Esiason comes all way back QB's resurgence shows NFL's unpredictability, On the line

November 29, 1996|By Gerald Strine | Gerald Strine,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Apologies are due Boomer Esiason.

For several seasons I've made fun of the veteran quarterback's seemingly desperate efforts to hang on in the NFL. The old guy was through years ago. Everybody knew that. Some of his performances with the New York Jets were classics in how to fall apart in the fourth quarter despite really trying.

And once the Jets were through with you, what's left? Well, for some crazy reason, the Arizona Cardinals decided to take a chance on the once-brilliant Cincinnati Bengals quarterback. Esiason quickly played himself to the bench, after having been given the starting job. He was through. Finally.

Except that, in the last three weeks, he has passed for more than 1,100 yards in leading the Cardinals to victories over Washington, the New York Giants and Philadelphia.

That simply goes to show that just about anything can happen in the NFL. I doubt there has ever been a more bizarre ending to a pro game than the final 2: 20 of Sunday's Philadelphia-Arizona contest.

The win elevated the Cardinals to 6-6 straight-up and, more important, 8-4 vs. the point spread. Denver, Carolina and Washington (all 9-3) are the only teams with better records against the betting number.

This week's picks

All bets in mythical dollars:

Giants at Eagles (-6 1/2 ): The Eagles have lost three in a row as a favorite but are 7-5 against the spread and covered against the Giants (19-10) as a 2 1/2 -point favorite in the Meadowlands on Oct. 13. Coach Ray Rhodes' club still has an excellent chance to capture the NFC East, inasmuch as Philly's schedule is much softer than Washington's and Dallas' over the final month. Take Philadelphia for $250.

Bucs at Panthers (-6): Carolina is 6-0 at home against the spread. That's as impressive as the fact that Tampa Bay has covered five in a row and is 4-2 on the road. These two squads have much in common. They are defense-oriented. The offenses are conservative, keyed to making as few mistakes as possible. The major difference is that Carolina is a little better in every respect. Take Carolina for $250.

Bills (-5) at Colts: The Bills have covered five straight (8-4 overall) and appear to be on the road to another AFC East title. The Colts are always a dangerous underdog in their dome, but the offensive line has failed to protect Jim Harbaugh adequately and the situation hardly figures to improve today vs. Bruce Smith and Take Buffalo for $100.

Dolphins at Raiders (-2 1/2 ): The Raiders (5-7) are almost out of playoff contention. The Dolphins (6-6) are struggling to stay alive. This is a pivotal point in the season for Miami, which figures to win at least two of its last three. Take Miami for $100.

Bears at Packers (-9 1/2 ): The Bears have covered three in a row and four of their last five and have become a highly competitive group since being blown out by the Packers in Chicago on Oct. 6. Green Bay's passing game will pick up with the return of Antonio Freeman and the addition of Andre Rison, but the attack's not nearly as potent as it was in September. Take Chicago for $100.

Patriots at Chargers (-2): This is a tough matchup. but San Diego is the pick, banking on its more reliable defense and hoping that Stan Humphries will be almost as accurate with his passing as he was in Kansas City. Drew Bledsoe won't be shut down, but the Chargers should curtail the Patriots' running game. Take San Diego for $100.

49ers (-10) at Falcons: The major parts of the 49ers' offense haven't been together much this season. They started to show some cohesion in the final minutes at Washington, however, and San Francisco's point production could be large against the Falcons' weak defense. Take San Francisco for $100.

Last week

Record: 3-4. Net for week: minus $140. Net for season: minus $225.


Staff selections

Week 14

Steelers (-6) at Ravens

John Eisenberg, Steelers

Gary Lambrecht, Steelers

Ken Murray, Steelers

Mike Preston, Steelers

Vito Stellino, Steelers

Cardinals at Vikings (-4 1/2 )

John Eisenberg, Cardinals

Gary Lambrecht, Vikings

Ken Murray, Cardinals

Mike Preston, Vikings

Vito Stellino, Cardinals

Bills (-5) at Colts

John Eisenberg, Bills

Gary Lambrecht, Bills

Ken Murray, Bills

Mike Preston, Bills

Vito Stellino, Bills

Bears at Packers (-9 1/2 )

John Eisenberg, Packers

Gary Lambrecht, Packers

Ken Murray, Bears

Mike Preston, Bears

Vito Stellino, Packers

Bengals at Jaguars (-2 1/2 )

John Eisenberg, Bengals

Gary Lambrecht, Bengals

Ken Murray, Jaguars

Mike Preston, Bengals

Vito Stellino, Bengals

Giants at Eagles (-6 1/2 )

John Eisenberg, Giants

Gary Lambrecht, Eagles

Ken Murray, Eagles

Mike Preston, Giants

Vito Stellino, Giants

@Bucs at Panthers (-6)

John Eisenberg, Bucs

Gary Lambrecht, Panthers

Ken Murray, Panthers

Mike Preston, Panthers

Vito Stellino, Bucs

Seahawks at Broncos (-10 1/2 )

John Eisenberg, Broncos

Gary Lambrecht, Broncos

Ken Murray, Seahawks

Mike Preston, Broncos

Vito Stellino, Broncos

Oilers (-3) at Jets

John Eisenberg, Jets

Gary Lambrecht, Jets

Ken Murray, Oilers

Mike Preston, Oilers

Vito Stellino, Oilers

Dolphins at Raiders (-2 1/2 )

John Eisenberg, Raiders

Gary Lambrecht, Dolphins

Ken Murray, Dolphins

Mike Preston, Dolphins

Vito Stellino, Raiders

Rams at Saints (-3)

John Eisenberg, Rams

Gary Lambrecht, Saints

Ken Murray, Saints

Mike Preston, Rams

Vito Stellino, Saints

Patriots at Chargers (-2)

John Eisenberg, Chargers

Gary Lambrecht, Chargers

Ken Murray, Chargers

Mike Preston, Chargers

Vito Stellino, Chargers

49ers (-10) at Falcons

John Eisenberg, 49ers

Gary Lambrecht, 49ers

Ken Murray, 49ers

Mike Preston, Falcons

Vito Stellino, 49ers

Last week

John Eisenberg, 10-5

Gary Lambrecht, 7-8

Ken Murray, 7-8

Mike Preston, 7-8

Vito Stellino, 7-8

Season record

John Eisenberg, 94-83

Gary Lambrecht, 86-91

Ken Murray, 81-96

Mike Preston, 87-90

Vito Stellino, 80-97

Note: Selections made against the spread; ties don't count in standings.

Pub Date: 11/29/96

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