COLTS (-1 1/2) over Chiefs A tough one to call — with Houston coming back but not clearly healthy, it’s hard to know how good the Chiefs defense really is. It’s a crucial point, since Luck at this stage of his career isn’t as much better as Smith as you might think (or, perhaps, more accurately, the Colts’ passing attack isn’t as much better as you would think — with Wayne out Luck doesn’t have a lot of weapons to work with.) So, clearly the difference will be — justified third overall pick and the new Barry Sanders, Trent Richardson!!!!!! No, seriously, I think in a close game we’ll see that an organization can do something incredibly dumb and still build a pretty food team with the right combination of skill and luck, especially when the luck involves Luck. I think home field makes the difference in a tight game.
EAGLES (-3) over Saints I’d love to be the Chip Kelly contrarian around here — you’d think he’d have won a national championship like Don James or something — but it’s hard to argue with a system that makes Nick Foles more effective pass-per-pass than any quarterback in the league other than Peyton Manning. The Eagles record doesn’t look all that impressive, especially in the NFC East, but take out the 141 passes thrown by a washed-up Michael Vick and 49 by the ridiculous
Tim Tebow Matt Barkley and they’ve pretty much been a juggernaut. Rob Ryan has, to my surprise, improved the Saints defense considerably, but given New Orleans’s record on the road, this is the easiest pick of the weekend for me.
Chargers (+6 1/2) over BENGALS Hard to know what to make of the Charges — Rivers is having an amazing season and the defense (which admittedly had nowhere to go but up) has looked a little better. On the other hand, they needed a missed field goal and two atrocious calls to beat the Chiefs’ B-team in overtime in a must-win game. I’d take the Bengals and their vastly superior defense straight up. But in the snow and with Dalton’s 20 picks staring at me, if I were in Vegas I wouldn’t leave 6 1/2 points on the table.
49ers (-3) over PACKERS Assuming he’s close to 100% I don’t like picking against Rogers either, but San Francisco is so much better defensively it’s not really all that difficult here. Indeed, I suspect the 49er game will translate better to the bad weather, so I don’t see home field saving a clearly inferior Green Bay team.