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Joe Flacco threw a pair of touchdown passes as Baltimore pulled out a critical 20-17 overtime win last week, but the defending Super Bowl champs haven't won two straight games since mid-September. The schedule is favorable, however, as Baltimore plays three straight games at home after its date with Chicago against teams with a combined 10-17 record. Baltimore trails Cincinnati by 1 1/2 games in the division and is also behind in the wild-card race.
Bears QB Jay Cutler is out a high ankle sprain and defensive back Charles Tillman is also out with a torn triceps, adding to a long list of sidelined starters. Backup QB Josh McCown has been sharp in his three appearances on the season, completing 60 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Brandon Marshall continues to be the top target with 14 receptions for 246 yards and three TDs in the last two games.
LINE: Chicago opened -3 but the line has been bet down to -2.5. The total has dropped 2.5 points to 44.
WEATHER: There is a 74 percent chance of rain and wind blowing N across the length of the field at 20 mph.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Baltimore (+3.0) + Chicago (-2.5) + home field (-3.0) = Bears -8.5
* Ravens are 15-5-2 ATS in their last 22 games vs. teams with winning records.
* Bears are 1-9-1 ATS in their last 11 home games.
* Under is 4-0 in the last four meetings.
Thirteen points sure seems like a big line, but the Seahawks are one of the NFL's best teams at 9-1 and they're built to embarrass weak foes at home, right? Well, maybe not all the time. Seattle's last two home games have both been close wins over bad teams, a seven-point victory over Tennessee followed by an overtime comeback win over Tampa Bay.
In addition, Minnesota might be a team built to ... well, not necessarily to beat Seattle, but at least to keep it close. The Seahawks have the top pass defense in the NFL according to FO's DVOA stats, but they rank just 14th against the run. Perhaps you've heard of this Adrian Peterson fellow? He not only will get a chance to get chunks of yards, but also to move the chains when the Vikings really need him. Minnesota has converted 82 percent of short-yardage runs this year, second in the NFL, while Seattle has allowed conversions on 73 percent of such runs.
The Vikings' defense is well-built to contain Marshawn Lynch, at least on first downs. Minnesota allows just 3.3 yards per carry to running backs on first down, fifth in the NFL. Unfortunately, the pass defense isn't as impressive, and the Vikings are the worst defense in the NFL on third downs. That's why the odds for a cover are a lot stronger than the odds for an outright Minnesota victory.
Spread: Bills minus-1
Public consensus pick: 71 percent picked Jets
Public perception: The ESPN PickCenter shows the kind of support I expected when I wrote in the "Opening Line" column that we could see a change of favorite in this game. The Jets are in the wild-card race (currently sixth in the AFC) and just added safety Ed Reed.
Wiseguys' view: The Bills were a popular and successful underdog play earlier this season, but they now have three straight ATS losses (tied for a league-worst with the Falcons) and not getting wiseguy support here. The Jets have become a wiseguy favorite (helped by their 6-3 ATS record, tied for second in the NFL) with a tough defense and the steady improvement of Geno Smith along with Chris Ivory emerging in the running game.
Tuley's Take: Here's another rematch, as the Jets beat the Bills 27-20 in Week 3. However, New York opened as an underdog (though obviously just due to the game being in Buffalo). I like the 'dog in this spot for a lot of the reasons stated above and would grab it before it crosses pick 'em.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1, 43.5)
Atlanta's decrepit running game vs. Tampa Bay's stout defensive line
The Falcons have said they'd like to see marquee free-agent acquisition Steven Jackson get more work in the coming weeks. They won't be doing Jackson any favors this week as he goes head-to-head with one of the league's most formidable run defenses. Atlanta comes into the NFC South matchup with the fewest rushing yards in the league (579) and just three touchdowns on the ground. Part of the problem is that Jackson has missed most of the season due to injury, and the Falcons have spent so much time trailing that Matt Ryan has been forced to air it out more than he or his coaches would like.
Featuring Jackson prominently in Week 11 could be a major mistake if the Buccaneers' defense continues to play at a high level. Despite having just one win past the halfway mark of the season, Tampa Bay is allowing the fifth-fewest yards on the ground in the NFL while surrendering only four rushing touchdowns. The Falcons managed a crowd-pleasing 18 rushing yards on 18 carries in their Week 7 matchup in Atlanta - and Jackson or no Jackson this time around, Sunday's result should be similar.