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A bettor's guide to Week 12

You're going to see a parade of underdogs that will blow your head off. So wear a hat. Look at the handicappers' box when you pick up the paper today. Taking the overall consensus, I'll bet that favorites are picked to cover much more than underdogs. It's human nature. You just feel safer with a small favorite that looks a lot better on paper. I've made that mistake as well, because, as we know, over the long haul it's going to even out. Well, I just have a hunch that this is the week of the dog, and in my desperate attempt to get my seasonal number close to mediocre, I'm going to play it strong in that direction.

Cardinals plus 3 1/2 against the Giants.

The Giants have just finished with four playoff caliber opponents; Pittsburgh, Dallas, Philly and Baltimore. The following week they visit Washington, with Philly, Dallas and Carolina to follow. Unless they're as serious a superhuman team as all the local publicists would have us believe, there has to be a letdown sometime. This is the week, in the desert, a rough place to visit. Just ask my wife, who comes from there.

The only thing that puts me a bit off is the fact that Arizona is sprinting away with its division and has nothing to prove for a while. But I think a crack at the heavies of the East will be incentive enough. If Kurt Warner doesn't suffer a case of turnoveritis in quarter number one I like them for big numbers, plus the upset.

Patriots plus 2 at Miami.

I don't like this pick as much as I should because the number is out of whack. I know they lost to the Dolphins already, which I imagine is keeping the number geared toward the home team. And I also know that my formula screams at me to play the favorite because my early line had New England on top by 3. In other words, I fell into the trap. Even so, New England has had an extra three days to prepare for this one, and that's a solid bet, where Belichick is involved. I'm guessing that the newspaper handicappers' boxes will be just about 100 percent in favor of New England, which scares me most of all.

Philadelphia plus 1 at Baltimore.

Yeah, I know, Joe Flacco is amazing and all that, but Jim Johnson's defense has been very rough on young QBs this year, i.e., Ryan, Wallace, O'Sullivan. I think it's Flacco's turn to learn about pressure defenses.

Titans minus 4 over the Jets.

New York is coming down off its mighty triumph over New England. Titans are coming off a scare at Jacksonville. The matchup that intrigues me is the Jets' O-line, fortified by older mercenaries, against the hordes of defensive Titans up front ... they will use eight without noticeable dropoff. I think they figure to wear New York down and eventually get to Favre. The Jets' Leon Washington could be a difference-maker, though. He is every week anyway. What's to stop him now? Nothing, but I think his guys will be outscored.

Colts plus 3 at San Diego.

I've never noticed a great dropoff in Peyton's game on the road. The weather should be good, and I think the Colts are back in their groove. Plus, the Chargers' defense doesn't excite me.

Packers plus 2 1/2 at New Orleans.

It's tricky, picking against the Saints at home in a Monday nighter. I remember all too vividly the manic way they got all over the Falcons in the Dome two years ago. Never gave 'em a chance. But if the division still means anything, they might be looking ahead to Carolina. The Packers slaughtered the Bears and are riding high right now, which makes me a little nervous. But not enough to go the other way.

Texans plus 3 in Cleveland.

Sorry, I'm not sold on Brady Quinn just yet. Someday maybe, but right now he just isn't accurate enough. Not that the Texans are a great defensive team, but I think they have enough firepower, even without Matt Schaub, to outscore the Browns.

ALSO:

Lions plus 8 1/2 over Tampa Bay.Chiefs plus 2 1/2 over Buffalo. Panthers minus 1 over Atlanta.

Last week: 4-4 Season: 36-41.

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