Despite trend, lure of home-team favorites still strong

On the line

September 19, 1997|By Gerald Strine | Gerald Strine,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

NFL favorites have been doing lousy against the point spread this season. They're 15-25-3.

Home teams have been faring just as poorly, 15-26-2.

So this week I'm selecting seven favorites playing at home to cover.

Go figure.

I'd be the first to admit that the professional league's stronger teams aren't that much stronger than its weaker teams right now. Of the four clubs with the biggest reputations -- Dallas, Green Bay, Denver and New England -- only Denver has been truly dominant, and that might be as attributable to the Broncos' schedule as to their perceived superiority.

The Packers, Cowboys and Patriots have struggled in at least one of their three outings. Denver is 3-0, as is New England, although the Patriots might just as easily be 2-1 along with Green Bay, and Dallas was lucky Monday night to escape with a 2-1 record instead of 1-2.

Denver and Tampa Bay are 3-0 against the spread. Tennessee is 2-0. The two other teams that are 3-0 would be a surprise to many bettors: the Ravens and Arizona, who both have yet to be favored. Tampa Bay and Tennessee hadn't been favored until this week, with the Bucs finally geting some respect as a small favorite at home to Miami.

Tampa Bay favored against Miami. Trent Dilfer picked to beat Dan Marino! Oh, how times have changed in the NFL.

This week's picks

(All bets in mythical dollars)

Raiders at Jets (-1): Bill Parcells was worth a touchdown last Sunday night in Foxboro, Mass. He rates a decided edge over Joe Bugel, too, what with the Raiders struggling to find their new identity. Oakland barely got out of Atlanta with a victory over Billy Joe Tolliver. New York should be pleased with its effort despite losing in New England. Adrian Murrell's a solid runner and Keyshawn Johnson, in time, might develop into the wide receiver he thinks he is.

Take New York for $100.

Chiefs at Panthers (-5 1/2 ): Dom Capers' defense is as good as any in the league. Quarterback Kerry Collins returned from injury to pick up the offense in San Diego. Lamar Lathon should be back to help the pass rush against the Chiefs. And Kansas City's ability to consistently put many points on the board is questionable.

Take Carolina for $100.

Steelers at Jaguars (-3 1/2 ): If there is a sleeper in the NFL, it well could be the Jaguars. They're resilient, resourceful and better than many people think, even though they advanced to the AFC championship game last year. And quarterback Mark Brunell might get back early.

Take Jacksonville for $100.

Dolphins at Bucs (-3 1/2 ): Dilfer over Marino? He's going to need a lot of help and so far he has gotten it -- from the Bucs' defense and a surprisingly effective running attack -- without making costly mistakes at quarterback.

Take Tampa Bay for $100.

Chargers at Seahawks (-5 1/2 ): The Seahawks looked like a potentially good team in their rout of Indianapolis last Sunday. The Colts aren't much, admittedly, but neither are the Chargers. Stan Humphries, who's always hurting, is hurting again.

Take Seattle for $100.

Bengals at Broncos (-11 1/2 ): Nobody has tested the Broncos yet, and the Bengals aren't likely to pose much of a threat, what with the defense responding slowly to Dick LeBeau's teaching. Denver has a group of old pros who have banded together for one last run at the Super Bowl. So far, so good.

Take Denver for $100.

Giants at Rams (-2 1/2 ): The Rams' offense isn't going to move into high gear until wide receiver Isaac Bruce recovers from his hamstring problems, but it's still better than the Giants' feeble attack. St. Louis is 1-2 and on the way to an 8-8 mark or better. New York's chances of achieving the .500 level are slim.

Take St. Louis for $250.

Compelled to pick, I'd also take Detroit giving 5 1/2 at New Orleans; New England giving 13 against Chicago; the Ravens getting 3 1/2 at Tennessee; Minnesota getting 12 at Green Bay; San Francisco giving 13 1/2 against Atlanta, and Buffalo giving 6 1/2 against Indianapolis.

The numbers

Last week's record: 1-3. Net for week: minus $395.

Season record: 7-10. Net for season: minus $265.

Pub Date: 9/19/97

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