With Cincinnati and Denver both winning last week, few pools suffered significant losses. Let's take a look at this week's slate:
Home Team in CAPS
* according to OfficeFootballPools.com
** average of the two moneylines
*** no Vegas line (Ben Roethlisberger's status unclear)
Looking at the chart, Dallas and Buffalo are the most popular teams, but their "percent taken" numbers are still small enough that the pot-odds angle is minor. So the main objective here is simply to pick the team with the best chance to win. There are a lot of comparable choices this week with Dallas and Green Bay being the most heavily favored, closely followed by New England, Denver and San Francisco. Obviously, it depends on what you have left, and few have the Pats or Niners, but just in case, here's how I'd rank all of them:
1. Denver Broncos - The Buccaneers have had a decent run, but they were lucky to beat Carolina, lost to Atlanta at home and now have a huge step up in class on the road in Denver. While Tampa's offense can generate success against most teams, Denver's defense is a top-five unit, and Peyton Manning should shred the Bucs weak secondary. I give the Broncos a 79 percent chance to win this game.
2. Green Bay Packers - The Packers defense looked awful in New York last week, and so did the offensive line. But a home game against the Vikings should get them back on track as Christian Ponder has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league, and Minnesota's pass defense is exploitable. I give the Packers a 76 percent chance to win this game.
3. San Francisco 49ers - The Rams tied the Niners in San Francisco, and now the teams meet in St. Louis. But the Niners have a new, more mobile quarterback, and you have to think there's no chance San Francisco will take this team lightly. I give the 49ers a 75 percent chance to win this game.
4. New England Patriots - New England tends to blow bad teams out, but a division game on the road against a non-doormat is rarely a walk in the park for anyone, and the Pats' pass defense is vulnerable. I give the Patriots a 75 percent chance to win this game.
5. Houston Texans - The Texans have been a top team all year, even if they had to get a little lucky in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. The Titans have largely been bad, their latest masterpiece being a loss in Jacksonville last week. I give Houston a 75 percent chance to win this game.
6. Dallas Cowboys - The Cowboys are the biggest favorite on the board against the Nick Foles-led Eagles, and even though I've used up the top five teams in my last remaining pool, I'm hesistant to jump on them. For starters, their home-field advantage is essentially zero, and Jason Garrett coaches scared, especially in the end game. Also, the Eagles are bad, but Foles is liable to improve with a couple starts under his belt, and the Eagles picked themselves up off the mat Monday night after Carolina got off to a fast start and probably would have won that game but for the three second-half fumbles. I give the Cowboys a 72 percent chance to win this game.
7. Buffalo Bills - I like selling high on Jacksonville off two good games, but it's hard to stake one's life on the Bills, given their mediocre quarterback and subpar defense. Still, at home against a league doormat, they're a viable choice at this stage. I give Buffalo a 70 percent chance to win this game.
8. New York Jets - You never want to rely on the Jets, but at home with 10 days since their last game and facing Ryan Lindley at quarterback behind a terrible offensive line, this is as good as it gets for them. I give New York a 70 percent chance to win this game.
9. Chicago Bears - The Bears and Seahawks are roughly equal teams, but Seattle's home/road splits are pronounced, and they're traveling for the second straight week (last week's trip to Miami was the longest possible in the NFL). I give the Bears a 69 percent chance to win this game.
Baltimore Ravens: - If I knew Ben Roethlisberger weren't playing, the Ravens would be No. 6, but not knowing that as of Wednesday night, I'm staying away. If he plays, this is a 50/50 game.