Cracking the Coad

STEVE COAD -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:47 AM ET

Carolina (7-3) at Buffalo (4-6)

The line: Off

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Bills head coach Mike Malarkey says he's encouraged by the progress of quarterback J. P. Losman in two games as a fill-in for the injured Kelly Holcomb (concussion, listed as probable), and plans to start the second-year pivot against the Panthers. Losman has completed 29 of 62 tosses for 305 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in his last six-plus quarters, helping the Bills to a 1-1 record. That's a lot better than at the beginning of the season when he was 1-3 as the Bills' starter. Despite Sunday's 13-3 loss to the Bears, the Panthers are hot, having won six of their last seven. They'll need all that on-field heat against Buffalo's winter wonderland weather.

Cody's call: Panthers 20-14

St. Louis (4-6) at Houston (1-9)

The line: Rams by 4

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Even with Marc Bulger (right shoulder) at quarterback, the Rams pack too much offensive punch for the beleaguered Texans in this first-ever meeting between the teams. St. Louis will also be without sterling safety Adam Archuleta (concussion), leaving with Rams' depleted secondary with four players who have combined for only six career starts. Arizona's Kurt Warner took advantage of the situation Sunday, throwing for 285 yards and a trio of TDs in the Cardinals' 38-28 upset. This was supposed to be the year the Texans got better, perhaps even improving to .500 after seasons of 4-12, 5-11 and 7-9.

Cody's call: Rams 27-21

Chicago (7-3) at Tampa Bay (7-3)

The line: Bucs by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Da Bears are legit. They proved it with Sunday's 13-3 win over Carolina, an outcome that boosted Chicago's winning streak to six games and snapped the Panthers' winning run at six. Rookie QB Kyle Orton is prospering, limiting his mistakes and letting the Bears' cream-of-the-league defence take it from there. The Bucs are 5-2 in their last seven home games against the Bears and now that young quarterback Chris Simms is getting more comfortable, Tampa has a lot more offensive potential.

Cody's call: Bears 20-16

San Diego (6-4) at Washington (5-5)

The line: Chargers by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The Chargers have won three in a row, which has them back in the playoff hunt after a 3-4 start. The Redskins, 3-0 out the gate, have been 2-5 since. The point is these teams are headed in opposite directions. The Chargers are coming off their most impressive performance of the season, a 48-10 shellacking of the Bills. In that one, Drew Brees, who's outstanding and getting better, threw for 339 yards and a season-high four TDs. With 18 touchdown tosses, Brees is third in the AFC. He's in great company: Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning have each thrown for 20 TDs and Tom Brady has pitched for 17.

Cody's call: Chargers 24-17

San Francisco (2-8) at Tennessee (2-8)

The line: Titans by 7 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Both of these teams are giving their all, but without success. Salary cap issues have knocked the Titans to the back of the pack, so they have no one to blame but themselves. Steve McNair, perpetually bruised and battered, is nearing the end. Otherwise, says football analyst Dave Goldberg, "This is a very young team with a smart GM, Floyd Reese, and a good coach, Jeff Fisher." Goldberg adds that Titans owner Bud Adams is fully aware of what he has and plans to remains patient. The 49ers have tonnes of problems, one of them being wideout Brandon Lloyd, a stellar receiver with an attitude problem that's alienated several teammates.

Cody's call: Titans 31-27

Baltimore (3-7) at Cincinnati (7-3)

The line: Bengals by 9

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. This is a "sandwich" game for the Bengals, who are coming off a 45-37 loss to Indianapolis and head into Pittsburgh next. The Ravens, who lost 21-9 to the Bengals at home on Nov. 6, upset the Steelers 16-13 in overtime Sunday, breaking a four-game losing streak and ending a drought of 12 quarters without a touchdown. Ravens QB Kyle Boler is hardly Peyton Manning and the Bengals should be able to punch some holes in Baltimore's D, which is still missing linebacker Ray Lewis (thigh) and safety Ed Reed (ankle).

Cody's call: Bengals 30-20

New England (6-4) at Kansas City (6-4)

The line: Chiefs by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The Pats' not-so-spectacular 24-17 victory over New Orleans on Sunday marked the first time this season the defending Super Bowl champs have won two in a row. The Chiefs, in all likelihood, will be a tougher assignment for the black-and-blue Patriots, especially in K.C.'s Arrowhead Stadium. Things do get easier for the Pats, who play four of their last five games against struggling AFC East rivals. Kansas City's final six are against teams with a combined 41-19 record.

