(Roddy White making a spectacular one-handed grab for the Atlanta Falcons)
The game that really stands out this week from a betting perspective is the NFC affair between the classy Atlanta Falcons & the promising Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We make our own handicaps early in the week between each team & then compare those with what the bookmakers are offering, for most games both our handicaps & the bookies' are similar but for this game we had Atlanta as 4.5 point favourites whereas they are available as 1.5 point underdogs. It doesn't seem to make sense when you consider the overall quality of the sides & last week's results where Tampa Bay managed a come from behind win against a poor Vikings side compared to the Falcons great win against the 'Dream Team' of the Philadelphia Eagles. Both sides have great quarterbacks with imposing Josh Freeman for the Bucs & Matt Ryan for the Falcons, the differnce is that Ryan has better targets with the awesome Roddy White now being backed up by speedy number 6 draft pick Julio Jones. At running back Michael Turner is a better back than Blount, offering himself up as a useful receiver as well as being a powerful runner, he can run well against the Buccaneers defense to help set up the passing game. Neither side have star filled defenses but they're pretty solid & it would be surprising if either side managed to blow this one open, even so Atlanta are confident picks at odds of 11/10 to win this one. Michael Turner offers such a threat through the air & on the ground & he should be backed at 5/1 to score the first touchdown.
The Houston Texans take on New Orleans Saints at the Superdome in a game between two high powered offenses with both sides having genuine Championship chances. Houston are unbeaten after taking advantage of the Colts without Manning & then beating Miami in a professional display whilst the Saints bounced back from a loss in the opening game against the Super Bowl champs the Green Bay Packers with a good win at home to Chicago. The Texans have looked good so far with Matt Schaub looking very accurate with 38 completed passes out of 53 attempts, connecting with star receiver Andre Johnson 14 times for nearly 200 yards. The worry offensively for the Texans was how they'd cope without the injured Arian Foster but Ben Tate has come in & looked good at running back, Foster returned last week but he'll likely be more involved here & the Texans have a highly dangerous offense through the air & on the ground. The Texans will have to be good offensively as New Orleans can put up points just about anywhere with an elite quarterback in Drew Brees who has a rating of 114.9 after two games, he'll look to hit the versatile Darren Sproles, dependable Jimmy Graham & Robert Meacham plus the explosive big playmaker Devery Henderson. With so many options through the air they'll look to target that part of the game against the Texans who had a woeful pass defense in 2010, Houston have improved their defensive backs but this will be as tough a test as they can get. New Orleans have playmakers in defense with backs capable of making interceptions & running the ball back but with Schaub being so accurate he'll limit those opportunities for the Saints D & with a headstart on the handicap the Texans can at the least keep this close & should be backed at 10/11 with +4.
Elsewhere the Detroit Lions will be looking to make it 7 wins in a row after winning their last 4 in 2010 & being unbeaten so far this, they take on a Vikings side that look to be at their weakest for some time. Donovan McNabb has been a good player over his career but certainly seems to be on the slide in terms of his performances, in 2010 he only had 14 TD passes but 15 interceptions & his passer rating this year is 30th of 32 players qualifying (have to have thrown at least 14 passes). McNabb doesn't really have the targets to throw to & that means that the vikings have to rely on the future hall of fame running back Adrian Peterson heavily meaning that they become predictable, of course with Peterson's ability he can still gain yards & is a hugely potent weapon. They'll need AP to be at his best because the Lions offense is starting to click & when Matt Stafford is fit at QB they can get points especially against sides with average pass defenses & the Viking's defensive backs fit into that category. The Lions don't have a standout receiver but that means it's difficult for defenses to target one wide out & Stafford is happy to hit multiple targets for medium yardage, Jahvid Best has been offering up some decent performances in the running game helping the Lions are becoming a reasonable side. The Lions can make the most of being on a roll & even though this will be much tougher than theeir game against the Chiefs last week they can still overcome the handicap of -3 at 20/21.
Atlanta Falcons to beat Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 11/10 (Coral, Betfred & Paddy Power)
Houston Texans to beat New Orleans with +4 points at 10/11 (general)
Detroit Lions to beat Minnesota Vikings with -3 points at 20/21 (general)
Michael Turner to score 1st Touchdown in Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers game at 5/1 (general)