Ravens to pick on Big Ben

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

Since Global TV's David (Pretty Boy) Bastl is down in Mexico this week working on his George Hamilton tan, it appears you NFL bettors have drawn the short end of the stick and ended up with yours truly to prognosticate this week's action.

I wouldn't say I'm brutal when it comes to placing bets, but that's only because there isn't a word worse than brutal.

Bastl, who now refers to himself in the third person as Mr. Sunday, was 14-2 last week, and he sent us an e-mail from Mexico describing how nice the beach was and how easy the rum and Cokes were going down.

Throw some ice cubes in those drinks, Dave, and here's hoping Montezuma's Revenge beats the spread.

MINNESOTA 3 Green Bay

Get that last-minute shopping done early, because this Christmas Eve afternoon clash should be a beauty. The winner will clinch the NFC North title, but the Vikings don't even have a playoff spot yet -- unlike the Packers. Despite Minnesota's brutal play of late, Brett Favre's inability to win in a dome will give the Vikes an important win.

Vikings -3

Pittsburgh 5.5 Baltimore

Take the Ravens and bet the farm. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is going to lose before the end of the regular season. He has to. It will finally happen on Sunday against Baltimore and its vicious defence.

Ravens +5.5

Indianapolis 7 San Diego

The over-under on this battle between 11-3 teams could hover around the 100-point plateau, but the Chargers, who will still lose this game, deserve a little more credit than this. San Diego pivot Drew Brees doesn't turn the ball over, which means he shouldn't have any trouble marching against Indy's suspect, but improving defence. Peyton will get his touchdown record and then feel the letdown.

Chargers +7

New England 2.5 N.Y. Jets

Will the team that couldn't lose go on a two-game losing streak? Probably not. After somehow falling to the 2-11 Dolphins on Monday night, the defending Super Bowl champs will be looking to send a message and, at the same time, get in hot pursuit of first place in the AFC. New England does not want to go back to Pittsburgh next month.

Patriots -2.5

Seattle 7 Arizona

Can you believe it? This uninspiring clash between the sad-sack Seattle Seahawks and the awful Arizona Cardinals actually means something. The Seahawks (7-7) can win the NFC West this weekend with some help, while the Cardinals -- yes, the Cardinals! -- can still make the playoffs. Seattle will emerge victorious, but it shouldn't be favoured by seven points against the Oak Park Raiders, let alone Arizona.

Cardinals +7

St. Louis 3 Philadelphia

When I first saw this line I almost took out a second mortgage, but these bookmakers know what they're doing. The Eagles (13-1) will be without Terrell Owens and have clinched the No. 1 spot in the NFC. Meanwhile, the Rams (6-8) expect to have quarterback Marc Bulger back and are in desperate need of a win to make the playoffs. The betting line, however, is almost too good to be true, because the Eagles will prevail.

Eagles +3

In the remaining games: KANSAS CITY beats Oakland but the Raiders (+8) cover, TENNESSEE (+4) wins straight-up over Denver, DETROIT takes out Chicago but take the Bears (+6) with points, CINCINNATI (-6) topples the N.Y. Giants, Houston (+7) falls to JACKSONVILLE but covers the spread, Carolina (+3) walks into TAMPA BAY and wins, Atlanta (-4.5) smokes NEW ORLEANS, red-hot Buffalo (-11) pounds San Francisco, DALLAS (+2) gets a victory at home against Washington, and MIAMI wins another one but fails to cover against Cleveland (+7).

LAST WEEK: 14-2 against the spread, 10-6 straight up.

SEASON TO DATE: 123-96-5 against the spread, 142-82 straight up.


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