Did we learn nothing from last week?
The New England Patriots, one of just five undefeated NFL teams, are once again priced at a pick’em for Week 5’s trip to Cincinnati.
The Patriots found themselves in pick range visiting the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday Night Football last week, and handled the Falcons with a 30-23 win. The Patriots closed as big as 3-point road underdogs in that game.
New England finally has a victory it can hang its hat on after an unimpressive first three weeks and could return receiving weapons WR Danny Amendola and TE Rob Gronkowski in time for Week 5. Both were questionable heading into last weekend and would be a major difference for a Pats offense that has struggled to find traction.
The Bengals, at 2-2, have wins over Pittsburgh and Green Bay, but also fell to the Cleveland Browns last weekend. Cincinnati failed to find the end zone in the loss to the Browns and QB Andy Dalton isn’t at the top of his game, with five TDs and four INTs on the year. The Bengals do get a break with New England star DT Vince Wilfork going down with a season-ending Achilles injury Sunday.
Some books are staying on the fence with this spread while others have moved the Bengals as many as two points to -2.
Grabbing the Pats as underdogs two weeks in a row is almost unheard of. The last that happened was in Weeks 16 and 17 of the 2006 season when New England was resting up for the playoffs. The Patriots won and covered in both those outings.
Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers (-7, 42.5)
Defense is headed the way of the Dodo bird in the NFL. Up-tempo offenses and no-huddle attacks are the pace of the league, leaving stop units to huff and puff in a struggle to keep up.
Teams known for locking down opponents are getting burned for big numbers, including the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers. Both squads ranked among the top defenses in the league last year, but haven’t been able to match that stoutness through the first four games of the 2013 schedule.
That's what makes this low 42.5-point total so puzzling. The Texans, who allowed only 21.4 points per game last year, are giving up 26.2 this season – 23rd in the league. The Niners are also suffering from a defensive downgrade, budging for 23.8 points per outing (19th) after limiting foes to just 19.1 last year.
Each team has proven it can put up points with the football. Houston scored a total of 61 points in its first two games and bullied the top defense in the NFL for 20 points in an OT loss to Seattle Sunday. San Francisco finally got untracked offensively in Thursday’s win over St. Louis, exploding for 35 points.
That 42.5-point over/under is on par with other Week 5 totals involving teams like the Rams and Jaguars, Bills and Browns, and Panthers and Cardinals.
Maryland Terrapins at Florida State Seminoles (-15)
The Terrapins are the most interesting team in college football.
They may not be running with the bulls or deep-sea diving with super models while pounding back some Dos Equis, but man do they ever make you wonder. This is their second go-around in “Football Lines That Make You Go Hmmm…” and we’re just into October.
Maryland is 4-0 and coming off a bye week following a 37-0 trashing of West Virginia two weeks ago. The Terps offense has steamrolled opponents for 39.8 points a game while the defense has done a good job limiting foes to only 10.2 point against. They haven’t built their stats against the toughest teams but neither has Florida State, which also enters the weekend at 4-0.
The Seminoles own the No. 8 ranking in the land and boast an offensive attack that is hanging 51.2 points on the opposition each week. But, those high scores came against the likes of Pitt, Nevada, FCS Bethune Cookman, and Boston College – which put a scare in FSU during last week’s 48-34 win. Florida State failed to cover as big 28.5-point favorites.
The Noles have a bye next week to help them prepare for a showdown with fellow ACC favorite Clemson in Week 8. However, Saturday’s date with Maryland could turn out to be just as important to the makeup of the conference.