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Indianapolis and Tennessee, the two favorites in the AFC South, are in free-fall mode. The Colts have lost three straight as Peyton Manning has pressed like a quarterback with no running game, a slew of injured teammates and a defense that can't bail him out. The Titans are worse, losers of five in a row and filled with turmoil.
These soap operas collide in prime time Thursday night as the Colts visit the Titans. Indy is a 2-point favorite in what once looked like a key late-season showdown, and now is an episode of "Survivor" for both teams.
The Colts (6-6) trail Jacksonville by one game in the division. Tennessee is 5-7.
Manning got testy when asked about the slide and his 11 interceptions in those three defeats.
"It's a tough stretch. It's a three-game losing streak," the four-time MVP said. "I know you guys probably aren't used to having to ask these questions, but it's football and that's the way it is."
How it is in Nashville is nasty, from Vince Young's meltdown to Cortland Finnegan's fight with Andre Johnson to the possibility Jeff Fisher's 16-year tenure is coming to a close. Yet a win on NFL Network could put the Titans back in the division race.
Time for Peyton to stop the bleeding.
|Atlanta (minus 7) at Carolina|
This might be close for a while, then the Falcons will pull away as they improve the NFC's best record.
BEST BET: FALCONS, 28-15
|Seattle (plus 4) at San Francisco|
UPSET SPECIAL: SEAHAWKS, 21-17
|New England (minus 3) at Chicago|
Two of football's hottest teams, with the Patriots' potent offense facing a difficult chore against the Bears' solid defense.
|Cincinnati (plus 9) at Pittsburgh|
Banged-up, distracted and ticked off is no way for a team to go into its next game. Except when these Bengals are the opponent.
|Oakland (plus 4½) at Jacksonville|
The way these teams run the ball, this game could end in 2 hours.
|Cleveland (plus 1½) at Buffalo|
Mike Holmgren's influence on the Browns is clear in his first year running the franchise.
|Green Bay (minus 6½) at Detroit|
Even with their running game struggling, the Packers will move the ball on the Lions, who can't cover a deep array of receivers.
|Tampa Bay (minus 1) at Washington|
Washington's problems run deeper than Albert Haynesworth's disruptivenes. Although the Bucs likely won't be making the playoffs, a winning season means tremendous success.
|St. Louis (plus 9½) at New Orleans|
The Rams have gone from inept on the road to competitive, winning their last two after four losses. That, and a close call at Cincinnati, will have the Saints ready.
|Miami (plus 6) at N.Y. Jets|
How quickly can the Jets get over that horror show in Foxborough? Rex Ryan's coaching prowess will be tested this week.
|Kansas City (plus 7) at San Diego|
San Diego's chances for yet another AFC West title would disappear with a loss here.
|Philadelphia (minus 3) at Dallas|
|Baltimore (minus 3) at Houston, Monday night|
Baltimore is kicking itself for blowing last Sunday night's classic against Pittsburgh. The Texans have the misfortune of being up next.
|Denver (OFF) at Arizona|
This game has no line because of doubt over the Arizona quarterback. Unless Kurt Warner is coming back ...
|N.Y. Giants (OFF) at Minnesota|
Versus spread, 8-7-1 (overall 101-78-6); Straight up, 13-3 (overall 129-63)
Best Bet: 7-6 against spread, 9-4 straight up.
Upset Special: 8-5 against spread, 8-5 straight up.