NFL Weekend Preview

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The NFL regular season heads into the home stretch this weekend, with those teams in the lead trying to lock down playoff positions, and those in the middle trying to make up ground. Here’s a quick look at some of Week 14’s bigger games, and the Oddsmaker.com numbers that go along with them.

In Indianapolis the 12-0 Colts go for a new league record when they shoot for their 22nd-consecutive regular-season victory against the 8-4 Denver Broncos (1 pm ET, CBS). Indy is undefeated, but they’ve had some close calls this year. Last week’s solid win over resurgent Tennessee, however, was not one of them.

Denver, meanwhile, has for the moment regained its balance, after losing four in a row. The Broncos beat the New York Giants soundly on Thanksgiving night, then pounded Kansas City last week. So Denver only trails the first-place San Diego Chargers by one game in the AFC West, and would be the five seed in the AFC if the playoffs started today.

As of Thursday morning Oddsmaker.com is listing Indianapolis at -7 over the Broncos, with a total of 44.

Week 14 offers two excellent interconference matchups. In a battle of first-place teams up in Minneapolis the 10-2 Minnesota Vikings, coming off a loss in Arizona, host the 9-3 Cincinnati Bengals (1 pm ET, CBS). Minnesota needs one more win to nail down the NFC North, but they’ve fallen two games behind the undefeated New Orleans Saints in the race for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Cincy, meanwhile, suddenly leads the AFC North by three games, and has a chance to earn a first-round playoff bye.

Oddsmaker.com is listing the Vikings at -6.5 over the Bengals, with a total of 44.

And in another meeting of division leaders down in Big D the 8-4 Dallas Cowboys, losers at the Giants last week, host the 9-3 San Diego Chargers, winners of seven straight games (4:15 pm ET, CBS). Oddsmaker is listing Dallas at -3 over the Bolts, with a total of 48.5.

And, of course, key divisional bouts abound. In Chicago the struggling 5-7 Bears are getting 3.5 points as they look to spoil the playoff hopes of the 8-4 Green Bay Packers in the 179th all-time meeting between those teams (1 pm ET, Fox). In Atlanta, the 12-0 Saints are giving 10.5 points as they continue their trek toward perfection and possibly knock the 6-6 Falcons out of the playoff race (1 pm ET, Fox). Then Sunday night in New Jersey the 7-5 Giants are giving the 8-4 Philadelphia Eagles one point, as both teams try to solidify their playoff situations (8:20 pm ET, NBC). And Monday night out on the Left Coast the 8-4 Arizona Cardinals are giving 3.5 points as they try to clinch their second straight NFC West title with a win over the 5-7 49ers in San Francisco (8:30 pm ET, ESPN).

And in a key game in the AFC Wild Card race the 7-5 Jacksonville Jaguars, who would be in if the postseason started today, are listed as 2.5-point home favorites over the 6-6 Miami Dolphins, who are coming off that big upset of New England last week (1 pm ET, CBS).

Bettors should also check out the updated NFL futures market at Oddsmaker.com. As of Thursday morning New Orleans tops our updated Super Bowl 44 betting board at +200, followed by, among others, Indianapolis at +300, Minnesota at +600, New England and San Diego at +800, Arizona and Cincinnati at +1,500, and Green Bay and Philadelphia at +2,000.

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