December is the cruellest month in the NFL: the losers in the next two weeks will wear the crowns of Christmas turkeys at least until September, or perhaps forever if you're Tony Romo.
The funny thing about putting the 'choker' monkey on your back is that it does stay there until it doesn't (cf Peyton Manning's career), although should Denver stumble with home-field advantage yet again, watch for the monkey to hop down from the tree onto Manning's shoulder.
Manning, by the way, was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman Of The Year, which means a). they must've been awfully impressed with his loss to the Ravens last January and b). given the SI Jinx, Manning's personal monkey ought to be loosening up right now.
Manning's brother Eli goes head-to-head against the Lions and Matt Stafford Sunday. Eli has avoided the choker tag because twice he's led his team to improbable play-off runs culminating in Super Bowl wins.
This season he leads the league in picks, with Stafford doing his best to keep up—are you listening Romophobes?--and that game is one of three where teams with explosive if sometimes scattershot offenses face off against teams with leaky defenses...this is over week for me (and you?).
Sure Thing: Over 49 points at 1.91, New York Giants at Detroit
You never know what might happen with these teams, but 49 seems safer than the 53.5 going for Dallas at Washington. Although the Cowboys giving only 2.5 at 1.82 might be a sure thing contender too, if you worry about over/unders in general. I am kind of partial this week to the under in San Francisco, 45 points against the Falcons at 1.95.
Outside Bet: New England match bet at Baltimore at 2.15
The Pats often seem to falter against the physical dominance of the Ravens, but this is a Ravens' team that isn't quite as dominant defensively as they have been, and whose offense has been struggling with Ray Rice ineffective. It boils down to a few big plays from Joe Flacco to his speedy receivers, or to turnovers, and the Pats' D, although missing its best three players most of the year, has been good at making turnovers themselves. The problem for the Pats is they have no Torrey Smith or Jacoby Jones, all their receivers look like funhouse mirror versions of Wes Welker, so they have to play mistake-free offense to be able to win this one.
Value Bet: Buffalo (+2.5) vs Miami at 2.00
The Bills have the one thing that is krytonite to the Dolphins' recent run as Supermen, a pass rush. They also have a scrambling backup QB, Thad Lewis, getting the start, and arguably in a better position than EJ Manuel to engineer a win. Plus with CJ (Spiller) and FJ (Fred Jackson) they can run the ball which may be a problem for Miami too. A little bad weather in Buffalo might help, but it didn't bother the Dolphins in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago. Still, the Bills at the points at that price seems good value.
One To Avoid: Chicago at Philadelphia, over 56 at 1.95 under at 1.87
This one is weighted too well; last week the Bears and punchless Browns combined for 69 (helped by two pick sixes and one fumble recovery TD) while the Eagles and Minnesota ran up 78. The over may be the more tempting, and it's almost but not quite a must win for both teams, so I worry that their defenses will step up, or maybe that Jay Cutler, one step away from permanent Romodom in the minds of many fans, and Nick Foles, in his first part season as a starter, may feel the pressure and expose their backs to the parachuting monkeys of the choker jungle. Stranger things happen every week in the NFL.
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