It's an odd week when nine of the 14 lines are between 2.5 and 3.5. Seven of the favorites are at home, too - so you're dealing with roughly equal teams and simply deciding between the venue and the points. In cases like this, I'll usually go against the current trend, i.e., pick the team that's looked worse of late because that's where you'll usually extract a little value. Sometimes both teams are playing well, e.g., the Eagles-Titans, and you don't have much more than a hunch. The teams I like best are the Browns, Bears, Bills and Packers. Kind of like the Cardinals and Panthers, too.
Browns +13 at Saints
The Saints finally flexed their muscles last week and looked like the defending Super Bowl champs, but looking at their body of work over the first six weeks, this line seems excessive. Back the Browns who keep it close enough behind their rookie QB who acquitted himself shockingly well in Pittsburgh.
Saints 24 - 14
Jaguars +7* at Chiefs
We have no idea who's playing quarterback for the Jaguars, though once you get past David Garrard it hardly matters much, and even Garrard is no Shaun Hill. This is a made-up line given the uncertainty, and I still view it as a coin flip. Back the Jaguars as a "going-ugly" play.
Chiefs 19 - 13
* made-up line
Eagles +3 at Titans
These are two equal teams playing well, and line simply accounts for the venue. DeSean Jackson's injury hurts the Eagles a bit, but overall I trust Kevin Kolb a bit more than Vince Young. I really could go either way here, but I'll back Philly.
Eagles 21 - 20
Bengals +3.5 at Falcons
I don't know what to make of either team. The Falcons play better at home, but the Bengals are coming off a bye and desperate, given the strength of their division. I have a hunch that Cincy keeps it close enough. Back the Bengals.
Falcons 24 - 21
Redskins +3 at Bears
The Bears just blew a home game to the Seahawks while the Redskins took the Colts down to the wire after beating the Packers the week before. Still, I think I have to go with Chicago to right the ship at home, though God knows how they're going to block Brian Orakpo. Back the Bears.
Bears 21 - 17
Steelers -3 at Dolphins
As tough as the Steelers are, this is the type of game that good teams lose - on the road against a gritty semi-contender. Back the Dolphins who pull this one out.
Dolphins 23 - 21
Rams +2.5 at Buccaneers
The Rams were impressive at home last week, getting pressure on Philip Rivers all day, and moving the ball with some consistency. The Bucs meanwhile got blown out at home by the Saints. That's why the Bucs have to be the value this week - buy them low and sell St. Louis high. Moreover, the Rams have played far worse on the road so far this season. Back the Bucs.
Buccaneers 27 - 19
Bills +13.5 at Ravens
Normally I take the dog when there's a double-digit spread, but the Ravens seem to beat up on the dregs of the league pretty reliably. So I was going to go Baltimore, but then got a Bills hunch. Maybe it's the extra week to prepare, or that Buffalo's pretty good against the pass, or it might be that Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't that bad, or that both teams slug this one out on the ground. In any event, back the Bills.
Ravens 20 - 10
49ers -3 at Panthers
With Matt Moore back at quarterback, and Steve Smith possibly playing, Carolina's bad, but not the utter doormat they've been the past couple weeks. The 49ers are still desperate to get back into the race in the NFC West and could pull away, but I have to take the home dog. Back Carolina.
49ers 20 - 19
Cardinals +5.5 at Seahawks
I think it's time to sell Seattle high off the win in Chicago. The Cardinals haven't looked good, but they've had a bye week to prepare, and I think they'll show up. Back Arizona.
Seahawks 24 - 20
Raiders +8.5 at Broncos
I like Kyle Orton and think the Broncos are a decent team, while Jason Campbell is terrible and gives the Raiders no chance to contend even in the AFC West. (Kyle Boller is obviously no better). The Raiders show inexplicable grit at times, and they actually won outright as 14-point dogs in Denver last year, but I'm taking the Broncos.
Broncos 27 - 17
Patriots +3 at Chargers
It's hard not to despise the Chargers - they're a team with one of the best quarterbacks in the league that's played St. Louis, Oakland, Arizona, Jacksonville, Kansas City and Seattle and gone 2-4. And yet they're three-point favorites against 4-1 New England? Still, I have to go ugly and back them. It's the right way to play it, though like the Cowboys they'll probably let me down anyway.
Chargers 24 - 20
Vikings +3 at Packers
The Packers are reeling from injuries and have lost three of their last four games, but I think they'll bounce back here at home in a big nationally-televised game. Back Green Bay.
Packers 27 - 23
Giants +3 at Cowboys
Everything I've written about the Chargers applies to the Cowboys, too. Just a undisciplined, gutless team that makes the worst mistakes at the worst times. But I have to lay the points even against the Giants because that's how the NFL works. Back Dallas.
Cowboys 23 - 17
We were 5-8-1 last week to go 44-42-4 on the season. We were 131-122 last year against the spread. From 1999-2009 we've gone 1439-1262 (53.3%, not including ties)