The list of surprises occurring in Week 2 of the NFL season was about as long as Pacman Jones’ rap sheet. A sampling: The Cardinals won 20-18 in New England as 14-point underdogs. … The Manning brothers were picked off six times (three each), all before halftime. … The Saints fell to 0-2 with a blowout loss in Carolina. … Browns rookie QB Brandon Weeden (26 of 37 for 322 yards, two TDs, no INTs) looked like John Elway—seven days after looking like JaMarcus Russell (12 of 35 for 118 yards, no TDs, four INTs). … A replacement ref wasn’t gunned down at the 50-yard line. … Mark Sanchez went 6 of 22 for 58 yards in the final three quarters at Pittsburgh.
OK, that last one was a joke. The point is: Week 2 wasn’t just crazy; it was Mel Gibson-on-bath-salts crazy. The biggest shocker of all, though, occurred in San Diego. No, I’m not talking about the triple-digit temperatures that suffocated Ron Burgundy’s favorite city, but rather the Chargers’ 38-10 rout of the Titans. With that victory, my man Norv Turner, for the first time in 15 years as an NFL head coach—speaking of crazy!—has his team at 2-0.
Now, math was never my strength, but if Norv had never been 2-0, I’m assuming he’s never been 3-0. Hmm, sounds like the perfect time for my biggest bet of the season. On to this week’s selections (note: all point spreads are as of Sept. 18) …
$550 on Falcons +3 at Chargers: A quick review of San Diego’s first two games: a victory in Oakland that was gift-wrapped by the Raiders’ backup long-snapper who hiked the ball worse than a 3-year-old (did I mention the Raiders lost by 22 points in Miami last week?); and a home victory over the Titans, a team the Chargers own (nine straight wins) and one that lost 34-13 at home to the Patriots the week prior (the same Patriots who subsequently lost to Arizona). Now here come the talented, confident, 2-0 Falcons. Atlanta’s roster includes a quarterback (Matt Ryan) who might be a little more difficult to slow down than the first two QBs the Chargers faced (Carson Palmer and Jake Locker) and a defense that in two weeks has registered five interceptions (three from Peyton Manning) and six sacks.
Here’s why that latter stat is important: San Diego QB Philip Rivers has already been sacked five times and taken numerous hits in 70 drop-backs (which is what happens when you have no threat of a running game and you’re forced to play behind a weak offensive line). Note that the Chargers haven’t started 3-0 since 2002 and haven’t beaten Atlanta since 1988, dropping the last five meetings (including a 22-16 home loss in 2008, Ryan’s rookie season).
$220 on Cardinals +4 vs. Eagles: Call Arizona’s victory in New England a fluke if you want. All I know is the Cardinals are 9-2 in their last 11 games, thanks to a defense that’s giving up just 18 points per game over this stretch. I also know Philadelphia is the luckiest 2-0 team in NFL history, edging the Browns (17-16) and Ravens (24-23) despite committing nine turnovers.
As for those who want to back the Eagles because Philly is familiar with Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb, I’ll just say that I bet Kolb knows a thing or two about Michael Vick and Eagles coach Andy Reid. (Speaking of whom: Reid giving points on the road to Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt? I’ll take that.)
$110 on Washington State -18½ vs. Colorado: Washington State has been outgained by a combined 315 yards in three games. Its two wins (over UNLV and Eastern Washington) were by a combined 12 points. And here I am laying nearly three touchdowns with the Cougars? This tells you all you need to know about Colorado, which followed upset losses to Colorado State and I-AA Sacramento State by getting throttled 69-14 at Fresno State. In their last 11 games, the Buffs have cashed just three times, going 2-8 against the spread as a double-digit underdog.
BEST OF THE REST: College: USC -16 vs. Cal ($77); Arizona-Oregon OVER 77 ($66); West Virginia -27 vs. Maryland ($55); Kansas State +14 at Oklahoma ($55); Clemson +14 at Florida State ($44). NFL: 49ers -7 at Vikings ($77); Saints -9 vs. Chiefs ($77); Texans -2 at Broncos ($55); Patriots-Ravens OVER 49 ($55); Rams +7½ at Bears ($44).