Green Bay (-2) over JACKSONVILLE: It's become accepted that the Jaguars have folded, and the numbers help prove this premise: They've lost six of seven and are only 3-10 against the number. Hard to believe this group was a playoff team just one year ago (Jacksonville gave New England a tough postseason game in Foxborough), but things have shifted the wrong way. The Jaguars have lost their last four contests by an average of 13.5 points and are unspectacular on both sides of the ball, ranking 24th in total offense and 20th in total defense. Green Bay, also a playoff team last season, has no chance at the postseason after last Sunday's devastating home loss to Houston. The Packers stand at only 5-8, but I haven't read any reports about their "poor team chemistry," which is all you hear out of Jacksonville. A .500 record is still an attainable goal for Green Bay, and laying two points, even on the road, is the smart play here.
INDIANAPOLIS (-16) over Detroit: The Colts are in the middle of a nifty two-game homestand against league doormats Cincinnati and Detroit. A nice way to right any wrongs and solidify your playoff credentials, don't you think? Indy blasted the Bengals last weekend by 32, and Detroit, on the road, should not entertain any hopes of covering this massive number, never mind getting its first win. In fact, with the Lions 0-13 and games against the Colts, New Orleans, and Green Bay remaining, one has to wonder if that first win is ever going to come. Last Sunday at home against Minnesota was probably Detroit's best chance, but it coughed up a lead and fell by four. The Colts' offense is beginning to resemble what you'd expect from a Peyton Manning-led group, and the Lions have the league's worst defense (32 ppg). A 37-10 final makes sense here.
NY JETS (-7) over Buffalo: A few weeks ago, the Jets finished a five-game win streak by decking previously unbeaten Tennessee by 21. Then came a home loss to Denver, followed by last Sunday's 10-point defeat at San Francisco. Instead of being in the AFC East's top spot, New York is tied for first with New England and Miami. Buffalo, at 6-7, rests in that division's basement, and its playoff hopes have vanished. The Bills represent a nice matchup for the Jets; New York is weak against the pass, but the Bills' passing game is not NFL caliber. Backup J.P. Losman (above) is at the controls, and he completed just 13 passes last weekend against Miami. Sadly for the Bills, Losman was also their leading rusher. The Jets' stellar run defense can neutralize Buffalo on the ground and force it to make big plays through the air, something that is not going to happen. Assume the Jets have awakened from their two-week slumber when you lay nearly a touchdown in New Jersey.
Denver (+7) over CAROLINA: Another week, another Denver running back gets sidelined. This time it was rookie Peyton Hillis, the sixth running back to go down for Denver this season (can someone explain to me how Arkansas produced three excellent rookie runners this season -- Hillis, Darren McFadden, and Felix Jones -- and did not win a national title last year?). Denver's weak defense is augmented by its third-ranked aerial attack, which should allow the Broncos to play within the seven points against a rugged Carolina club that recently allowed 28 points to Atlanta and 31 to Green Bay.
New England (-7) over OAKLAND: New England, the official slayer of poor teams, receives another gift in the form of Oakland. If the Raiders aren't turning the ball over, they're committing personal fouls. If they're not committing personal fouls, they're throwing three-yard screens on third-and-long. The Patriots struggled against a surprisingly motivated Seattle team last weekend, but as long as they force Oakland into a few early mistakes -- not that challenging a proposition -- they should cruise.
PHILADELPHIA (-14) over Cleveland: It's too bad the Browns and the Jaguars don't meet this month; they deserve each other. Cleveland's pathetic 2008 season rolls along, and in their last three games, the Browns have averaged seven points and have scored zero touchdowns. The Eagles, with two straight wins (including last weekend's statement victory over the Giants), have rebounded and will drop the hammer in this home Monday night game.
The rest: New Orleans (+3) is desperate to remain in contention and will live another week after coming out of CHICAGO with a win ... CINCINNATI (+6) will pull the upset at home over a beat-up Washington squad ... Tampa Bay (+2) and its vicious defense are too much for ATLANTA to handle ... Like New England, MIAMI (-6) usually beats the teams it's supposed to beat, and San Francisco, possibly without Frank Gore, falls into that category ... Mike Holmgren will have Seattle (-3) ready to play against ST. LOUIS for the battle for last place in the NFC West ... HOUSTON is improving but is not ready to knock off a team the caliber of Tennessee (-3) ... BALTIMORE (-1) is eager to avenge an early-season three-point loss at Pittsburgh ... San Diego bounced back last weekend against Oakland, but KANSAS CITY (+4) won't make nearly as many mistakes as the Raiders ... Minnesota has quarterback issues (is Gus Frerotte healthy?) and won't be able to hang with ARIZONA (-3) ... DALLAS (-3) had a win slip away in Pittsburgh last weekend but won't let it happen two weeks in a row, even with the New York Giants coming to town.
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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