In this week's column, we'll side with a pair of underdogs and a road favorite, and we will commence with a return to totals handicapping after no Over-Under picks last week.
On to the picks:
San Diego at Oakland (O/U 47½)
The Over appeals for the following reasons:
• Raiders QB Carson Palmer mixed flashes of brilliance with three interceptions in his second start with Oakland. I wasn't surprised by the mistakes — I did, after all, pick Denver in this space a week ago — but how well he played otherwise was eye-catching. Palmer can pick apart a defense, and he can gift-wrap them a throw or two as well.
• The Raiders' defense just hasn't played well against good offenses all season.
• I'm not worried about Chargers QB Philip Rivers' error-laden season to date. San Diego scored 38 points last week, and three of its last four games have gone Over this total.
With both offenses figuring to move the ball well against these shaky defenses, I'll take the Over.
Wilkening's pick: Over 47½
Tennessee (+3½) at Carolina
I have a hard time making a case for the Panthers laying more than a field goal in this spot. The Titans have faded after a strong start, but here is a favorable matchup for them. The Panthers' defense isn't strong, and the Titans' offense, which got its best game of the season from RB Chris Johnson a week ago, should be able to move the ball to its liking.
The Titans' defense also is a major factor in my decision to take the points. Tennessee's CB tandem of Cortland Finnegan and Jason McCourty has played well, and I can't see Panthers WR Steve Smith lighting up this pass defense like he has others this season.
Wilkening's pick: Tennessee
Buffalo (+6) at Dallas
The Bills, a strong 3-0 against the spread against NFC East clubs this season, are the choice at this price. (Note: the 6-point line was available at multiple Nevada sportsbooks as of this writing, though 5- and 5½-point lines were also posted; as always, bettors should take the best line they can.)
The Cowboys' defense has faltered recently, allowing 876 yards in the past two games. The Bills' balanced attack should be able to keep them in striking range in this contest. With Dallas having scored all of four points more than its opposition this season, it is difficult to make a case to lay more than a TD, in my view.
Wilkening's pick: Buffalo
Pittsburgh (-3) at Cincinnati
I will lay the field goal here, even at a slightly higher vigorish than usual (-120). The Steelers, who swept the season series vs. the Bengals in 2010, are 7-3 ATS in the past 10 meetings between the clubs. Pittsburgh's only non-covers in this stretch came in '06, when Cincinnati, in top form at the time, knocked off Pittsburgh 28-20 at Heinz Field; and in '09, when Cincinnati notched a 23-20 comeback win at home in the first meeting between the clubs, then sprung an 18-12 upset thanks to strong defensive and special-teams efforts in the rematch.
I believe this Bengals club is better than the one that captured the AFC North two seasons ago and stacks up well with the '06 club, which was a more formidable group than its 8-8 record indicated. However, the Steelers, as noted, have had the edge in this series in recent years, and they are the pick against a Cincinnati team that, while impressive thus far, struggled in a loss to contending San Francisco and got off to a terribly slow start before rallying against the 5-3 Bills. I would take the Steelers on a neutral field against the 49ers or Bills, and I will select them here as a road favorite.
Wilkening's pick: Pittsburgh
Last week: 2-2
Season to date: 14-22