Ohio too close to call

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 5:16 PM ET

Many games are won and lost in the trenches and that's where the Pittsburgh Steelers are dominating.

Old-school, smashmouth football earned them back-to-back wins against the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

The Steelers' opening drive last week set the tone for the entire game when -- with the help of an unheralded offensive line -- Jerome Bettis pounded his way down to the red zone before wide receiver Hines Ward scored on, you guessed it, a running play.

Against the Cleveland Browns this week, the unit will get another opportunity to strut its stuff. The Browns defence traditionally has been sliced and diced by strong runners and the Pittsburgh front line may be the best in the NFL.

But beware, Jeff Garcia's Browns play well at home and beating the Eagles and Pats may have the Steelers feeling a little too invincible right now.

Here are this week's picks:

* Baltimore +1 at N.Y. Jets: Now that Quincy Carter is quarterback in New York, the Baltimore defence can key on Curtis Martin and the Jets ground game. That may spell a second straight upset for the green and white. Ravens 17, Jets 16

* Pittsburgh -31/2 at Cleveland: After dominating the Patriots and Eagles in consecutive weeks, the Steelers should be vulnerable to a letdown on the road against the Browns. But the well-coached Pittsburgh team knows what it's facing. Steelers 24, Browns 20

* Houston +91/2 at Indianapolis: The Colts have proven time and again they don't have enough defence to be favoured by more than a touchdown against any competitive team. Colts 31, Texans 28

* Chicago (NL) at Tennessee: With the status of Titans QB Steve McNair, RB Chris Brown and Bears RB Thomas Jones up in the air, handicappers were holding back their spreads as of press time. Assuming Brown is playing, Tennessee gets the edge straight up at home. Titans 19, Bears 12

* Tampa Bay +31/2 at Atlanta: The Bucs won't look as good on offence as they did last week against the Chiefs but should be able to keep the game close enough for a shot to win in the final minutes. Falcons 23, Bucs 20

* Seattle +11/2 at St. Louis: Last week, the Rams couldn't burn a Patriots defence that started a wide receiver at the cornerback position. How are they going to torch Seattle, a team seeking revenge for a 17-point fourth-quarter collapse when they met St. Louis earlier this season? Seahawks 30, Rams 23

* Kansas City -3 at New Orleans: Chiefs superstar Priest Holmes is doubtful for Sunday's game but if backup Derrick Blaylock is ready, it shouldn't make much of a difference in New Orleans. Chiefs 27, Saints 23

* Cincinnati +3 at Washington: It looks like Washington's running game is back on track and that happens to be the best way to beat the Bengals, who don't play half as well on the road as they do at home. Redskins 24, Bengals 17

* Minnesota +3 at Green Bay: Coming off a bye week, Green Bay will be looking to head in the opposite direction of the Vikings, who are sinking fast without Randy Moss. Packers 33, Vikings 28

* N.Y. Giants -3 at Arizona: Like the late Rodney Dangerfield, the Cardinals get no respect. They should, especially when playing in the desert. Cardinals 21, Giants 20

* Carolina (pick) at San Francisco: There's nothing but self-respect on the line. 49ers 26, Panthers 24

* Buffalo +9 at New England: Had this game taken place a few weeks ago, the spread would seem reasonable. A few solid performances by a newly inspired Bills offence combined with a dependable defence makes all the difference. Patriots 23, Bills 17

UPSET OF THE WEEK

* Detroit +31/2 at Jacksonville: Clinton Portis burned a normally solid Lions defence last week but Jags running back Fred Taylor likely won't have the same success -- especially with deep-threat QB Byron Leftwich out with a knee injury. Lions 21, Jaguars 20

WEEK'S BEST BET

* Philadelphia -6 at Dallas: Good teams always bounce back disappointing losses. The Eagles are a great team and will want to put on a show for Monday Night Football fans. Eagles 33, Cowboys 17

CHECK THE RECORD

Last week: 7-7 straight up; 6-8 against the spread. Season: 77-53 straight up; 59-67-4 ATS. Best Bet is 5-4 after the Ravens beat the Browns. Upset of the Week is 6-3 after the Cardinals shocked the Dolphins. Best Bet and Upset picks are straight up.


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