Misery follows all

STEVE MacFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

Writing from Ottawa these past couple of weeks has been an eye-opening experience.

As my inbox likely is filling with angry e-mails because of another sub-par prognostication performance, my recent picks are being compared to those of other published predictions -- including those of the local Sun's Trevor Bunke.

The conclusion: Misery is being shared by all bettors this year. Even the most respected NFL beat writers/prognosticators in the U.S. are scratching their heads on a weekly basis.

You can't trust a team to protect a 'blowout' lead anymore, as Seattle proved last week, so it's no surprise pundits everywhere are sagging below .500 against the spread this season.

The Seahawks blew a 17-point lead against the Rams with less than six minutes to play in regulation en route to a disastrous overtime loss that ended their 10-game home win streak.

But the 'Hawks aren't alone. Arizona also is guilty of allowing a late comeback to ruin many a Pro-Line Pointspread ticket. In fact, there have been only four NFL games decided by a margin of 20 points or more this season. Last year, there were 21 of those blowouts through the first five weeks.

Here are this week's picks.

And keep your fingers crossed.

* MIAMI +6 AT BUFFALO

Here's a bold prediction for you: One of these two teams will get its first win of the season Sunday. Too bad no one will be watching. Bills 17, Dolphins 16

* SAN FRANCISCO +10 AT N.Y. JETS

After barely beating Buffalo as time expired last week, there's no way New York should be favoured by 10 against the 49ers. The Jets, though, should manage to keep their perfect record intact for another week.

Jets 28, 49ers 21

* SEATTLE +4 AT NEW ENGLAND

New England's incredible streak of 19 straight wins might end Sunday. What better way for Seattle to shake off last week's massive letdown? At the very least, a field goal should decide the winner.

Seahawks 26, Patriots 23

* CINCINNATI +3 AT CLEVELAND

Sending all four Browns DBs personalized notes and bottles of upset-stomach medicine was hilarious but Bengals receiver Chad Johnson's prank might backfire and inspire Cleveland's secondary.

Browns 14, Bengals 10

* GREEN BAY +1 AT DETROIT

Is anyone else still in shock over how bad the Packers have played this year? Detroit being legitimately favoured over division-rival Green Bay is a sign of how mixed up the league has become.

Lions 24, Packers 21

* WASHINGTON (PICK) AT CHICAGO

Last chance for Washington's terrible offence to turn things around and help out its defence. If the 'Skins don't win this one, Hall-of-Famer Joe Gibbs' return to coaching might be short.

Redskins 17, Bears 12

* SAN DIEGO +5 1/2 AT ATLANTA

How the Chargers continue to be pegged as five-plus-point underdogs every week is puzzling. San Diego has obviously come a long way. Meanwhile, Mike Vick is struggling to learn the West Coast Offence.

Falcons 19, Chargers 17

* HOUSTON +6 1/2 AT TENNESSEE

Monday night's thrashing of the Packers was impressive but the Titans need to have another strong game before anyone considers them contenders again. Houston's potent passing attack should help keep this one close.

Titans 30, Texans 24

* KANSAS CITY -1 1/2 AT JACKSONVILLE

We'll see if Kansas City's win two weeks ago against Baltimore was a sign of things to come. The Jags defence started strong but has been fading fast.

Chiefs 28, Jags 23

* DENVER -2 AT OAKLAND

History is on the Broncos' side when it comes to matchups against the Raiders -- who miss QB Rich Gannon more and more each week. Denver is finding ways to win close games with strong defence.

Broncos 23, Raiders 20

* MINNESOTA -3 1/2 AT NEW ORLEANS

The Vikings, another team that has trouble protecting big leads, should be able to beat the ailing Saints by at least a handful of points.

Vikings 30, Saints 24

* TAMPA BAY +6 AT ST. LOUIS

Last week's fourth-quarter comeback might have been the start of something good for St. Louis. The Bucs defence is great but the Rams showed they're still dangerous.

Rams 27, Bucs 17

- - -

UPSET OF THE WEEK

* PITTSBURGH +3 AT DALLAS

Dallas defenders have shown weakness against the run this season. Duce Staley leads Pittsburgh's clock-controlling ground attack while Jerome Bettis gets the paydirt glory and Big Ben Roethlisberger capitalizes on his opportunities through the air.

Steelers 17, Cowboys 16

- - -

WEEK'S BEST BET

* Carolina +8 at Philadelphia

Philadelphia has won all four of its games this season by at least

10 points. With injuries taking their toll on the Panthers, it's hard to imagine that trend coming to an end this week.

Eagles 31, Panthers 17

- - -

CHECK THE RECORD

Last week: 5-9 ATS; 8-6 straight up. Season: 33-37-3 ATS; 44-30 straight up. Best Bet is 2-3 after Seattle's late collapse against the Rams. Upset of the Week is 3-2 after Tampa Bay earned its first win. Best Bet and Upset picks are straight up.


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