Miami Dolphins @ Oakland Raiders
Start-time: Sunday, 18:00
TV: Live on SS2
If the Wembley cognoscenti were seeking footballing machines with hidden talent, these aren't the droids they were looking for. The terrible travellers more commonly referred to as the Oakland Raiders have conspired to lose 15 successive game in an eastern time zone, while the Miami Dolphins are also off to another underwhelming beginning (1-2) in a year which their management earmarked for a watershed campaign. Doesn't look any different than previous years, I'm afraid, and this storied team haven't logged a postseason victory since 2000.
So the question for London's first live game is which side rates the lesser of two evils? With most NFL power-rankings systems agreeing that the worst team in the NFL is a toss-up between Jacksonville and Oakland, clearly the answer is Miami who have at least won a match this term.
However, all is not lost for the Raiders who would've taken the New England Patriots to overtime, were it not for Darren McFadden's game-tying TD being chalked off the scoreboard because of a late holding penalty. Despite failing to snaffle any picks, the chances were there against a Pats offense still ranked on former glories. Indeed, the Raiders' D hurried and harried Tom Brady's boys, securing two sacks, six quarterback strikes and plenty of pressure. In short, it was the upset that wasn't. Oakland now need to view the result as a stepping stone as opposed to another missed opportunity.
Ryan Tannehill, on the other hand, has already fessed up to falling short. The Miami QB has opened with a series of stinkers and only managed a 50% completion percentage for 205 yards against Kansas and a pass-defense previously rated the worst in the league. Truth be told, though, that the Chiefs' D was a hibernating bear and Tannehill has the ability to finally step up in Primetime this Thursday night.
The Fins could yet make a play-off push - I can't believe those words just passed my lips - since they hail from the mire of mediocrity that is the AFC East. But they must start with a big statement win here against the Raiders. Lamar Miller rushed for over 100 yards last week, while linebacker Jelani Jenkins registered 14 tackles, added a multiple sack-forced-fumble combo. So they do possess the talent. Tannehill could do with the help.
Back Miami Dolphins (-4) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 2.111/10 or better
Back Miami Dolphins (-2.5) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 2.111/10 or better
Back Over 21.5 Total Miami Dolphins Points @ 1.9110/11 or better
Philadelphia Eagles @ San Francisco 49ers
Start-time: Sunday, 21:15
TV: Live on SS2
When you hear hooves pounding the turf, most people assume wild horses are coming their way. The San Francisco 49ers, however, reckon a herd of zebras are about to throw the rulebook at them. Or at least those in the subspecies of officialdom (who wear black and white, you see). Star wideout Anquan Boldin definitely sees it that way. "You send the tape and the NFL reports back saying the zebras made another mistake," he moaned. "Total those errors up and they're costing us games. They need to be held accountable."
Boldin was speaking after the Niners blew another decent lead for the second straight week. In fact, never mind the officials, Arizona totally shut them down in the second half to stage a 23-14 comeback. The previous week, San Fran led 17-7 before Chicago rallied for an unlikely 28-20 triumph. For a team with one of the staunchest Ds of recent seasons, it makes for humbling read.
Some churlish observers have implied that Jim Harbaugh has lost the locker room. But while the Niners clearly aren't getting much wisdom out of his half-time speeches, the real reason is a recent raft of injuries on both sides of the ball (Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald, Tramaine Brock and Anthony Davis to name but four still receiving treatment). While Davis' injury is the most long-standing (he missed most of camp with a hamstring tear) Harbaugh expects at least three of these key playmakers to return against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Philly may be 3-0 but they are also suffering from the same Jekyll-and-Hyde nature as the 49ers. They have twice rallied from 17 points behind and came from 17-7 down against Washington last weekend. While QB Nick Foles racked up 325 yards for three touchdowns and no picks, his form has been unreliable and he is way off his completion ratios of last year. Foles needs to recapture them quickly if the Eagles are to make up into a serious play-off candidate, since his defense is a leaky bucket right now (the Skins took them for 511 yards).
That will be music to the ears of the Niners' Colin Kaepernick who is slowly coming to the boil. CK connected with 29 of 37 passes for 245 yards and raced for 54 more against Arizona. He is ready to turn their stuttering start around. With reinforcements returning, forget the "52-3" 49ers of second-half scoring and trust the "50-16" of the first half to keep the pedal to the mettle for 60 minutes this Sunday.
Back San Francisco 49ers (-5) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 2.01/1 or better
Back San Francisco 49ers (-2.5) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 1.9110/11 or better
New Orleans Saints @ Dallas Cowboys
Start-time: Monday, 01:30
TV: Live on C4
The best time to get with the Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo is usually when his back is against the wall. And Romo proved he could bear the burden again against St Louis last time out, rallying his troops from 21-zip to a stirring late win. But now his back itself is the overriding issue for Romo. He missed midweek practise last Wednesday and is clearly going to be playing tight for a while to come.
Although the QB Rating (a dazzling 116.8) and the press releases are positive, don't be fooled by a courageous leader who might be about to return to the well once too often. Top RB DeMarco Murray (already three 100-yard games this term) is the one man who can ease the strain on Romo. However, now that they're pitted against the offensive powerhouse of New Orleans, the Cowboys will struggle to keep up - even at home.
Drew Brees bounced back last week against Minny with 293 yards for two TDs, while head receiver Marques Colston also banished the blues of some costly spills over the opening fortnight. Sean Payton's Saints needed that victory badly, and now is the time to elevate their thinking.
Running man Mark Ingram remains a late call after thumb surgery (his three touchdowns and six-yard average per carry have made him the Saints' stand-out back). Yet even if he's absent, up-and-comer Khiry Robinson (69 yards versus the Rams) has enough to move the chains and offer Brees some variety in just his second year. New Orleans could be about to rediscover its rhythm.
Back New Orleans Saints (-2.5) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 1.84/5 or better
Back New Orleans Saints to win on the Match Moneyline @ 1.674/6 or better
Back Over 28.5 New Orleans Saints Total Points @ 2.01/1 or better
Back M. Colston to score First Touchdown 9.08/1 or better