Packers coming up short on against-the-spread sheet On the line

October 03, 1997|By Gerald Strine | Gerald Strine,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Green Bay is 3-2 straight up, 0-5 against the point spread. Arizona is 1-3 straight up, 4-0 against the number. They stand at the bottom and at the top, respectively, of the Risk-11-to-Win-10 League. And the figures indicate, rather conclusively, that the Packers are not as good as the betting public believes them to be, while the Cardinals, despite their unimpressive record, are .. not to be taken lightly.

The Packers opened as 16-point favorites at home to Chicago, then were favored by seven at Philadelphia, by 12 against Miami, by 11 against Minnesota and by 7 1/2 at Detroit. They almost covered in defeating the Bears and led the Lions by a big margin at halftime. But Chicago and Miami scored late in their losses to Green Bay, enabling them to cover, and the Vikings staged a second-half rally that had the defending Super Bowl champions hanging on for the victory at the finish.

Arizona, meanwhile, has covered rather comfortably in its four games. The Cardinals were eight-point underdogs at Cincinnati, where they lost, 24-21. Then came a 25-22 overtime victory against Dallas as a 10-point underdog; a 19-13 overtime loss at Washington when the Redskins were favored by seven, and a 19-18 loss last Sunday at Tampa Bay as a 7 1/2 -point underdog, when Kevin Butler missed a long-range field goal at the finish.

The Cardinals' improved play is reflected in this week's betting line. Their game at home against Minnesota opened even and went out to Arizona favored by one. The nation's fans still believe in Green Bay, despite the Packers' failure to beat the spread. Green Bay is an eight-point favorite over Tampa Bay at Lambeau Field, even though the Bucs are 5-0 straight up and 4-1 against the number.

Sunday's spread on the Battle of the Bays would appear to be a tad high, given the evidence of the 1997 campaign. Brett Favre isn't going to finish the season in one piece if the Packers' pass protection and running game don't improve, and Green Bay's offense sorely misses Edgar Bennett. But I didn't go against Favre & Co. this week. They are in a serious situation, at 3-2, two games behind the division-leading Bucs, and can't afford another early-season loss. But I didn't go with them, either. They still have a lot to prove.

This week's picks

(All bets in mythical dollars)

Redskins at Eagles (-3 1/2 ): Ray Rhodes, after flirting with the idea of Rodney Peete, decided to stay with Ty Detmer at quarterback. That could be costly -- Detmer is limited in what he can do unless Ricky Watters gets the running game going, and the last time I saw Detmer and Watters, they were standing nose-to-nose letting each other know how they felt about the price of cheese in Minnesota.

Take Washington $100.

Chiefs at Dolphins (-3): Marty Schottenheimer is at his best with moderate talent that doesn't figure to win consistently as opposed to superior talent that could capture championships. This K.C. squad fits the first description but is 4-1 overall. Jimmy Johnson keeps threatening to bench Dan Marino, given the right situation. This could be the spot.

Take Kansas City for $100.

Jets (-3) at Colts: Bill Parcells alone is worth the spread. New York is a team of limited capacity that is focused on trying to sneak into the AFC playoffs. The Colts are a mess, featuring an offensive line determined to get Jim Harbaugh killed. Lindy Infante probably wishes he hadn't submarined Ted Marchibroda out of his old job.

Take New York for $100.

Chargers at Raiders (-6 1/2 ): Joe Bugel's club should be 4-1, not 2-3. Oakland appears ready to make a strong run for a playoff spot. The offense is solid and balanced. All the defense needs is a stronger pass rush. Kevin Gilbride appears to be struggling as the Chargers' head coach.

Take Oakland for $100.

Patriots at Broncos (-4 1/2 ): A meeting between the AFC's best which means you shouldn't get too excited about either of these undefeated teams in terms of the Super Bowl. On offense, John Elway and Terrell Davis will deliver the goods. Drew Bledsoe and Curtis Martin might. But I don't totally trust the Denver defense against the well-balanced Patriots.

Take Denver for $100.

The numbers

Last week's record: 4-1. Net for week: plus $690.

Season record: 16-13-1. Net for season: plus $755.

Pub Date: 10/03/97

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