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NFL Playbook: Double-digit spreads tell the story

Call it "Cupcake Week."

Of the 12 National Football League teams with winning records through Week 12, 10 will be in action today and Monday night. Only two, though, will play each other. You couldn't plan it better.

New Orleans-at-Los Angeles Rams today is the only game on the Week 12 schedule where winning teams clash head on, and, regardless of the outcome, the loser will at least still be tied for first place in its division. Still, it is easily the most attractive game on the schedule despite the Rams plummeting to reality with their loss at Minnesota last Sunday.

How one-sided do some of these games seem to be? Pittsburgh, New England, Philadelphia and Atlanta are double-digit favorites and Kansas City is close to it. The Chiefs are a 9 1/2-point favorite over the Bills today at Arrowhead.

New Orleans is one of five teams trying to complete an undefeated November. The Saints have won eight in a row since opening the season 0-2.

New England (8), Philadelphia (8), Pittsburgh (5) and Jacksonville (4) are others with win streaks on the line.

A capsule look at the Week 12 games:

Game of the day

Saints (8-2) at Rams (7-3)
TV: Fox, 4:25 p.m.
The line: Rams (-2 1/2).
The scoop: Sounds crazy now, but from 1970 to 2001, the Rams and Saints were in the same division of the NFC (Western). It's why they have met to frequently with the Rams owning a 40-32 advantage in the all-time series. ... New Orleans is the first team in the Super Bowl era to start 0-2 and win the next eight games. Drew Brees led a Saints rally that produced 15 points in 2:53 to force overtime against Washington last week before New Orleans won on a Wil Lutz FG. ... Rams were held to 254 net yards in their 24-7 loss at Minnesota.
Outlook: Each team averaging 30 points a game with double-digit average in point differential. Expect a free-wheeling game. Saints, 35-34.

Top attractions

Packers (5-5) at Steelers (8-2)

TV: NBC, 8:30 p.m.
The line: Steelers (-14).
The scoop: Aaron Rodgers injury took a lot (all?) of the glitz out of this one. ... With offense short-circuited, Green Bay defense is exposed. The Pack's season average has balooned to 340.1 per game ... Steelers have No. 1 receiver (Antonio Brown, 70 catches, 1,026 yards) and No. 1 rusher (Le'Veon Bell, 886 yards) and defense is yielding only 287.6 ypg. and 165 total points, second-lowest in league.
Outlook: Never like double-digit spreads but Packers were shut out at home last week by Ravens. Pittsburgh, 31-10.

Texans (4-6) at Ravens (5-5)

TV: ESPN, Monday, 8:30 p.m.
The line: Ravens (-7).
The scoop: Ravens posted third shutout of season at Green Bay last week. Baltimore allowing only average of 259 yards last three games and has given up only three rushing TDs and five passing TDs in last six.
Outlook: With Pittsburgh and Detroit toughest left on schedule, Ravens are in good position to claim wild-card playoff berth. Don't expect them to slip up today against Tom Savage and Texans. Baltimore 24-10.

Jaguars (7-3) at Cardinals (4-6)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Jaguars (-5).
The scoop: Four of Jaguars' seven victories have come agaisnt four of the five worst offenses in the league. League-leading defense yielding only 275.6 ppg and six opponents have scored in single-digits. ... Jax rookie RB Leonard Fournette returned last week from ankle injury and suspension last week and carried 28 times for 111 yards. Still, Jaguars were nursing six-point lead at Cleveland before LB Telvin Smith flopped on fumble in end zone with 1:14 left. ... Cards lost by 10 at Houston last week with Blaine Gabbert at QB and are only 2-2 at home.
Outlook: Cards were 24-8 in 2014-15. Boy, have they tumbled fast. Jaguars, 24-16.

Bills (5-5) at Chiefs (6-4)
TV: CBS 1 p.m.
The line: Chiefs (-9 1/2).
The scoop: A lot of Buffalo media and others like to put down Alex Smith as dink-and-dunk QB. His 103.2 passer rating against Bills is his third best against all opponents. He never had thrown an INT against Bills. In fact, he has never thrown an INT against the entire AFC East in 10 games. He has five TDs against Buffalo. ... Chiefs in slump mainly, it seems, because rookie RB Kareem Hunt has hit the wall after 208 touches. Watch for alternate Charcandrick West to hurt Bills. ... Buffalo is 0-3 versus Chiefs since Andy Reid took over in KC and some of the losses were some of the most painful in recent Bills history.
Outlook: Tight ends usually kill the Bills and Travis Kelce IS a tight end. Buffalo defense is just the medicine ailing offenses need. Chiefs, 30-17.

