Bears (+3) over LIONS: Looks like “High Noon” for Bears QB Mitch Trubisky, looking to justify his lofty draft positioning. The visitors’ stout defense keeps them in most games (though check LB Khalil Mack’s status). Lions QB Matthew Stafford has his moments, but too many of them have generated empty yards after lost games have been decided.
Jets (+6 ½) over BILLS: Buffalo’s acquisition of hotshot wideout Stefon Diggs impresses. Jets defense may not be quite as effective as it was in last season’s second half, but if RB Le’Veon Bell gets along with his Jetmates, and signal-caller Sam Darnold continues to develop, visitors should hang tough.
Dolphins (+6 ½) over PATRIOTS: Gillette Stadium has long posed problems for visitors — but last season the Pats lost to this ’dog in Foxborough for the first time in ages in a game that mattered. Though visitors have often faced performance issues on fake grass, prefer outfit on upswing against defensively ravaged foe.
Browns (+7 ½) over RAVENS: We’re pleased to have resisted Browns’ siren song over the past few seasons — but we’re ready to step up. The time is now for Baker Mayfield, with aid of healthier receiving corps led by old friend Odell Beckham Jr.
PANTHERS (+3) over Raiders: The Silver and Black brain trust have been pointing to this season — but we’ll see whether their talent is up to it, behind downfield-limited David Carr, facing five Eastern time games. Teddy Bridgewater is a plus for the Panthers, though home side’s defense compelled to soldier on without retired stud Luke Kuechly.
Seahawks (-2 ½) over FALCONS: Heading East can be tough duty — though the ’Hawks adjust better than most. Sustained Falcons success likely contingent on the precision of skill people Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the newly acquired Todd Gurley. Imaginative, physical ’Hawk D can keep mates in the game until Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll find way.
WASHINGTON (+5¹/₂) over Eagles: Philadelphia’s beefed-up defensive front is more than capable of generating favorable field positions for Carson Wentz, and friends — but we surmise Eagles know they don’t need their very best shot to win this.
JAGUARS (+7 ½) over Colts: Indianapolis is half-past hungry and primed to surge within the AFC South. This doesn’t bode well for the Jags. We don’t look upon new Colts QB Philip Rivers as a guaranteed positive, given his age and his risk-taking proclivities. The chalk has encountered recent cover trouble here.
VIKINGS (-2 ½) over Packers: Green Bay won 13 regular-season games last season, including a handful of close ones behind Aaron Rodgers — but market-makers hung up a consensus seasonal win total of just nine W’s for this season. Hmmm. The Vikings’ defense is unlikely to match previous standards, and former ace wideout Stefon Diggs is now a Bill.
Chargers (-3) over BENGALS: Hot-shot rookie QB Joe Burrow faces his first assignment against Bolts, now led by capable/improved Tyrod Taylor. It is tough to dislike Burrow … but even if he wound up John Elway’s equal, he’s eventually going to need a supporting cast that can sustain a legitimate ground game — and slow one on defense.
Cardinals (+6 ¹/₂) over 49ERS: The Cards are anything but helpless, so long as mighty-mite Kyler Murray finds harmony with wideout DeAndre Hopkins, though expect Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo to rebound off an unpleasant come-from-ahead Super Bowl.
Buccaneers (+3½) over SAINTS: Hosts typically have late-season peak in view. Tom Brady has Rob Gronkowski on his side … an attractive add of RB Leonard Fournette, with his fresh legs, and key Bucs receiver Mike Evans’ hammy has been upgraded.
Cowboys (-2 ½) over RAMS: Hold Dallas in higher regard than in recent years. Rams defense may be good enough, but QB Jared Goff needs to learn from disappointments and develop greater range. Boys’ improved ground defense could tempt Goff to overextend when attempting to maximize air game.
Steelers (-6) over GIANTS: Big Blue has improved defensively, after last season’s wipeout. Ben Roethlisberger’s return for Mike Tomlin is appreciated by JuJu Smith-Schuster. Jason Garrett’s arrival as latest Giants offensive coordinator is unlikely to scare the muscular Steelers defense.
BRONCOS (+2) over Titans: Von Miller’s injury has generated value with historically stellar home dog. Derrick Henry will have his moments for the visitors — but the AFC South tends to treat defensive intensity as an afterthought. Broncos QB Drew Lock still has plenty to prove despite John Elway’s bullishness — but any surprises are likely positive.
Last season: 108-122-4
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