Last week: 7-7. Season totals: 41-33-3, Pct. .552. Best Bets: 5-10, Pct. .333.
Home team in capital letters; point spreads (opening line) in parentheses after underdog team; selections with point spreads in bold.
Pittsburgh 27, TENNESSEE 23 (+6 1/2)—The Titans are coming off their "best" defensive performance of the season, allowing "only" 30 at Minnesota, and the Steelers have non-covered in six in a row on the road, so take the points.
N.Y. JETS 20, Indianapolis 14 (+3 1/2)—You have to go back to the 56th anniversary of Pearl Harbor— December 7, 1997—to find the last time the Colts won on the road without Peyton Manning, going 0-10 straight up and 3-7 against the spread on the road since (interestingly, however, it was the Jets they beat that day); and if you missed their wedding last week against Green Bay, you may also want to miss this week's funeral.
SAN FRANCISCO 23, N.Y. Giants 20 (+6)—The 49ers haven't allowed a touchdown in either of their last two games, but now they have to face a real offense—and I guess their own offense isn't so conservative after all in that Alex Smith attended a fundraiser for Barack Obama on Monday. Smith also has a sprained finger, although he is expected to play (according to The Sacramento Bee)—but I'm not expecting San Fran to cover this anything-but-conservative number.
PHILADELPHIA 33, Detroit 23 (+6)—The Lions continue to pay for neglecting to upgrade their atrocious secondary in either the draft or free agency, and they've dropped six in a row to the Eagles, with an 0-5-1 spread record therein. While the Eagles are not the best bet of the week at this price, DeSean Jackson may very well be the "best bet" in fantasy.
ATLANTA 48, Oakland 17 (+9)—This could be the blowout of the year: The Raiders have lost nine in a row both ways coming off the bye, their last two to the Falcons by a combined 59-10, and are 3-13 against the spread on artificial turf since 2003, and 2-7 pointwise in domes since '02.
MIAMI 20, St. Louis 13 (+4)—A letdown is on the agenda for the Rams after back-to-back division wins over teams that had owned them recently. Since moving their home field indoors midway through the 1995 season, St. Louis is 27-46-3 against the line on grass and 34-65-3 versus the points outdoors. Jeff Fisher was also 3-7 straight up (and 4-5-1 against the spread) against the Dolphins while at Tennessee, and the Rams have only two wins and three covers in 11 lifetime games against Miami.
TAMPA BAY 16, Kansas City 10 (+3 1/2)—By suffering a concussion last week, Matt Cassel made Romeo Crennel's decision for him. So Brady Quinn, whose confidence has got to be utterly shattered by now, will start at quarterback for the Chiefs, who have lost their last three to the Bucs.
CLEVELAND 17 (+3), Cincinnati 13—Last week the Bengals couldn't even beat a team that obviously isn't going to make the playoffs this year. The Browns will end the NFL's longest-active losing streak at 11 games—during which, believe it or not, they're 7-3-1 against the spread.
BALTIMORE 27, Dallas 12 (+4)—Rounded off to the nearest point, this is the average final score of the last four meetings between the Cowboys and The Modell Franchise, all four of which Dallas lost (by a combined 109-48). Can't see this one deviating from that script.
ARIZONA 28, Buffalo 17 (+4 1/2)—If any team could use a game against the embarrassingly bad Bills defense right now, it's Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals. And with a high of 91 forecast for Glendale on Sunday, the roof will almost certainly be closed, making Buffalo's 6-12 spread record indoors dating back to 1999 relevant.
New England 24, SEATTLE 21 (+4 1/2)—If not for a Willis McGahee fumble deep in their territory late in the game, the Pats would have blown the cover last week despite opening up a 24-point lead after three quarters. They—or at least their backers anyway—might not be so fortunate this time around.
WASHINGTON 21, Minnesota 17 (+2)—Before anointing the 4-1 Vikings as the year's surprise team, it must be pointed out that this will be their first 2012 game on natural grass, upon which Minnesota is 15-42 straight up and 21-34-2 against the spread since Thanksgiving Day of 2000. And Robert Griffin III ("mild" concussion) was cleared to play Sunday, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).
HOUSTON 31, Green Bay 28 (+5)—Where injuries on offense derailed the Texans in 2011, they suffered a huge hit in that area on defense Monday night when linebacker Brian Cushing tore his ACL, ending his season. And things are getting desperate in Green Bay, so expect an inspired effort from the Packers that should keep them within the number.
Denver 34 (+3), SAN DIEGO 21—The Broncos are a disappointing 2-3, but none of their three losses were road games on natural grass, in which they went 4-2 straight up and 5-1 against the spread a year ago—and Peyton Manning is 48-34 outright lifetime as a visitor on the grass, including 37-17 since 2003. The Chargers couldn't be much if the previously winless Saints beat them; but then again, we already knew they weren't much, and come 2013, Norv Turner will be back doing what he's best suited for—coordinating some team's offense.
BEST BETS: ATLANTA, BALTIMORE, DENVER