Colts fill holes, keep surging

It’s tough to argue against the Indianapolis Colts’ Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne representing the top pass-catch combination in the NFL.

Manning leads the league with 3,171 yards passing, and Wayne leads all receivers with 968 yards. Manning and Wayne teamed up to burn the New England Patriots two weeks ago, and they are targeting the Houston Texans today.

“The Colts are not 10-0 by accident,” handicapper Joseph D’Amico said. “They have earned their record in the public eye and on the back of Manning, their veteran leader. Despite injuries, new personnel and early predictions of a nonexistent running game, the Colts have emerged as the best team in the AFC.”

Indianapolis has won 19 consecutive regular-season games, and everyone keeps wondering when the streak will end. Many predicted doom for the Colts last week at Baltimore. It didn’t happen.

Next in line is AFC South rival Houston, which fought gallantly before falling 20-17 at Indianapolis on Nov. 8.

The Colts are favored by 3 to 31/2 points on the road, and D’Amico recommends getting the “sharp number” and betting the Colts minus-3.

The Texans, 1-3-1 against the spread (ATS) at home, feature a dangerous pass-catch combo in Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson.

“By no means am I selling Manning and the offense short, but the Colts’ speedy defense is the reason for their stellar record,” said D’Amico (Allamericansports.info). “The Indy stop unit is the best in the NFL, allowing a mere 15.7 points per game. It’s a fast and destructive defense.”

The Indianapolis defense will miss end Dwight Freeney, who is out with an abdomen injury. But the Colts continue to fill holes, and they are 5-0 ATS on the road.

D’Amico, 5-0 last week in the Las Vegas Review-Journal NFL Challenge, breaks down the rest of today’s Week 12 schedule:

Cleveland at Cincinnati (-14): At first glance, the Bengals look like the play. But after scoping deeper, we can see that if they were to lay two touchdowns in each game this season, the Bengals would have covered once. These teams met in Week 4, with Cincinnati winning, 23-20. The Browns’ Brady Quinn looked like his old college self as he passed for four touchdowns last week against the Lions. The Bengals are 1-6 ATS in their past seven as home favorites. The underdog is 5-0 ATS in the past five series meetings. Take the Browns and the points.

Chicago at Minnesota (-11): With a win, the Vikings can run away with the NFC North and separate from most of the NFC. Minnesota has won its past three by a combined 55 points. With Adrian Peterson about to break 1,000 yards rushing, and Brett Favre finding his youth with 21 touchdown passes and three interceptions, the Vikings offense is unstoppable. On the defensive side, led by end Jared Allen, Minnesota is one of the league’s best at sacking the QB. The Bears’ Jay Cutler will add to his 18 interceptions. The home team is 7-2 ATS in the past nine. The Vikings will crush the Bears and their playoff hopes.

Washington at Philadelphia (-91/2): The Redskins are without a running game, and that will hinder their stagnant offense that is averaging 14.6 points per game. Injuries prevent me from backing Washington. Although the Redskins are 0-5 on the road, they have lost only one game by more than 10 points. I expect Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and wideout DeSean Jackson to hook up frequently, but Washington’s defense will keep it competitive. Four of the past five in the series went under the total. Bet this under 41.

Miami (-3) at Buffalo: The Dolphins disposed of Buffalo 38-10 early in the season. In injured running back Ronnie Brown’s absence, Ricky Williams filled in nicely at Carolina. The Bills are 1-8 ATS in their past nine at home. Williams and the Miami running game will rule, so go with the road favorite.

Arizona at Tennessee (-21/2): Both teams are hot. The Cardinals have won six of their past seven, and the Titans have rebounded to win and cover four in a row. The line opened Arizona minus-1 and now is Tennessee minus-21/2 to 3. It has the makings of a trap. But I cannot argue with the success of running back Chris Johnson and an offensive line that has started to protect quarterback Vince Young. This play is shaky, but I’ll side with Tennessee.

Seattle (-4) at St. Louis: When these teams met in Week 1, the Seahawks rolled, 28-0. This is a tough game to figure. Seattle is 0-5 straight up and ATS on the road. St. Louis is 0-5 at home. Rams quarterback Kyle Boller will start, and running back Steven Jackson is expected to play despite back spasms. The Seahawks have dominated the series, but too many “if” factors are here. I’ll pass.

Tampa Bay at Atlanta (-12): The Falcons are 4-0 straight up and ATS at home. They probably will be without star running back Michael Turner, but backup Jason Snelling is capable. Buccaneers rookie quarterback Josh Freeman was overwhelmed last week by New Orleans’ blitzes and threw three interceptions. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and the league’s eighth-ranked scoring offense will light up the scoreboard. Tampa Bay is being outscored by 13 points per game. Lay the 12 with Atlanta.

Carolina at New York Jets (-31/2): I side with the Panthers, who have had more than a week to prep for this game. Carolina’s Jake Delhomme is getting it going with four touchdowns and one interception in his past four games. Running back DeAngelo Williams has tallied 982 yards and seven TDs. The No. 4-ranked Carolina pass defense is allowing 185 yards per game. The Panthers will pressure Jets rookie Mark Sanchez and add to his 16 interceptions. Carolina puts the nails in the coffin of the Jets’ once-promising season.

Jacksonville at San Francisco (-3): The Jaguars are back in the playoff picture at 6-4 after three straight wins. The 49ers have dropped five of their past six. I would side with a Jacksonville team that features running back Maurice Jones-Drew. On paper, you’re supposed to take the hot Jaguars, but they are too erratic to back. You also never know how hyped coach Mike Singletary can get his 49ers. This is too tough to call.

Kansas City at San Diego (-131/2): In the first meeting, the Chargers shellacked the Chiefs, 37-7. Since then, Kansas City has a new running back and has covered three straight, including a 27-24 win over Pittsburgh. I expect the Chargers to be able to pass on the Chiefs, and back-to-form running back LaDainian Tomlinson balances San Diego’s attack. However, the Chargers are 0-2 ATS this season laying double digits. The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five, and the ‘dog is 11-5-1 ATS in the past 17. KC plus the points is the smart play.

Pittsburgh at Baltimore (-7): Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not play because of a concussion, which means Dennis Dixon will make his first career start. Without Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu, the Pittsburgh defense will have its hands full with quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice. The Steelers are 1-6 ATS in their past seven on the road and 1-4 ATS in their past five at Baltimore. This line was posted at 3 during the week, but the Roethlisberger news forced a major adjustment. Still, the Ravens should cover an inflated number.

Compiled by Las Vegas Review-Journal sports writer Matt Youmans.

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