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The Jaguars try to avoid losing five in row on the road for the first time in nine seasons against a Dolphins team that's dropped five of six overall. Jacksonville RB Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) is likely to miss his eighth straight game, but WR Cecil Shorts (concussion) could return Sunday. Jacksonville ranks 31st in total offense and defense, averaging 282.9 yards per game and allowing 394.5. The Dolphins have played under the total in their last six games against AFC foes.
Spread: Falcons minus-1.5
Public consensus pick: 61 percent picked Giants
Public perception: This is just one of three Sunday games where the public is siding with the underdog and it's no surprise. Eli Manning usually shines in December, plus the Giants are a better road team than at home. Besides, the Falcons lost to the Panthers last week.
Wiseguys' view: The wiseguys have been saying all year that the Falcons aren't as good as their record. The sharps have already been grabbing the Giants in teasers to get them plus-7.5 as well as backing them in straight bets.
Tuley's Take: Atlanta apologists will remind us that the Falcons are undefeated at home this year and 32-4 in quarterback Matt Ryan's career, but let's not forget that they were barely able to pull out straight-up home wins (and didn't cover) against the Panthers, Raiders and Cardinals. The Giants aren't as likely to let them off the hook. The pick: Giants
Here's what ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on the topic Sunday morning:
When the Bears introduced Lovie Smith in 2004 as their next head coach, he said his first goal was to beat the Green Bay Packers. Recently, Smith's teams have struggled to do that. Heading into today's game against Green Bay, the Bears have lost four straight games to the Packers and are trying to avoid a fifth straight loss that would jeopardize their chances of advancing to the postseason.
Smith's overall record against the Packers is 8-9. Some in the Bears organization are uneasy over Smith's job security and recognize that another Chicago loss to the Packers could ultimately wind up costing Smith his job, according to one source. It's difficult to say any one game determines whether someone keeps or loses his job. But the significance of today's game against the Packers is not lost on many in and out of the Bears organization.
Matchup: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
Spread: Saints minus-3.5
Public consensus pick: 58 percent picked Saints
Public perception: The public started to believe in the Buccaneers after they started the season 8-1 ATS, but they've lost three straight games and have gone 0-1-2 ATS in those three games, and those that only got plus-7.5 two weeks ago against the Broncos are 0-2-1.
Wiseguys' view: The sharps aren't as quick to jump back on the Saints, who have also lost three straight games. And their home-field advantage is nowhere near as strong as last year when they were 8-0 SU and ATS. This year, the Saints are 3-3 SU and ATS at home.
Tuley's Take: I agree with the Vegas NFL Bettors' Poll, which has the Buccaneers as a half-point better on a neutral field. While they didn't cover in the first meeting (having a potential tying TD overturned on the final play of regulation), the Bucs showed they can play with the Saints and should match them score for score. The pick: Buccaneers.
The Ravens have lost back-to-back games in the regular season for the first time since the 2009 season. They went 54 straight games without suffering a two-game losing streak and they could receive a huge boost at the linebacker position on Sunday. Terrell Suggs (bicep) will be back this week after sitting out against Washington and there's a chance Ray Lewis (triceps) could play for the first time since Week 6. Broncos QB Peyton Manning looks to help guide Denver to its ninth straight victory overall while winning his ninth consecutive start against the Ravens. The Broncos have dropped each of their last five trips to Baltimore, including the last two by a combined 37 points. Denver is 4-1 ATS in its last five road games.
Spread: Rams minus-3
Public consensus pick: 57 percent picked Vikings
Public perception: Both teams are still dreaming of a wild-card spot, but the public seems to be gravitating to the underdog because of Adrian Peterson's great comeback as he pursues 2,000 rushing yards.
Wiseguys' view: The sharps are split on this game. Both teams have been great under-the-radar underdog teams. A lot of wiseguys are taking the plus-3 with the Vikings while others are laying just minus-2.5 with the Rams (some are playing both sides and hoping it lands on the key number).
Tuley's Take: Both teams have been good to yours truly, so I've flip-flopped on this game and when that happens it's usually a good idea to pass. The pick: Pass (pool play: Vikings, especially if you get plus-3).
My attempt at getting some winners out and hitting it big
#1 RAMS -3
#2 FALCONS -1
The Falcons have revenge in mind after getting hammered by Big Blue in the playoffs. The Falcons are at home and know they need this win if they want respect and they still have an edge on the home field advantage. Check out the ATS number (above) after a loss for Matt Ryan and Co.