Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first half of their AFC Wild Card NFL playoff football game in Kansas City in this 2011 file photo. (REUTERS)
Ravens (3-1) at Chiefs (1-3)
LINE: BALTIMORE BY 6
Things find a way of balancing out in this league. The Ravens have been solid. A contributing factor is their ability to protect the football. It's no wonder that Baltimore is winning with just four giveaways thus far compared to eight takeaways from its opponents for a +4 turnover ratio. The Chiefs have been awful in comparison. Kansas City players have fumbled eight times and have been intercepted seven times while intercepting its adversaries just twice and having zero fumble recoveries. That's a -13 ratio, dead last in the league. This KC team is averaging 419 yards of offence per game, fourth best in league while allowing an acceptable 334 per game. With a strong running game, a decent passing game and facing an aging defence while at Arrowhead, we see the pendulum swinging back here.
TAKING: CHIEFS +6
Chargers (3-1) at Saints (0-4)
LINE: NEW ORLEANS BY 3 1/2
When was last time a 0-4 team was favoured over a 3-1 squad and by more than a field goal? Oddsmakers are not fools. They are not in the habit of giving away cash. Despite New Orleans' dismal start, the team does have talent. For those that think Drew Brees has regressed, think again. Brees leads the league with 1,350 passing yards to date. The Saints defence has been the trouble spot but we're not convinced that San Diego's offence is a unit to be overly concerned with. The Chargers have defeated the Raiders (aided by a slew of blocked kicks), the Titans and the Chiefs (KC with six turnovers), teams with a 3-9 record collectively. San Diego lacks a running game while Philip Rivers can't find a rhythm with his overrated receiving corp.
TAKING: NEW ORLEANS -3 1/2
Titans (1-3) at Vikings (3-1)
LINE: MINNESOTA BY 5 1/2
Sorry Purple People fans, this is about making money, not friends. The Vikes have been a pleasant surprise with their quick start while the Titans have been rather yucky. Now though, the Vikes are expected to win and win by a margin. That's a tall order for a team that had six less wins than this opponent just a year ago. Minnesota QB Christian Ponder has performed admirably, with a 68% completion rate and zero interceptions. However, ranking 26th in the league with just 199-yds. per game is not exactly an aerial attack to fear, especially when Indianapolis and Detroit have been on the opponent's docket. Tennessee will have Matt Hasselbeck at the controls this week and he may be a welcomed site. Expect a close one.
TAKING: TITANS +5 1/2
Falcons (4-0) at Redskins (2-2)
LINE: ATLANTA BY 3
This one might follow its simplest form. Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offence are just too efficient for a Washington defence allowing far too many points. The Redskins have relinquished 32, 31, 38 and 22 points respectively to their foes. After Atlanta's scare in Carolina last week, expect a focused effort here.
TAKING: FALCONS -3
Eagles (3-1) at Steelers (1-2)
LINE: PITTSBURGH BY 3
The Steelers required an extra week's rest as much as any team. Pittsburgh prognosticating has become quite clear lately with low-wattage efforts when travelling compared to high voltage performances when hosting. Pennsylvania pride is on the line but the Eagles are coming off of a savoury win over G-men while scoring points remains an issue.
TAKING: STEELERS -3
Packers (2-2) at Colts (1-2)
LINE: GREEN BAY BY 7
Green Bay is pleased to be at .500 after narrow win over visiting Saints. But it had better not take its eye off the ball here after combating Niners, Bears, at Seahawks on a Monday night and New Orleans before heading to Houston next week. The Colts are rested and will be inspired to play for ailing coach.
TAKING: COLTS +7
Browns (0-4) at Giants (2-2)
LINE: NY GIANTS BY 9
The Giants tend to play to the level of their opponents, substantiated by New York failing to cover its previous six games when favoured by eight points or more. Yes, the Browns are winless but they've competed and have lost by 10 just once. Cleveland can run and play defence. That should suffice.
TAKING: BROWNS +9
Dolphins (1-3) at Bengals (3-1)
LINE: CINCINNATI BY 3 1/2
Turns out the Dolphins aren't that bad. Miami could easily have had a different fate in two previous games but such is the learning curve for rookie coaches and quarterbacks. QB Ryan Tannehill had a big game (400+ passing) against Arizona's suddenly daunting defence. Cincy's pass D has been abysmal.
TAKING: DOLPHINS +3 1/2
Seahawks (2-2) at Panthers (1-3)
LINE: CAROLINA BY 3
Now that the Seahawks' Monday night debacle with Green Bay is old news, Seattle can get back to business. While Seattle doesn't travel well, it should be able to control the pace of this one with its strong defence and the ability to run Marshawn Lynch against a weak Panthers' run defence.
TAKING: SEAHAWKS +3
Bears (3-1) at Jaguars (1-3)
LINE: CHICAGO BY 6
The Bears are clearly the better side but a couple of intangibles may work against them here. Chicago enters this one after knocking off 'America's Team' in a Monday nighter. Da Bears will travel again, on a short week no less and then will have a week off. Jags will pound the ground, keeping this one conservative.
TAKING: JAGUARS +6
Broncos (2-2) at Patriots (2-2)
LINE: NEW ENGLAND BY 6 1/2
Peyton Manning taking near a full touchdown against his old rivals? What is this world coming to? The Patriots are strong at home but Manning knows tendencies of this opponent as well as any and with a month under his belt to acclimate to new mates and shake off dust, there's no reason that this doesn't stay competitive.
TAKING: BRONCOS +6 1/2
Bills (2-2) at 49ers (3-1)
LINE: SAN FRANCISCO BY 9 1/2
The Niners usually play at a high-energy level. Returning home after playing three of its first four games away, San Francisco figures to be extra amped for this one. The Bills can't be feeling very good after blowing a two touchdown lead to the Patriots and then boarding a long flight here. This could get ugly.
TAKING: 49ERS -9 1/2
Texans (4-0) at Jets (2-2)
LINE: HOUSTON BY 8
Is this very best versus very worst? You'd be hard pressed to find Jets backers for this one and rightfully so with New York's dismal offence and loss of its few viable players. Still, Texans laying big lumber, in Big Apple on a national stage, while hosting Packers next week is a situation we'll cautiously fade.
TAKING: JETS +8
Last week: 2-1
Last week; 8-7
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