By Mark Wald
Cold, Hard Football Facts quantum theorist
The following commentary is based on hunches, theorems, gut feeling and other personal bias. Looking for the Cold, Hard Football Facts on each game? Become a CHFF Insider. You’ll get our real and spectacular weekly picks – still without a losing week ATS since Week 8 2010 – and you’ll get Wald’s incredible point-spread analysis based upon nearly 70 years of point-spread history.
Green Bay at Carolina
Line: Packers (-10.5)
To people that have a memory for these things the Packers’ victory over New Orleans Monday night sure looked a lot like the defending champion St. Louis Rams’ 41-36 season opening win over Denver on Monday night in 2000. The Rams scored 540 points that year (33.8 pts a game). No, they couldn’t be stopped but they were outscored plenty of times, including their first playoff game.
Forget about how impressive the offense was. Give up 34 points, 477 yards, and 27 first downs like the Packers did to the Saints and you’ve got some problems. A historic defense isn’t what’s needed to stop a team like this. An average offense on a good day can do it.
If Cam Newton looks even half as good as he did last week Packers fans better be nervous.
Oakland at Buffalo
Line: Bills (-4)
We made a lame beard joke about Ryan Fitzpatrick last week and want to offer an apology…for the understatement. It’s not a beard; it’s a filthy, stinky, 70’s hippie beard. But it’s all part of the Bills’ grandmaster plan. They hired Dave Wannstedt as linebackers coach this year and Ron Jeremy as consultant. With Fitzpatrick taking the lead, Wannstedt plugging the gaps, and Jeremy making sure nothing slips through the cracks, Buffalo’s hirsute crew has all the angles covered. If you don’t know who Jeremy is and aren’t tracking on any of this then consider yourself the better for it.
Oakland stayed up really late last Monday night and now travels to the East Coast. That’s supposed to be a tough gig. Not sure if that’s true, but the Raiders traded a goateed coach for a bald one so guess which way we’re leaning?
Tampa Bay at Minnesota
Line: Vikings (-3)
On one side there’s Minnesota, who played better than expected in a loss to San Diego. On the other there’s Tampa, who didn’t put up much of a fight against Detroit. The standard three-point home field edge in this relatively even matchup might mean something if the home team had a quarterback invested in the outcome, but that’s the million-dollar question about McNabb these days, isn’t it?
Kansas City at Detroit
Line: Detroit (-8)
If it looks like Todd Haley took a turn down same path leading to Josh McDaniels’ demise, you’re not the only one with that view. Former Patriots assistant Eric Mangini’s first year with the Jets and Mike Tomlin’s success in Pittsburgh had reactionary NFL front offices scrambling to find the next young genius head coach. Problem is, they didn’t wait long enough to see Mangini implode in New York and failed to grasp that Tomlin works for a supportive organization in which he’s only a piece of the puzzle.
Chiefs coach Todd Haley thought he saw a breather on his schedule this week but instead sees the big, bad Detroit Lions. They’re everything you thought they were and nothing like we suggested they were (in this column last week). It’s a cruel world. Send your cards and letters c/o The Haley Watch.
Cleveland at Indianapolis
Line: Browns (-2.5)
At this state it’s hard to tell if Cleveland is any good but it’s a safe bet they ain’t no juggernaut. This is a winnable game for Indianapolis. The line makers favor the visiting Browns by 2.5 points because they think that we think the Colts are toast.
But mom, we do think that.
Dallas at San Francisco
Line: Cowboys (-3)
Cowboys by three looks like great value from where we’re sitting. But hey, we’re sitting on a kilo in the panhandle of Golden Gate Park so what do we know? Come to think of it, we know the lyrics to Hell in a Bucket but a taste of that elegant pie it isn’t going to help us pick this game.
Dallas doesn’t have the best history in San Francisco. The 49ers have covered 9 of the last 11 meetings at home dating back to 1979. And oh, what meetings they were. There was The Catch in ’81…those annual dustups between Seifert’s 49ers and Jimmy Johnson’s Cowboys. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.
Arizona at Washington
Line: Redskins (-4)
This is a re-visiting of the old NFC East tilt that nobody cared about and still doesn’t. Kevin Kolb averaged better than 11 yards a pass last week. Rex Grossman had an even better game for the Redskins, all things considered. Which team is better equipped to stop the other’s passer? After what Cam Newton did to the Cardinals, logic says that team is Washington.
Chicago at New Orleans
Line: Saints (-6.5)
Count us among the pitchfork crew chasing Boris Karloff in drag. We were ready to tar and feather Jay Cutler at the end of last season for being the flaming coward he surely was. But those were two hairy cajones out there last Sunday against the Falcons. Somebody must’ve doubled his insulin shot. We were wrong about the lad, ok? Cutler’s a guy you could really get behind, in an anti-hero sort of way.
Theline makers are giving the Saints a lot of respect this week, no doubt due to their insane performance on offense last Monday night. The quick read says the Bears can’t score enough to keep up with New Orleans, but these days everyone’s scoring enough to keep up with New Orleans.
Chicago’s won the last four meetings straight up (covering twice, with two pushes), but none in New Orleans since Sean Payton’s been coach.
Houston at Miami
Line: Texans (-3)
Hats off to Tony Sparano. The difference between Sparano and the Colts’ Jim Caldwell is even though his team may have had no business being on the same field with the Patriots last Monday night, they still managed to show up. Sparano looked like a lean, trim fighting machine, too. Apparently somebody forgot to tell him to feel sorry for himself.
Read into Miami’s offensive performance what you will, but they might’ve blown their wad last week against their hated division rival.
We have no way to gauge how good the Texans are since they haven’t played a regular season game yet.
San Diego at New England
Line: Patriots (-7)
Philip Rivers. Guy throws 48 passes and two picks vs. the Vikings and wins. That’s tough to do. The Chargers have a maddening propensity for playing down to the level of their competition, so this could have the makings of a pretty good game. Still looking for a sign the Patriots can play defense.
It adds up to this: a team that can do about anything it wants to but often doesn’t vs. a team no more talented than the first group but who rarely plays below expectations. That equals a 7 point spread in favor of the latter, no?
Oh, you want a call? Not here, my friend. Try here.
Baltimore at Tennessee
Line: Ravens (-6)

