Indianapolis (-6) over JACKSONVILLE: In September, when NFL games that no one remembers were played, the Colts fell to Jacksonville on a last-second field goal. The lead changed hands three times in the final 2:36, and the Jags ran all over Indy: Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor combined for 45 rushes and 228 yards. Peyton Manning was picked off twice, and the Colts limped through the game. These days, the Colts have a pulse, and Jacksonville pretends to have the same. This line would be bigger if the Colts hadn't allowed Detroit to hang around last weekend, and if the Jags hadn't faced a team with less heart than themselves (Green Bay). Colts running back Joseph Addai (above) sat out against Detroit and is expected back against the Jaguars. Addai is a difference maker and will allow Indy to control the ball against a suspect Jaguars defense. Lay the points.
DALLAS (-5) over Baltimore: If the Cowboys make the playoffs as a wild-card entry out of the NFC East, they will have earned it and will be one of the most dangerous teams in the postseason. Pittsburgh, the Giants, Baltimore, and Philadelphia are the Cowboys' last four opponents of the season, and so far Dallas is 1-1 in those games. If not for an implosion in the last six minutes against Pittsburgh, the Cowboys would be sitting pretty for the postseason. Dallas' defense was impressive against the Giants last weekend and is physical enough to make things difficult for Baltimore and its steady rookie QB, Joe Flacco. Taking on Baltimore's defense has been compared to making a trip to the dentist's office, and trying to bring down Marion Barber -- who returned against the Giants and should be at full strength against the Ravens -- is likely the same type of experience. Dallas is hungry. And talented.
TENNESSEE (-1) over Pittsburgh: The Steelers are in the midst of a brutal portion of their schedule and in the last three games have quietly gone 3-0. At New England -- a dominant victory. Home against Dallas -- an exhausting win secured in the final few minutes. At Baltimore -- a bruising victory. Now the Steelers travel to face the Titans, who unexpectedly lost at Houston last weekend in a low-scoring affair. But other than Pittsburgh, no one may be playing better football right now than the Texans. Expect a low-scoring slugfest.
Arizona (+8) over NEW ENGLAND: Eight-point favorites? Yes, perhaps New England found its running game against Oakland last weekend (Sammy Morris and LaMont Jordan combined to rush 26 times for 214 yards), but that was against ... Oakland. The Patriots are 3-4 against teams with winning records to date, and those three wins are against Miami, the Jets, and Denver. Arizona has a winning record and a relentless offense, and New England allowed a pathetic Oakland club to score 26. Oddsmakers are overlooking the Cardinals in this game because of last weekend's performance against an underrated Minnesota squad, but Arizona averages nearly 28 points a game and can put points on the board in a hurry. You know New England is well coached because it feasts on poor teams, but Arizona does not fall into that category. Not only will the Cardinals play within the generous eight points, they will win this game outright.
MINNESOTA (-3) over Atlanta: Two evenly matched, 9-5 teams. Minnesota scores 24.4 points per game and allows 20.7 ppg. Atlanta scores 24.0 ppg and allows 20.1 ppg. But it gets even eerier: The Vikings are first in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, giving up just 71 per game, and the Falcons are first in the NFL in rushing, compiling 148.7 per game. This game will be decided on the legs of the great Adrian Peterson, who will carve up Atlanta's mediocre defense.
Philadelphia (-3) over WASHINGTON: These teams are headed in opposite directions. Washington's offense is terrible (16.5 ppg) and banged up, and Philadelphia's play has been inspired since quarterback Donovan McNabb's benching and subsequent return. The 'Skins have lost three in a row and have averaged 10 ppg in those losses. Washington is ready for the season to be over, and Philly is playing as if it has a shot at the postseason, however long a shot that may be. Lay the points on the road.
The rest: Miami (-4) will make fewer mistakes than KANSAS CITY in an otherwise tight game ... Cincinnati (+3) covers against a CLEVELAND squad that is desperate for the season to end ... San Francisco has improved during the last month but has no business laying nearly a touchdown on the road, even against ST. LOUIS (+5) ... DETROIT (+6) is motivated to earn at least one win this season, and that should translate into a cover against New Orleans ... The GIANTS are in a late-season slump, and things don't get any easier against Carolina (+3) ... You expect the Jets to put teams away, and they don't do it; they won't be able to do so at SEATTLE (+4), either ... OAKLAND (+7) displayed some offensive chemistry last weekend against New England and will score just enough to hang in against Houston ... The 'dogs will continue to bark when Buffalo (+7) heads into DENVER ... TAMPA BAY (-3) will roll the Chargers, with or without Jeff Garcia ... Green Bay (+4) is just dangerous enough to hassle divisional rival CHICAGO.
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