Last week, I went 5-10-1, and more or less deserved it. I got some bad luck with the Bears losing by 14 on a 13.5-point spread due to some miscues, the Chiefs losing in overtime and maybe the Cardinals should have covered against Cincy. But backing the Texans as a significant road favorite and the Chargers on the road coming off big wins was just plain stupid. I also took the Jets, but at least that pick was genuine, if misguided. Thankfully I was wrong about it.
This week I actually feel pretty good despite the tricky task of discerning which teams are trying, and which are mailing it in. I particularly like the Lions, Colts, Patriots, Bucs and Cardinals. I struggled most on NY-DAL, MIN-CHI, OAK-SD and KC-DEN.
Redskins +9.5 at Eagles
The Eagles have played better of late, but this strikes me as too many points in a meaningless game between division rivals. Expect Washington to keep it close. Back the Redskins.
Eagles 27 - 23
Jets +2 at Dolphins
The Jets might show up for this game, but I'd expect the Dolphins defense to give them problems, and Miami should be able to run the ball at the very least. Back the Dolphins at home.
Dolphins 20 - 16
Panthers +8.5 at Saints
The Saints are still playing for a possible bye - though they might know by halftime whether the Niners-Rams game is out of reach. If it isn't, I'd expect Sean Payton to go all out here. The Panthers have played much better of late, but New Orleans is very tough at home. Back the Saints who roll.
Saints 34 - 20
Lions -3.5 at Packers
The Lions need this game to face off against the Giants-Cowboys winner and avoid the Saints, so I expect them to go all out. The Packers are likely to mail this one in, and this isn't a huge line. Back Detroit.
Lions 27 - 16
49ers -11 at Rams
The Niners will go all out to win, as it means a first-round bye, but this is a lot of points to lay on the road, even against a league doormat. Back the Rams who keep it close enough against a division rival before closing out an absymal season. Back St. Louis.
49ers 17 - 7
Colts +3.5 at Jaguars
The Colts are a different team with Dan Orlovsky, and they seemed awfully determined to win last week at home against the Texans. Moreover, I'd be surprised if they wanted to tank to get the No. 1 overall pick (something that would put management in a tough spot regarding Peyton Manning's future), and in fact they might want to erase any notion that they had been doing that. The Jaguars aren't that bad at home, but the Colts have a big advantage at quarterback in what should be a 50/50 game. Back Indy.
Colts 20 - 19
Bills +11.5 at Patriots
I could see this one going either way as the Bills have played better the last couple games, but Buffalo's been poor on the road, and the Patriots need this game to secure home field throughout the AFC playoffs. Back the Pats.
Patriots 33 - 17
Titans -3 at Texans
Usually, I'll take the team with something to play for over the team whose playoff seed is locked, but Houston lost its last two games to weaker teams, and I'd expect them to want to get back on track. Moreover, Andre Johnson's back, and even if they rest Arian Foster, Ben Tate could still have a big day behind that line. Back the Texans.
Texans 20 - 17
Bears pick 'em at Vikings
I have no idea about this game, given that nothing's at stake, and both teams are missing so many key players. I was going to back the Bears because they're probably still the better team, but the Vikings are at home and not laying any points. In a coin toss, I'll stick with Chicago. Back the Bears.
Bears 24 - 23
Steelers -7 at Browns
Ben Roethlisberger is slated to play only half the game, though if the Ravens-Bengals game is in doubt or the Bengals are winning, I would be shocked if the Steelers pulled him. Still, given that the Ravens could roll, and that the game is in Cleveland, I'll take the home dog. Back the Browns.
Steelers 16 - 10
Ravens -1.5 at Bengals
Both teams need this game as the Bengals win and they're in, while a Ravens win gets them a division win and a first-round bye. I want to take Cincy as I'll be rooting for them, and the Ravens have struggled on the road, but I think Baltimore will win the game. I'll split the difference, take the Bengals, but call it Ravens by one. Back Cincy.
Ravens 20 - 19
Buccaneers +12 at Falcons
If the Lions beat the Packers (something they're favored to do), the Falcons are locked into the sixth seed and have nothing to play for. If the Lions lose, then Atlanta can pass them and avoid a road game with the Saints in the Wild Card round. So there's a 40 percent chance or so that the Falcons go all out and a 60 percent chance they play it however Mike Smith decides, something we can't entirely know. In the former case, I'd lay the points, but it's not like this line would be all that much bigger. In the latter, you pretty much have to take 12. Given that the latter is more likely than the former, I'll take Tampa. Back the Bucs.
Falcons 27 - 20
Chiefs +3.5 at Broncos
I'm not one to throw Tim Tebow under the bus after one bad game - I still think he has a future in the NFL. But the Broncos defense has been poor of late, and Kyle Orton has something to prove. Back Kansas City who keeps it close enough.
Broncos 20 - 17
Chargers +3 at Raiders
I've gone back and forth on this one. Initially, I liked the Raiders, then I pictured Ryan Mathews running roughshod over their weak defense, but then I discovered that Mathews is battling a calf injury. Not that Mathews should move the needle that much. I suppose I'll take the Raiders at home who have handled the Chargers of late.
Raiders 24 - 20
Seahawks +2.5 at Cardinals
The Seahawks are probably the better team, but these teams typically play a lot better at home, and I think the value is on Arizona with Seattle getting less than three. Back the Cardinals.
Cardinals 23 - 20
Cowboys +2.5 at Giants
Last week, I took the Jets despite the conflict in rooting interest because I really thought they would win. The problem was I had watched the Giants-Redskins game, and it was hard for me to take the Giants seriously afterwards. This week, the smart money is probably on Dallas as a buy-low, but if the Giants get after Tony Romo the way they got after Mark Sanchez, they'll win easily. Back the Giants.
Giants 27 - 24
We were 5-10-1 last week to put us at 115-119-6 on the season. From 1999-2010 we've gone 1565-1387 (53%, not including ties).