Note: Every week, I pick games against the spread on the Michael Irvin Show on ESPN Radio, and I'm putting them on our blog.
Years ago I heard an old rule of betting: If the spread is over 12.5, take the dog. I don't know if there's any statistical truth to that, but this week I'm throwing caution to the wind and picking two big favorites to win at home. At the same time, I'm thinking the league's only one-loss team will lose on the road. (My picks in bold.)
Cleveland Browns at Philadelphia Eagles -14
First Ken Dorsey faces the Titans on the road, now he's at Philadelphia and their Pro Bowl cornerbacks and patented blitz schemes. The Eagles and Brian Westbrook are finding their midseason form now, and I expect this to be a big step in the direction of the playoffs for the Eagles.
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans +3
The Texans started the season 0-4, but they are 6-3 since. I hate the idea of "trap games," and I think it gets overused. But this is a real trap for the Titans, who can win homefield advantage throughout the playoffs NEXT week against the Steelers. Steve Slaton for the Texans has bested 120 yards three of his last four games.
Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts -17
We have seen some very unexpected outcomes this season, but none would be more shocking than the Lions losing by less than 17. The way you upset the Colts is by grinding out the clock with your running game and converting third downs. The Lions have the third-worst running offense and the second-worst third-down conversion rate.
Denver Broncos +7.5 at Carolina Panthers
The 7.5 spread is the most deceptive there is, because it isn't 7 points, and it isn't even 8 points. Fifteen games this season have been decided by 7 points, 8 have been decided by 9 points, 11 have been decided by 10, and only 2 have been decided by 8. Do I really think the Broncos should be 9- or 10-point underdogs? No.
New York Giants +3 at Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are completely unpredictable, and the Giants are a roller coaster. I asked my partner to pick this one, and his analysis: The Giants will be thrilled to not be playing in cold, crappy weather. Works for me.
Last week: 2-2. This season: 38-34-3.