From bettor's perspective, it's a weak week, so lay low On the line

October 17, 1997|By Gerald Strine | Gerald Strine,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The NFL offers a long season. