Expect shootout for Colts-Bengals

Nov 15, 2005 5:57 AM

We can finally say so long to the byes.

All 32 teams will be in action over the final seven weeks of the regular season. The next time we are concerned with the effect of bye weeks will be during the NFL playoffs when the top two teams in each conference will get a week off during the opening weekend of postseason play.

At 9-0, Indianapolis has the clear edge in gaining the top overall AFC seed. The Colts have a two game edge over a trio of teams, including AFC North members Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. The third part of the trio, Denver, has lost only once since dropping its season opening contest at Miami. The Broncos have a two game lead over both San Diego and Kansas City in the West, but still have to play in both cities, including a season ending game in San Diego.

The Colts have built a three game lead over Jacksonville in the South, while New England has regained control of the East despite a modest 5-4 record. Seattle and Carolina are tied in the NFC with 7-2 records. The Seahawks have the edge because they play in the weak West, while Carolina has to contend with Atlanta and Tampa Bay in the South.

In the North Chicago has a two game lead over both Detroit and Minnesota. The Bears end the season at Minnesota and must face four teams with winning records down the stretch. They also have a pair of games against arch rival Green Bay. The NFC East remains the league’s most competitive, headed by the Giants at 6-3. With a win Monday, Dallas would also be 6-3. Philadelphia and Washington are right behind.

Here’s a look at all 16 games this weekend.

Sunday, Nov. 20

Panthers -3 at Bears (40): The Bears defense is spectacular while the offense relies on a heavy dose of running the football. This will be a tough test for Carolina, facing a defense arguably better than Tampa Bay’s. Weather could be a factor again in Chicago. BEARS.

Jaguars -4 at Titans (39): Jacksonville ended a lengthy offensive drought by scoring 30 points for the first time in four seasons. The Jags did it against a fairly solid Ravens defense. Tennessee is rested following a bye. Jacksonville rarely wins by a big margin. TITANS.

Colts -4½ at Bengals (48): Cincy faces yet another test in its quest to establish itself as a legitimate AFC contender. Indy will take this game seriously as a loss here could have tie breaker implications. Both teams are led by strong quarterbacks and balanced offenses. We should see plenty of points all four quarters. OVER.

Saints +10 at Patriots (45): New Orleans plays yet another road game in a vagabond season and the last four road games have been double-digit losses. New England rebounded from its loss to the Colts with a win at Miami. Both teams have offenses that feature big play capability and defenses that are vulnerable. OVER.

Arizona +9 at Rams (48): Arizona has moved the ball on offense with a solid passing game, although showing an inability to run. St Louis also shows plenty of offense, but is much more balanced. Both teams struggle to convert yards into points, especially in the red zone. The Rams continue to have a poor tackling defense. CARDS.

Bucs +6 at Falcons (38): Tampa Bay off that wild game against Washington that featured many more points than the pre-game profiles suggested. Atlanta was upset at home by Green Bay and can not be called a great football team. The teams split their series last year, each winning by double-digits at home in a low-scoring game. UNDER.

Raiders +6 at Redskins (42): Oakland coach Norv Turner returns to the site of his first NFL head coaching job. Washington has been a pleasant surprise, notwithstanding last week’s one point shootout loss in Tampa. Oakland is believed to have more offensive firepower although the Redskins offense has become more productive. The Skins have the better defense. REDSKINS.

Lions +9 at Cowboys (39): Dallas is off the Monday night game in Philly and has less time to prepare. Despite last week’s offensive explosion against Arizona, the Lions have scored 20 points or less in 7 of 9 games. Prior to their game against the Eagles, the Cowboys had allowed 13 points or less in four straight games. UNDER.

Eagles +3½ at Giants (43): The Giants are off of a loss in which they did not allow an offensive TD. It was the third straight outstanding defensive effort from the G-men. Philly faces its third straight division rival with a trio of home games up next. An excellent spot for the Giants to rebound. Expect young QB Eli Manning to shake off last week’s four interceptions. GIANTS.

Dolphins +2½ at Browns (34½): Lost in Cleveland’s 3-6 record has been the improved play of their defense. Prior to Sunday’s second half collapse at Pittsburgh, the Browns had allowed under 20 points in six straight games. Miami has had trouble with its offense as well, while the defense has had more good efforts than bad. UNDER.

Seahawks -12 at 49ers (42½): Seattle won both meetings last season by 15 and 34 points and appears even stronger this season. In the past few years, we’ve seen teams on a roll continue that way. Seattle has that look. SEAHAWKS.

Bills +10 at Chargers (42): Buffalo’s win over Kansas City last week is quite deceiving. The Bills were outgained by over 100 yards and out first-downed 22-9. Their defense had problems with the KC running game, allowing nearly five yards per carry. San Diego has top RB LaDanian Tomlinson and is rested. Buffalo is 0-4 on the road, losing three by double digits. CHARGERS.

Jets +13 at Broncos (41): Injuries appear to have taken the will out of the Jets. Their offense has struggled all season with a patchwork line necessitated by injuries. The defense can’t overcome the deficiencies of the offense. Denver has won 7-of-8, including five wins at home. QB Jake Plummer has been consistent in avoiding mistakes. BRONCOS.

Steelers -4 at Ravens (34½): This season has been a disaster for Baltimore, thought by many in August to be a playoff team. The offense has been surprisingly putrid as the running game has not developed. The defense, besieged by injuries, cannot win by itself. Pittsburgh has been solid on both sides of the ball. Shapes up as a game of field position and field goals. UNDER.

Chiefs -6½ at Houston (44½): Kansas City is playing a second straight road game for the third time this season. They lost both times, though dogs each time. Houston is somewhat improved from early season form, but still not very good. The short price seems to make the Chiefs a tempting play, but might take Houston lightly with six straight against winning teams on deck. TEXANS.

Vikings +3½ at Packers (45): Monday night. Minnesota has played better of late, but it used mirrors in winning last week at the Giants. Green Bay was a major surprise in winning at Atlanta and that momentum and a history of strong Brett Favre performances on Monday night make the Packers a confident team. PACKERS.

Last week: 4-8-1

Season: 72-62-9