- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Now that’s more like it.

Pro Picks rallied as if Josh Freeman was leading the charge, going 11-4-1 against the spread and 13-3 straight up. That was as impressive a turnaround as what the Steelers and Titans displayed in Week 2 after ugly openers.

Or as noteworthy as what is going on for Detroit. The Lions not only are 2-0, but this week are road favorites. In a division game, no less.

The Lions’ roar has been heard in Tampa and at Ford Field, with Detroit outscoring the Bucs and then the Chiefs by a combined 75-23. This isn’t the team we’ve grown to ignore except when they host the early Thanksgiving Day game _ or when they are going 0-16.

Nope, these Lions are a 3 1/2-point choice at Minnesota, and rightfully so after the power they have shown. The Vikings are 0-2 and, while they haven’t been nearly as hapless as some of the other winless squads, they twice have blown late leads.

In this game, they won’t likely have a late lead. Or any sort of lead, unless the Lions get cocky.

“We have some experienced players and they know that two games don’t make a season,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “We have a hard-working group of players that understand that it’s not about what you’ve done in the past, it’s what you do in the future … nobody’s trying to rain on any parades or anything else, but it’s two games.”

Soon to be three games won.

LIONS, 24-16

New England (minus 9) at Buffalo

We usually like home underdogs. In this case, though, see last week: “Until otherwise notified, the Patriots will be the choice to cover, whatever the spread.”

BEST BET: PATRIOTS, 41-28

Miami (plus 2 1/2) at Cleveland

Let the weirdness continue for Dolphins: lose at home, win on the road.

UPSET SPECIAL: DOLPHINS, 16-13

N.Y. Jets (minus 3 1/2) at Oakland

This would be the upset special if the Raiders were healthier. They should at least cover.

JETS, 20-19

Green Bay (minus 3 1/2) at Chicago

Pack is in Super Bowl form, losing players (Nick Collins) and winning games.

PACKERS, 28-16

Houston (plus 4) at New Orleans

Inside the Superdome could be a true proving ground for the Texans. Or not.

SAINTS, 34-27

Atlanta (plus 1 1/2) at Tampa Bay

If this game is close in final period, count on Freeman and the Bucs.

BUCCANEERS, 24-23

Denver (plus 7) at Tennessee

Titans come off big win without getting much from Chris Johnson. They’ll get plenty this week.

TITANS, 24-20

San Francisco (plus 2 1/2) at Cincinnati

Niners’ first road game _ and they will remain in the East before their second next week at Philadelphia.

49ERS, 16-13

Jacksonville (plus 3 1/2) at Carolina

Time for Cam Newton to either come down to Earth, or get his first pro win.

PANTHERS, 27-16

Kansas City (plus 14 1/2) at San Diego

Chiefs have been league’s worst team by far. Can’t believe they are really that bad.

CHARGERS, 30-20

Baltimore (minus 3 1/2) at St. Louis

Winless and battered is no way to face the angry (at themselves) Ravens.

RAVENS, 17-10

Pittsburgh (minus 10 1/2) at Indianapolis

How juicy: Big Ben vs. four-time MVP Peyton … oh, wait. Wrong year.

STEELERS, 22-7

Arizona (minus 3) at Seattle

OK, forget about that attraction to home underdogs, considering these last three picks.

CARDINALS, 23-10

Washington (OFF) at Dallas, Monday night

Redskins can stamp themselves as a real contender in NFC East with a win. Tony Romo’s injured ribs force this one off the board.

COWBOYS, 26-21

N.Y. Giants (OFF) at Philadelphia

Michael Vick’s status clouds this game and eliminates any betting line. But Eagles still are the healthier (and superior) team.

EAGLES, 24-17

___

RECORD:

Against spread: 11-4-1 (overall 17-13-2); straight up 13-3 (overall 19-13).

Best Bet: 1-1 against spread, 1-1 straight up.

Upset Special: 1-1 against spread, 1-1 straight up.