Last week: 6-10. Season totals: 116-102-5, Pct. .531. Best Bets: 27-17-1, Pct. .611.
Home team in capital letters; point spreads (opening line) in parentheses after underdog team; selections with point spreads in bold.
INDIANAPOLIS 17 (+6 1/2), Houston 13—It could be 1986 all over again for the Colts, who also started 0-13 that year, only to win out and blow the top draft pick. The Texans have never won in Indy (0-9 lifetime), and T.J. Yates' bubble burst last week in a big way.
N.Y. JETS 27, N.Y. Giants 20 (+3)—True, the Giants have beaten the Jets four straight, but it's tough to go against the Jets at home (and this is, in fact, a home game for the Jets), and the Giants' close loss to the Packers three weeks ago doesn't seem all that impressive all of a sudden.
NEW ENGLAND 24, Miami 10 (+10 1/2)—With wins here and over burned-out Buffalo next week, also at home, the Pats can wrap up home field throughout the AFC playoffs. But then what?
Denver 19, BUFFALO 13 (+3)—Reggie Bush rushed for 203 yards against the Bills last week. Now think of what Willis McGahee and/or Tim Tebow will do. Hopefully the Broncos won't win by only a field goal and push.
PITTSBURGH 21, St. Louis 0 (+16)—Big Ben showed tremendous heart on Monday night, something the Rams, or at least their organization anyway, apparently lack, judging by their decision to shut Sam Bradford down for the season and meretriciously hope the Colts somehow win both of their remaining games. The Rams are also 4-9 against the line in their last 13 in cold weather.
WASHINGTON 27, Minnesota 13 (+6)—I suppose the Redskins could have a letdown after punishing Giant free safety Antrel Rolle for his trash talk last week, and/or might be looking ahead to another NFC East road game next week when they end the year at Philadelphia. But like the Rams, the Vikings appear to have gone into mail-it-in mode and they're 5-20 straight up in their last 25 "Triple Witching Hour" games (outdoors, on grass, and in cold weather, all in the same game, for an indoor team).
CAROLINA 31, Tampa Bay 14 (+7)—A year ago the Panthers finished last in the NFC South by eight games. They can clinch third place in the division with a win here.
CINCINNATI 17, Arizona 10 (+4 1/2)—Cincinnati's playoff hopes are a lot more realistic than those of an Arizona team that is 3-14 straight up and 5-12 against the line in this century/millennium as a visitor in cold weather.
BALTIMORE 27, Cleveland 6 (+13 1/2)—The Ravens got away with one last week as they held onto their advantage in the AFC North when Pittsburgh also lost. They won't let that edge slip away again taking on a team they've beaten seven consecutive times and covered therein all but once.
Jacksonville 17 (+9 1/2), TENNESSEE 16—Do you think for one minute that the Jaguars want to go down as the team that lost to the team that lost to the Colts?
Oakland 34 (+1), KANSAS CITY 21—At least the Raiders showed signs of life last week and Oakland has covered eight in a row at Arrowhead.
San Diego 28 (+1 1/2), DETROIT 14—For the Lions' sake, they better back into the playoffs. No way do they beat Philip Rivers in December, or a Chargers team that has defeated them six straight times and is 22-8-1 against the spread in domes dating all the way back to 1992.
SEATTLE 16 (+1 1/2), San Francisco 13—But that was such a dominating performance by the 49ers in Monday night's "Blackout Bowl," right? Well think again: They were out-gained by 102 yards, and allowed 330 yards passing to a quarterback who had what for all intents and purposes was a broken ankle. The home team has won and covered the last five times these teams have squared off, and should make it six in this one.
Philadelphia 26 (+3), DALLAS 24—The first of two "chain reaction games" this week, as a win by the Giants earlier in the day would eliminate the Eagles from the NFC East race. But since we're picking the Giants to lose, we'll go with the Eagles, who are 5-0 straight up and 4-0-1 against the spread on the road within the division in 2010-11.
GREEN BAY 6, Chicago 3 (+13)—The other chain-reaction game, in that a San Francisco loss on Saturday, which we're picking, transforms this into a "Siesta Bowl" for the Packers, who would in that case have the top NFC playoff seed clinched, turning this Christmas game into an affair I doubt even Scrooge and The Grinch would find appealing.
NEW ORLEANS 27, Atlanta 23 (+6 1/2)—Last year the Falcons, allegedly unbeatable at home, hosted the Saints in the final Monday nighter and lost. This time around the roles are reversed, and while the outcome straight up may not be, Atlanta is at least worth a shot to cover.
BEST BETS: BALTIMORE, OAKLAND, SAN DIEGO
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