For a team that's lost five straight times to its upcoming opponent, the Indianapolis Colts are getting a lot of respect.
The opponent in question, of course, is New England, which has won two of the last three NFL titles.
And the game in question is Sunday in Foxboro, where the Patriots beat the Colts in last season's AFC championship game and again in this season's opener.
Nonetheless, the Patriots are favored by just 2 1/2 points, less than the three points a team normally gets for being at home.
Next to Pittsburgh, the Colts are the NFL's hottest team and MVP Peyton Manning is the NFL's hottest quarterback.
Ty Law, New England's best cornerback, has finally been declared out for the season, joining Tyrone Poole, the other starter on the sidelines. No team overcomes injuries better than the Patriots - last year, this year, every year.
But ... Hot hand.
Minnesota (plus 9) at Philadelphia
A lot of Eagles' fans jumped off the bandwagon when Terrell Owens was hurt and more hung their heads when Andy Reid tanked the last two games, playing subs after his team had clinched home-field advantage in the NFC.
But give Reid the benefit of the doubt.
New York Jets (plus 9) at Pittsburgh
The Jets are better than their reputation, which has been sullied somewhat by the New York media, which decided to ignore the fact that the 5-6 record to finish the regular season was due in large part to Chad Pennington's shoulder injury.
But the Steelers are rested and couldn't even lose when they tried - they won their 14th straight playing subs in Buffalo against a team that would have made the playoffs had it won.
St. Louis (plus 7) at Atlanta
The Rams insist they're playing their best now and they seem to be - they beat the Jets at home in the regular-season finale and won in Seattle last week.
They also get the indoor fast track they like at the Georgia Dome, where they lost 34-17 in the second week of the season.
But they are just 3-6 on the road this season.
LAST WEEK: 2-2 (spread), 1-3 (straight up)
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