The SMA swami returned to monied ways with a 10-6 slate in a fairly tough week. We racked up big scores with the underdog 49ers, Cowboys and Chargers in the gutsiest plays, and found additional support from teams like the Dolphins, Steelers and Cardinals. Thankfully, the Ravens, Bears, Panthers and Patriots were all solid favorites that did their duty.
Things don’t get any easier, but now at 62-61-5, we’re back on the plus side of things and hoping for more.
It’s a short work week for six teams, with three Thanksgiving Day (and night) tilts, which should make dealing with the holiday relatives a whole lot easier. (“Oh, I’d love to go out to a movie, Aunt Tillie, but the Broncos-Chiefs game is about to start...”)
Spreads courtesy of FootballLocks.com.
1. MIAMI (-2.5) @ DETROIT The Fins are now 4-6, having won three in a row, and if they keep winning they’re going to put some pressure on teams like Kansas City, Cincinnati, and the Jets for a wild-card spot. Miami QB Joey Harrington returns to Detroit for a big Thanksgiving Day game. After years of frustration and mediocre play in the Motor City, Harrington has done well for Nick Saban, subbing for the injured Daunte Culpepper, and the team’s improvement can be linked to Harrington’s resurrection. The Lions are 2-8 and seem to be going backwards, especially after their loss to the bad Cardinals. The Dolphins got banged up with some injuries in last week’s game against Minnesota, and their running game was completely stifled by the Vikings. Still, the Miami defense has been playing very well, and that could carry the day. Prediction: Dolphins.
2. TAMPA BAY @ DALLAS (-11) The Bucs, at 3-7, are pretty bad. But rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski has shown spunk and RB Cadillac Williams got untracked last week against Washington. Cowboys are 6-4 and glowing after big victory over Colts. A lot of points to cover for a team coming off a very short work week. Prediction: Bucs.
3. DENVER (-1) @ KANSAS CITY The Broncos (7-3) lost a big Monday game at home versus the Chargers. Jake Plummer continues to struggle at quarterback, and the Broncos’ defense yielded 35 points to San Diego and more than 100 yards rushing to LaDainian Tomlinson. They face another great runner here in Larry Johnson, and the 6-4 Chiefs are angling to shake up the AFC West standings. A pretty tough play, but look for the Denver D to step up. Prediction: Broncos
4. JACKSONVILLE (-3.5) @ BUFFALO Very hard to assess this Jacksonville team. After a solid Monday night victory over the Giants, they’re 6-4 behind QB David Garrard and a serious player in the AFC wild-card race. But they’ve lost twice to Houston and also to the Redskins, and that shouldn’t happen to a really good team. Meanwhile, the Bills are aiming at respectability with a 4-6 record, and QB J. P. Losman had a breakthrough game last week (26 of 38 for a career-high 340 yards with three touchdowns). An already erratic Florida team in an open-air stadium in a cold-weather clime, and coming off a short work week—and giving three points—makes the ‘dog an attractive choice. Prediction: Bills.
5. HOUSTON @ NY JETS (-5.5) For a bad team, the Texans (3-7) have shown moxie. But they underscored their futility last week by losing at home against Buffalo. The Jets (5-5) hung tough against the Bears, before falling 10-0. If the Jets want a shot at the playoffs, they better win this one. Prediction: Jets.
6. PITTSBURGH @ BALTIMORE (-3) There is still enough wiggle room in the playoff picture for this game to matter to the Steelers (4-6). The Ravens at 8-2 clearly seem superior, but this one looks like a potential bruiser. Factoid of interest: From 1995-2005, Steve McNair’s Oilers/Titans teams were 11-7 against the Steelers, including an overtime victory in the 2002 playoffs. It all points to Baltimore, especially given the Steelers’ erratic play, but don’t invest a lot of coin on this one. Prediction: Ravens.
7. CINCINNATI (-3) @ CLEVELAND Bengals back to .500 (5-5) after getting a good win in New Orleans. Browns struggling as per usual at 3-7. Cincy offense has scored 72 points in last two games. Prediction: Bengals.
8. ARIZONA @ MINNESOTA (-6.5) Vikings (4-6) are on a four-game losing streak. They’re still playing decent defense, though. Cards (2-8) broke an eight-game losing streak against the Lions last week. Tricky spread given Vikings’ offensive shortcomings. Cards have not won on the road this year. Prediction: Vikings.
