Last week, the Lions edged the Vikings by three, a point shy of the magic number. And the Chargers narrowly beat the Chiefs, keeping us perfect with our survivor pool picks. This week we like the Browns and Bears. Word of warning: a lot of favorites look like easy winners… and that’s just when the underdogs come to life.

 

Straight Up

CHICAGO over Carolina

The Bears will get to exercise their defensive muscle against the hustling Panthers. Former Chicago defensive coordinator Ron Rivera has the Panthers playing competitive football and he would like nothing better than to leave Soldier Field with a victory. However, the Bears opened the season with the Falcons, Saints and Packers and now get to breathe a little against a team that is not in that class. The Bears have the most overrated player in football in wide receiver Roy Williams, but Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs lead a defense that can punish a rookie quarterback, even one as promising as Cam Newton. Jay Cutler should—repeat, should—have an easy time against the Panthers secondary.

CHICAGO 28, Carolina 24

 

Against the Spread

CLEVELAND (E) over Tennessee

If the Browns are going to make a serious climb up the NFL ladder, this is the kind of game they must win. They are at home and they have a winning record. They are playing a decent team in the Titans, but one that has lost its only road game to the awful Jaguars. Rookie coach Pat Shurmur can get his team fired up and quarterback Colt McCoy is on the upswing. Running back Peyton Hillis is back at practice and will be able to take the heat off McCoy. On the Titans’ side, well-compensated Chris Johnson is averaging all of 2.1 yards per carry. And while Matt Hasselbeck is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes, that can’t continue. Hence, we’ll take Cleveland, which only has to win to make some scratch.

CLEVELAND 24, Tennessee 16

 

Steve Silverman has covered the NFL for three decades, worked for Pro Football Weekly and written four NFL books. He wrote the NFL Preview…in Haiku!, and every week this season, he supplies his survivor pool picks. Trust him—he knows what he’s doing.