Week three throws up some enticing fixtures in the NFL. Luca Bercelli sorts the wheat from the chaff...
"The Colts did better than people give them credit for, and I'm confident they'll smash the Titans"
Back the Indianapolis Colts to win @ 1.654/6
Atlanta Falcons @ Dallas Cowboys Sunday, 18:00
This is pretty bizarre. Not Janice Dickinson bizarre...just regular bizarre. Both of these teams have faced the Eagles and Giants in weeks one and two, and both have beaten them narrowly. That's not to say that either of these two franchises are any good. In fact, although they might sneak into the play offs, they won't be going far in the post season as their 2-0 starts are more due to the dross they've been facing rather than the quality of their own play. I'm surprised the market has these two as a virtual pick because Dallas are without Tony Romo, and Atlanta's pressure defence will make it tough for replacement Brandon Weeden to perform even to his normal meidocre level. I'll be devastated if this match doesn't get us off to a flying start. Go Falcons.
Back the Atlanta Falcons to win @ 1.9720/21
Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens Sunday, 18:00
Carrot Top Andy Dalton of the Bengals is off to a fast start and is the only QB not to have been sacked or intercepted this season. Fair play to the lad, but we've seen it all before and can bet our bottom dollar that he'll slip up sooner rather than later. It probably won't be in this no-contest, however, as the Bengals' defence and running game both appear well-balanced and in good order. Add to that the fact that the Ravens are off to a horrible start, and prospects look rosy for a third W for the men from WKRP country (look that one up under 'ancient US sitcoms'). Flacco will always be dangerous, and if he gets hot on the day can work the scoreboard rapidly; but it's his Suggs-less D that will probably let Baltimore fans down here. Cincy plus 2.5 is a low-hanging plum that just begs to be plucked.
Back the Cincinnatti Bengals +2.5pts @ 2.1011/10
Indianapolis Colts @Tennessee Titans Sunday, 18:00
The 'what-have-you-done-for-me-lately' crew must be on the whacky baccy to start slagging off Andrew (the answer) Luck after a couple of disappointing results for Indy. Get real; this guy is a nailed on future Hall of Famer who will be back to his best in a jiffy. Granted - his O-line isn't helping, but they were up against a barnstorming Jets' defence in week two. The Colts did better than people give them credit for, and I'm confident they'll smash the Titans, who are crucially missing their top cornerback through injury. This game will be a statement by A. Luck, and that statement will be - 'Oh Ye of little faith'.
Back the Indianapolis Colts to win @ 1.654/6
Jacksonville Jaguars @ New England Patriots Sunday, 18:00
From a betting point of view I like this about as much as I like coffee-flavoured Revels...but then again, who does? New England will probably win, and they'll probably cover the spread, but I won't be parting with any moderately-earned on this one. Tom Brady is all puffed up after a monster week, and the Pats seem to be on their merry way to the post-season yet again. Both their wins, however, have been narrow ones, and although a weedy schedule will help them ease through the season, the Jets will beat them twice, and they'll have other hiccups along the way. An improving Jacksonville might not be the sternest test, so in a tricky one where both defences are leaky versus the pass, I'll take the overs.
Back over 47.5pts @ 1.9310/11
New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers Sunday, 18:00
Drew Brees is hoping to take the field for the Saints this weekend despite his injured shoulder, but the team's problems go deeper than that. Passing yardage is the least of their worries, they need to find a running game from somewhere and commit less penalties. That's going to be a tall order against Carolina's stoute defence, especially if it is reinforced by defensive player of 2014 Luke Kuechly, who was forced to miss last week's win due to concussion. When will the Saints be marching in? Unlikely to be at 9.01pm on Sunday night.
Back the Carolina Panthers -3.5pts @2.01/1
Oakland Raiders @ Cleveland Browns Sunday, 18:00
Poor old Mr John Football. He comes in for Cleveland in their hour of need and nails a 28-14 win against the confident Titans, playing superbly well and adding an extra dimension to the normally pedestrian Browns. His reward: a spot on the bench and plenty of time to wonder what he could have done better. Nothing, IMO and if there's any justice Cleveland will be thumped by Oakland. As we and Arsene Wenger know, there is no justice, and this week's match-up looks one that the Browns should win, even if Vernon Kay came in at quarterback. Their D is playing well, notching seven sacks last week. A hurried-up Derek Carr might not be as impressive as he was last week v Baltimore so I'll stick with the McCown-led Browns.