Best of the rest

Buccaneers (4-6) at Falcons (6-4)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Falcons (-10).
The scoop: Rout of Cowboys and win at Seattle indicates Falcons have begun their playoff push after first-half losses to Bill and Jets. ... Bucs were one of three teams to win at Atlanta last season and only one to win by more than three points. ... Ryan Fitzpatrick starts third in a row at QB for Tampa Bay after winning last two over Jets and Dolphins.
Outlook: Teams engaged in two shootouts last season with over of 71 in Tempa and 55 in Atlanta. Expect the same. Falcons, 35-20.

Titans (6-4) at Colts (3-7)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Titans (-3 1/2).
The scoop: Tennessee has recent history of failure against Indy, losing 11 in a row before Titans broke the spell, 36-22, on Oct. 16. ... Indy coming off bye after extending Steelers in 20-17 loss two weeks ago. ... Colts RB Frank Gore needs 89 rushing yards to pass Hall of Famers Jerome "The Bus" Bettis for sixth on all-time list. Titans haven't won in Indy since 2007.
Outlook: Colts defense gets shredded regularly, but they hang in. Indianapolis, 23-20.

Dolphins (4-6) at Patriots (8-2)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Patriots (-16 1/2).
The scoop: Jay Cutler still the starter for Fish despite his nine INTs. Dolfans, both of them, clamoring for Matt Moore to start after he passed for 282 yards in relief last week. ... It's unfair that Tom Brady, who makes mere mortals look like Hall of Fame receivers, now has Brandin Cooks as a legitimate weapon.
Outlook: Dolphins have won four from Patriots in last 15 but last win in Foxborough was in 2008 when Brady was out. Big spread tough to overcome even for Brady unless Cutler throws a bunch of INTs. Patriots, 33-20.

Panthers (7-3) at Jets (4-6)
TV: Fox, 1 p.m.
The line: Panthers (-5).
The scoop: Carolina defense really starting to assert itself and Cam Newton rounding into form. Panthers lead NFC in total defense (278.0) and are on pace to set franchise record for fewest yards allowed in season. ... Hard to believe Jets had 417 yards of total offense against Jacksonville. ... Newton passed for 254 yards and four TDs and ran for 95 in rout of Miami in Charlotte before last week's bye. Jets also coming off bye and 15-10 loss at Tampa Bay.
Outlook: Spread seems out of kilter even though game is at MetLife, but Panthers could be caught looking head to next week's showdown in New Orleans. Carolina, 27-14.

Bears (3-7) at Eagles (9-1)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Eagles (-13 1/2).
The scoop: Last time Bears visited the Linc, they were embarrassed, 54-11, in 2013 when Marc Trestman was coach. That shouldn't happen to this Chicago team although only times Bears were blown out (22 and 21-point defeats) were on the road versus Tampa Bay and Green Bay. That was before Mitch Trubisky took over as starting QB. ... Eagles are rolling with QB Carson Wentz leading the league with 25 TD passes.
Outlook: Chicago pass defense ranks in middle of league, but Trubisky won't be able to keep up with Wentz with Philly crowd and pass rush against him. Eagles, 28-10.

Seahawks (6-4) at 49ers (1-9)
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.
The line: Seahawks (-6 1/2).
The scoop: Niners still teasing fans who are waiting for the start of the Jimmy Garoppolo era. It's been a month since QB arrived in Santa Clara from New England and he hasn't started yet. Word is that rookie C.J. Beathard will get the start today. ... Niners had bye week to celebrate win over the Giants. ... Seattle has won last seven in NFC West rivalry but by only 12-9 in season opener in Seattle and by two in finale last season in Santa Clara.
Outlook: Russell Wilson looking to extend his win streak to five with six TDs and no INTs versus 49ers. Seattle 20-10.

Broncos (3-7) at Raiders (4-6)
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Raiders (-5).
The scoop: Paxton Lynch gets start in quarterback change in Denver after Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler have failed to ignite offense. Broncos fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy this week. Raiders canned defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. ... Bill Musgrave, who had two tours with Oakland, takes over Denver offense. Asst. head coach John Pagano takes over Raiders' "D".
Outlook: Broncos out of playoff picture it seems. Raiders desperate for a win to stay alive. Oakland, 24-17.

Dog of the day

Browns (0-10) at Bengals (4-6)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Bengals (-8 1/2).
The scoop: You can make a case that the winless Browns are a more competitive team than the recent Bills. They have faced a tougher schedule (56-44 opponents overall record versus Bills' 46-50) and never been blown out by 37 and 30 points as Buffalo has last two weeks. Cleveland has three losses by three-points and led Lions two weeks ago and was within one score of Jaguars late in game before double-digit losses. Browns actually rank higher in both offense and defensive yardage than Bengals.
Outlook: Bengals have won 11 of last 14 against Cleveland. Last Browns win in Cincy was 2014. Bengals, 20-14.

Last week's results: 6-7, outright; 4-8-1 versus spread.

Season's record: 91-58 outright; 69-72-8 versus spread.##

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