Pro Football Picks by ALAN TRUEX

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Season record vs. line:  5-7-1

Best bet: 1-0


 Thursday, 7:35 p.m. CST (NFL Network)

 New York Jets at New England

Belichick tries to confuse another rookie QB

Prediction:  New England 30, Jets 16

Line: New England -13 (Total 44)

Tom Brady struggled against a surprisingly frisky Buffalo defense in the opener.  He got no production from his tight ends and desperately needs Rob Gronkowski’s return.

Jets rookie Geno Smith showed far more poise in his debut than anyone expected, as the Jets upset Tampa Bay.  Bill Belichick is known for making life miserable for rookie QBs, but Buffalo’s EJ Manuel looked unbaffled.

Rex Ryan’s defense should keep Brady under pressure and could keep the game close into the fourth quarter.  Still, you have to think the Patriots will ramp up production in their home opener.  The line looks about right.

       The Play:  No bets.


Sunday, 12 Noon CST


Upset Alert: Falcons can’t stop Rams pass rush

Prediction:  St. Louis 24, Atlanta 23

Line:  Atlanta -7 (47 ½)

Steven Jackson gets to face his former team, but it may not be a happy occasion for him.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher has a young, strong, improving defense, with an especially aggressive line.  This creates a major matchup problem for Atlanta.  The Falcons’ offensive line looked helpless against a New Orleans defense that’s not considered very good.  QB Matt Ryan is in for a long day.

By contrast, Rams QB Sam Bradford has solid protection, and Atlanta doesn’t seem able to mount much of a pass rush.

The Play:   Rams. (BEST BET)



Chiefs will attack Cowboys’ Romo

Prediction:  Kansas City 23-13

Line:  Kansas City -2 ½ (46 ½)

Andy Reid is quietly putting together an excellent team in Kansas City, one that probably will make the playoffs and could even challenge Denver for the title in the AFC West.  The defense is one of the league’s best, with such stars as Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers and Eric Berry.

Reid, who has often been accused of hating to run, is using a balanced attack in Kansas City, making full use of fast running backs Jamaal Charles and rookie Knile Davis.  The team has invested two first-round draft picks in the offensive line.

The Cowboys have a very different approach, trying to put together an O-line with mostly retreads.  They are counting on a guard, Brian Waters, whom the Chiefs released in 2011.  Dallas is one-dimensional, relying on the vertical passing of Tony Romo and the sure-handed receiving of Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten.

But this is not a good matchup for Dallas, as pass defense is the Chiefs’ strength.

The Play:  Chiefs and the Under.



Eagles flying fast, look like division winners

Prediction:  Philadelphia 34, San Diego 22

Line:  Philadelphia 7 ½ (54)

Chip Kelly’s frenetic offense jumped to a successful start with an upset victory at Washington that probably shouldn’t have been an upset.  The Eagles look very good, with Mike Vick passing and LeSean McCoy running behind a line that may challenge San Francisco’s as the best in the NFL.

Philly’s defense is not so special but should improve as the players adjust to the new 3-4 scheme.

San Diego surprised in opening week by giving the Houston Texans a scare, but a review of the box score indicates the Chargers were dominated just about everywhere  outgained by 187 yards and accumulated just 14 first downs to Houston’s 26.

Philip Rivers will have some success with deep throws against the Eagles’ shaky safeties, but it’s hard to see the Chargers keeping up with Kelly.

The Play:  Philadelphia.



Ravens take out their frustration on Browns

Prediction:  Baltimore 24, Cleveland 10

Line:  Baltimore -6 ½ (43 ½)

The Ravens, who fell on their faces in the NFL season opener last Thursday, have had extra time to think about their debacle in Denver, and they will not be in a pleasant mood when they face the middling Cleveland Browns.

The Browns opened with an unimpressive 23-10 loss at home against Miami after giving false hope in the preseason that they were going to be good under new coach Rod Chudzinski, who has highly respected coordinators in Norv Turner and Ray Horton.

Now all they need is players.

The Bet:  Baltimore.



RG III not up to speed, nor is the Skins’ D

Prediction:  Green Bay 30-16

Line:  Green Bay -7 (49 ½)

      Perhaps Robert Griffin III was right in saying he should have played in the preseason.  He clearly wasn’t ready for the regular season opener, throwing a lot of floaters and mistiming his receivers.

The other school of thought is that coach Mike Shanahan knew his wounded knee was not fully healed, which was why he was kept out of action.

There’s no assurance he will be a lot better in Week 2, and he faces a daunting assignment going into Lambeau and facing Clay Matthews and a strong Green Bay defense.

The Packers put up an impressive fight in their opener in San Francisco.  Aaron Rodgers should find plenty of holes in Washington’s secondary, just as the much less accurate Mike Vick did.

          The Play:  Green Bay.


Sunday, 3:05 p.m. CST


Lions’ sloppiness won’t win in the desert

Prediction:  Arizona 26, Detroit 24

Line:  Detroit -1 (47 ½)

The Cardinals are showing life in the desert under new coach Bruce Arians.  His vertical pass offense is much to the liking of venerable QB Carson Palmer and resurgent wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

Detroit’s secondary is vulnerable, and the Cards should be able to exploit it.

The Lions continue to be a mistake-prone team.  If the Cardinals can’t beat them, there’s a good chance the Lions will beat themselves.

The Play:  Arizona.


Sunday, 7:30 p.m. CST


If anybody can win in Seattle, it’s the 49ers

Prediction:  San Francisco 20, Seattle 19

Line:  Seattle -3 (44 ½)

This is the marquee game of the week.  Although the Denver Broncos are currently 9-2 favorites to win the Super Bowl, San Francisco and Seattle are widely regarded as the NFL’s two best teams.  But since they’re in the same division, their Super Bowl odds get reduced, as they’ll have a much tougher path to get to February’s game.

The 49ers right now are a stronger team than Seattle, which has a banged-up defensive line that couldn’t stop the run last week at Carolina.  Nor did the Seahawks run very well themselves in the opener, which didn’t figure.  They had to resort on the passing of Russell Wilson, which is not such a bad thing.

Colin Kaepernick was better than ever in the opener against Green Bay, the pride of the NFC North, but the challenge he faces now is communicating with his teammates in the CenturyLink Field, the unfriendliest environment in the league.  Seattle last season was a perfect 8-0 at home.  Kaepernick did not handle it well, losing 42-13.  But he’s a fast learner, and no doubt he learned from the experience.

San Francisco is much stronger than Seattle in both the offensive and defensive lines, and the trenches are where most games are won.

The Play:  San Francisco.


Monday, 7:30 p.m. CST


The Bengals are rising, Steelers are falling

Prediction:  Cincinnati 26-13

Line:  Cincinnati -7 (40 ½)

The Bengals let one get away last week in Chicago, but it’s hard to see them losing to Pittsburgh, a one great franchise that is now in serious decline.  The Steelers have absolutely no offensive line now that they’ve lost All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey to injury.

Cincy has one of the league’s strongest defensive lines, so Ben Roethlisberger will be under siege from start to finish.

Pittsburgh still has a respectable defense, but Andy Dalton should be able to hook up enough with A.J. Green to win easily.

The Play:  Cincinnati.

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