In their opening act, the Detroit Lions played up to their newfound hype as quarterback Matthew Stafford put on an impressive show.
The reviews were far different for the Kansas City Chiefs, who need a second chance to make a better first impression.
While the Lions were picking up a win at Tampa Bay, the Chiefs were getting humiliated 41-7 at home by the Buffalo Bills. But in the NFL, things can change dramatically from one week to the next, and that’s what SystemPlays.com handicapper Doug Fitz is planning on by taking the Chiefs as 8-point underdogs at Detroit today.
“The Chiefs looked awful at home. However, this inflated point spread is an enormous overreaction based mainly on the public perception that the Lions are ready to break out of their perpetual losing ways and become an elite team,” Fitz said. “I think it’s way too early to be quite so optimistic.
“There is little doubt Detroit is significantly better than years past, but teams that are historically bad are not good teams to back as big favorites.”
Since 1993, the Lions are 17-32 against the spread when favored from 3½ to 9½ points and 3-9 ATS during the same time frame when favored at home by 7½ points or more. Fitz also cited the Chiefs’ 21-6 ATS record on the road following a double-digit defeat.
“The Chiefs are not as good as they were last year, but I don’t think they are as bad as they looked last week,” Fitz said. “Kansas City will keep this game closer than most expect.”
Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, who threw 36 times for only 119 yards last week, will need to be much sharper against a Detroit defense led by dominant tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Fitz scouts the rest of today’s Week 2 schedule:
■ Chicago at New Orleans (-6½): A season-opening 42-34 loss at Green Bay 10 days ago should make the Saints even more determined to play well in their home opener. Drew Brees, who passed for 419 yards against the Packers, had three extra days of preparation with a New Orleans offense that can be explosive. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has a nasty habit of playing inconsistently, especially in big games. This is not a convincing play for me, but the Saints get the nod.
■ Jacksonville at New York Jets (-9½): It’s hard to argue against this touchdown-plus underdog. Last week, the Jaguars rushed for 163 yards and allowed only 43 rushing yards, including just 24 to Tennessee’s Chris Johnson, one of the league’s best backs. The Jets are a public team, a fact that showed in the inflated spread last week and is showing up again here. I will make a strong call on the Jaguars.
■ Oakland at Buffalo (-3): The Raiders normally are reliable underdogs, but not when they travel to play in the Eastern time zone. Historically bad teams such as the Bills are not good bets when it comes to covering as favorites. I’ll pass.
■ Arizona at Washington (-3½): I liked most of what I saw from the Cardinals and Kevin Kolb, who completed 18 passes for 309 yards last week. The Redskins’ Rex Grossman also looked good while passing for 305 yards in a 28-14 victory over the Giants. Neither team has much of a running attack, so the reliance on the pass should extend the game and send this over 44.
■ Baltimore (-6) at Tennessee: It doesn’t appear the Titans will be able run the ball much against the Baltimore defense. However, the Ravens’ Joe Flacco and Tennessee’s Matt Hasselbeck each had success through the air, and Baltimore has a tough running back in Ray Rice. This sets up as a higher-scoring game than the low total of 37½ to 38 indicates.
■ Seattle at Pittsburgh (-14): I don’t want any part of betting against the Steelers at home after the way they were humiliated 35-7 at Baltimore. The Seahawks usually are weak on the road, but I never lay double digits in the NFL under any circumstances, so I’ll pass.
■ Green Bay (-10) at Carolina: One thing you can count on is we will see a ton of passing by the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and Panthers rookie Cam Newton, who shocked everyone by throwing for 422 yards in his first start, on the road. I believe Newton will be the real deal, and he should turn Carolina into a legitimate offensive threat. Look for this to sail over the total (45½).
■ Tampa Bay at Minnesota (-3): Both defenses were shredded through the air last week, as the Buccaneers allowed 305 passing yards and Minnesota gave up 330. Vikings veteran Donovan McNabb passed for only 39 yards against San Diego, but he still can create big plays, and running back Adrian Peterson always is capable of extending drives. I’ll lean over the total (41).
■ Cleveland (-2) at Indianapolis: I was born and raised in Cleveland, so it pains me to say the Browns might be the worst team in the league. They have no business being a road favorite over anyone. The Colts are a mediocre team at best without Peyton Manning, but I don’t think they have sunk low enough to justify being a home ‘dog to a team such as Cleveland. This is a strong call on Indianapolis.
■ Dallas (-3) at San Francisco: The Cowboys shot themselves in the foot while blowing a big lead against the Jets, and the focus will be on how quarterback Tony Romo responds. Dallas still is a much better team than the 49ers, so I lean to the favorite because of the short number.
■ Houston (-3) at Miami: I’m not buying into the Texans until they show me they can string together meaningful wins against quality opponents. The Dolphins looked good early in their Monday night showdown with the Patriots before Tom Brady wore them out. It’s difficult to get a good read on either team at this point, so I’ll sit on the sidelines here.
■ San Diego at New England (-7): The Chargers traditionally start slowly and don’t play to their potential as a favorite. But Philip Rivers can match Brady score for score, and good offensive teams such as San Diego generally are solid bets when getting points. The Chargers merit a small play.
■ Cincinnati at Denver (-3½): Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton is expected to start, but his uncertain status because of an injury to his right forearm makes this game tough to analyze. Backup Bruce Gradkowski looked pretty good last week, but that was against the Browns. The Broncos were a mess in a Monday night loss to the Raiders. I’ll have to pass.
■ Philadelphia (-2½) at Atlanta: This line is about as good as it gets, as I rate these teams as basically even. I’m guessing this game will come down to the Falcons showing Eagles quarterback Michael Vick that he’s not going to be welcomed back in his so-called homecoming. I lean slightly to Atlanta.
COMPILED BY MATT YOUMANS/REVIEW-JOURNAL