Chicago (–2) over ATLANTA: Not a good matchup for the Falcons, who are coming off a huge win at Green Bay and are a surprising 3-2 this season. But when Atlanta has lost, it has lost convincingly, to teams suited to stop the run (Tampa, Carolina). The Bears fit that mold, allowing just 74 yards per game on the ground. Chicago is capable of exploiting weak defenses — it amassed 425 total yards against Detroit last weekend — and Atlanta’s is just that, ranking near the bottom in total yards allowed. Atlanta can grind it out behind Michael Turner (above), but the feeling here is that Chicago will neutralize Turner (a combined 98 yards on 32 carries against Carolina and Tampa) and force young Matt Ryan to make big plays.
SEATTLE (–2) over Green Bay: Both teams are coming off disappointing losses — Seattle was pummeled by the Giants on the road, and Green Bay lost at home to Atlanta. Seattle can run the ball but, at this point, has not shown the ability to do anything else. Green Bay was the victim of a bad matchup against Atlanta: the Falcons have a tremendous rushing attack, and Green Bay cannot stop the run. Which is why we like Seattle to bounce back against a Packers defense that allows 161 yards per game on the ground. Julius Jones will have a big day for the Seahawks.
strong>Philadelphia (–4) over SAN FRANCISCO: New England had only one sack against 49ers quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan, but O’Sullivan was on the run for most of the day. He won’t prove so elusive against a Philly defense that has racked up 18 sacks through five games. The Eagles’ defense has big-play capability and can rattle San Francisco into a few turnovers. Perpetual underdogs, the Niners are just 1-3 against the spread when getting points, and at 2-3 overall, their average margin of defeat is 11.
Dallas (–5) over ARIZONA: A favorite in all of its games, Dallas is 0-3 against the spread at home, and 2-0 vs. the number on the road. Perhaps the expectations in Texas Stadium are too high? Against Arizona, which has a strong rushing defense, Dallas will need to set up the run with the pass, which should be fine with Tony Romo and Terrell Owens. The Cardinals, a terrific passing team behind Kurt Warner, will keep this close, but Dallas has playmakers all over the field who will allow the Cowboys to pull away in the end.
Jacksonville (+3) over DENVER: You know what you’re going to get with the Jaguars. Jacksonville is going to score around 20 points and give up around 20 points. Normally stout, the Jags’ defense is vulnerable, particularly against the pass. But the defensive unit remains physical, and even against Denver’s potent air attack, Jacksonville will play deliberately enough to keep the game close. Expect Fred Taylor to have a nice day running against this weak Bronco defense. David Garrard’s efficient style will help keep the Broncos’ offense on the sidelines. Bonus tip: the over/under is at 48. Take the OVER.
St. Louis (+13) over WASHINGTON: Washington is having a terrific season. After being outplayed by the Giants in Week 1, the Redskins have won four in a row, including the last two on the road in their division (at Dallas, at Philly). With an impressive 4-1 record, returning home to face the lowly Rams (averaging 11 points per game, allowing an average of 37 ppg), the ’Skins look as though they’ll cover the 13 with ease. But keep in mind that a point spread is not a prediction; it’s a tool for creating action. I’ll take the points here. Washington’s average margin of victory is just five points, and it is not the type of club that strikes with big plays. The Rams will keep the score within two touchdowns if they can get Stephen Jackson rolling.
The Rest: If Baltimore (+4) is getting points, I’m taking them. The Ravens won’t hand the game to INDIANAPOLIS the way Houston did … Cincinnati (+6) has hung tough while losing in its last three games, including close calls against the Giants and Cowboys. Getting six points against the JETS seems generous …Carolina (+1) is slightly better on both sides of the ball than TAMPA BAY … I’m betting NEW ORLEANS is not mature enough to bounce back from a tough loss at home on Monday night when Oakland (+7) visits…MINNESOTA (–13) is underrated and Detroit is awful…HOUSTON has lost two straight heartbreakers but does not match up well with Miami (+3), which can run over, around and through the Texans … SAN DIEGO (-6) struggled against the Dolphins but should get healthy against New England, which will have trouble slowing down the versatile Charger offense … Who knew that CLEVELAND (+8) would have a more productive defense than offense? Against the Giants on Monday night, the offense begins to catch up.
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This week's OT cover
OT beat writersMaureen Mullen brings you Red Sox information and insights.
Tom Wilcox covers the Patriots.
Scott Souza is all over the Celtics.
Danny Picard is on the ice with the Bruins.
Mike McDonald takes a look at the humorous side of Boston sports