Dirty player or not, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh represents the Detroit Lions’ new attitude. Suh is mean and nasty, and he won’t allow his team to be pushed around anymore.
It’s obvious the Lions were overhyped after winning their first five games, but that’s the routine in the NFL. Winning teams normally get more praise than deserved while the losers get prematurely buried.
Detroit never was headed for the Super Bowl this season, but it has triplets — Suh, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford — set to lead the way to the playoffs soon.
Johnson embarrasses defensive backs and Suh punishes quarterbacks. Suh is the bad guy, and that’s meant in a good way. His next target is Wonderboy.
Suh and the Lions get a shot at taking down Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos on Sunday, one week after Tebow worked a miracle in Miami. Beating the Dolphins is no amazing feat in itself, of course, but the fact Tebow overcame a 15-0 deficit in the final three minutes has his followers believing he can accomplish almost anything.
Somewhat overlooked is that the Broncos played 55 minutes of mostly terrible football, with Tebow displaying a comedy of errors until the final two touchdown drives.
Tebow got away with poor play against the winless Dolphins. If he does that again, however, Suh and the Detroit defense will make him pay.
The Lions pulled off a couple of stunning comebacks of their own, storming from behind in the second half to beat Minnesota and Dallas before grinding out an ugly Monday night victory over Chicago on Oct. 10. At that point, Detroit seemed due to hit a flat spot, and it did in losses to San Francisco and Atlanta. The absence of running back Jahvid Best (concussion) has contributed to the fall.
But it’s time for the Lions, who were on a 12-0-1 run against the spread before falling to the 49ers, to get back on track. Denver, 2-8 ATS in its past 10 home games, is hoping for more of Tebow’s magic. I wouldn’t bet on it this week.
I’ll go with Detroit, with or without Stafford, as a 3-point road favorite. It sounds as if Stafford is recovered from a right ankle sprain and will start. If not, Shaun Hill is a decent backup. Stafford and the Lions are slumping, but they are no longer a lost cause.
Four more plays for Week 8 (Home team in CAPS):
■ Patriots (-3) over STEELERS: It’s obviously tempting to back Pittsburgh as a home underdog. I’ll side with New England off a bye, though, mostly because Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have had extra time to study the Steelers’ defense, and Brady is armed to beat it. Brady tore apart Pittsburgh last year, hitting on 30 of 43 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns in a 39-26 win. The Patriots’ defense has been a problem, but it held up better against Dallas.
■ SEAHAWKS (+3) over Bengals: Pete Carroll is 8-3 ATS at home as Seattle’s coach. He’s expecting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, tight end Zach Miller and running back Marshawn Lynch to return from injuries. This could be ugly, but the Seahawks seem playable as home ‘dogs.
■ Cowboys (+3½) over EAGLES: Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan gets a lot of attention, and it’s merited. His schemes slowed Brady and the Patriots, so he should have a solid plan to contain Michael Vick and Philadelphia’s fast wideouts. The Cowboys have covered four of the past five in this NFC East rivalry, and coach Jason Garrett is 6-0 ATS as an underdog. It’s tough to trust Tony Romo, but it’s just as difficult to believe in the “Dream Team.”
■ CHIEFS (+4) over Chargers: Maybe it’s a mirage, but Kansas City has won three straight and covered its past four. The Chiefs are 11-4 ATS in their past 15 as ‘dogs. Philip Rivers has thrown nine interceptions, and his San Diego offense is not striking fear in opponents. The Chargers are 3-7 ATS in their past 10 as road favorites.
Last week: 3-2 against the spread
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at 702-387-2907 or email@example.com.