PICKING THE WINNERS
Indianapolis at Tennessee
Atlanta at Tampa Bay
NY Jets at Buffalo
Detroit at Pittsburgh
Washington at Philadelphia
Baltimore at Chicago
Cleveland at Cincinnati
Oakland at Houston
Arizona at Jacksonville
San Diego at Miami
Minnesota at Seattle
San Francisco at New Orleans
Green Bay at NY Giants
Kansas City at Denver
New England at Carolina
*winners in bold
PICKING AGAINST THE SPREAD
Baltimore at Chicago -3
This year has been tough for picking Ravens games. Maybe I am too close to the forest to see the trees. I am smart enough now not to see a sudden offensive turnaround in the making. But what I do see is a Ravens defense that is coming into its own. It looks as if this defense's job No. 1 is to stop running back Matt Forte, and job No. 2 is to turn Bears quarterback Josh McCown into a one-dimensional being. If they accomplish that mission, they can and should win another ugly game to climb to .500.
PREDICTION: Baltimore 19, Chicago 17
Washington at Philadelphia -3 ½
The NFC East has been nothing short of awful all season, and the 2013 division winner may have a record worse than .500. There's a simple equation for visiting Washington footballers. If they win, the Redskins will be like a cat holding on for dear life. If they lose, they probably have no chance of returning to the playoffs. The Eagles are a strange team this season, 0-4 at home and 5-1 on the road. But quarterback Nick Foles has supplanted the oft-injured Michael Vick and seems to have the offense heading in the right direction -- a direction, I might add, that should be good enough to beat a beleaguered Washington defense by more than 3 ½ points.
PREDICTION: Philadelphia 29, Washington 21
Atlanta -1 ½ at Tampa Bay
I was not a believer in the Falcons during the good times, so you can imagine how I feel about them now. Meanwhile, I have to admire how hard Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano's defense has been going after it. Quarterback Mike Glennon is raw, and the injury to running back Doug Martin is a bad blow. But to what end? All the Bucs have to do is beat up on a Falcons team that probably hasn't hit rock bottom. Schiano's hard-core support on the team are guys that are still playing hard for him. They'll hit a little too hard against a soft Falcons squad.
PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 20, Atlanta 13
Oakland at Houston -7
The Texans have had an awful season, and it is one that might cost Gary Kubiak his job. The Texans' interim head coach, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, has Houston ties that could make him a prime replacement candidate. Four of the team's losses have come by three points or fewer, all to teams that are better than .500. The Raiders are far from .500. The Texans released safety Ed Reed, whose signing was a big misstep. But it's a sign they are moving on, and I think they'll take care of business and then some at Reliant Stadium Nov. 17.
PREDICTION: Houston 27, Oakland 16
San Diego -2 ½ at Miami
I know all about the 3,000 miles San Diego will have to travel to play in Miami. I also know the Chargers will be playing at what for them will be 10 a.m. West Coast time. But I still like the Chargers' chances to come out on top of a Dolphins team that was self-destructing before accusations of bullying against offensive lineman Richie Incognito. I imagine that San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers will be able to put up enough points, and the Bolts will get 1-2 turnovers that'll tip the scales, taking a close one to a comfortable win by the visitors.
PREDICTION: San Diego 24, Miami 16
Arizona -7 ½ at Jacksonville
The Jags got a feel-good win on the road Nov. 10 in Tennessee, where they caught the Titans by surprise. That will not be the case this week, when an apathetic home crowd will be of no help getting Jacksonville up for the game. Meanwhile, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is doing a solid job, especially taking advantage of the odd home-field advantage his team possesses. The Cards are 1-3 on the road, getting creamed by both San Francisco and New Orleans. The one team they matched up well with was St. Louis, and they lost by three there. The Jags won't fight too hard during this one … and Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer will put up some points against this woeful bunch.
PREDICTION: Arizona 26, Jacksonville 9
Kansas City at Denver -7 ½
I still have not met a game I can pick both ways. In making my prediction on this game, I am monitoring the Denver weather forecasts. It's been a mild week, but it'll be darker and chillier for this nighttime game in Denver Nov. 17. I think 40 degrees is Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning's Medonza line -- at higher temperatures, he can play at a high level, but at lower temperatures, his aging body parts start to get creaky and slow to move. If the weather starts to work against Manning, it'll be a big surprise if he is capable of putting up enough points to beat this 7.5 number.
PREDICTION: Denver 23, Kansas City 21
89-58 picking winners (10-4 last week)
26-32-1 picking against the spread (3-1 last week)