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A FEW BULBS MISSING FROM MARQUEE GAMES

It is the best of games. It is the worst of games. Week Six in the National Football League offers a tale of two matchups on opposite ends of the spectrum.

After weeks of searching for something resembling an interesting game, we have New England at Denver on Monday night. It doesn't get any better than this -- the AFC's only undefeated teams meeting in a Mile High showdown.

But Week Six also takes us to new depths, as New Orleans travels to Chicago on Sunday night. Games don't get much uglier than this -- and it's also on national TV.

Let's concentrate on the AFC battle for supremacy.

As great as the Broncos-Patriots game looks, all signs point to a Broncos victory, and the point spread shouldn't be a factor. Here are the things you must consider:

John Elway has never lost to the Patriots. His record in this series is 9-0.

The Broncos are 7-0 against the spread in their last seven games with the Patriots.

The Broncos beat the Patriots, 34-8, last year and, 37-3, the year before. And those games were played at Foxboro.

AFC East teams have traveled to Denver 25 times since 1969. Denver has won 22 of those games. One was a tie.

The Broncos' eight-point victory at Atlanta last week was their closest game of the season.

One final thing to contemplate about this game: Both teams have played a weak schedule to this point. This could turn into a high-scoring affair, but that is the way the Broncos win. So take the Broncos. You'll enjoy this game even more if you do.

As for the 1-4 Saints and 0-5 Bears, there's not much to say. Just remember that the Bears have faced Green Bay, Minnesota, Detroit, New England and Dallas. This is their first game against a team anywhere near as bad as they are.

As for Mike Ditka returning to coach against his old team, that's a non-story. Ditka has lost his old fire and appears to have given up on the Saints. My advice is to take the Bears, but don't watch.

Best bet

Arizona is the best 1-3 team in the NFL. The Cardinals are 4-0 against the point spread and have been in a position to win each of their games. They come home this week after a two-game road trip separated by a week off. In their only other game at home this season, they upset Dallas, 25-22. They lost by one point at Tampa Bay last week and look like a team that's ready to put it all together.

The Vikings are the perennial 8-8 team. They are 3-2 this season and have a potent offense, but I see them wilting in the Arizona sun. Even as a slight favorite, the Cardinals are a smart bet.
Best of the rest

On any other week, the Green Bay-Tampa Bay game would be the premier attraction. But the Packers' 3-2 record pales beside the Buccaneers' 5-0 mark. Nevertheless, the Packers are a heavy favorite. Just remember they are 0-5 against the point spread this season, and the Bucs are 7-3 against the spread in their last 10 games at Green Bay. The big point spread makes the Bucs look too good to be true, but remember that sometimes the linemakers are a little slow in adjusting to reality. They're overrating the Packers. Take the Bucs. . . . Speaking of the linemakers, I think they are missing the boat on the Jets at Indianapolis this week. The Jets are surpassing all expectations and are at their best on the road. Yet they are only slight favorites. Maybe it's the Colts' time to wake up, but I wouldn't bet on it. . . . The Bills will have their work cut out for them against Detroit, but remember that the Lions followed their first two wins with losses and are coming off a big victory over the Packers. The point spread on this game scares me a bit, so I'm going with the Lions in a close game.

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