Last week: 8-5. Season totals: 58-43-3, Pct. .572. Best Bets: 8-13, Pct. .381.
Home team in capital letters; point spreads (opening line) in parentheses after underdog team; selections with point spreads in bold.
MINNESOTA 27, Tampa Bay 23 (+6 1/2)—Josh Freeman is 10-2 lifetime against the spread on artificial turf, and the Bucs have beaten the Vikings five times in a row, so expecting Tampa Bay to at least keep this one close is hardly too much to ask.
N.Y. JETS 24, Miami 17 (+3)—The Jets won at Miami in Week 3—and dating back to 1997, teams winning the first meeting over a division rival on the road have won the rematch at home nearly 67 per cent of the time (231-116), when all other home teams over the same span have won at less than a 58 per cent clip (2231-1633-4). And Mark Sanchez has seemed to respond to the pressure the presence of Tim Tebow has put on his starting job.
DALLAS 30, N.Y. Giants 27 (+1)—Same situation as above also pertains here, as Dallas beat the Giants on the road in Week 1, handing the defending Super Bowl champion its first-ever straight-up defeat in a prime-time season opener. Both the Giant running game and defense have lacked consistency all season.
New England 28, St. Louis 14 (+7)—Neither team in capital letters here because this one's in London—and that means it's also outdoors and on grass where the Rams have played poorly ever since they moved their home field into a dome midway through the 1995 season (and recently too, with just two covers in their last nine outdoors)—and the "pitch" at Wembley is usually soggy as well. Meanwhile, New England has been to Old England before—and put on a jolly good show with a 35-7 pasting of Tampa Bay in 2009.
PHILADELPHIA 31, Atlanta 20 (+1)—Don't even think of going against Fat Boy off the bye (13-0 straight up in the regular season, plus 3-0 in the playoffs)—and the Falcons, who also had a bye last week, turned in three decidedly unimpressive efforts heading into it and have not won in Philadelphia since 1988 (0-6 and outscored 167-74). Not only that, but four years ago both teams were coming off a bye and met at Philly in Week 8, and the Eagles won 27-14. You can't make this stuff up!
PITTSBURGH 35, Washington 13 (+3 1/2)—And you can't make up how lopsidedly dominant the Steelers have been over NFC teams at home for a long time either: 16-1 straight up and 12-4-1 against the spread, outscoring them 422-203, since 2004. And don't worry about the nagging injuries that may sideline both Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman; the Steelers probably didn't plan on running the ball a whole lot anyway facing the entire NFL's worst pass defense.
San Diego 21, CLEVELAND 7 (+3)—The Chargers have a current four-game win streak over Cleveland, even if they did cover in only two of them, and the Browns could face an interesting dilemma in next April's draft if Matt Barkley and/or Geno Smith are still on the board when their turn, which figures to be very early, comes up.
DETROIT 24, Seattle 13 (+3)—Thanks to that "meaningless" touchdown the Lions scored with less than a minute remaining Monday night, instead of hearing how teams are 8-23 straight up since 2007 in their next game after getting shut out, you can contemplate Seattle's 5-14-2 spread record indoors dating back to Super Bowl XL (including 0-2 this year) and how Matt Flynn will be one step closer to making his Seahawks debut at quarterback after yet another lackluster showing by the pint-sized Russell Wilson.
TENNESSEE 37, Indianapolis 16 (+3 1/2)—Remember that the 3-3 Colts are 3-1 at home and 0-2 on the road—and have lost 11 consecutive games on the road without Peyton Manning (covering in only three) and have not won on natural grass senza P-Man since December 15, 1996 (0-8 straight up and 2-5-1 against the spread). Chris Johnson finally woke up last week and figures to stay awake against a banged-up Indianapolis defense that isn't very good even when fully healthy.
CHICAGO 20, Carolina 13 (+9)—That was a pretty convincing Jeff George impression Cam Newton made at the postgame press conference last week. But the home team in this series has taken the collar pointwise in the last four, and the Bears could be on letdown alert with the short week, and they're not looking all that scary on offense at the moment. Take the points.
GREEN BAY 34, Jacksonville 6 (+12 1/2)—Blaine Gabbert has made it as an NFL quarterback! Don't take my word for it—ask the oddsmakers, who have been reluctant to open this game at most outlets because Gabbert is questionable (and Maurice Jones-Drew is known to be out). This number will likely be a lot higher than this once it does go up all over the place, so get in early—or maybe that doesn't really matter because this thing won't even be close.
Oakland 13 (+1), KANSAS CITY 10—There's no one bending over Brady Quinn's shoulder, nobody breathing in his ear—but I don't know how to love the Chiefs against the Raiders at home when Oakland has covered nine in a row at Arrowhead, and KC will definitely be in the market for Barkley or Smith when the time comes.
DENVER 37, New Orleans 23 (+6)—Jonathan Vilma returned last week from his bounty suspension and should be in there on more or less every down here—but the whole ordeal may have stolen the New Orleans defense's soul, and Denver's 17-6 post-bye spread record is the entire league's best.
San Francisco 17, ARIZONA 13 (+6)—Where the Colts have never been the same on grass (or on the road generally) since Peyton Manning left, the 49ers have never been the same in domes since Steve Young retired, winning just one-third of their games (12-24). And dome or not (the roof is usually closed at this time of year in Glendale), laying any significant number on San Francisco's, how shall we say, primitive, offense holds no appeal whatsoever. At least the (baseball) Giants are offering the local fans a welcome relief from this tedium with their World Series run.
BEST BETS: PHILADELPHIA, PITTSBURGH, TENNESSEE
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