Last week: 7-9. Season totals: 102-86-4, Pct. .542. Best Bets: 17-22, Pct. .436.
Home team in capital letters; point spreads (opening line) in parentheses after underdog team; selections with point spreads in bold.
Denver 21, OAKLAND 13 (+10 1/2)—It turns out that we've seen essentially this same movie, very recently—two weeks ago, when the Broncos were double-digit road favorites over another AFC West rival (the Chiefs) and struggled just to win the game outright. Worse yet, Denver is at risk for looking ahead to next week's game in Baltimore that will have huge seeding implications in the AFC.
JACKSONVILLE 16 (+1), N.Y. Jets 13—After considerable speculation, cooler, to say nothing of more mature, heads prevailed and Mark Sanchez will start here. And break up the home team in Jaguars games when it comes to covering the spread! Jets have taken an 0-for-3 lifetime collar in Jacksonville and have been outscored 90-20 doing it.
Baltimore 20 (+1), WASHINGTON 14—The biggest things the Redskins have going for them in the NFC East race are the December histories of Tom Coughlin (35-36 in his career in the month, as opposed to 126-90 in the rest of his games) and Tony Romo (who "improved" his lifetime December record to 9-13 Sunday night). But they will have to overcome the dreaded letdown, and the short week; and Joe Flacco is 19-10 as a starter on natural grass, compared with 6-11 in road games on artificial turf.
BUFFALO 24, St. Louis 13 (+3)—Like the Redskins, the Rams also have letdown issues—and they are one point (a 34-33 win in 1998) from sporting a six-game losing streak to the Bills, and are 4-10 against the spread in their last 14 cold-weather games.
PITTSBURGH 20, San Diego 10 (+6 1/2)—Since Ben Roethlisberger's injury does not involve a concussion, there shouldn't be any last-minute snags that would keep him from returning. So that makes the dominant theme of this game San Diego's 0-14 lifetime record straight up and 1-12-1 against the spread at Pittsburgh in regular-season play, over which the Chargers have been outscored 394-200.
Atlanta 27, CAROLINA 14 (+3 1/2)—Coming off their widest margin of victory at home all season, the Falcons might actually be peaking at the right time despite their 11-1 record and already-clinched NFC South title—and perhaps not since Archie Manning has one player on one team had to go it alone to the extent that Cam Newton is now doing.
TAMPA BAY 37, Philadelphia 20 (+9)—Nick Foles is improving game to game, but the water gets much deeper for Bryce Brown, as the Bucs lead the league in run defense, where Dallas and Carolina rank 17th and 25th, respectively. And I can't see the Eagles being competitive three weeks in a row given their present circumstances.
CLEVELAND 17, Kansas City 14 (+4 1/2)—The Jovan Belcher tragedy seems to have imbued the Chiefs with a sense of purpose—and the Browns aren't good enough to blow anybody away, so take the points.
CINCINNATI 31, Dallas 10 (+2 1/2)—Dallas has never covered the spread in the City of Satan (0-4, and 1-3 straight up) and is 14-29 straight up (and 15-26-2 against the spread) since 1995 as a visitor in cold weather. Back to blowout mode for the Bengals after winning a close one in San Diego.
INDIANAPOLIS 23, Tennessee 13 (+5)—I'm tired of making excuses for the Titans—and I would ask this of those who have already penciled RG3 in as Rookie Of The Year: Isn't Andrew Luck doing more with less?
Chicago 20, MINNESOTA 16 (+1)—Brian Urlacher will be out for the time being (severely strained hamstring), but the Bears have beaten the Vikings six in a row both ways by a combined 97 points.
SAN FRANCISCO 21, Miami 14 (+10)—It's fitting how the 49ers are giving 10 points the week after Colin Kaepernick gave away 10 points, and the game, to the Rams. Miami defense that comes off holding New England to season-low 321 yards and 23 points keeps this close.
N.Y. GIANTS 38, New Orleans 17 (+5)—Cold-weather blowout number two, and this one's in the late time slot; home team has also been hyper-dominant here, going 7-1 outright and 6-1-1 pointwise in the last eight, with only two of the games decided by less than 17 points. Saints are also 6-11-1 against the spread in cold weather dating back to 1997.
SEATTLE 28, Arizona 10 (+10 1/2)—From Rex Ryan to Ken Whisenhunt, maturity seems to be breaking out all over these days, Whisenhunt's contribution coming in the form of Wednesday's announcement that the misbegotten Ryan Lindley experiment is over and that John Skelton will start at quarterback. But Whisenhunt has picked a tough spot for Skelton's comeback, in that the Seahawks are 7-1 both ways in their last eight at home and even managed a huge win on the road last week.
GREEN BAY 35, Detroit 13 (+7)—Cold-weather blowout number three—and this one's at night; and the Lions have lost an inconceivable 21 consecutive road games to Green Bay (and are 5-16 against the spread) and Detroit hasn't won as a visitor in cold weather since Dec. 17, 2000, with an 18-game losing streak that is four shy of the NFL record established by Atlanta from 1983 until 1998.
NEW ENGLAND 27, Houston 24 (+4 1/2)—This could be the week that Houston's defensive injuries will finally matter—and even the new and improved Texans have struggled on artificial turf, with a 1-5-1 spread record thereon in 2011-12. But should the Patriots really be favored by this much over a team they trail by two games and is the NFL's lone unbeaten team on the road at 6-0?
BEST BETS: CINCINNATI, N.Y. GIANTS, GREEN BAY
Odds courtesy of ScoresAndOdds.com
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