NFL elite covering spreads with style

Dec 7, 2004 7:41 AM

The elite teams in the NFL not only continue to win but the margins are substantial and large enough to cover the pointspread.

New England. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the league’s three top teams, are each 11-1 straight-up with a combined spread record of 25-8-3 or better than 75 percent. Adding Atlanta, Indianapolis, the New York Jets and San Diego (which total 29-15-4) and we have nearly a quarter of the NFL hitting 70 percent ATS.

We are seeing a league in which the very good teams have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the league and the linesmaker has not been able (or is unwilling) to adjust.

How bad is the NFC West? The Rams are 5-0 within the division and 1-6 ATS facing the rest of the league. It is likely that an 8-8 team will make the playoffs and that 7-9 could earn a wild card berth.

Through last Sunday, home favorites are 59-63-5. Road favorites are 35-26-2.

Here’s a preview of Week 14.

Sunday, Dec. 12

Bengals (+10½) at Pats (43½): At 6-6, the Bengals are playing well and believe they have a shot at a wild card. New England needs to keep pace with Pittsburgh for the AFC’s best record. The Pats have won six games by at least two touchdowns. Both teams have shown they run and pass effectively. OVER.

Browns (NL) at Bills: Cleveland’s QB situation kept this game off the boards early in the week. The Browns appear to have packed it in following the resignation of Butch Davis. They were non-competitive right from the start against New England. Buffalo has turned its season around and could win the next three games. BILLS.

Giants (+9½) at Ravens (33½): Baltimore blew a 20-3 lead in losing last week to Cincy. The Giants continue to unravel and the decision (with a winning record) to replace QB Kurt Warner with rookie Eli Manning in midseason remains puzzling. Too many defensive injuries have hurt the Giants. OVER.

Lions (+9½) at Packers (45½):Rookie Kevin Jones ran for nearly half of the Lions 398 total yards last week against Arizona yet Detroit could manage just two TDs. Green Bay’s defense was embarrassed by last week’s effort in Philly and will look to make amends. UNDER.

Seahawks (NL) at Vikings: Minnesota’s loss in Chicago was not totally a surprise. Expect a much better effort at home indoors. Seattle, playing in a weaker division, has a day less to prepare after playing Monday night. Look for the Vikings to get back on track. VIKINGS.

Raiders (+7½) at Falcons (45): Oakland’s defense allowed 500 yards to the Chiefs in last week’s come from ahead loss. Atlanta QB Mike Vick once again struggled against Tampa Bay, but should have much more success at home indoors against a foe with questionable motivation. This could become a track meet. OVER.

Bears (+7) at Jaguars (34): Both teams play hard and rely on defense to stay competitive. The Bears face a pair of losing teams the next two weeks. Jacksonville has not won a game this season by more than six points. Meanwhile, the Chicago defense is getting healthier. BEARS.

Saints (NL) at Cowboys: A convincing argument can be made that New Orleans has quit and coach Jim Haslett is all but gone. Hard to imagine a Bill Parcells team won’t play hard, even if nothing is at stake. The Saints did beat Dallas at the end of last season so Parcells can use revenge as a motivator. Plus, the Saints are allowing more than 400 yards. COWBOYS.

Colts (-10) at Ravens (56): The Colts have now scored at least 40 points in four straight games, a streak that began with a 49-14 rout of the Texans. Houston is still maturing and fighting both a lack of depth and nagging injuries. With seven wins by at least 14 points, not many can keep pace with Indy. COLTS.

Jets (+5½) at Steelers (36½): Both teams like to run the football and have been solid on defense. The offenses also are good at protecting the football and not giving the opposition a short field. This game might be over in 2½ hours. UNDER.

Dolphins (+10½) at Broncos (39): Denver’s season is unfolding and what seemed like a sure playoff team just a month ago now has to likely settle for the wild card. Miami’s offense has been more consistent in recent weeks, but five A.J Feeley interceptions cost a win over Buffalo. Denver’s defense played well in allowing the Chargers barely 200 yards. BRONCOS.

Rams (NL) at Panthers: An injury to Rams QB Marc Bulger kept this game off the board. Carolina has won four in a row and finishes the season with three straight division games beginning next week. St. Louis will try to avenge last season’s playoff loss, but the Panthers are playing the better football. PANTHERS.

49ers (+5½) at Cards (38): Several weeks ago 49ers coach Dennis Erickson all but said the team was playing with an eye towards the future. At 1-11 there is nothing left to play for this season. Only New Orleans has allowed more points. Arizona continues to play hard, especially on defense, and has made progress in Dennis Green’s first season as coach. CARDS.

Bucs (+5½) at Chargers (42½): Tampa Bay is playing its best football of the season. San Diego has won eight of its last nine and had covered eight in a row before last week’s push against Denver. Tampa’s defense, while not overpowering, has been effective and the offense has gotten better since Brian Griese started at QB. OVER.

Eagles (-9½) at Redskins (37½): Washington scored more than 18 points for the first time in a 31-7 rout of the outmanned Giants. Philly defeated the Redskins in the first meeting, 28-6. However, the game was much closer than the score. Washington has played solid defense all season and catches the Eagles a bit overconfident after whipping Green Bay. REDSKINS.

Monday, Dec. 13

Chiefs (NL) at Titans: QB injuries kept this game off the boards. Both teams playing out the string at 4-8. Kansas City came from behind to win at Oakland last week, amassing 500 yards of offense. Tennessee ran into that Colts steamroller in a 51-24 loss. This should be a loosely played game with plenty of passing and not much hard hitting or sharp tackling. This should be entertaining. OVER.

Last week: 6-9

Season: 98-89-4