Picks are bolded. Home teams are in CAPS:
BALTIMORE -6 vs. Minnesota — After two hard-fought overtime games against divisional foes in a row, I’m fading the Vikings. I can’t see them delivering a top effort against the Ravens, who are in better form lately.
Indianapolis +7 at Cincinnati — This seems like a few too many points. The Colts aren’t as bad as they’ve looked in some recent games and aren’t as good as they were in wins vs. the Seahawks and Broncos. They can compete with the Bengals.
NEW ENGLAND -10 vs. Cleveland — The Patriots will put CB Aqib Talib on Browns WR Josh Gordon. Gordon will win a few battles, but Talib will hold up well enough for New England, which has a significant edge on offense.
N.Y. Giants +3.5 at San Diego — Considering their defensive issues, it’s hard to trust the Chargers to cover more than a field goal. The Giants fought through a letdown spot at Washington and are capable of winning outright in San Diego.
Last week: 1-3 / Season to date: 21-30-1.
Picks are bolded. Home teams are in CAPS:
WASHINGTON +1 vs. N.Y Giants — Just looks like a tailor-made spot for Washington to bounce back and for New York to regress. This is a far better matchup for Washington than San Francisco was. The Giants’ offense doesn’t have much punch, and their defense hasn’t mustered much of a pass rush.
Chicago +1 at MINNESOTA —I’m playing against the Vikings, who should have beaten the Packers last week but could not close the deal. Once the Packers changed quarterbacks, the Vikings’ defense faltered. The Bears’ offense could give Minnesota fits.
Cincinnati +1 at SAN DIEGO — The Bengals have a significant defensive edge, and they have more than enough on offense to stress the Chargers’ defense.
KANSAS CITY +6 vs. Denver — A 9-2 home underdog of nearly a TD? I’ll bite. The Broncos come off a draining, five-quarter loss at New England, and now they have to play at Arrowhead Stadium. At this price, I’ll take a shot on the game being a nail-biter, which is a logical outcome, in my view.
Last week: 3-1 / Season to date: 20-27-1.
Picks are bolded. Home teams are in caps:
Pittsburgh +2 at CLEVELAND: The Steelers’ defense generally has held up well this season, with the Minnesota, New England and Detroit games the exceptions. I can’t really explain Minnesota, but I don’t think I have to explain New England or Detroit. And I don’t think I have to explain that Cleveland’s offense isn’t exactly elite.
The Steelers have lost once to the Browns in Ben Roethlisberger’s starts, and they are getting points on Sunday. Moreover, they’re probably still the better team. Sign me up.
Cowboys-Giants OVER 44.5: The Giants’ offense played well in the Week 11 win vs. Green Bay. Also, I believe the Cowboys will be able to move the ball against the Giants’ defense, which hasn’t really been tested by a good, full-strength offense since playing Chicago in October. Expect a good deal of points.
MIAMI +4.5 vs. Carolina: If the Panthers play their best game, they roll. But it’s love them on a short week on the road against a decent Miami club with a solid defense. I’ll take the points.
GREEN BAY -4.5 vs. Minnesota: Could I get half-pointed? Sure? Am I convinced the Packers’ form is better than it looks during this three-game losing streak? Yes. The Vikings’ defense has been porous all season, and their offense is limited.
Last week: 1-2-1 / Season to date: 17-26-1.
Selections are bolded:
PITTSBURGH +3 vs. Detroit — Tough spot for the Lions, who have had to deal with a week of chatter about being division leaders. The Steelers’ form has been spotty, but they come off a win, and there’s enough pride and talent left to be competitive in the right situations down the stretch. This is one of them.
GREEN BAY +4 at N.Y. Giants — The Packers are the deeper, more talented team, and third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien can play. The Giants haven’t played well on offense for a long time, making them tough to take at more than a field goal even with Green Bay perhaps a little compromised.
NEW ENGLAND +3 at Carolina — The Pats have been wonderful underdogs in recent seasons, and their offense is getting back to full-strength. I’m not convinced the Panthers can score enough or get the requisite stops to cover this number.
BALTIMORE +3 at Chicago — The Ravens have a big edge on defense and enough punch on offense to keep this within the number. The Bears have played well with Josh McCown in the lineup, but is that sustainable? Instinct and experience tells me regression will come at some point.
Last week: 2-2 / Season to date: 16-24.
My Week 10 selections. Picks are bolded:
— PITTSBURGH (-3) vs. Buffalo
— SAN DIEGO (+7) vs. Denver
— GREEN BAY (+1) vs. Philadelphia
— OAKLAND (+7) vs. N.Y. Giants
Last week: 1-3 / Season to date: 14-22.
We’ll return to some longer-form explanations for the picks next week. For this week, though, we’re keeping it short.
Selections are in bold:
ATLANTA +7 at Carolina
HOUSTON +2.5 vs. Indianapolis
N.Y. JETS +6.5 vs. New Orleans
ST. LOUIS +3 vs. Tennessee
Last week: 1-3 / Season to date: 13-19**
** — if you think that’s bad, you should’ve seen my Breeders’ Cup picks.
The Breeders’ Cup: helping me become comfortably numb to Illinois football since 2005.
Good luck to all, and may they all come home safely.
RACE 4 — JUVENILE FILLIES
RACE 5 — FILLY & MARE TURF
RACE 6 — FILLY & MARE SPRINT
RACE 7 — TURF SPRINT
RACE 8 — JUVENILE
RACE 9 — TURF
RACE 10 — SPRINT
RACE 11 — MILE
RACE 12 — CLASSIC
MARATHON – RACE 6
JUVENILE TURF (MALES) – RACE 7
DIRT MILE – RACE 8
JUVENILE TURF (FILLIES) – RACE 9
DISTAFF – RACE 10
The Week Eight selections. Picks are bolded:
— Atlanta +2.5 at Arizona
— New Orleans -11 vs. Buffalo
— Minnesota +9 vs. Green Bay
— N.Y. Jets +6 vs. Cincinnati
Last week: 3-1
Season to date: 12-16
Let us get right to business:
— The Vikings’ defense is porous, and their offense is adjusting to a new quarterback. The Giants, meanwhile, have had almost two weeks of rest after giving the Bears a fairly tough game on Oct. 10. The Giants are primed to deliver another good effort. The Vikings? There’s just too much uncertainty for me. The Giants (-3) are the play against Minnesota on Monday night.
— I’m not sure there’s a great deal of difference between the Panthers and Rams. Hence, it’s hard to lay many points with a Carolina club that’s lost three games and has been held to seven points or less in two of those defeats. The Rams (+7) aren’t exactly the most inspiring underdog — they’ve been outgained in 5-of-6 games this season — but they are side to take with the point spread hitting a touchdown and an extra point.
— The Falcons are without top receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White. I can’t possibly lay close to a touchdown with them … right? Wrong. I like the Falcons on Sunday, especially with the number dropping under seven points. The Falcons have a significant edge at quarterback and enough skill-position talent to get by against winless Tampa Bay. Atlanta (-6.5) is the pick.
— We’ll finish with one more favorite. San Francisco (-3) has a big class edge against Tennessee. The Titans’ offense lacks much punch. Also, their defense surrendered a season-worst 6.1 yards per play in the Week Six loss at Seattle. For purposes of this point spread, I consider the return of Jake Locker a neutral event.
Picks: Giants (-3)*, Rams (+7), Falcons (-6.5), 49ers (-3)*
*— Denotes the vigorish on the line is higher than the standard -110.
Last week: 2-2
Season record: 9-15