11/24/2006 12:00AM

Jets a go-against again


LAS VEGAS - Will power was my theme on Thanksgiving Day.

The Tuley holiday spread had two turkeys, a honey baked ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, casseroles, bread rolls, enough vegetables to choke a horse, cranberry sauce, fruit salad, and pumpkin, apple and chocolate pies.

It all looked great and tasted even better. The temptations were everywhere. I ate well, but didn't overdo it, and at the end of the day I felt good.

It was the same with the football menu. It was certainly tempting to play the three NFL games, not to mention the side dish offered with Boston College vs. Miami-Fla. I thought the right sides were the Dolphins vs. the Lions, the Buccaneers vs. the Cowboys, and the Broncos vs. the Chiefs - but I wasn't comfortable going against the home teams on Thanksgiving and decided to pass.

Believe me, I was feeling good about the decision when the Lions jumped out to a 10-0 lead, and then had indigestion when the Dolphins came back for a convincing 27-10 victory. (I was kicking myself for not at least taking a little nibble of the holiday menu.)

But in the end I was quite pleased when the Cowboys blew out the Buccaneers 38-10, and the Chiefs beat the Broncos 19-10. It would have been a losing day, especially since most of my totals and halftime bets would have fared even worse. Sometimes the best sports betting decision you can make is to pass when you don't have the best of it.

Hopefully it pays off with five fresh selections on Sunday's card.

Texans (+5 1/2) at Jets

I've had readers mention to me about how often I pick against the Jets, and since I lost with a rare bet on them last week vs. the Bears, I'm sure some will think I'm picking this game just out of spite. However, I also lost on the Texans last week, so I don't think it's a knee-jerk reaction. The Jets certainly missed a chance last week to make a statement and get back into the wild-card race, and it might be hard to get back up for this game. The Houston defense has been playing much better the past month, including a narrow 14-10 loss to the Giants in this same stadium three weeks ago. The problem with Houston is its offense protecting quarterback David Carr, but the Jets have not excelled in rushing the passer this year, and Carr has done well when he has had time. The Jets are also rank 29th in the league vs. the run, and Wali Lundy could surprise with a big day. It all adds up to the Texans being a very live dog.

PLAY: Texans for 1 unit.

Steelers (+3) at Ravens

While the Ravens are not a fluke at 8-2 - their defense is as good as advertised, and the offense is certainly improved with quarterback Steve McNair - I'm still not sold on them. The Steelers obviously have had a disappointing campaign, but they continue to say the right things about not giving up on the season, and they've won two straight, including a gutsy rally vs. the Browns last week. With the Steelers' record of 4-6 right now, I wouldn't bet on them making the playoffs, but I certainly wouldn't bet against it. The key is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger avoiding turnovers. If the does that, the Steelers certainly match up well with the Ravens and will win if they execute the game plan.

PLAY: Steelers for 1 unit.

Cardinals at Vikings (-6)

I've lost my last three NFL picks when taking a favorite, but I really like this one. The Cardinals got a rare win last week, 17-10 over the Lions, but it certainly wasn't a stellar performance. It was aided by the Cardinals being able to run the ball for once, but don't expect that vs. Minnesota's No. 1-ranked rush defense. Of course, I don't expect the Cardinals to be running much after falling behind early anyway. The Vikings were 4-2 and have now lost four straight, but being home vs. the Cardinals should have them looking more like the early-season Vikes. Running back Chester Taylor should have a field day, and with Arizona missing defensive end Bertrand Berry, Vikings' quarterback Brad Johnson should have his best game in a while, too.

PLAY: Vikings for 1 unit.

Bears (+3) at Patriots

This had to be a tough line for oddsmakers to set. The Bears, at times, have looked like the best team in the league and are coming off two straight road wins over the New York teams. Then again, the Patriots are still the most consistent team of the century and deserve respect at home. All that being said, I'll take the points with the Bears, who have done pretty well in "statement" games this year. They know the naysayers are out there and won't have a letdown despite building a three-game lead for NFC home-field advantage. The letdown spot could come after they win this game and have an easier schedule the rest of the way.

PLAY: Bears for 1 unit.

Eagles (+9) at Colts

This is clearly my No. 5 play on the card, well below the other four. In the case of full disclosure, I have the Colts -6 1/2 in this game and the Eagles +11, but I think the value still lies with the Eagles at anything more than a touchdown. Obviously, with Donovan McNabb out for the season, the Eagles won't be as explosive, but coach Andy Reid has shown that he can win with backup quarterbacks (last year was an exception, but there was that whole Terrell Owens circus, too). The Colts' run defense, ranked last in the league at 155 yards allowed per game and 4.9 yards per rush, is vulnerable, and expect Reid to exploit that with Brian Westbrook. The Eagles' defense has been inconsistent, but it does rank No. 4 against the pass and should help keep them in the game.

PLAY: Eagles for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-3 for a net loss of 1.3 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 31-29-2, including 0-1 on my one 2-unit best bet, for a net loss of 0.7 units.