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Roll with Brady, Patriots in underdog role

A passing of the torch might be occurring with the NFL’s elite quarterbacks as Tom Brady fades into the background and the New England Patriots become yesterday’s news. That was the story in late September, anyway.

But after getting beat up by the critics, Brady is off the ropes and back in the fight. The Patriots are riding a five-game win streak and appearing to be legitimate contenders again.

The Indianapolis Colts have won six of seven since starting 0-2, and third-year quarterback Andrew Luck has established himself as elite. He will be starting in a Super Bowl sometime soon.

When the Colts and Patriots, a pair of bet-on teams, collide Sunday night, a shootout is anticipated with the total at 58. A shootout is what we’ll see.

Brady has totaled 18 touchdown passes and one interception in New England’s past five games. His hot streak followed a blowout loss at Kansas City on Sept. 29, when the critics kicked while he was down.

Luck is enjoying a phenomenal season, as well. He just does not have Brady’s championships or a Brazilian supermodel for a wife. For now, Luck is stuck with Trent Richardson, who never looks too good.

It’s tough to criticize the Colts, who are 7-2 against the spread, and even tougher to bet against them. But, sometimes, there are more positives on the other side.

Brady is rolling, and the Patriots are almost irresistible in the underdog role, so that’s why I’ll side with them as 3-point ’dogs in this spot.

New England was a ’dog in three previous games this season and whipped Cincinnati (43-17), Buffalo (37-22) and Denver (43-21). Two of those games were at home, and the opposing quarterbacks were Andy Dalton, who never wins big games, and Peyton Manning, who basically never beats Brady.

Luck is not going down without a fight, and he might not go down at all. But handicappers have to make hard decisions, and in these cases, I’ll side with Brady as a ’dog most times.

Both teams are off bye weeks, so Patriots coach Bill Belichick does not get an edge there. But Belichick’s defense is not yesterday’s news, either.

Four more opinions for Week 12 (home team in CAPS):

■ Texans (+3½) over BROWNS: A significant snowfall is expected in Cleveland, where a low-scoring game is in the cards, and that puts me on the underdog. The negative factor for the Texans is the likely absence of injured running back Arian Foster. The positive is that Houston is switching quarterbacks, going from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Ryan Mallett. I’m not buying the Browns yet or laying more than a field goal with them.

■ PACKERS (-5½) over Eagles: On a cold day in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers will handle the weather and a Philadelphia defense missing injured linebacker DeMeco Ryans. Green Bay, which has won and covered five of its past six games, is averaging 41.5 points in four home games. Mistakes by quarterback Mark Sanchez are due to hurt the Eagles. Both offenses will play at a fast pace, and the home favorite should win a high-scoring game.

■ Seahawks (+2) over CHIEFS: Kansas City is a hot team at 7-1-1 ATS, but its past two wins were ugly. This is a bad fundamental matchup for the Chiefs, whose run defense ranks No. 20 in the league by allowing 115.6 yards per game. Seattle’s ground attack, led by Marshawn Lynch and complemented by quarterback Russell Wilson, should control the game. The Seahawks rank No. 4 in run defense, allowing 79.8 yards per game.

■ TITANS (+6) over Steelers: This is the only meaningful game left in Tennessee’s disastrous season, so expect a strong effort from the home ’dog Monday night. But this is a hunch, not a big bet, because the Titans are terrible at home, 0-9-1 ATS in their past 10 games. Ben Roethlisberger will do just enough to lead Pittsburgh to a narrow win.

Last week: 3-2 against the spread

Season: 26-22-2

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.

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