Odds are, NFL games will be better than their point spreads

January 14, 1994|By Phil Jackman

The TV Repairman:

Judging from the point spreads, all games going off at a touchdown or more differential, NFL watching this weekend doesn't figure to match the wild-card fare of last weekend for excitement.

"But a lot of the stuff put out by the fat guys in polyester suits in Las Vegas [oddsmakers] is bull," assures CBS analyst Randy Cross, who will be working the Cowboys-Packers game Sunday.

"Those guys really buy into the home-field advantage. They look at what teams have done at home in the past and go with it. It's certainly not an exact science."

Nor is it meant to be for, as we all know, odds are put out for the enjoyment of the viewing audience, not as an aid in wagering.

As soon as Cross shot down the value of odds, the spread, the over/under, etc., he did allow that any time his old team, San Francisco, had to play in New York, it was either a "nightmare" or a "disaster." Maybe the cold and 30-mph winds had something to do with it.

The Bills are a 6 1/2 -point favorite over the Los Angeles Raiders in Buffalo tomorrow (12:30 p.m., NBC) while Frisco is an eight-point nod over the Giants (4, CBS) in the Candlestick mudpits.

The Cowboys draw the early game Sunday (12:30, CBS) and are favored by 14 over the Packers. They hammered the Pack, 36-14, early in the season. The Chiefs are a seven-point 'dog to the Oilers in Houston (4 p.m., NBC) and that racket you hear is another installment of Joe Montana hype. Enough already.

The last three times the Giants and 49ers have met in the playoffs, New York has won and Jerry Rice has been held scoreless.

"It's not so much the Giants finding the secret to stopping Rice," says Cross, "but of their ball-control style putting a lot of pressure on the entire San Francisco offense.

"The Giants hold onto the ball and run the clock. They put a premium on possession. The 49ers are a rhythm offense, and if it's made to wait 10 minutes on the sidelines, it can tend to get anxious and press."

* Time out! Host Jim Lampley refers to O. J. Simpson as "Juicy" on the NBC pre-game show? No gridiron macho stuff for these guys.

* As part of the televised activities for next week's NHL All-Star Weekend, they wanted to include a game between the Olympic teams of the United States and Canada, which are preparing for the Games in Norway Feb. 12-27. The idea was killed as, obviously, that would promote the game, and you know the NHL.

* A must-see for all denizens of the manly art is the ESPN "Superbouts" presentation tonight (12:30 a.m.) of the 1982 fight between Aaron Pryor and Alexis Arguello. Easily an all-timer.

* Isn't it about time for a "Frontline"-like look at college hoops and the consistently self-interested behavior of those paragons of virtue, the coaches?

Their current protest and threatened boycott is against their own organization, their schools and their bosses and these men act as if all they're interested in is a 14th basketball scholarship. Not likely.

It's power, gang, coaches and athletic departments constantly trying to slide out from underneath the jurisdiction of the school they represent, and, in some places, the separation is nearly total.

* No, we haven't seen the last of James Smith in the squared circle. The Bonecrusher man takes on Lionel Butler on USA next Tuesday and Butler's on a 13-bout winning streak. Of course, before that his record was 6-10-1.

* A short peek at a Big East "classic" pitting Miami and Pitt the other night: The latter was up by 40 at one point, stressing the "need" for a "Great Eight" brace of doubleheaders ESPN has planned for us for the next three years.

Actually, it's just four more games pretty well assuring close competition since the field will be made up of successful teams from the preceding March's NCAA tournament.

Ideally, for the Tuesday and Wednesday nights the week after Thanksgiving (Nov. 29-30), organizers are hopeful the "Elite Eight" from the tourney will agree to play. At $100,000 per team, there don't figure to be any refusals. If the airwaves are going to be glutted with games, both weeknights and on weekends, they might as well be good games, right?

* Sometimes you hear the darndest things on a post-game following the latest Bullets loss. For instance, Karl Malone of Utah told Washington announcer Charlie Slowes the Bullets players "did a lot of bickering on the court."

* The new show Home Team Sports has breaking up its hoops doubleheaders Thursday and Sunday nights, "Around the Rim," looks very promising with strong-opinioned John Feinstein hammering away at targets of opportunity.

* The career of John Buren certainly got a huge boost when he was thrust into a position of prominence sitting next to Sally Thorner on Channel 13's daily 5 o'clock news. Many have contended for years that sports were far too confining for JTC Buren's talents and his ongoing trick pool shot feature no doubt will make it to syndication.

* CBS, down to two football games and not much else on its regular menu until the golf balls fly, reminds the Winter Olympics are less than a month away with a Winterfest show featuring skiing and figure skating tomorrow (2 p.m.). Figure skating's a pretty hot subject right now, in case you hadn't noticed.

* What could be a good fight is brewing for ESPN Sunday (9 p.m.): James Toney, one of the middleweight champs, takes on Anthony Hembrick, the gent who will be known forevermore as the guy who showed up late for his fight at the Seoul Olympics.

* College hoops obviously believes in a day of rest. There are 14 games on tomorrow from noon to past midnight and seven Sunday.

* If CBS plans on sticking with the "NFL Today" next season, will it also do a pre-game show before "Monday Night Football?"

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