Last week I felt totally lost and went 11-5 (and it should have been 12-4 but for a phantom holding call on the Bears' brilliant spread-covering last-minute punt return), so it's probably cause for concern that I love this slate. Most of the games either seemed obvious to me right away, or yielded a clear answer after just a minute or two of thought. It's much more enjoyable to write the article in weeks like this, but I don't think there's ever been a strong correlation between confidence and performance over the years. Performance is the cause of confidence, not the other way around. I particularly like the Bears, Bengals and Vikings this week. I also took an uncharacteristic seven out of 15 favorites - most weeks I take about five or six out of 16 (this week there's one pick 'em).
Lions +1.5 at Cowboys
I think the Lions are still a "sell-high" here, even though I'm loathe to back the Cowboys, especially with their disastrous problems handling shotgun snaps last week. Still, I think it's the right play, and so I'll hold my nose and do it. Back Dallas.
Cowboys 24 - 20
Panthers +6.5 at Bears
The Panthers took care of business against the Jaguars at home, but the Bears defense should give Cam Newton more problems. Back Chicago who rolls.
Bears 27 - 16
Saints -7 at Jaguars
The Saints are a good team, but laying seven on the road on the slower surface is asking a lot - especially off an impressive come-from-behind win at home against a game Texans squad. Back the Jaguars.
Saints 23 - 20
Titans pick 'em at Browns
The Titans fell apart without Kenny Britt last season, and while 2011 is a different year - with a new QB and head coach - missing the guy who can force the defense to cover the entire field is a significant handicap. I think the Browns handle them at home. Back Cleveland.
Browns 21 - 16
Bills -3 at Bengals
The Bills are one of great early-season stories, along with the Lions and Cam Newton, and they're coming off a thrilling come-from-behind win at home against the Pats. That means it's probably a good time to cash them out. The Bengals haven't been doormats early on, and they'll be up for this game at home against the AFC's only undefeated squad. Back Cincy.
Bengals 21 – 20
Vikings -1.5 at Chiefs
It seems insane to lay points on the road with the 0-3 Vikings, but I have to do it. Minnesota has been much more competitive than Kansas City thus far, despite playing two of the same three teams. Back the Vikings.
Vikings 24 - 13
49ers +10 at Eagles
This just strikes me as a big line for a team with a banged-up quarterback, an injured top wideout and a questionable run defense. I'm not a believer in the Niners per se, but I'll take the 10 points. Back San Fran.
Eagles 23 - 17
Redskins -1.5 at Rams
The Rams looked terrible last week, but I think they'll play with some desperation at home while staring down 0-4. Back St. Louis.
Rams 19 - 17
Steelers +4 at Texans
I'm not buying the Steelers this year. Maybe it's the Super Bowl hangover that's derailed so many teams that lost the prior year, or maybe it's just the defense losing a step and the offensive line being banged up. Either way, I'm actually going to lay the points with Houston at home. Back the Texans.
Texans 31 - 20
Falcons -4.5 at Seahawks
The Falcons consistently underperform on the road, while the Seahawks enjoy one of the best home field advantages in the NFL. Add in the four and a half, and I have to back Seattle.
Falcons 20 - 17
Giants -1 at Cardinals
I should probably sell the Giants high, but they looked like a different team in Philadelphia, particularly in the secondary with former first rounder Aaron Ross finally playing well and Victor Cruz stepping up as a much-needed third option for Eli Manning. Barring a letdown off the emotional high, I think the Giants take care of business in Arizona.
Giants 27 - 20
Broncos +12.5 at Packers
The Packers are probably the best team in the NFL right now, but they can be attacked down the field, and the Broncos have the weapons to shoot it out. Back Denver who keeps it close enough.
Packers 37 - 27
Patriots -4 at Raiders
The Pats literally got some bad bounces last week, but their defense will keep almost anyone in the game. The Raiders are a tough, physical team, and I think they'll hang around and possibly pull it out. Back Oakland.
Raiders 24 - 23
Dolphins +7.5 at Chargers
The Chargers should be a top-five team, but they only rarely show it on the scoreboard. The Dolphins are a desperate animal, and they typically play better on the road. Back Miami.
Chargers 27 - 24
Jets +3 at Ravens
I had a feeling the Jets would lose in Oakland last week, but this is a tougher call. The Ravens have a better run defense and better rounded offense, but the Jets have a significantly better pass defense (though they might be missing Antonio Cromartie). In the end, I'd give Baltimore the slight edge as a team, and they're at home. Back the Ravens.
Ravens 17 - 13
Colts +10 at Buccaneers
I think the Colts' close game against the Steelers was more a case of Pittsburgh being bad than Indy being not so bad. Back the Bucs who roll at home on Monday night.
Buccaneers 35 - 14
We were 11-5 last week to put us at 25-21-2 on the season. From 1999-2010 we've gone 1565-1387 (53%, not including ties).