A quirk of the point-spread landscape this week is that the home team is the favorite in 12 of the 13 games in which a line was listed at midweek.
The early-season trend that had underdogs clobbering favorites against the line has moderated. The 'dogs are 106-98-4, according to Covers.com, a website that tracks point-spread statistics. And with most of the favorites driving for the playoffs, this could be a big week for the teams that are giving the points.
Three games were off the board earlier in the week because of questions surrounding quarterbacks for Kansas City, Green Bay, and Minnesota.
New Orleans at Baltimore (minus-11/2). The Ravens, as usual, are chasing the Steelers in the AFC North. But in all likelihood, they will have to be content with a wild-card playoff spot and they know it. The Ravens nearly kicked away a win against Houston on Monday night when the defense ran out of gas late in the game against the fast-paced Texans offense. And this week, Baltimore will get more of the same against the Saints. The only thing that could slow down New Orleans, a dome team, is playing outside in December. Pick: Saints.
N.Y. Jets at Pittsburgh (minus-6). The Jets have hit a wall, losing their last two and scoring a total of nine points in those losses.
That's not a good thing going into Pittsburgh against arguably the best defense in the NFL. The only break the Jets could catch here is if the Ravens lose the earlier game to New Orleans and the Steelers, playing in the late afternoon game, let down. But I wouldn't count on it.
Atlanta at Seattle (plus-6). The Falcons have been making a case as the best team in the league. Atlanta has won seven straight outright and beaten the spread in its last five. The Seahawks are a better team at home and, incredibly, at 6-7, are tied for first in the NFC West with St. Louis, so they have motivation. But the Falcons won't be taking their foot off the pedal, especially if New Orleans wins the earlier game in Baltimore. Pick: Falcons.
I like but don't love . . . Jacksonville at Indianapolis (minus-5). The Colts, trailing the Jaguars by a game in the AFC South, have their season on the line here. Pick: Colts.
Denver at Oakland (minus-61/2).
The historical data indicate that midseason coaching changes seem to give that team a huge boost in the second game under the new coach; that would be Denver here. In this case, the Broncos just need to get inside a 61/2-point spread. Pick: Broncos.
Gun to my head . . .
San Francisco at San Diego (minus-9). Pick: Chargers; Detroit at Tampa Bay (minus-6). Pick: Buccaneers; Houston at Tennessee (minus-11/2). Pick: Titans; Arizona at Carolina (minus-21/2). Pick: Panthers; Buffalo at Miami (minus-5). Pick: Dolphins; Washington at Dallas (minus-6). Pick: Redskins; Cleveland at Cincinnati (minus-2). Pick: Browns.
Games that are off the board because of uncertainty at QB: Kansas City at St. Louis; Green Bay at New England; and Chicago at Minnesota.
Eagles at New York Giants (minus-3). The old wagering adage is that the home field is worth three points. And that's the margin that the Giants, playing at the New Meadowlands Stadium, are giving up as the favorites in a game likely to decide the NFC East. Eagles rookie middle linebacker Jamar Chaney will fill in for the injured Stewart Bradley. That's a key position against New York's ground game between the tackles, as well as in coverage against tight end Kevin Boss, who has four touchdowns in his last six games. In an interesting twist, the Eagles have been underdogs in just three games, and all three times, it was by three points. The Birds are 1-2 as underdogs, but neither loss was with Michael Vick as the starting quarterback. In the first game between these two, the Eagles covered a 31/2-point spread with a 27-17 win at home, where the Giants had a shot to get inside the line late in the game. That field-goal edge the Eagles are getting looms large in a game this close. Pick: Eagles.