SURE THING: Miami vs Jacksonville (+7)
Honestly, this is not quite a sure thing, because Jaguars' quarterback Chad Henne might just decide it's time to show his old team how wrong they were to let him go, but the Jags showed how little they have offensively against the Jets last week, and Miami's defense is probably a good bit better than the Jets. It would be nice to Miami get Reggie Bush integrated into the offense more fully, in terms of catching passes. Bush's career is bizarre; in New Orleans they seemed to see him as a receiver primarily, and in Miami they see him as a runner, but being able to hit inside as a back should not preclude you from splitting out and running pass patterns, as Marshall Faulk showed. But Joe Philbin came from Green Bay, and think of the last time you saw the Packers use running backs as receivers on anything except screens or swing passes. Even so, at home, this Florida Derby ought to be belong to the aquatic mammals, and likely by more than one TD.
BEST VALUE: Indianapolis (+9.5) at Houston (4.50)
Normally, you'd think that even though the Colts' defense has trouble stopping the running game, and Houston run the ball exceedingly well, giving a 9-4 team almost 10 points was being excessively generous. I think what is going on here is a recognition that a. the Colts, despite their record, have not been that good against good teams, b. they are on the road, c. Houston, despite their record, have had trouble with high-scoring teams who jump off to a lead (ie: Green Bay and New England) and that does not describe the Colts and d. the Texans are going to be ornery after that beat-down in New England on Monday night. After you've assembled points a. through d., like some sort of wagering Ikea kid, also consider that the Texans are not built to run up huge leads, that the Colts have played hard and to the end throughout the season, that Houston's defense is below full strength and they are coming off a short week of prep, given their playing Monday night in Boston. That's why I like the bet (though I'd love it at 10.5!)
LONG ODDS, SHORT WAGER: Dallas (+1) vs Pittsburgh (2.00)
Both these teams stand at 7-6 and need the win to stay in the thick of the playoff hunt, both have O lines that look more like a cross between casualty wards and unemployment offices, and a less-than-full-strength Ben Roethlisberger has all the potential of Tony Romo of making bad plays as well as big ones. The big story in Dallas is whether Dez Bryant will be giving the Cowboys the finger; he broke one in last week's win over the Bengals, a come-from-behind miracle that reminded us why Tony Romo sometimes seems to be an answer rather than a question. De Marco Murray's return means the Cowboys actually could have a better run game than the Steelers, and injuries to the Cowboys' starting inside linebackers have left them vulnerable right in the areas where tight end Heath Miller is most effective. Look for a sloppy game that the Cowboys manage to pull out in the end.
AVOID GETTING TRAPPED: Washington at Cleveland (+1):
That the Browns are home dogs despite our not knowing whether or not Redskins' quarterback Robert Griffin III will play tells you that the bookies have a certain amount of faith in Washington and their rookie backup Kirk Cousins. But Cleveland is a solid defensive team who can run the ball, and their rookie QB, Brandon Weedon, has had a few moments this season. The Browns' recent resurgence has mostly been at the expense of teams even worse than they were (including the Steelers in Charlie Batch's first game as starter) but my guess is Washington opt to let RGIII's knee heal this week, and take their chances with Cousins. Either way, it looks too much like a crap shoot to me.