Sure thing: Arizona (-4.5) v Buffalo at 1.88
The Bills have conceded enormous yardage in the past two games, and although the Crads (half Card, half Crap) are not necessarily the best-positioned team to take advantage of that, they ought to be able to capitalise on a Buffalo offence that has real problems with any pass that has to travel more than six yards downfield. The much-hyped acquisition of Mario Williams, which was supposed to turn their defensive front four into this century's version of the Steel Curtain, has looked more like the Rust Belt so far, and much as it pains me to make Arizona a best-anything, they ought to be a touchdown better at home.
Underdog: Houston v Green Bay (+3.5) at 1.90
I've actually picked the Texans straight-up, but without any great faith in my pick. Actually, I might say that about almost all my straight-up picks this year. But the Packers, despite having real troubles with injuries, aging, and a failure to pick up the turnovers that were key to their great run last season, are still a better team than their 2-3 record indicates (after all, they did actually win that game against Seattle). Without linebacker Brian Cushing, the Texans' defence could be vulnerable, especially if tight end Jermichael Finley is ready to go at 100 per cent for GB. Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb could be the combination that gets behind the Texans' defence, and Packers' defensive coordinator Dom Capers ought to be able to scheme to keep the Texans' stretch-play offence in check. A lot of it requires staying at home, and not over-pursuing, and so far the Packers' D hasn't been guilty of that.
Value bet: San Diego v Denver (+1) at 1.95
This one is, I admit, risky, in that the Chargers are coming off a tough loss in New Orleans and might be feeling aggrieved, while the Broncos were crushed by the Pats in New England, and will have a short practice week. But I like Peyton Manning's ability to bring his team back, and in close games the Chargers have a habit of falling short, especially early in the season. I also wonder if the Broncos will find their pass rush if Jared Gaither, the Charger left tackle whose groin pull three plays before the end of the Saints game was noticed by half of America but not by anyone on the Chargers' coaching staff, is fit. Since San Diego specialise in late-season runs, and this isn't the late season, I like the Broncos, even on the road.
One to avoid: Philadelphia v Lions (+3.5)
There are a number of games sending up red warning flags this week: the Giants at San Francisco might look tempting with 6.5 points, but that one could go anywhere; Ditto the Cowboys at the Ravens. But the Lions at Philly is a welcome-to-the-asylum kind of game. A couple of big plays to the so-far unusually quiet Megatron could put Detroit up early and a few turnovers from the fumble-favoured fingers of Mike Vick could do likewise. But the Lions are probably the only NFL team less likely to run the ball than the Eagles, and their much-talked-about front four have been just as invisible as Buffalo's. Do yourself a favour, wake up to your mind, as Traffic used to sing. Take that wager elsewhere.