Last week: 5-8. Season totals: 43-32-2, Pct. .571. Best Bets: 8-7, Pct. .533.
Home team in capital letters; point spreads (opening line) in parentheses after underdog team; selections with point spreads in bold.
N.Y. GIANTS 27, Buffalo 20 (+3) — Wonder who New York governor Andrew Cuomo will be rooting for here? When his father held the same office he was an outspoken Bills fan, on the grounds that the Bills are New York State's only team! Well, that team is 4-1 despite allowing 42.4 more yards per game (421.8) than it gains (379.4). On any given day a team can win because of its opponent's blunders or oversights, but that's not a principle on which to depend, week in and week out. Until Buffalo demonstrates greater efficiency from scrimmage, count me among the skeptics.
WASHINGTON 28, Philadelphia 17 (+1) — What good are the Eagles anymore? They can't even cover the spread on artificial turf, and their four losses have come to teams they had beaten a combined 17-consecutive times prior. They're 3-7 straight up the week before a bye since 2001; their outright record in the rest of their games over that span is 109-64-1.
PITTSBURGH 30, Jacksonville 14 (+13) — Not thrilled about laying this much wood, but the Jags have yet to cover this year and I bet they wish they hadn't cut David Garrard.
ATLANTA 34, Carolina 20 (+5 1/2) — And the predicted margin reflects what this line should be: 14 points, at least. Plus, Carolina owns the NFL's longest-active road losing streak at 10 games, with a 3-6-1 spread record therein that includes 1-4 on artificial turf. I went in for my annual checkup on Tuesday, and I asked my doctor for something that would help me get out of the slump my picks have been mired in the past three weeks. My doctor said, "Atlanta."
CINCINNATI 21, Indianapolis 17 (+7) — The Bengals have dropped seven straight to the Colts, but Peyton Manning was Indy's starting quarterback in all seven. Yet this number is a bit on the high side and Cincinnati probably isn't good enough to be trusted to blow anybody away at this stage.
DETROIT 24, San Francisco 20 (+6) — Alex Smith seems to be on the same page as Jim Harbaugh in ways he wasn't with any of Harbaugh's predecessors, and with the 49ers having won seven in a row and 12 of their last 13 over the Lions, picking San Fran to at least keep this one close isn't asking a lot.
GREEN BAY 41, St. Louis 17 (+14) — How lame is it that the Rams' 7-9 season of a year ago has been exposed as a fluke? And since moving their home field into a dome midway through the 1995 season, St. Louis is 33-60-3 against the spread outdoors.
BALTIMORE 35, Houston 13 (+6) — The week's best bet. The Texans have taken an 0-for-4 lifetime collar vs. the Ravens straight up (1-3 versus the points), and Houston is 2-7-1 against the spread in "fatigue games," which arise when a team did not have a bye the previous week but their opponents did.
OAKLAND 17, Cleveland 14 (+7) — The Raiders are vulnerable to a letdown following their win in Houston after Al Davis' death and the Browns have covered in the last five in this series.
NEW ENGLAND 31, Dallas 27 (+7) — The Patriots cooled off considerably last week and Dallas is 16-6 straight up and 15-6-1 against the spread after a bye week, those respective numbers being tied for the best in the league with Denver and second to Denver. Meanwhile, New England is 5-11 against the spread in fatigue games. Take the points.
New Orleans 27, TAMPA BAY 14 (+5) — Even if Josh Freeman's spread record as a starter at home wasn't what it is—5-9-1—it's pretty hard to get excited about a team coming off a 48-3 rout, and the home team here has lost five in a row, both ways. Also, LeGarrette Blount (knee) likely isn't going to play.
CHICAGO 34, Minnesota 17 (+3) — While the Bears didn't figure to get anywhere near the NFC championship game again this year, they still deserve to be favored by a lot more than a field goal over the Vikings at home. If Chicago's offensive line doesn't get whistled for traveling nine times again this week, this game won't even be competitive.
N.Y. JETS 24, Miami 0 (+9) - Why the Dolphins signed Sage Rosenfels to replace the injured Chad Henne when they could have had David Garrard instead is obvious: Their front office has one cold eye on Andrew Luck. Look for a draft lottery proposal to be on the agenda at next spring's owners' meeting.
BEST BETS: ATLANTA, BALTIMORE, CHICAGO