From the best NFL games to bet this weekend, to the ones you should steer clear of, check out Hank Gola’s guide to get you through the weekend a winner. Then check out how the rest of our crew of pigskin experts see this weekend’s action as they pick against the spread.
BEARS at JETS
Monday, 8:30 p.m., ESPN & Ch. 11, Jets by 3, 45½
HANK’S HONEYS: Timeout (just had to throw that in there). As much as Aaron Rodgers exposed their secondary, the Jets have a chance to win this game up front. Marc Trestman often gets impatient with the run game, and against the Jets’ top-rated run defense, he’s going to want to go to the air and attack the corners. But a one-dimensional offense can get in trouble against the Jets’ pass rush. As always with Jay Cutler, he can burn you with his arm but put it up for grabs when under duress. The Bears continue to have special teams problems, another area the Jets can exploit. If you’re looking for trends, over the last three seasons, the Bears are 4-13 ATS when the line is a field goal on either side.
IF I WERE A BETTING MAN: Jets and the over
TEXANS at GIANTS
1 p.m., Ch. 5, Texans by 2½, 42
HANK’S HONEYS: Unless Jon Beason can pull a Willis Reed Sunday, the Texans, who rushed for 188 yards against the Raiders, figure to run all over the Giants. For reference, think back to last year before the Giants got Beason from the Panthers. And with Walter Thurmond gone for the year, that supposedly strong secondary is getting thinner. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the kind of quarterback the Giants defense has harassed in the past , but with the running game going, he’s been extremely efficient. Maybe the Texans are 2-0 because of a soft schedule that began with Washington and Oakland, but are the Giants any better? They don’t look like a team that’s suddenly going to click. There’s nothing to hang their hat on. And they haven’t won a September game ATS since 2012.
IF I WERE A BETTING MAN: Texans and the under
RAIDERS at PATS
1 p.m., Patriots by 14, 47
HANK’S HONEYS: Because this has blowout written all over it , and because the NFL is ridiculously unpredictable, the temptation is to take the points. Nah. It’s the Patriots’ home opener and they’re 11-1 in those since Gillette Stadium opened. It’s also the second coast-to-coast trip in three weeks for the dreadful Raiders, who have lost 14 straight in the Eastern Time Zone. You’ve got a Bill Belichick defense facing a rookie quarterback. And a Raiders defense that has given up 400 rushing yards. If the Patriots can run the ball, Tom Brady is going to kill them with play action.
IF I WERE A BETTING MAN: Patriots and the over
VIKINGS at SAINTS
1 p.m., Saints by 10, 50
HANK’S HONEYS: Could the timing be any worse for the Vikings? As the Adrian Peterson controversy continues to swirl around them, they have to head down the Mississippi to provide the opposition for the Saints ’ home opener. After continuing their road malaise the first two weeks, the Saints (0-2) are primed to break out on their home track, as they usually do. Rob Ryan’s defense has been pushed around, but without Peterson, the Vikes don’t have a running game, and Matt Cassel just isn’t good enough to put the offense on his shoulders. Here’s a stat for you: Cassel is 1-for-18 for 13 yards on passes thrown longer than 10 yards. Saints RB Mark Ingram is sidelined with a broken hand, but the Saints can always use the short pass as the run, especially with playmaker Brandin Cooks in there.
IF I WERE A BETTING MAN: Saints and the over
CHARGERS at BILLS
1 p.m., Bills by 2½, 45½
HANK’S HONEYS: Nothing against the Bills. It ’s pretty cool that they’re 2-0. But 3-0? Every time the Bills give you something to get excited about, they revert to form. Although the Chargers have to go coast-to-coast, they’ve had success in Eastern time, with a 2-2 record a year ago, including 2-1 in 1 p.m. starts. And while this sets up as a trap game after their big win over the Seahawks, the Bolts are a step up in class for Buffalo. The Chargers can implement a similar game plan for EJ Manuel to the one they used against Russell Wilson last week, bringing pressure and forcing him to make plays.
IF I WERE A BET TING MAN: Chargers and the over
STEELERS at PANTHERS
8:30 p.m., Panthers by 3½, 41½
HANK’S HONEYS: It ’s funny but these days, the Panthers look more like the Steelers than the Steelers do. They’re as physical a group as there is in the league and dominant up front. They run the football, they stop the run and they have a tough-minded quarterback. The Steelers, meanwhile, have lost their identity with a mundane LB corps (outside of rookie Ryan Shazier) that can’t stand up to the run and an offense that has lost its ability to strike deep. Since the first half of the Browns game, the Steelers have three field goals and have been outscored, 50-9, in three quarters. The Steelers are 0-6 ATS in September games since last year.