Joe Flacco and the Ravens: over the hump and moving downhill. Downhill in the good sense. You know, like a loaded freight train.
Cincinnati at Denver
Line: Broncos (-3.5)
We underestimated the power of Gradkowski. His particular talent resides in game-winning drives from the person you’d least expect it. Bengals fans are fooled into thinking maybe they’re OK after all. Now that the weight has been placed squarely on his shoulders look for Gradkowski to gamely take on the challenge but fall just short. Gosh, we’re cynical.
Philadelphia at Atlanta
Line: Eagles (-1)
Not just a tilt between two of the better teams in the league but with bad feelings, to boot. If that isn’t the definition of a marquee game we’re not sure what is. There are some who want to see Mike Vick rolled out of there on the same device they used to wheel him around the Georgia Dome that time his pinky toe hurt. But enough about Arthur Blank.

Cliché or not, is there any doubt Vick will pull out all the stops to win this one? If you like to root for good guys then root for the Falcons, not the cleverly marketed redemption product. But who roots for the good guys? Atlanta still burns.

Seattle at Pittsburgh
Line: Steelers (-14.5)
Steelers at home: making handicappers happy since 1972. They are 184-141-5 overall ATS, but only 7-10 when favored by more than 14 points.
Jacksonville at NY Jets
Line: Jets (-9)
Nine points is a pretty big line for a team not exactly known for offensive firepower. The Jets have a Super Bowl vibe about them, but that’s not exactly going out on a limb since they made the AFC title game the last two years.
Speaking of limbs, we recall the thrust of one landing on Kevin Gilbride’s chin back in the early 90s. We recall a defensive coordinator carried off the field by his defense in Super Bowl XX. We recall a figure whose larger than life personality dominated the league in the 1980s. Then we saw a frail little old man standing between Rex and Rob Ryan last Sunday night and we wept for our fleeting youth.
St. Louis at NY Giants
Line: Giants (-6)
The Rams have a nice turnover-free offense, a nice running back, a nice defense, a nice pass rush, a nice team, and a nice coach.
“You make that sound…kind of shitty, Lewis.”
Sooner or later Sam Bradford is going to have to make a play.