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Surging Bills live home ‘dog

It seemed doomed to fail at the time, and the Buffalo Bills’ acquisition of veteran wideout Terrell Owens definitely is a bust now.

Owens called his statistics “pathetic” this past week. After guaranteeing in the spring he would score 10 touchdowns this season, Owens has 18 receptions for 242 yards and one touchdown through seven games. The upside is the Bills are 3-4 after winning their past two games on the road.

Buffalo is a home underdog of 3 to 31/2 points against the Houston Texans today, and handicapper Doug Fitz recommends taking 31/2 with the Bills.

The Texans alternated against the spread (L-W-L-W-L-W) before pushing as 3-point favorites in a 24-21 victory over San Francisco last week.

“The Bills are playing well of late,” Fitz said. “I’ll take the confident, resurgent home team getting points against an inconsistent road favorite. Anybody who takes the Texans as a road favorite is asking for trouble.”

Erratic quarterback play from Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a problem for Buffalo, and its inexperienced offensive line has allowed 21 sacks. But Fitzpatrick, who will start again today, has shown signs of competence.

“The Buffalo turnaround can be credited in large part to Fitzpatrick, who won his first start last week against Carolina and rallied the Bills in their upset of the Jets the week prior,” Fitz said. “Fitzpatrick has demonstrated the ability to lead this team, and they appear much more confident on offense and defense.”

Houston’s Matt Schaub leads the NFL in yards passing with 2,074, and star wideout Andre Johnson is expected to play despite leaving last week’s game with an injury. The lack of a consistent running attack has been the Texans’ trouble spot.

Fitz, a retired police officer and a Las Vegas resident since 1985, runs the Web site Systemplays.com and offers all his plays for free.

“The service relies primarily on situational plays that are based on statistical research,” he said. “My motivation for not charging a fee is simply to help the average person who doesn’t have the time, patience or motivation to study matchups.

“The majority of the systems come in on the underdogs, but several systems are also geared toward favorites. All plays and records are posted and kept on the site for everyone to see, unlike some sites that claim great winning percentages but don’t show you the results.”

Fitz breaks down the rest of today’s Week 8 schedule:

Denver at Baltimore (-31/2): Although the Ravens lost three straight before their bye week, they match up well with the Broncos in almost every offensive and defensive category. It’s risky to play against a Denver team that is 6-0 straight up and against the spread. But home teams coming off a bye have been strong this year and historically, so I have a slight lean to Baltimore in this situation.

Cleveland at Chicago (-131/2): After their pathetic performance last week in a 45-10 loss at Cincinnati, the natural inclination would be to look for the Bears to make amends at home and crush the Browns. However, I cannot recommend laying double digits because Chicago has played inconsistently and cannot run the football. The Browns amazingly managed to cover three consecutive games until last week, when they reverted to their usual sacrificial lamb role. Cleveland’s offense has been nonexistent, even after the switch to Derek Anderson at quarterback. I’ll pass on this one.

Minnesota at Green Bay (-3): This play simply is taking points with what is the better team, in my opinion. I think Minnesota and New Orleans are the best teams in the league, let alone the NFC. The Vikings have one of the best pass-rushing defenses, and with injuries on the Packers’ offensive line and quarterback Aaron Rodgers nursing a sprained foot, the Minnesota defensive line should have the edge. The Vikings will win straight up.

San Francisco at Indianapolis (-13): Obviously, Peyton Manning and the Colts will score points as always with their prolific offense, but the one thing they don’t do well is run the ball. One of the things the 49ers do well is stop the run, allowing 88.8 yards per game on the ground, sixth best in the NFL. San Francisco has almost no prayer of winning the game, but it has been a tough team all season. I think the 49ers keep it closer than most expect.

Miami at New York Jets (-3): This matchup features two of the league’s best running teams. The difference should be Miami’s defense, which is better at stopping the run by allowing 86.7 yards per game — 30 yards less on average than what the Jets’ rushing defense allows. These teams are close in talent, so I’ll give the edge to the underdog.

St. Louis at Detroit (-4): The only case I can make for either of these lowly teams is the Lions have an advantage being a home team coming off a bye week. Even with rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford and wideout Calvin Johnson questionable to play, I’ll lean slightly to the Lions.

Seattle at Dallas (-91/2): The Seahawks have shown the capacity to play well at times, and Dallas has been inconsistent at best. The talent level clearly favors the Cowboys, but quarterback Tony Romo has an annoying tendency to negate that talent level with reckless turnovers and poor decisions. I can’t make a case for laying this many points with Dallas a team that doesn’t seem to be able to establish any kind of consistency. I give a slight nod to Seattle to cover the number.

Oakland at San Diego (-161/2): The Chargers are not very good this season, despite their high expectations. They are poorly coached and prone to mistakes and silly turnovers, and the most telling stat is they are averaging just 70.5 yards rushing to rank 31st in the league. San Diego was lucky to beat Oakland in Week 1, and the Raiders’ defense outplayed them in every way. You might get away with laying this many points with the Saints or another team of that quality, but you’re playing with fire laying this kind of number with a Chargers team that is fundamentally weak. Oakland occasionally has shown the ability to play well, and it can keep this close.

Jacksonville at Tennessee (-3): It’s hard to make a convincing case for laying points with the Titans, who are 0-6 straight up and 1-5 against the spread. But again we’re looking at a home team coming off a bye. Vince Young takes over at quarterback for Tennessee, and there’s no telling how he will play. The Jaguars ripped the Titans 37-17 on Oct. 4. But I’ll give a slight nod to the home favorite against an unpredictable opponent.

Carolina at Arizona (-10): The Cardinals are 1-2 against the spread at home as a favorite in each game. I think they will have a letdown after their huge road win over the New York Giants. I don’t put much stock into revenge, but it is worthy to note that it was Arizona that pulled the huge upset in the playoffs at Carolina last season en route to its Super Bowl appearance. The number is too high for a Cardinals team that has not played well at home. I lean to the Panthers, who rank first in the league in pass defense and should be able to contain Kurt Warner.

New York Giants (-1) at Philadelphia: Despite having lost their past two games, the Giants are the better team, especially on offense. The Eagles don’t run the ball well, and with Brian Westbrook likely to miss the game, their running game isn’t getting any better against New York’s top-ranked defense. The Eagles should have a bit of a Monday night hangover. The Giants will win.

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

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