Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Last week: 7-7. Season totals: 65-50-3, Pct. .564. Best Bets: 9-15, Pct. .375.
Home team in capital letters; point spreads (opening line) in parentheses after underdog team; selections with point spreads in bold.
SAN DIEGO 28, Kansas City 17 (+9)—Playing their home games in the driest climate of all NFL cities with an outdoor stadium, the Chargers were totally out of their element last week when it rained in Cleveland. And they have already won in KC by 17 this year (in Week 4). Not thrilled at laying this high a number—and underdogs have covered five in a row on Thursday night—but doing it anyway.
N.Y. GIANTS 27, Pittsburgh 20 (+3 1/2)—The Giants could experience a letdown after taking complete command of the NFC East last week, but the Steelers are really struggling with injuries on both sides of the ball right now. Four of the top five teams in the league are almost certainly in the NFC—the Falcons, Bears and 49ers, in addition to the Giants.
WASHINGTON 28, Carolina 13 (+3)—This is an even bigger bargain price than you could have found at Mays, where every day was a sale day until they went out business two dozen years ago. But the home team in this series is doing awesome business, winning seven in a row, and this will be Cam Newton's first "official" cold-weather game in the NFL (all five of Carolina's 2011 road games in November or later were either indoors or at warm-weather venues.) And considering where he played in college, one has every right to question how Newton will hold up in this situation.
JACKSONVILLE 21 (+4), Detroit 20—The Jaguars showed a lot of heart at Lambeau last week and I'm not convinced that the Lions have turned any corner—plus Detroit has lost three straight to the Jags by a combined 98-53 after winning the first game in the series 44-0, which took place in Jacksonville's expansion year. Spot for an upset.
Baltimore 34, CLEVELAND 17 (+3)—No, I haven't forgotten about the injuries the Ravens have on defense—but they have still beaten the Browns nine consecutive times and have won and covered four in a row off the bye. Home team in this one is also winless against the spread in the last six.
Denver 31, CINCINNATI 21 (+3)—The Bengals simply don't beat good teams, and their 6-16-1 straight-up record coming off a bye (they tied the Eagles at home doing so in 2008—their only non-win at home against Philadelphia in franchise history) is the NFL's second worst (Seattle is 6-17). If ever the Broncos are going to show something on artificial turf—upon which they're 5-11 outright and 4-12 pointwise since 2007—this is it.
INDIANAPOLIS 20 (+1), Miami 17—Finally getting off the post-Peyton Manning road schneid last week was huge for the Colts, and Ryan Tannehill remains questionable despite Monday's MRI result that revealed no structural damage to his left knee. Taking a reluctant stand against the Dolphins on rugs— where they're 10-3 against the line in this decade.
Chicago 16, TENNESSEE 14 (+4)—Home team here has lost three in a row straight up and four to the spread, and the Titans have to be at bit embarrassed after permitting the Colts to win their first non-Peyton Manning road game in 15 years at their building. But the Bears continue to struggle offensively—just 210 total yards against a Carolina defense that will never be confused with that of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens—so Tennessee is worth a shot at this number.
GREEN BAY 45, Arizona 7 (+11)—The week's best bet. The Cardinals haven't beaten the Packers in the state of Wisconsin since 1949, with eight losses therein by an average of 14.5 points per outing, and Arizona is 5-13 against the line since 2002,as a visitor in cold weather. And if their secondary could allow Alex Smith to complete 18 out of 19, then imagine what Aaron Rodgers will do to it. Look for the Pack to make a humongous statement heading into their bye week.
HOUSTON 31, Buffalo 17 (+10 1/2)—Both teams are coming off a bye week, where Buffalo holds the edge (15-8 outright and 14-8-1 pointwise to Houston's 3-7 and 5-5), but the Texans have been destroying trends like this all year long. Their offense would like nothing better than to stick it to Mario Williams, who skipped town as a free agent last spring and is expected to play despite undergoing wrist surgery during the two-week hiatus. If forecast thunderstorms force the closure of the Reliant Stadium roof, Buffalo's 7-13 spread record indoors since 1999 becomes an issue.
OAKLAND 23, Tampa Bay 20 (+1)—Break up the Raiders! Well sort of, anyway—and Tampa Bay has never won in Oakland: 0-4 and outscored by 90 points doing it.
SEATTLE 27, Minnesota 21 (+3 1/2)—Unlike Tuesday's election (maybe), the incumbent is still hanging on at quarterback in Seattle—but the Seahawks are just about as close to perfect as one can get in their last six home games. Going back to last December, a two-point loss to San Francisco as a 1 1/2-point underdog on Christmas Eve of 2011 represents their lone blemish over that span. And did Minnesota's bubble burst last Thursday night?
ATLANTA 26, Dallas 23 (+5)—Last week's win in Philadelphia may have been more a reflection on the Eagles than on the Falcons, who have been far more dominant on the road than at home in getting to 7-0 (their narrowest road win was by one more point than their widest home win!), and they could be looking ahead to next week's uber-payback game in New Orleans.
NEW ORLEANS 34, Philadelphia 21 (+3 1/2)—A tale of two points of no return: A loss here likely sends the Saints past theirs, as only one team in NFL history has ever overcome a 2-6 start to make the playoffs—the Bengals, all the way back in 1970—while both Andy Reid and Michael Vick probably passed theirs with Reid's first-ever post-bye loss last week. The key date in Vick's case is February 6. Either he gets a $16 million bonus by that date, or he's an ex-Eagle—something Reid figures to become about a month before then.
BEST BETS: WASHINGTON, BALTIMORE, GREEN BAY