The New Orleans Saints may be the one NFL team nobody wants to play right now - which is very, very bad news for the San Francisco 49ers. And if the Saints continue making the Superdome the hardest place in the league to play, the 3.5-point spread against the Niners could look pretty modest.
New Orleans comes into this one favored by a little more than a field goal, which is an odd line considering how dominant it has been at home. The Saints have yet to lose in Louisiana and have outscored their last four opponents by a combined 95 points. That's an average of nearly 24 per win to the math-deficient.
Drew Brees is channeling his record-breaking 2011 season, spreading the ball around and making it next to impossible to know where teams should focus their efforts in the secondary. The Saints are a solid 6-3-0 against the spread - bad news for a San Francisco unit that managed just nine points at home against Carolina over the weekend.
Colin Kaepernick has looked ordinary in his second season as the starting quarterback and despite the imminent return of top target Michael Crabtree, there simply isn't enough in the way of secondary options to make much of a difference. Factor in the Saints' new-found commitment to pass defense where the Saints have surrendered the third-fewest passing yards in the league.
Working in San Francisco's favor: A 6-3-0 mark ATS, a defense ranked eighth against the pass and 11th against the run and a rush attack that has compiled the most touchdowns (15) and the fifth-most yards (1,329). If the 49ers can dominate on the ground - and that means in an Army/Auburn/New Mexico kind of way - they may make a game of it.
Never, ever underestimate an angry young team. The Indianapolis Colts fit the bill following last week's embarrassing home rout at the hands of the St. Louis Rams - and with Chuck Pagano vowing to have his players much better prepared this time around, it could be a long Thursday night for the Tennessee Titans.
The Colts are giving away less than a field goal, which will turn out to be a gross miscalculation if Andrew Luck bounces back as expected. A slow start cost him against the Rams, forcing him to revert to an all-pass strategy for the entire second half of the 38-8 drubbing. Luck has yet to lose consecutive games in his NFL career - and he isn't about to start against a second straight mediocre opponent.
The Titans have an impressive defense, but putting points could prove difficult with quarterback Jake Locker out for the season with a right foot injury. Veteran retread Ryan Fitzpatrick will get the start in his place, which should worry Tennessee fans who watched him complete fewer than 57 percent of his passes in relief of an injured Locker earlier in the season.
Tennessee is 1-3 with Fitzpatrick at the helm in 2013. Barring another brutal effort from the Colts, you can make it 1-4.
The top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide are giving away around 24 points to host Mississippi State this weekend and they could be up by that much at halftime.
Standout quarterback A.J. McCarron faces a Bulldogs defense that has been torched for 144 points in its last three games against nationally ranked teams. That includes a systematic 59-26 dismantling at the hands of visiting Louisiana State back on Oct. 5, a game that saw the Tigers rack up 563 yards of total offense.
Those same Tigers managed just 284 yards in a 38-17 loss to the Tide last week.
Forget game-planning how the Bulldogs will find a way to stop McCarron and Co., and consider how Mississippi State will muster the necessary offense against an Alabama roster allowing fewer than 11 points per game.