INDIANAPOLIS (-8) over Houston: The Colts made an impressive statement last week in beating the Steelers on the road. They're not dead yet. Indy put up 24 points on the league's best defense, including a game-winning touchdown pass from Peyton Manning with three minutes remaining. Houston allows a whopping 28 points per game, and the Colts' offense is starting to kick into another gear. Joseph Addai is a big part of that offense, but since his return from injury against New England two weeks ago, he has not produced. Expect that to change against a weak Houston run defense. The Colts should cover this number in their quest to remain a playoff contender.
JACKSONVILLE (+3) over Tennessee: When you have a defense that allows just 13 points per game, you can afford to be nothing special offensively. Meet the Titans, who do have a solid running game behind Chris Johnson and LenDale White, but high-level quarterback play is another story. Kerry Collins (above) has thrown for more than 200 yards and two touchdowns only once this season, and that was last weekend against the Bears. With just three interceptions, Collins has played within himself and seems to have a decent matchup against a so-so Jaguars defense. But I don't see the Titans emerging from a two-game road trip against Chicago and Jacksonville unbeaten. The Jags are proud enough and physical enough to hand Tennessee its first loss.
Philadelphia (-9) over CINCINNATI: Nine is a lot of points to lay on the road, but the risk is minimized when the Bengals are involved. Cincy is poor offensively (13.9 points per game, second-worst in the league at rushing and throwing the ball) and defensively (the Bengals allow over 26 points per game) and faces an Eagles group that will be hungry for a win to keep pace in the brutal NFC East. Philly back Brian Westbrook was held in check last weekend in a loss to the Giants, but Westbrook should be able to maneuver in this contest. The Bengals are riding a one-game winning streak after their win over the Jaguars two weeks ago (Cincy is coming off a bye), but Philly will control the ball and wear down the Bengals' defense.
TAMPA BAY (-4) over Minnesota: Minnesota is fighting for its life in the NFC North along with Chicago and Green Bay, but the Vikings are a risky bet because quarterback Gus Frerotte is so turnover prone lately (eight interceptions in his last three games). The Vikings do have Adrian Peterson, so they can score from anywhere at any time, but Tampa Bay's defense is stout enough to limit Peterson's effectiveness. The Bucs have been dominant at home this season, going 4-0 and winning those four games by an average margin of 14.5 points.
Dallas (-1 ) over WASHINGTON: Tony Romo is likely to play for Dallas, and Clinton Portis is banged up and may not be able to play for Washington. That's enough to make me lay the points on the road with the Cowboys, who have not been able to move the ball in Romo's absence. Washington has been getting it done with defense and controls the ball on the ground with Portis, who has 995 yards rushing (second in the league to Peterson). Quarterback Jason Campbell has thrown only two picks, and Dallas has picked off only three passes this season, but Washington makes infrequent attempts to strike downfield. If Portis can't play, then Shaun Alexander, who has barely seen action in the last year, will get the start for Washington. That matchup favors Dallas.
Denver (+5) over ATLANTA: At first glance, Atlanta wins the matchup on paper. Denver's defense is closing in on allowing 400 yards per game, and the Falcons feast on teams when they can run the ball effectively. But Atlanta's defense, while not allowing many points, does allow a large number of yards per game, and that's trouble against a Denver group that throws and throws and throws some more. Denver is a good bet when you can take points, because the Broncos are never out of games and can score quickly.
The rest: If Brett Favre doesn't play as if the game is all about him, then the Jets (+3) should be able to limit NEW ENGLAND's ground attack and force Matt Cassel to make plays ... MIAMI (-10) is laying a lot of points, even against Oakland, but the Dolphins should have an easier time covering this number than it did with last week's big number against Seattle ... Baltimore (+6) catches the GIANTS at the right time, after a rough win over Philadelphia ... In a divisional battle of two evenly matched squads, I'll take Chicago (+5) and the points over GREEN BAY ... New Orleans is in a free-fall and has a lousy defense, too. If KANSAS CITY (+5) hasn't given up after losing three straight games by a total of eight points, it could pick up its second win ... CAROLINA (-14) is the play because I cannot envision putting money down on Detroit under any circumstances ... St. Louis (+3) is not as bad as it looked against the Jets, but SAN FRANCISCO may be coming apart at the seams ... SEATTLE allows an average of 252 passing yards per game; how does it expect to stop Kurt Warner and Arizona (-3)? ... PITTSBURGH (-4) is coming off a tough loss to Indy, but the Steelers are balanced and will rebound against San Diego ... Both BUFFALO and Cleveland (+4) need to get their acts together, but the Browns are talented enough to keep this close.
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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