Justify my love, Cleveland (USP)Despite a run of mediocrity in recent weeks, we're still 30-20 against the number in this column for 2012. That said, the bleeding needs to stop soon. That generous cushion from the early part of the year won't last forever.
You know the rules by now: we pick five games a week, using the lines from the Yahoo! Pro Football Pick'Em game. Here's the fresh slate:
Browns +8 at Cowboys: The Pokes haven't been anything special at home since Jerry World opened: just 15-13 straight up and a lousy 11-17 against the number. In their last eight home matches, they've covered just once. This week's timing plays nicely for a Browns go-ugly pick: Cleveland is rested and off its bye, while the Cowboys have a satisfied feeling in the belly after a win over Philadelphia. Dallas also might get caught looking ahead to the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day. I'd feel a little better about Cleveland if I knew for sure Joe Haden will play, but either way, this pick fits a bunch of thematic paths.
Steelers +3.5 vs. Ravens: A lot of teams don't have a significant home-field advantage in the current framework of the NFL, but that doesn't apply to Pittsburgh. Heinz Field is a legitimate weapon (15-1 over last 16 games, albeit with a Ravens loss), and that ties nicely with the crummy way Baltimore has played on the road this season. Sure, Byron Leftwich is a concern - anytime you downgrade from a burger to a leftwich, you've left a lot on the table - but the number more than makes up for that. In a game where points could be difficult to come by, I'll gladly start with a helping number over the magic three. Bark for us, home dog.
Lions +3.5 vs. Packers: While Green Bay comes into the game rested, that doesn't mean the roster will be filled with its top players; Greg Jennings, Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews are all out. And it's not like the Pack was anything special before the bye, winning ugly over Jacksonville and Arizona. Detroit's at home and more desperate in this spot, and the Lions offense has been better of late (unlocking Calvin Johnson sure helped). Although the Packers have dominated this series over several years, I see an upset very likely in Week 11.
Eagles +3.5 at Redskins: I know, I know, picking the Eagles is akin to trusting Lucy Van Pelt on a placement kick. They've been a fraud all year. But the line is starting to show them the proper disrespect, and I like sidling up to a backup QB when he makes his first start with full preparation. Said a different way, Nick Foles should look a lot better in Week 11 than he did in relief last week. But if you don't want to watch this game at all, I'm not going to question you.
Patriots -9.5 vs. Colts: You have to look past the 6-3 mark with the Colts, appreciate that this team is more ordinary than anything else. Indianapolis has been outscored by 15 points for the season and its secondary (96.5 rating) could be as bad as New England's (97.3), especially when you factor in the recent injury problems the Colts are dealing with. Andrew Luck's YPA is almost a wash with Tom Brady's, but the veteran crushes the rookie in most of the other key numbers (there's a 21-point difference in rating). Sure, Indy should get its 24-27 points, but I can't see the Colts stopping the league's best offense at all. When you see the line under 10, you pounce.
Last Week: 2-3