Nothing is easy for the New England Patriots this season.
Fresh off their 41-17 loss to San Diego, their first home defeat in 22 games, they go to Atlanta to face yet another elite team. In fact, counting a trip to Denver next week, that will be four straight games against playoff teams from last season with Indianapolis also on the horizon.
That’s not Bill Belichick’s concern.
“There are 12 to go,” he says. “I can’t tell you how the other 12 are going to turn out. I don’t think anybody knows. I don’t think it really matters. At this point it’s a one-game season and it’s Atlanta.”
Obviously, that kind of tunnel vision has served Belichick well in the past. And two years ago, the Patriots started 2-2, then won 15 straight, including the Super Bowl. But this season looks different.
The Patriots started without Tedy Bruschi and Ted Johnson at inside linebacker, and lost strong safety Rodney Harrison for the season two weeks ago. San Diego clearly exploited their absence and Atlanta certainly runs well enough to do the same.
The Falcons also expect Michael Vick back after what turned out to be a minor knee injury against Minnesota lost week.
Atlanta is favored by 2 1/2 points.
Pittsburgh (plus 3) at San Diego (Monday night)
The Chargers have scored 86 points in their last two games. The Steelers, who were idle last week, may slow down Brees, Gates and Tomlinson (law firm?). But not entirely.
Cincinnati (plus 3) at Jacksonville
Injuries on the Bengals’ offensive line and the strength of the Jaguars’ defensive front translates into Cincinnati’s first loss.
Washington (plus 7) at Denver
Another unbeaten falls.
Tampa Bay (minus 3 1/2) at New York Jets
But not here.
Philadelphia (minus 3 1/2) at Dallas
The Cowboys have had four close games. Not this time ....
Indianapolis (minus 14) at San Francisco
First vs. Worst.
Carolina (minus 3) at Arizona
Long trip off a short week for Carolina. Usually means trouble.
Seattle (plus 3) at St. Louis
The Rams aren’t very good, but they beat the Seahawks three times last season.
Miami (plus 2) at Buffalo
Can the Dolphins actually challenge for a division title?
Baltimore (plus 1) at Detroit
The NFL owes the Lions a game after the replay zebras stole one from them last week.
New Orleans (plus 3) at Green Bay
Favre showed some of the old magic Monday night. Short week and injuries, but Pack is due.
Chicago (plus 3) at Cleveland
Crennel’s defenses confuse Orton.
Tennessee (plus 3) at Houston
Go with the theory that the Texans are due.
LAST WEEK: 8-6 (spread); 9-5 (straight up)
SEASON 27-33 (spread); 35-25 (straight up)
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.