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AFC FLAUNTING ITS SUPERIORITY OVER NFC

I usually don't like to look back, because, as Satchel Paige so eloquently put it, something might be gaining on me. But before we get wrapped up in this weekend's football festivities, I can't let what happened last weekend pass without mention.

The AFC confirmed its superiority over the NFC -- big time. In an AFC East-NFC East showdown, the AFC East was 3-1. The only NFC East winner was last-place Philadelphia, which beat New England, a team on its way to last place in the AFC East.

On top of that, Tampa Bay, the first-place team in the NFC Central, was destroyed, 45-0, by Oakland of the AFC West, which needed the win to improve to .500. The other two AFC winners against the NFC were Baltimore, 31-8, over New Orleans, and Tennessee, 30-17, over Atlanta.

The 6-1 record for the AFC vs. the NFC brought the season's total to 36-21. It's all pretty impressive.

This weekend, in case Santa isn't kind to you, the NFL has a special gift. Naturally, it involves the AFC.

In the game that everyone has been looking forward to, 13-1 Jacksonville travels to Nashville to play 11-3 Tennessee. The Titans are the only team that has defeated the Jaguars this season. They did it in Jacksonville in Week Three, winning, 20-19, as 9 1/2 -point underdogs. The Jaguars have won 11 in a row since.

The Jaguars are 7-0 on the road. The Titans are 7-0 at home. Both are 7-1 in the AFC Central division. The problem for the Titans is that even if they win this week, they would have to win again next week and hope that the Jaguars lose. Obviously, if they both finish 13-3, the Titans will win the division.

Here is why the Titans have a problem: Next week, while they are playing in Pittsburgh (a game they should win), the Jaguars will be at home against Cincinnati (a game the Jaguars won't lose). But that's all moot, because the Jaguars will wrap things up this week by beating the Titans. They also will cover the three-point spread.

Meanwhile, in the AFC West, suddenly desperate Seattle will be playing for its playoff life against first-place Kansas City. Since beating the Chiefs in Kansas City, 31-19, as three-point underdogs, the Seahawks have lost four in a row.

Apparently, not everyone has lost faith in the Seahawks -- they are three-point favorites against the Chiefs. Since losing to the Seahawks, the Chiefs have won four in a row. I have to take the Chiefs and the three points. The Seahawks have not been very good to me.

BEST BET: Two teams that have no playoff hopes but have been playing like champs meet in Baltimore, as the Ravens play host to Cincinnati. The Ravens beat the Bengals, 34-31, as 5 1/2 -point favorites in Cincinnati. Since then, the Bengals have won three straight. They are averaging 36 points in their last four games. The Ravens have won four of their last five and are averaging 32 points a game in that stretch.

I have done the math and decided the Bengals are a best bet as 7 1/2 -point underdogs. Here's a prediction of the score: 36-32. I don't care which team wins.

BEST OF THE REST: Everyone knows why and how the Bills should win against New England. But the unusually small point spread makes me nervous. Nevertheless, I'll take the Bills. . . . In St. Louis, the Rams and Chicago meet in what I have dubbed the Point Spread Bowl. The Rams' record against the spread matches their regular record, 12-2. The Bears, who are just 6-8, are 10-3-1 against the spread. Out of tribute to the Bears' accomplishment, I will take them with the points. . . . Two weeks ago, the Jets beat Miami, 28-20, as three-point underdogs. Monday night, the Jets will be four-point underdogs. They will beat the Dolphins again. Please, no tears. . . . It may be hard to believe, but Tampa Bay will bounce back at home, beat Green Bay and cover the spread.

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