Cody's call: Chiefs 33-21

Cleveland (4-6) at Minnesota (5-5)

The line: Vikings by 4 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Gannett News Service writer Bob Matthews says in his weekly best bets column that if the underdog Browns protect the ball, they have the defence to pull off what would be a mild upset. I'm not so sure, although the talent-shy Browns can be troublesome. I'm also not convinced of the Vikings' contention they still have a chance at catching the Bears for No. 1 in the NFC North. But the Vikes are 3-0 with Brad Johnson subbing at quaterback for the injured Daunte Culpepper (knee).

Cody's call: Vikings 20-13

Miami (3-7) at Oakland (4-6)

The line: Raiders by 7

The skinny: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. The Raiders, better than their record, are coming off a 16-13 victory over the Redskins. The Dolphins, meanwhile, are in trouble. Sage Rosenfels started at quarterback last week in Cleveland -- a 22-0 Browns' victory -- and completed five-of-10 for 14 yards and two interceptions. That earned him the hook in favour of Gus Frerotte, who connected on just four of 18 tries for 53 yards. Miami's offensive isn't the only thing in pain. Its defence is missing star linebacker Zach Thomas (ankle-shoulder) and former star Junior Seau (Achilles tendon).

Cody's call: Raiders 24-12

Jacksonville (7-3) at Arizona (3-7)

The line: Jaguars by 3 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. The strength, er, the weakness of the Jags' schedule gives them a good shot at an AFC wild-card berth (in case you've forgotten, they're in the AFC South with Indy). But they'll have to be careful this week against the Cardinals, who are pass-happy and have the guy to pull it off in Kurt Warner. On Sunday, Warner threw for 285 yards and three TDs as the Cardinals soared over St. Louis. No doubt, revenge was sweet for Warner, who won two league MVP awards with Rams and was then shuffled aside.

Cody's call: Jaguars 30-24

New York Giants (7-3) at Seattle (8-2)

The line: Seahawks by 4 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. One thing's for sure: the Seahawks are going to win the NFC West title. They took the title last year on the final week of the regular season. This year, they can do it Sunday, but along with winning, the Seahawks need the Texans to topple the Rams. Seattle, especially tough at home, has won six straight, surviving a 27-25 scare last week versus the 49ers. This game could be a shootout. The Giants are third in NFL points-for with 281; the Seahawks follow with 272. Both have lots of offensive weapons, none more devastating than Seattle's Shaun Alexander, the league's leading rusher with 1,229 yards.

Cody's call: Seahawks 33-31

Green Bay (2-8) at Philadelphia (4-6)

The line: Eagles by 4 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. How the mighty have fallen. Based on last season, when the Eagles were NFC champs, a lot of prognosticators (me among them) picked Philly to win this year's Super Bowl at Detroit's Ford Field in February. Wrong, oh so wrong. A few things engineered their destruction: injuries to star quarterback Donovan McNabb, the lack of a running game, a defence that's been offensive and, of course, the Terrell Owens situation, which needs no introduction. What a shame; what a waste. If the Eagles are the best 4-6 team in football, the Packers are the toast of those at 2-8.

Cody's call: Eagles 28-27

New Orleans (2-8) at New York Jets (2-8)

The line: Off

The skinny: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. (TSN). This is quite possibly the worst Sunday late game TSN has ever had the misfortune to show. Desperate Housewives, even poker on a rival all-sports network, sounds like better viewing than the Jets-Saints. The problems with both of these teams start at quarterback. Aaron Brooks is likely on his way out of whatever city the Saints are playing in next season. The Jets will start Brooks Bollinger, concussion and all, ahead of Kliff Kingsbury. Even playing in the miserable AFC East, the Jets could go 2-14.

Cody's call: Saints 23-20

Pittsburgh (7-3) at Indianapolis (10-0)

The line: Off

The skinny: Monday, 9 p.m. This game marks perfect Indy's second big test in a row. They passed last week's assignment against Cincinnati, outgunning the Bengals 45-38. Football analyst Dave Goldberg said this week, the Colts "might be better off losing before the pressure of being perfect gets to them." I'm sure the 1972 Dolphins (the lone team to achieve an unbeaten season) might agree. In any case, the Steelers won't be dispatched easily. Big Ben Roethlisberger (arthroscopic knee surgery) is expected back, which helps the Steelers mentally as well as physically. Pittsburgh head coach Bill Cowher says the Steelers have to keep the Colts close to have a chance of winning. "If we can do that and not beat ourselves and not give up some of the big plays, make them do things methodically and slowly, the longer we can keep this thing going into the fourth quarter, then it becomes a play here or a play there."

Cody's call: Colts 37-31

Season record

Straight up

Thanksgiving: 2-0; last week: 10-6; overall: 106-56

Spread

Thanksgiving: 2-0; last week: 7-7; overall: 76-66


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