Last week: 6-10. Season totals: 102-84-5, Pct. .547. Best Bets: 23-15-1, Pct. .603.
Home team in capital letters; point spreads (opening line) in parentheses after underdog team; selections with point spreads in bold.
PITTSBURGH 34, Cleveland 7 (+14): Were it possible to cite any one team as killing me this year it would be the Browns, who for their part nearly always get killed in Pittsburgh, as in seven consecutive losses in which they have covered the spread but once.
N.Y. JETS 14, Kansas City 3 (+9): Kyle Orton may have given new meaning to the term "one and done" in his return to his old stomping grounds last week, and if he can't make it back here the Jets should have a fairly easy, if not necessarily pretty, time of it.
New England 34, WASHINGTON 31 (+9): You really have to wonder about the Patriots after that majority-decision win over a team they should have knocked out in the first round so to speak—and they have yet to win or cover in the nation's capital, albeit in only two prior visits. Take the points.
CAROLINA 30 (+2 1/2), Atlanta 24: If one ignores their teams' respective records, Cam Newton is making a persuasive case for being chosen Rookie of the Year over Andy Dalton, and the Falcons didn't show a whole lot of guts facing a far less heralded quarterback than either last week. Definite upset territory.
JACKSONVILLE 17 (+1), Tampa Bay 13: Both of the games to be played in Florida this week have the same theme: What's the use in sending a banged-up quarterback out there when you're obviously out of playoff contention? Does the name Bert Jones mean anything to Raheem Morris? Jags covered in all four previous meetings, winning three of them outright (the last three).
MIAMI 31, Philadelphia 17 (+3): And does the name Bert Jones mean anything to Andy Reid either? (Jones separated his shoulder in the last preseason game of 1978, after which then-Baltimore Colts head coach Ted Marchibroda kept bringing him back prematurely during what turned out to be a 5-11 season, effectively wrecking Jones' career). Michael Vick has no business being out there—and if Tarvaris Jackson could lead the Seahawks to 31 points against Juan Castillo's defense, then why can't Matt Moore do the same? The Eagles are 1-5 straight up lifetime in Miami, by the way.
CINCINNATI 16, Houston 6 (+3): T.J. Yates may have been adequate at home, but it is almost always a vastly different story when quarterbacks of this sort have to take it on the road. And not only is this one on the road, but it's on artificial turf, where the Texans have dropped 22 of 25 straight up since 2004, and in cold weather, where they've lost eight of 11 outright since 2005, including the 0-for-3 collar Houston took in such games last year.
Minnesota 28 (+8), DETROIT 27: The Lions have gone from the NFL's feel-good story to its feel-bad story, and could be poised to repeat their epic collapse of 2007, when they finished 7-9 after a 6-2 start. Also, it's been a while since Detroit has beaten Minnesota three times in a row, having done so most recently when sweeping the Vikings in 1991 and winning the first meeting the following year.
BALTIMORE 26, Indianapolis 7 (+15): No way does Dan Orlovsky, who is still a maiden as an NFL starter (0-8), throw for 353 yards against the Ravens defense, even if Ray Lewis doesn't play.
TENNESSEE 23 (+3 1/2), New Orleans 20: So Mike Ditka says that the Saints are going to carve up any defense. Well, the carving knife they carry with them whenever they venture outdoors must be very dull: New Orleans is 3-7 against the spread outdoors in this decade, and it's been nearly three decades since they last beat the Bud Adamses on the road (1984), and the Saints have also lost four straight to them regardless of where played. Another upset.
DENVER 17, Chicago 13 (+3 1/2): Tim Tebow over Caleb Hanie all day, especially at home—but by enough to give those who bet that way no anxious moments, even more so laying the always tricky number of three-and-a-half?
San Francisco 27, ARIZONA 14 (+3 1/2): Apparently, they think that just because the 49ers have clinched the NFC West that they are going to go into "Siesta Bowl" mode. They still need three wins in their last four games to secure an all-important first-round bye. The 49ers boast twin six-game covering streaks over the Cardinals—in the last six games overall, and in their last six at Arizona (their 2005 road loss to the Cards having been at Mexico City).
GREEN BAY 34, Oakland 10 (+11): Was it really necessary to transfer this game to the late time slot, especially given the fact that the San Francisco game is also there? The move figures to shave several degrees from the kickoff-time temperature and raises questions of whether Green Bay has supplanted Dallas as "America's Team," or perhaps "The League's Team," as Bud Grant once characterized the Dolphins. Packers are 5-0 outright and 4-1 pointwise in their last five against Oakland after the first five regular-season games in the series went exactly the opposite way (!), and can't see a new trend starting, given how the Raiders threw in that uber-stinker—or should I say unter-stinker?—last week at The Pigeon-Toed Orange Bowl.
SAN DIEGO 31, Buffalo 13 (+6 1/2): The wheels have come off completely for the Bills, who have not won in San Diego since 1981. Philip Rivers is 16-8 against the spread in regular-season games he has both started and finished from December 1 onward to go with his 22-2 career mark therein straight up.
N.Y. Giants 27 (+3 1/2), DALLAS 24: I've been going back and forth on this game all week, and decided to side against Tony Romo and his 9-13 lifetime record in December when he's 37-14 in the rest of his starts, both straight up. And with the line at three and a half, if it comes down to a field goal at the end, made or missed, with or without the kicker getting frozen...
SEATTLE 28, St. Louis 0 (+6 1/2): No vacillating on this pick though. The Rams have lost their last six in Seattle, the last four by a combined 114-25, and teams getting shut out since 2007 are 8-22 straight up in their next game.
BEST BETS: SAN FRANCISCO, SAN DIEGO, SEATTLE