Vito Stellino's picks

January 12, 1992

There's a "classic" scheduled today: The Bob Irsay Bowl.

Yes, that's an appropriate name for the AFC title match between the Bills and the Broncos because the Colts owner helped both teams get there. He traded John Elway to Denver and Cornelius Bennett to Buffalo.

Irsay also traded a playoff team from last week, the Falcons, 2 starters -- Andre Rison and Chris Hinton. Imagine if Indianapolis had kept all those players. Why, they might have even won 2 or 3 games.

Anyway, Irsay should be blamed for all those Broncos blowouts in the Super Bowl because if he hadn't traded them Elway, they never would have gotten that far in the first place.

The scary thing is that Denver is 1 win away from another Super Bowl blowout. If you're looking for bad omens, 2 of its Super Bowl trips (1986-87) came in years the Redskins were in the NFC title game. Imagine 2 weeks of speculating whether Washington could top its 42-10 blowout of the Broncos 4 years ago.

It's up to Buffalo to save us from that fate today. A Washington-Buffalo Super Bowl, by contrast, can be hyped as a dream game.

If you keep it just between us, though, I'll be the first to warn you that the Washington-Buffalo game isn't likely to live up to its billing. It probably won't match last year's Bills-Giants game, which is good news for Scott Norwood. The Redskins won't let it come down to a Norwood field goal. When Joe Gibbs has 2 weeks to prepare for Marv Levy, he should figure out how to win it fairly easily. The Redskins will run on the Bills the way the Giants did, but they'll complement it with a much better passing game than the Giants had last year. Don't tell anybody, though. Let the fans think it's going to be a great game.

First things first. Let's hope Buffalo keeps Denver out.

Oh, I just realized I haven't mentioned the Redskins-Lions game. For good reason. The Lions' only chance is if they can sneak in the 49ers or Eagles and put them in their uniforms. The 49ers and Eagles didn't make the playoffs, but they likely would have given the Redskins a better game than the Lions will.

The tipoff on how unappealing these 2 games are was that Sports Illustrated put Muhammad Ali on its cover this week instead of Jim Kelly or Mark Rypien.

Does this mean Ali is offering Bill Parcells a job?

Bills (-11 1/2 ) 31, Broncos 10 -- The Bills are advised not to punt to the Denver 2-yard line late in the game.

Redskins (-13 1/2 ) 34, Lions 14 -- Now that the NFL has brought in grass guru George Toma to try to fix the turf at RFK Stadium, I think it's time for him to face a really tough challenge: my lawn.

Last week's record: 3-1. Against the spread: 2-2.

Playoff record: 5-3. Against the spread: 3-5.

Season record: 159-73. Against the spread: 116-109-7. Best bets: 34-32-2.

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