9. SAN FRANCISCO @ ST. LOUIS (-6) Here’s a tasty road ‘dog. Niners are 5-5 and beat the Seahawks last week, with RB Frank Gore amassing 212 yards on the ground and an improving defense making big plays. The Rams, on a five-game losing streak, are now 4-6. They’re coming off a shut-out loss at the hands of the Panthers. On paper, the Rams are a better team, and home field should make a difference. But covering the spread is not guaranteed. Prediction: 49ers.
10. NEW ORLEANS @ ATLANTA (-3) Two teams in minor free-fall. Suddenly all that fairyland success for the Saints looks less certain. They’re still 6-4, but have dropped two straight and now share the NFC South lead with Carolina. The Falcons (5-5) are mired in a three-game losing streak, and no one knows where their impressive early-season running game has gone. The problem with analyzing Atlanta is that they defy analysis. In their last home game they lost to Cleveland, and Michael Vick had yet another lackluster game Sunday versus the Ravens (11-21, 127 yards). Saints getting three points and that might be enough to make them a viable pick. Prediction: Saints.
11. CAROLINA (-4.5) @ WASHINGTON Panthers are 6-4, and their defense is holding things together while the offense still shifts into a higher gear. Redskins (3-7) now continue to discover how good Jason Campbell is at quarterback. He impressed in his first start last week in a losing cause at Tampa Bay. The road favorite has a reasonably high expectation to cover. Prediction: Panthers.
12. CHICAGO @ NEW ENGLAND (-3) After two straight road victories in New York, the Bears (9-1) now take their traveling defensive circus to New England. The Patriots, now 7-3 after routing the Packers in Green Bay last week, have a decent chance to grab the “W.” Question is, Can they do it by more than three points? This game will be the Bears last stiff challenge of the year; every team remaining on their schedule is under .500. A very tough play, but if Brady steps up and Grossman falters, Pats might cover. Prediction: Patriots.
13. PHILADELPHIA @ INDIANAPOLIS (-9) Eagles fell to 5-5 last week after losing a home game to Tennessee, and also losing QB Donovan McNabb for the year to ACL injury. Without McNabb, this is an ordinary team, and they’ll be facing a 9-1 Colts team that comes home after suffering its first loss of the season in Dallas. It’s a hefty spread, but tough to buck Peyton & Co. at home. Prediction: Colts.
14. NY GIANTS (-3.5) @ TENNESSEE After a Monday night loss in Jacksonville, the 6-4 Giants come to Nashville looking to get back on the winning track. The Titans, at 3-7, could provide the tonic, but the Giants have struggled of late, enduring injuries on defense, the loss of WR Amani Toomer, and Eli Manning’s sudden insecurities at quarterback. They need a big game out of Tiki Barber to git-r-done. Covering is no guarantee, but tough to rely on inconsistent Titans. (Factoid of interest: Two of Titans’ victories this year have come at the hands of Giants’ NFC East rivals Eagles and Redskins.) Prediction: Giants.
15. OAKLAND @ SAN DIEGO (-13) At 2-8, the Raiders might be the worst team in the league. Yet they’ve covered the spread the past two weeks against way-superior divisional foes Denver and Kansas City. The 8-2 Chargers return home leading the AFC West after an inspiring victory at Denver. They should win it, but by how much? It wouldn’t look too smart to pick Oakland and then watch the Chargers romp as they’re capable of doing. Prediction: Chargers.
16. GREEN BAY @ SEATTLE (-10) Brett Favre hurt his forearm Sunday and had to leave the game. His sub, Aaron Rodgers, then broke his ankle, and is gone for the season, leaving rookie Ingle Martin next in the QB line. They say Favre will return to action here, leading a 4-6 team that can beat the lesser teams but has trouble against marquee squads. Seattle RB Shaun Alexander returned to the lineup last week and didn't do much, but he put his injured ankle through an important test. QB Matt Hasselbeck is expected to return as well for the ‘Hawks (6-4), who come off a loss to the 49ers and have yet to exhibit the dominance of 2005 this season. Prediction: Seahawks.