Sometimes it's a great thing when the week's best game happens early. And this week, it happens close to home.
The unbeaten Saints travel to Soldier Field, where they haven't had any kind of luck under Eastern Illinois product Sean Payton. It's a noon start on Sunday, and the Sunday night and Monday night games this week are stinkers – which clears the deck for your favorites, like "Homeland" and "Dancing With the Stars." OK, my favorites.
After back-to-back blowout wins behind the arm of Drew Brees, the Saints should get a little bit stiffer of a test against the Bears' opportunistic defense. That said, it doesn't mean Brees can't help the Saints put up a big number. Despite the Bears D's lofty reputation, the fact is it has given up an average of 26 points a game this season. And that's just not good.
The Bears no doubt will want to come out firing against the Saints, trying to match them big play for big play, and that doesn't often bode well for Jay Cutler. While the Bears play well at home against the Saints, they don't play well at home when they're underdogs or in games that are a pick 'em, and New Orleans is a much different team when Payton is on the sideline. The Saints will stay unbeaten.
The Colts get a tough test, as well, with the unbeaten Seahawks in town. Indy should be able to keep this one within striking distance to have a chance late, but Seattle may be hitting its stride with a confidence boost from a huge come-from-behind win at Houston.
For a few upsets this week, I like the Patriots on the road at Cincinnati, I like the Cards at home against a well-rested Panthers team, and I'm bucking my "Giants have to win sometime" streak to pick the Eagles on the road, which obviously means this is the week Eli Manning and Co. get off the schneid.
New Orleans (4-0) pick'em (48.5) at BEARS (3-1)
MattE's pick: Saints 29, Bears 26
Seattle (4-0) -2.5 (43.5) at COLTS (3-1)
MattE's pick: Seahawks 27, Colts 24
Detroit (3-1) +6.5 (53.5) at Green Bay (1-2)
MattE's pick: Packers 34, Lions 24
New England (4-0) +1 (45) at Cincinnati (2-2)
MattE's pick: Patriots 27, Bengals 17
Kansas City (4-0) -3 (39) at Tennessee (3-1)
MattE's pick: Chiefs 26, Titans 16
Jacksonville (0-4) +11.5 (42) at St. Louis (1-3)
MattE's pick: Rams 31, Jaguars 13
Baltimore (2-2) +2.5 (43.5) at Miami (3-1)
MattE's pick: Dolphins 23, Ravens 20
Philadelphia (1-3) +2 (54.5) at N.Y. Giants (0-4)
MattE's pick: Eagles 31, Giants 24
Carolina (1-2) -2 (42.5) at Arizona (2-2)
MattE's pick: Cardinals 27, Panthers 17
Denver (4-0) -7.5 (57) at Dallas (2-2)
MattE's pick: Broncos 37, Cowboys 27
Houston (2-2) +6.5 (42.5) at San Francisco (2-2)
MattE's pick: 49ers 26, Texans 20
San Diego (2-2) -4.5 (45) at Oakland (1-3)
MattE's pick: Chargers 27, Raiders 17
N.Y. Jets (2-2) +10 (44) at Atlanta (1-3)
MattE's pick: Falcons 31, Jets 17
Last week: 9-5 straight up, 8-5-1 against the spread. Season: 38-24 (.613) straight up, 32-26-4 (.552) against the spread
-- Matt Erickson is an award-winning journalist whose NFL picks have appeared in The Times for 12 seasons. He covers mixed martial arts for The Times and is assistant MMA editor for USA Today and MMAjunkie.com.