(The Raiders Darren McFadden can help them put up points against the Patriots)
The New England Patriots travel to California to take on the Oakland Raiders in a fascinating matchup between the best ranked pass offense for the Pats against the best ranked rushing offense for the Raiders. Tom Brady has thrown for over 1300 yards in just the first 3 games & Darren McFadden is the league's leading rusher with 393 yards, nearly 50 more than LeSean McCoy in 2nd. The Patriots really have set themselves up as very much a passing side, which is only sensible when you have a QB as good as Brady in the backfield, however it does mean that when they face a good pass defense such as the Raiders they can be a little one dimensional. Brady threw a career high 4 interceptions last week against the Bills & turnovers are the last thing the Pats want with their defense giving up points at an alarming rate. The Raiders barely let Jason Campbell throw the ball as they have such a good rush offense but he's accurate when he gets it & has only thrown one pick this year which is helpful when facing up against this defense where cornerback Kyle Arrington already has 3 picks. Oakland will not change their gameplan this week & should have large amounts of game time as they keep the ball on the ground, gradually wearing down the Patriots D, that means Brady should have less opportunity with the ball & he may be anxious when he does after last week's aberrations. Oakland's excellent special teams can also contribute to making this a very uncomfortable Sunday for the Patriots & the Raiders should be backed with a +6 point headstart.
Down in Texas the Detroit Lions will be trying to get their season off to a bang with 4 straight wins against the Dallas Cowboys who just managed to come through against the Redskins on Monday night. In the game against Washington Dallas didn't manage a single touchdown with all of their 6 scores coming from field goals, all of their games have been tight with that decided by 2 points, the previous game settled in overtime & their opening week loss just by 3 points against the Jets. Those games must be having an effect mentally on the players & they have definitely been banged up physically with Tony Romo's ribs cracked, wide receiver Dez Bryant carrying a thigh injury & running back Felix Jones a knocked shoulder. The Cowboys resolution against the Redskins was admirable but that lack of a touchdown shouldn't be forgotten & Felix Jones is unlikely to be able to put up career numbers again this week on the ground. Detroit only just managed to keep up their winning streak against the Vikings last week after trailing 20-0 at half time, that kind of a comeback puts good thoughts in players heads & they'll be wanting to show they are genuine contenders by beating Dallas on the road. Matt Stafford is proving that when he's fit he really is a dangerous quarterback & he'll be looking to hit Calvin Johnson with more passes after last week's 2 TDs. Neither side have great rushers but Dallas look weaker with Felix Jones having yet to convince & Jahvid Best can outperform him for the Lions in terms of rushing yards. Detroit's star tackle Ndamukong Suh will be coming after Romo throughout the game & if he gets to him the Cowboys QB could get hurt & backup QB John Kitna is less than special now even though he performed with credit against his former team in last year's game. With all of the Cowboy's games being tight it makes sense to go with the side getting a headstart especially as we think the Lions can win without the handicap, back them with +2.5 points at Evens.
Two genuine Super Bowl contenders from the AFC meet in Houston on Sunday with the Pittsburgh Steelers going South to face our overall fancies the Houston Texans. The Texans are 1/2 favourites for this one even though they eventually lost last week away to the Saints & we'd think that was about right as their pass offense is so strong & the Steelers pass defense still suspect. The Texans defense is hardly great still & quality QBs can put up numbers against them, Rothelisberger will be looking to hit his band of receivers in all areas of the pitch with the big playmaker Mike Wallace down the field, Heinz Ward & Heath Miller through the middle & Emmanuel Sanders out wide. This could be higher scoring than the usual Steelers game however the line sitting at 45 points seems to have taken that into account & the best bets lie elsewhere. Matt Schaub has thrown 6 TDs already & we think he can hit one of his favourite receivers for another one today by hitting tight end Owen Daniels in the end zone, Daniels has scored in the last 2 games & is available at a standout 13/8 to score anytime with Bet365 he can also be backed to score the 1st touchdown at 12/1 with Paddy Power.
Oakland Raiders to beat New England Patriots with +6 points on the handicap at 10/11 (general)
Detroit Lions to beat Dallas Cowboys with +2.5 points on the handicap at Evens (Totesport & William Hill)
Owen Daniels to score a touchdown anytime at 13/8 (Bet365) & to score 1st touchdown at 12/1 (Paddy Power) in Pittsburgh Steelers v Houston Texans game