Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions
Start-time: Sunday, 18:00
TV: Live on SS2
Rivalries typically need some competition to endorse their enmity. And let's face it, the annals of Green Bay Packers versus the Detroit Lions have recorded more of an execution than a fight.
The Pack have prevailed in five of the past six games and lead 22-4 in ties between these NFC North foes since 2001. Add Aaron Rodgers into the mix and it gets even more predictable. Rodgers is 9-0 with 19 touchdowns for just four picks in his last nine starts against Detroit.
So while some of that air of predictability evaporated last year with the Lions' big Thanksgiving win, it can't be ignored that the Cheeseheads' star QB was out of action with a broken collarbone. What did Detroit really accomplish?
It's a question that's been bugging Lions fans in recent years. Mostly because their roster sports such a depth of talent on both sides of the ball. Red-zone threats don't come much more dangerous than Matt Stafford to Calvin Johnson, as the latter has proved by returning to health and peak performance with 13 catches for 247 yards with two touchdowns in this fledgling season.
Megatron is a six-foot-five-inch beast; Stafford is looking elusive in the pocket; while able running backs like Reggie Bush and Joique Bell are champing to get the chains moving. But for some reason, this team's performance rarely adds up to the sum of its parts. And until they become more consistent, I for one can't trust them.
Especially against Rodgers who looked back to his pre-season self last week, rallying his team past the Jets with 346 yards. His main receivers in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are now flourishing after years of patient development has established an intuitive understanding with A-Rod.
Eddie Lacy, meanwhile, is a sleeping giant who's about to bulldoze his way back to form after getting taken out in Week One. Both sides have offered some surprisingly stout rush-defenses in the opening fortnight, but this should come down to quarterback-wideout combination packs. The Pack have a couple more options in this regard - and they're more reliable.
Back Green Bay Packers (+2.5) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 2.111/10 or better
Back Green Bay Packers (+1.5) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 2.111/10 or better
Back Over 25.5 Total Green Bay Packers Points @ 1.9110/11 or better
Denver Broncos @ Seattle Seahawks
Start-time: Sunday, 21:30
TV: Live on SS2
Despite the hype that this is a revenge mission for Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos, the reality is a lot more prosaic. Week Three of the regular season doesn't sniff the Super Bowl for credibility, while both outfits are much-changed from last year. A slice of redemption, then, is the best Denver can hope for.
Before last week, most would've doubted it - especially against the in-form Hawks at their CenturyLink stronghold. However, last week the Legion of Boom sounded more like the Legion of Whom? Cut open by the enigmatic Philip Rivers (three touchdowns) and his ageing receiver Antonio Gates (who got wide open more times than any 34-year-old athlete should), it was a tale from the cautionary vaults.
Seattle's tall dreams of an undefeated season may have bitten the dust, but their Championship chances have endured. Remember that the heat was stifling in San Diego and the Bolts - for all their detractors - might actually be in for a decent postseason run of their own. It could be Rivers and Gates' combined retirement tour but they're going to try and make it a glorious one.
Denver, of course, must also slay San Diego if they are to retain the AFC West title. But Manning is a patient man who knows this is just a significant battle in a wider war. The serial MVP hasn't set the world alight yet this term, but still tops the ratings with six TDs for no interceptions. His receiving crew need to step it up in Seattle, but there can be no doubting the Thomases of Julius and Demaryius. Improving on that Super Bowl season-low of eight points shouldn't be hard.
Still, when all's said and done, it's difficult to argue with the Vegas line on this one. Hawks quarterback Russell Wilson appears to be following Manning's lead (seldom a bad idea) in choosing discretion as the better part of valour this year, so this week's headliner could prove a cagey affair. It'll have to go some, though, to rival the mother of all anti-climaxes that was Super Bowl XLVIII.
Back Denver Broncos (+4.5) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 2.01/1 or better
Back Denver Broncos (+2.5) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 2.01/1 or better
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Carolina Panthers
Start-time: Monday, 01:30
TV: Live on C4
The Carolina Panthers are still labouring under the misapprehension that defense lifts the Lombardi. However, after Seattle provided some throwback testimony to the old maxim last year, perhaps we should be taking the Carolina seriously this term.
It's early days, but the Black Cats are certainly putting up some impressive figures for staunch resistance. They've restricted rival QBs to five yards per attempt and shut the scoreboard down at 21 collective points over the opening two games. Now throw in six turnovers and eight straight victories at home and it's hard to take issue with their favourite status for this game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Still, I'm going to try. Although when you see that the Steelers have been outscored 50-9 on points in their last six quarters of play, it may be a fool's errand. Let's focus on the Pittsburgh positives, though. Big Ben Roethlisberger is back ticking like Swiss Quartz with almost 600 passing yards, while lurking in the backfield could be this year's breakout performer - second-season rusher Le'Veon Bell. The 22-year-old RB Bell heads the AFC after 304 yards from two matches and is also showcasing some dual-threat potential as an additional receiving outlet.
If Roethlisberger and Bell are bringing back the balance to the Steeler offence, you could counter that Cam Newton's return under center last week (281 yards and a TD) did likewise for Carolina. However, for me, Newton is still rusty and got away with a few dodgy throws. Now is the time to oppose him before he gets the Panthers purring.
Carolina's D and overall discipline has defined their season to date (no turnovers, six takeaways). The Steelers, though, have struggled to find any such game-changing moments. Their luck could be about to change. They should prove the fresher side and can comfortably atone for that comedy of errors in Baltimore.
Back Pittsburgh Steelers (+3) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 2.01/1 or better
Back Pittsburgh Steelers to win on the Match Moneyline @ 2.568/5 or better
Back Over 19.5 Pittsburgh Steelers @ 2.01/1 or better
Back L. Bell to score First Touchdown 9.08/1 or better