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 This is how good the New England Patriots are perceived to be: 5-point favorites at Indianapolis in Sunday's meeting of the NFL's two remaining unbeaten teams.
That's a point-and-a-half higher than the opening line set by Las Vegas. In other words, the betting public thought it was too low, perhaps because Bill Belichick seems intent on pounding everyone into dust in his mission to prove he can win without stealing the other folks' signals.
There's certainly a case to be made for the spread.
The Patriots haven't scored fewer than 34 points in a game and haven't won by less than 17, leading to suggestions they have been running up scores, most notably in last week's 52-7 win over Washington. In that game, Belichick twice went for it on fourth downs with leads of 38-0 and 45-0, and kept playing wide-open football even with the game out of hand. Tom Brady didn't leave until 8 minutes, 30 seconds were left.
The Colts, meanwhile, have been almost as impressive, if not as dominating.
They've avenged three of last season's four losses by beating their three division opponents on the road. And their division, the AFC South, is certainly better than the Patriots' AFC East, where Buffalo's win over Baltimore two weeks ago is the only victory by a team other than New England against a non-division opponent.
The spread is probably incentive for the Colts, who beat the Patriots in Indy 38-34 in last season's AFC title game. Who ever heard of an unbeaten Super Bowl champion being an underdog at home?
``The point spreads are really public opinion because they're trying to get an even number of bets on both sides,'' Tony Dungy said when the line came out. ``Obviously, a lot of people think New England is going to win.''
Just for the heck of it, let's make a lot of people wrong.
COLTS, 38-34

Dallas (minus 3) at Philadelphia
Another road favorite, probably the last chance for the Eagles in the NFC East.
COWBOYS, 24-13

Baltimore (plus 9 1/2) at Pittsburgh (Monday night)
Big spread. But the Ravens have lost both road division games.
STEELERS 21-13

Denver (plus 3) at Detroit
The Lions are starting to look like a legitimate playoff contender in the weaker NFC.
LIONS, 27-20

San Diego (minus 7) at Minnesota
The Chargers are starting to look like a potential challenger to the Patriots and Colts.
CHARGERS, 31-13

Carolina (plus 4) at Tennessee
The Titans' defense is a little too much for a team with QB problems.
TITANS, 16-10

Jacksonville (plus 3 1/2) at New Orleans
The Saints are finally playing the way they were supposed to.
SAINTS, 21-20

Green Bay (plus 2) at Kansas City
Short week for the Packers and they go on the road against a team that had a bye. Awful scheduling.
CHIEFS, 17-14

Seattle (plus 1 1/2) at Cleveland
For what it's worth, Derrick Anderson is from the Pacific Northwest.
BROWNS, 31-29

Arizona (plus 3) at Tampa Bay
The Bucs are sliding.
CARDINALS, 20-17

Cincinnati (minus 1) at Buffalo
Carson Palmer is puzzled at his team's problems. Maybe he'll be puzzled by Buffalo's defense.
BILLS, 26-23

Washington (minus 3 1/2) at New York Jets
The Redskins are facing Kellen Clemens this week, not Tom Brady.
REDSKINS, 20-10

San Francisco (plus 3) at Atlanta
Alex Smith's shoulder is sore. Joey Harrington's isn't.
FALCONS, 21-17

Houston (plus 3) at Oakland
At least the Raiders have been keeping things close.
RAIDERS, 16-14

LAST WEEK: 8-5 (spread); 8-5 (straight up)
SEASON: 59-52-5 (spread); 76-40 (straight up)
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