Last week: 8-5-1. Season totals: 88-68-4, Pct. .563. Best Bets: 15-18, Pct. .455.
Home team in capital letters; point spreads (opening line*) in parentheses after underdog team; selections with point spreads in bold.
Houston 34, DETROIT 21 (+3 1/2)
The Texans survived their scare last week, and favorites are 10-1-1 against the spread in Thanksgiving Day afternoon games over the past six years. As for the Lions, their saga this year is a perfect example of what can happen when a team neglects to fill glaring needs during an offseason (in their case, running back and the secondary), choosing instead to focus on the "best players available."
DALLAS 24, Washington 17 (+4)
It's pretty hard to go against Tony Romo at home in November when he's 14-0 straight up lifetime therein (even if he is "only" 9-5 against the spread), with an average victory margin of just under 15 points (406-197). But the Redskins have covered four in a row against Dallas, and five straight in Dallas, which does take this game out of best-bet consideration.
New England 31, N.Y. JETS 20 (+7)
It is rather interesting that every time the Tim Tebow talk gets serious, Mark Sanchez responds with a stellar game, as he did last week in leading the Jets to their first road victory over the Rams in 42 years. But it turns out that Aaron Hernandez will be returning just in time, given Rob Gronkowski's controversial injury, and the Pats may have underestimated the Jets a bit in the first meeting.
Tennessee 30, JACKSONVILLE 13 (+3)
No way Chad Henne lights it up two weeks in a row (Blaine Gabbert was placed on injured reserve Wednesday—what kind of message does that send?), and the home team is 0-10 against the spread in Jaguars games this year!
Atlanta 28, TAMPA BAY 24 (P)
Co-league-leading strength-of-schedule drop or not, the Bucs are one of the genuine stories in the NFL this year. But should they be a pick 'em at home against the once-beaten Falcons? I think not—and since there are no points involved, Atlanta's current 6-1 straight-up run against Tampa Bay becomes all the more relevant.
MIAMI 20 (+1), Seattle 14
The Seahawks have beaten only 2-8 Carolina on the road this year and have the worst record in the entire league coming off a bye both straight up (6-17) and against the spread (4-17-2). Ryan Tannehill out-duels Russell Wilson for the mild upset.
Pittsburgh 9, CLEVELAND 6 (+1)
This line is available on a very limited basis because of the injuries to the Steelers at both quarterback and wide receiver (the latter prompting them to bring Plaxico Burress back). But it is Cleveland, whom Pittsburgh has beaten an astounding 16 of the last 17—and how are the Browns going to cover if they don't win outright?
CINCINNATI 34, Oakland 10 (+7)
The coaching and front-office changes the Raiders made are really working out, I must say! Oakland hasn't covered in the City of Satan since 1991 (0-4) and is 4-14 against the line since 2002 as a visitor on the carpet. Looks like a third straight Bengals blowout.
INDIANAPOLIS 21, Buffalo 14 (+3)
One has to wonder if last week's wholesale destruction at the hands of the Patriots may shatter the confidence of a young team like the Colts, but the Bills have lost four in a row at Indy and are 7-13 against the spread indoors dating back to 1999. This line should be closer to a touchdown than a mere field goal.
CHICAGO 28, Minnesota 7 (+2 1/2)
When a domed-stadium team has to play outdoors, on natural grass and in cold weather all in the same game, it is known as a "Triple Witching Hour." Since relocating indoors in 1982, the Vikings are 11-32 outright and 15-25-3 point-wise in Triple Witching Hour games. The Bears have also won and covered the last five meetings overall, and four in a row over Minnesota at home. Assuming Jay Cutler plays, the Bears are the best bet of the week.
Denver 34, KANSAS CITY 14 (+10)
Double-digit road favorites are always somewhat tricky—but like New England (and not Atlanta or Houston?), the Broncos seem to be peaking at the right time, and we're just not seeing an honest effort out of the Chiefs. Unfortunately for Jamaal Charles, he will not have the final say in whether Romeo Crennel stays or goes.
SAN DIEGO 30 (+1), Baltimore 24
The Steelers sandwich figures to doom the Ravens here (they host Pittsburgh next week after winning there last Sunday night). The Steelers' injuries give the Chargers a real chance at snagging an AFC wild-card berth despite their 4-6 record (especially since a win at Pittsburgh in Week 14 would give them the tiebreaker advantage).
NEW ORLEANS 27 (+2 1/2), San Francisco 23
Let's see how Colin Kaepernick does in a noisy, hostile dome—and like Tony Romo, Drew Brees is also on a 14-0 run in November, regardless of where played in his case, and is 10-0-1 against the spread in the last 11, the push coming on Thanksgiving two years ago at Dallas (Romo was out with a season-ending broken collarbone as the Saints won by three, giving three). The 49ers have also dropped their last four at the Superdome.
ARIZONA 17, St. Louis 14 (+1)
Their tie at Candlestick two weeks ago left the Rams as one of two NFL teams that have yet to win on the road this year (Cleveland is the other), and the Cardinals could conceivably get Kevin Kolb back here after third-stringer Ryan Lindley just barely missed directing them to what would have been a major upset last week in Atlanta. Finally, St. Louis has not recorded back-to-back wins in the series since winning the second meeting in 2003 and then the first meeting in '04 (having won the first one this season, back in Week 5).
Green Bay 35 (+1), N.Y. GIANTS 31
This is not only a huge revenge game for the Packers, but they can go a long way toward seeing to it that they won't have to face the Giants in the playoffs again this season, as the latter's loss in Philadelphia (where Dallas won) has very real potential tiebreaker implications. Green Bay has won four straight on the road over the Giants, who are 8-15 straight up off the bye, albeit having won their last four.
Carolina 20 (+2 1/2), PHILADELPHIA 7
Anyone who would actually give points on the Eagles right now has some serious money-management issues—but the Panthers are coming off blowing an 11-point lead with four minutes left at home and have never won a regular season game in Philly, taking an 0-for-3 collar both ways. And who says that Monday night as well as Sunday night games can't be subject to the NFL's late-season flexible scheduling rules?
BEST BETS: TENNESSEE, CINCINNATI, CHICAGO
*Odds in italics courtesy of footballlocks.com; all other lines courtesy of scoresandodds.com