After a 10-4 showing in Week 10 NFL prognosticating against the spread (ATS), I came a-cropper last weekend, finishing at 5-11. I'll never make a living this way. Thankfully, no money's changing hands, though you can bet I felt a lot differently one week ago today. This stuff is hard. No wonder the bookies have normal prosperous lives and the bettors ponder rehab. This is still tons of fun, though, and I'm gonna do it till I get it right. Bring your knowledge to bear and pray for a little intuition on the toughies. Here's the Week 12 scoop:
1. Atlanta at Detroit (+3)—Atlanta, reeling at home, hopes to get healthy on the road and salvage playoff hopes in the competitive NFC South. Gut-check time for the Falcons, against a mediocre Lions team hoping to find some of that Thanksgiving Day home-field magic. The Lions could surprise, and getting 3 points into the bargain makes the ATS situation a slippery slope. Still, the Falcons have a lot more at stake. Pick: Atlanta.
2. Denver at Dallas (+2.5)—If you've eaten your turkey before you sit down to watch this one, indigestion may ensue. Two teams in the thick of the playoff hunt, and a tight spread guaranteed to earn the house a healthy vig. Denver seems like the better team; the Cowboys still have questions. Parcells (left) vs. Shanahan (right) may be best individual matchup of the day. Talk about throwing caution to the wind. Pick: Denver.
3. Baltimore at Cincinnati (-9)—Are the Ravens better now that they beat the Steelers in Baltimore? Bengals put up a fight against Colts last week, but clearly aren't their equals. A tricky situation here. Bengals still seem to have the firepower to make this one work. And they're at home. Pick: Cincinnati.
4. Carolina at Buffalo (+4)—Based on their thumping against San Diego last week, I would guess the Bills aren't as good as I thought they were. Yet Carolina's second straight road game in the northern climes has danger written all over it. I think they'll win it, but how close will it be? Pick: Carolina.
5. Chicago at Tampa Bay (-3)—A huge test for the hungry young Bears. Bucs coming off two dramatic last-second victories over Redskins and Falcons. Can Bucs QB Chris Simms do it again against the swarming Chicago defense? Being at home will help. Pick: Tampa Bay.
6. Cleveland at Minnesota (-4)—Are the Vikings back in the playoff race? They've won three straight and they oughta be up for this home game against a weak Browns outfit. Which probably means anything can happen. Pick: Minnesota.
7. New England at Kansas City (-3)—A helluva matchup here. I like the Chiefs, but I sure wish that spread was a "Pick 'em." Pick: Kansas City.
8. San Diego at Washington (+3)—Redskins are a mystery team. Chargers need to keep pace with Denver. Pick: Chargers.
9. San Francisco at Tennessee (-8)—When's the last time you saw a 2-8 team giving 8 points? Titans still having critical execution problems. They're due for a win, especially on their home turf, but the spread's another matter. Pick: San Francisco.
10. St. Louis at Houston (+4)—The Rams lost at home last week against Arizona. That's a very bad sign. They can still beat the lowly Texans by five. I think. Pick: St. Louis.
11. Jacksonville at Arizona (+3.5)—Jags only beat the Titans by three points last week, but the game wasn't that close. Byron Leftwich gaining momentum with his talented wide receivers. Pick: Jacksonville.
12. Miami at Oakland (-7)—A lot of points are being given away on this one, given the mediocre records involved. Dolphins got spanked last week—at Cleveland. Ugh. Raiders stole a victory on the road at Washington. Oakland wins; Miami covers. Pick: Miami.
13. Green Bay at Philadelphia (-4.5)—Once upon a time, this was a marquee matchup. How quickly things change. Frankly, I don't know if Favre has enough juice left to win another one on the road, even against a reeling Eagles team. Easy game not to care about, but very tough game to pick ATS. Look for Eagles to tease their fans with a decent victory. Pick: Philadelphia.
14. N.Y. Giants at Seattle (-4.5)—Seahawks eked out road victory last week against the struggling Niners. Good teams do that sort of thing, then come home and kick ass. I'm still not sold on the Giants. Pick: Seattle.
15. New Orleans at N.Y. Jets (+1.5)—Can you say, "Bow-wow"? The dog of the week pits two mangy mutts in a battle that is of no interest to anyone—except gamblers. The Jets are due, I guess. And they're at home. If they win 19-17, they'll have covered. Pick: Jets.
16. Pittsburgh at Indianapolis (-8)—Excellent Monday night matchup. Those eight points are awfully tantalizing, with Peyton at home on the well-lit TV stage, and the Colts coming off a convincing road victory at Cincy. Steelers dropped one to the Ravens last week, and their QB situation is still an issue. I'm gonna take a flyer on the Steelers' D and hope they can keep this close. Colts on the field, Steelers ATS. Pick: Pittsburgh.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!!