Last week: 2-13-1. Season totals: 104-99-5, Pct. .512. Best Bets: 18-23-1, Pct. .440.
Home team in capital letters; point spreads (opening line) in parentheses after underdog team; selections with point spreads in bold.
Cincinnati 27, PHILADELPHIA 14 (+3)
There have been 11 games between these two teams all told—and the Bengals have covered the spread in all 11 of them! And before we lump Nick Foles in with Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck—or even Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden, for that matter—that was the worst pass defense in the entire NFL he just lit up for 381 yards. Cincinnati's pass defense, by contrast, ranks 10th and has recorded a league-high 42 sacks, compared with Tampa Bay's 24 (of which six came last week).
N.Y. Giants 31 (+1), ATLANTA 24
Never mind the federal government—another week like last week and I'm going off the cliff! Eli Manning was more than two years yet unborn the last time the Giants lost at Atlanta, in 1978. They're 7-0 there since, and also 15-5 straight up and 16-4 against the spread in domes dating back to 2002. So there's a reason why the 11-2 Falcons are only one-point favorites at home over the 8-5 Giants, in addition to the fact that Atlanta is already safely in the playoffs as NFC South champs while the Giants are hanging on grimly in the East.
MIAMI 17, Jacksonville 13 (+7)
Neither team is playing well so you might as well take the seven points.
Washington 20, CLEVELAND 14 (P)
"Outlaw" or "offshore" lines on this game throughout the week have ranged from Washington by three to Cleveland by seven—so draw your own conclusions as to what pick 'em says about RG3's chances of playing. Incidentally, the Redskins are already mathematically assured of winning the NFC East in case of any tie with the Giants.
BALTIMORE 30 (+3), Denver 28
After blowing leads to Charlie Batch and Kirk Cousins in back-to-back weeks, what possible chance could the Ravens have against Peyton Manning, to whom they have lost eight straight times? But the home team has owned this series, with a six-game winning streak, and the Broncos haven't beaten The Modell Franchise on the road since a win at Cleveland in 1993, getting outscored 142-56 in five tries, all in Baltimore. Finally, Denver is 6-11 straight up and 5-12 against the line since 2007 as a visitor on the carpet, including 1-2 both ways this year, with The Older Manning Brother under center.
Green Bay 24, CHICAGO 14 (+1)
Jay Cutler, who is 10-14 in December (compared with 39-27 in the rest of his games), has gotten nothing short of tormented by the Packers, whose 11 consecutive division wins (7-3-1 against the spread) is the longest-active such streak in the league, throughout his career. Expect nothing different this week. The Bears really do miss Brian Urlacher—and now kicker Robbie Gould is hurt, too.
Tampa Bay 27 (+3), NEW ORLEANS 21
Drew Brees has been doing his Christmas shopping early, showering opposing secondaries with gifts in the form of the nine interceptions he has served up in his last three games. Josh Freeman is 11-2 against the spread as a starter on artificial turf.
Minnesota 23 (+3), ST. LOUIS 16
In almost all variations, the Vikings would carry the tiebreaker over the Bears for a potential NFC wild-card berth, and Minnesota simply has more firepower than the Rams at this juncture.
HOUSTON 31, Indianapolis 13 (+9 1/2)
Didn't the Texans beat the Ravens by 30 the week after their other prime-time egg-laying? And with the Colts' three road losses having been by 20, 26 and 35, unless you honestly believe that they can win this game outright, it makes little sense to take the points.
Seattle 27, BUFFALO 20 (+4)
This one's in Toronto, so barring a record-breaking heat wave, the retractable roof will be closed—and neither team has been particularly adept indoors (Buffalo is 7-14 against the spread since 1999, Seattle 5-15-2 since Super Bowl XL). But their overtime win in frigid Chicago two weeks ago could prove to be the defining moment for the Seahawks, who could actually win the NFC West should they win out, and their final two are both at home, where they have been untouchable all season.
ARIZONA 17 (+6), Detroit 16
What do the eight teams the Cardinals have lost to during their current nine-game losing streak (having done so twice to St. Louis) have in common? All of them have better records than the Lions, who have not won in the desert since 1993 (five straight losses, both ways) and who own the NFL's worst December record over the past dozen years, at 13-36. Furthermore, the home team in this series has covered an imposing nine in a row.
Carolina 31 (+3), SAN DIEGO 27
This one's just the opposite: Home team has taken an 0-for-4 lifetime collar versus the number, and NFC underdogs in inter-conference games have covered four of five since Thanksgiving.
Pittsburgh 20 (+1), DALLAS 17
Look at what happened to the Chiefs in the second game after their tragedy, and Big Ben may have "needed a game," just like a horse that's been away for a while is often said to have "needed a race." I would feel better about the Steelers in this spot had Mike Tomlin not churlishly suspended Rashard Mendenhall.
Kansas City 14 (+1), OAKLAND 10
The three worst teams in the NFL all reside in the AFC (these two, and Jacksonville). One simply can't ignore the home team's 1-18 spread record in this once-storied rivalry since 2003, or KC's 8-1 mark both ways in Spice One's adopted hometown over the same span. And are the Raiders good enough to beat anybody twice, having won at Arrowhead in Week 8?
NEW ENGLAND 34, San Francisco 17 (+4)
If the 49ers lose here, and next week in Seattle, they in all likelihood blow the NFC West—and they have had their problems in cold weather: 4-15 straight up and 5-12-2 against the line going back to 1998. And with this one under the lights, this would appear to be hopeless.
N.Y. Jets 16 (+1), TENNESSEE 13
Winning doesn't get any uglier than the way the Jets have done it the last two weeks—but the schedule doesn't really get any tougher here, or in their last two (San Diego at home, at Buffalo), and they are 5-1 in their last six against Tennessee, and have covered in all six.
BEST BETS: CINCINNATI, GREEN BAY, NEW ENGLAND
Odds courtesy of ScoresAndOdds.com