Back the Cleveland Browns -3.5pts @ 2.0521/20
Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Jets Sunday, 18:00
I think I've watched every interview and press conference given by Todd Bowles since he became head coach of the Jets and I'm really impressed. This former NFL safety might sound like Cleveland out of Family Guy but he is not only a defensive mastermind (as he showed at Arizona), but he has an in-depth knowledge of every playing position and knows his roster inside out. Some coaches stand on the sidelines and appear clueless...mainly because they ARE clueless. This is a man who inspires confidence; hell, he's even transformed Brandon Marshall from a disruptive influence and PR disaster, into a team player who is leading by example. I'm not saying the Jets will win every game this season (actually I am!) but they are definitely headed to the play-offs. The Eagles desperately need a win and have trouble at mill, but after this loss will be spiralling out of control. Jets all the way.
Back the New York Jets to win @ 1.794/5
Pittsburgh Steelers @ St Louis Rams Sunday, 18:00
There could be a whole lot of rushing going on in this one, what with Pittsburgh's 204 yard-man DeAngelo Williams being joined by the league's second highest rusher of last year, Le'Veon Bell, who is back after suspension. Add strong-arm Ben Roethlisberger and league-best receiver Antonio Brown into the mix for the Steelers, and the stats all seem to point at one thing - a steel city win. Well the stats can sometimes lie. I think the Rams can halt the Pittsburgh juggernaut mainly as a result of their defence but also because they've found a way to get the explosive Tavon Austin into the action. They may also have Todd Gurley, the number one running back in the draft on the field for the first time. Should be tight but I just favour the Rams.
Back the St Louis Rams +1.5pts @ 2.01/1
San Diego Chargers @ Minnesota Vikings Sunday, 18:00
Adrian Peterson is back. That was the message from last week's Minnesota win over Detroit where AP rushed for 134 yards. A fully functioning Peterson spells big trouble for most teams in the NFL and the Chargers are no different. They do, however, have plenty of weapons of their own, and if Philip Rivers can be given any kind of protection (doubtful because of a banged-up O-line), he could pick them apart. Six sacks in two games mean that Rivers will be anticipating the hits. That's not ideal for a static QB such as him, and that is the main reason I'm siding with the vikings.
Back the Minnesota Vikings to win @ 1.814/5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Houston Texans Sunday, 18:00
Tampa came off a humiliating week one defeat to the Titans with a solid bounce-back win over the admittedly so-so Saints in week two. This sport, like so many, is all about confidence and that win will be a priceless commodity for a rookie quarterback like Jameis Winston. He looked a different player against the Saints, and took their attempts to confuse him in his stride. Definitely one with a bright future, he'll find the learning curve takes on Alpe d'huez proportions as he attempts to outwit JJ Watt and co on Sunday. The Texans have disappointed me more than series two of House of Cards, but I'm sticking with them to turn it around v the Bucs. I think their D will stamp all over Jameis and remind him that this NFL lark is no walk in the park.
Back the Houston Texans -6.5pts @ 2.111/10
San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals Sunday, 21:05
This one is a bit like trying to find an decent excuse for watching 12 hours of sport over a weekend...tricky. However, the more I look at the match-up, the more I tend to side with Arizona. The Niners blow very hot and cold, whereas the Cards just blow fairly warm. They've been boosted this season by a rejuvenated Larry Fitzgerald and have a speedy defence that should be able to contain CK Maxx. Arizona QB Carson Palmer seems to be over his gimpy knee and is better at pulling the strings than CK, but keep your wad under lock and key for this one - it's a loose change job if you must.
Back the Arizona Cardinals -6.0pts @ 1.9520/21
Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins Sunday, 21:25
Both of these sides will be desperate to avoid the wooden spoon position in the NFC East, but that's what one of them faces with a loss here. Miami have been desperately disappointing considering their big money acquisition, and Buffalo are finding their feet with a new quarterback. I expect both offences to be conservative, and both defences to be miserly. With a tight game pretty much guaranteed, the only bet here is the unders.
Back under 41.5pts @ 2.01/1
Chicago Bears @ Seattle Seahawks Sunday, 21:25
Just when you thought you'd seen it all Tyson Fury turns up at a press conference wearing a Batman suit. Not just any Batman suit, but a really crappy one that half fell off during his pretend fight with the Joker. What he needs, that lad, is better people around him who can show him the difference between effective marketing and making a tit of himself. Same thing with Seattle safety Kam Chancellor, who sat out the first two weeks of the season waiting for mo' money. Bad idea, since in the meantime his team has crashed to 0-2 and now has an uphill task to win their division. Kam's return will no doubt produce an immediate effect, especially since the Bears will be QB'd by Jimmy Clausen. The Hawks will receive some early Christmas presents on Sunday, not from Santa Clausen, but his distant cousin Jimmy.
Back the Seattle Seahawks -14.5pts @ 2.021/1