 passing yards less per game than the Seahawks. Meanwhile Seattle, traditionally thought of as a ground and pound team, have 36 rushing yards per game fewer than the Cardinals.
So times, it seems, are a changing. And a large part of that is down to David Johnson, the Cards' rusher who's played the lights out this season. His five yards per rush are immense. They may be only slightly better than Seattle's Christine Michael, but he also has eight touchdowns, double that of Michael. And where Johnson really sets himself apart is with his pass catching ability. To put things in context, his 265 receiving yards, at an average of 13 per catch, are better than all but two of the Seahawks' wide receivers.
Johnson came with a big reputation and has delivered. Michael is finally delivering, after several seasons where he underachieved. I may be proved wrong, but I'm not convinced. After years of being a Michael fan, I grew tired of waiting for him to come good. He has been prone to fumbling, and has a knack for picking up injuries. I believe one, if not both, of these issues, will come back to haunt him again and derail the Michael bandwagon, to which huge numbers have recently attached themselves.
Both teams have solid defenses. And both have good quarterbacks, each with their injury concerns. Carson Palmer has the better array of receivers, although they didn't light up the Jets the way many expected they would on Monday. Still, the Cardinals did the job, impressively brushing aside one of the NFL's best defensive lines in the process.
Russell Wilson is a fine player. But Seattle's QB has been hampered this year by a niggling ankle injury. For me, Palmer and Johnson are the duo I'd prefer in my corner, both for form and reliability.
This is a terribly close match up, but with home advantage I think Arizona will sneak it...just.
3pts total field goals Over 3.5 @ [11/10]
3pts Arizona to beat Seattle @ 1.9720/21 (Sportsbook)
1pt David Johnson to score 1st touchdown @ [13/2] (Sportsbook)
Houston Texans @ Denver Broncos
Houston dodged a bullet last week. Actually it would be more accurate to say Indianapolis simply shot themselves in the foot, as they blew a 14 point lead with three minutes to go, to hand the Texans victory in overtime.
Not every one is that generous though. And certainly not Denver. The Broncos defense is still one of the league's best and can put intense pressure on their former quarterback Brock Osweiler. He was invisible for 57 minutes last week and looked money poorly spent, before landing a few punches late on against a Colts defense that simply went AWOL. The Broncos will give him less time to think though and will surely land some hefty body blows. Denver have registered more sacks than any team in the NFL and can make this a nightmare homecoming for their former QB, who might be left wondering whether all that extra cash was worth the move to Texas.
Houston were lucky to win their last game. They won't be that lucky again. They could keep it close for a good while though. Trevor Siemian was off the boil in the defeat to San Diego and will find life even harder against Houston's menacing pass rush. The pressure is also on for CJ Anderson, who's gradually ceding carries to rookie running back Devontae Booker. A bad start here could see Booker get plenty of action, making him a value bet to find the end zone.
With two good Ds in play though, points could be at a premium. And with both QBs looking shaky, the kickers should be more involved than usual, so get the total number of field goals on your side.
7pts total field goals to be Over 3.5 @ [11/10]
4pts Total points Under 40.5 @ 2.01/1
4pts Denver to win Half Time and Full Time @ 1.705/7