Last week: 7-9. Season totals: 95-77-4, Pct. .551. Best Bets: 17-19, Pct. .472.
Home team in capital letters; point spreads (opening line) in parentheses after underdog team; selections with point spreads in bold.
ATLANTA 30, New Orleans 24 (+3 1/2)—The Falcons haven't won at home by more than six all season, making the three-and-a-half-point spread potentially problematic; but the Saints did an awful lot of trash talking before, during and after their win in the first meeting, so the Falcons would like nothing better than to officially eliminate them from the NFC South title chase (Atlanta clinches the division with a win here plus a Tampa Bay loss at Denver Sunday).
N.Y. JETS 23, Arizona 6 (+3)—John Skelton clearly gives the Cardinals a better chance to win than Ryan Lindley until Kevin Kolb is ready to return, so Ken Whisenhunt is simply being childish by continuing to go with Lindley. While not for nothing, Skelton won outright as a two-touchdown underdog in a cold-weather game last year (and played his college ball right across the Hudson at Fordham), when in the rest of its such games in this millennium Arizona is 2-16 straight up and 4-14 against the spread. Jets have also won the last five in the series by a combined 59 points.
BUFFALO 17, Jacksonville 7 (+6)—Now that the home team has finally covered in a Jaguars game this year, it may cover again—especially with Jacksonville being 1-7 straight up and 2-6 against the line since 2008 as a visitor in cold weather.
New England 34, MIAMI 28 (+9)—After going 18-7 against the spread in December from 2001 through 2006, Tom Brady is just 6-10-1 since; and I don't know how he's doing it with these, to put it gently, anonymous receivers of his. However, Ryan Tannehill is having a super-impressive rookie season that is getting overlooked because of all the attention Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck have received. The Patriots are set to become only the fifth Super Bowl runner-up in the last 15 to win their division the following year (they clinch the AFC East with a victory), but take the points.
Indianapolis 23 (+3 1/2), DETROIT 14—Where do they get off making the Colts field-goal-plus underdogs to a team that's three games behind them, and has lost three in a row to them by a total of 54 points? Detroit is also 13-34 straight up in December since the Matt Millen Era began in 2001—and that's the worst December record in the entire league over that span.
Houston 31, TENNESSEE 27 (+5 1/2)—The Titans are easy to make fun of after losing to Jacksonville, but injuries at linebacker have crippled Houston's defense and the Texans could very well be looking ahead to next Monday night's game at New England which will tell us a lot about where they go from here.
CHICAGO 34, Seattle 7 (+4 1/2)—Jay Cutler is back—and the Seahawks are back on natural grass where they're 4-16 straight up and 5-13-2 against the line since 2009, and in cold weather where they're 12-39 straight up and 20-31 against the line since 1986. Right back with the Bears as a best bet.
GREEN BAY 35, Minnesota 13 (+9 1/2)—Greg Jennings finally returns this week—just in time for him to help the Packers hand the Vikings another lopsided loss in a Triple Witching Hour game.
San Francisco 24, ST. LOUIS 17 (+9)—Jim Harbaugh is playing a very dangerous game with his quarterback situation, as it threatens to destabilize the locker room—and the 49ers have covered only one of their last four in St. Louis. Another underdog covers in a very atypical December week.
KANSAS CITY 21 (+3), Carolina 16—One win over a team that has obviously quit and was missing its starting quarterback and running back, and whose top receiver left the game early with broken ribs, and the Panthers are now a force to be reckoned with? The Chiefs have been lucrative as home underdogs for a very long time—as in 51-25-1 against the spread dating all the way back to 1983!
DENVER 28, Tampa Bay 24 (+7)—Right now, Josh Freeman and the Bucs can hang with any team in the NFL—and the last four meetings in this pairing have all been decided by four points or less, and Tampa Bay is 4-0-1 against the spread in the last five. Go against the cold-weather angle in one of the six games it applies this week and take the points.
BALTIMORE 16, Pittsburgh 3 (+7 1/2)—Based on this line, you can assume Big Ben isn't going to play, and Mike Tomlin has made some moves over the last two days that can't possibly help team morale. Baltimore should have little trouble.
Cincinnati 27 (+1), SAN DIEGO 20 - More than 12,000 seats remain unsold for this game, likely resulting in a second straight blackout—and after the way the Chargers gift-wrapped last week's game against Baltimore, who can blame the fans for not wanting to go?
OAKLAND 17 (+1), Cleveland 14—It's letdown time for the Browns after beating the Steelers for only the second time in 18 games (causing eight turnovers in the process!), and Brandon Weeden is the latest concussion victim among NFL quarterbacks—and they're favored on the road when they have the NFL's longest active road losing streak at 12?
DALLAS 20, Philadelphia 3 (+9 1/2)—It's almost a bad joke to point out that Tony Romo's career December records, straight up and against the spread, are 8-13 and 5-16 respectively. But right now the Eagles are an infinitely worse joke.
N.Y. Giants 24, WASHINGTON 14 (+1)—After not having won back-to-back NFC East titles since 1989-90, the Giants could be poised to win back-to-back Super Bowls after what we saw last Sunday night. RG3 continues to get the ink, but remember that Washington's defense is missing two high-profile starters in the front seven (Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo) and the Giants are 22-8 outright and 20-9-1 pointswise on grass since 2007. Can't see the Skins classing up to the champs in this spot, on this big a stage; this is too much, too soon for a young team.
BEST BETS: N.Y. JETS, CHICAGO, GREEN BAY
Odds courtesy of ScoresAndOdds.com