IF I WERE A BETTING MAN: Panthers and the under
49ERS at CARDS
4:05 p.m., 49ers by 3, 42
HANK’S HONEYS: Carson Palmer isn ’t making much progress with his injured shoulder, and Drew Stanton may still start for the Cardinals − and the Niners’ D is a heck of a lot better than the Giants’. They’re also thin at running back with the suspension of Jonathan Dwyer following his arrest on domestic violence charges. The Niners are 14-5 ATS, have won nine of 10 against the Cardinals and are 3-1 ATS against them over the last three seasons. So why are we ignoring all of that? Because we’re don’t believe all that much in the Niners, and Colin Kaepernick in particular.
IF I WERE A BETTING MAN: Cardinals and the under
COLTS at JAGUARS
1 p.m., Colts by 6½, 45½
HANK’S HONEYS: They ’re both 0-2, but this is where the Colts separate themselves after two opening games against a couple of playoff-bound teams. They’re not going to take the woeful Jags lightly. They’re a division opponent, and Indy is desperate not to fall into an 0-3 hole with the Texans off to a fast start. The Jaguars’ secondary is getting exposed in the middle of the field; Andrew Luck should have a huge day. Home field shouldn’t make any difference. The Jags are 3-11 ATS at home the last three seasons. The Colts’ D can be exposed, but the Jaguars don’t have a Darren Sproles. While the Jags are making lineup changes, QB Chad Henne is still starting behind an O-line that allowed 10 sacks last week.
IF I WERE A BETTING MAN: Colts and the over
CHIEFS at DOLPHINS
4:25 p.m., Dolphins by 4, 41½
HANK’S HONEYS: Beleaguered or not, the Chiefs showed a lot in losing at Denver. Had they been more efficient in the red zone, they could have pulled off an upset. Meanwhile, the Fish are fretting about QB Ryan Tannehill, who was supposed to flourish in the new offense. Instead, he ’s regressing. With Knowshon Moreno out for a month, the Dolphins are going to need him even more. K.C. hasn’t forced a turnover in two games, but that could change. De’Anthony Thomas, the Chiefs’ first-round pick, is back from an injury to give the running game a lift with Jamaal Charles out. If Alex Smith (last in NFL passer rating) can get untracked, it’s a winnable game.
IF I WERE A BETTING MAN: Chiefs and the under
COWBOYS at RAMS
1 p.m., Cowboys by 1, 45
HANK’S HONEYS: Tony Romo — who, by the way, is banged up is a much better quarterback when he ’s not dropping back to throw so often, trying to make something happen. And with the running game suddenly among the league’s best, the Cowboys are capable of controlling more of the clock, keeping their questionable D off the field. In games in which Jason Garrett has run it more than thrown it, the Boys are 7-1, which includes two games against the Rams in which DeMarco Murray has exploded for a total of 456 yards, including 253 in 2011. The Rams will probably have to go with third-string QB Austin Davis again this week. Can he get to 2-0 as a starter? Probably not.
IF I WERE A BETTING MAN: Cowboys and the over
* * *
LOOK DON’T TOUCH
BRONCOS at SEAHAWKS
4:25 p.m., Seahawks by 5, 49
HANK’S HONEYS: The Super Bowl XLVIII rematch will be closer, but it’s still a lot to ask for the Broncos to go into CenturyLink Field and pull out a win, not with the Seahawks coming off their first loss in 267 days, wilting in the San Diego heat. They’ll have as much to prove as the Broncos. Wes Welker is back from his two-game ban, and Danny Trevathan returns from a rib injury, so that will help, and the Broncos are sure to explore the mismatch the Seahawks had against Chargers TE Antonio Gates with Julius Thomas. It’s a carbon-copy offense. That said, bad things happen to offenses in the cacophony of sound by Puget Sound, and with Peyton Manning (top) changing so many things at the line, it’s advantage Seahawks defense. The Broncos’ offense runs on rhythm, and the Seahawks, at home, can blow that up in a hurry.
CAN’T HELP YOURSELF?: Seahawks and the over
BEST OF THE REST
RAVENS at BROWNS
1 p.m., Ravens by 1½, 41½
IF I WERE A BETTING MAN: Browns and the under
WASHINGTON at EAGLES
1 p.m., Eagles by 6½, 50½
IF I WERE A BETTING MAN: Washington and the over
TITANS at BENGALS
1 p.m., Bengals by 7, 43½
IF I WERE A BETTING MAN: Titans and the under
PACKERS at LIONS
1 p.m., Lions by 2, 52½
IF I WERE A BETTING MAN: Lions and the over
WEEK’S BEST BET
Colts: This is a must-win for Indy and the Colts cover vs. Jags.
LAST WEEK: 7-9
BEST BETS: 0-2
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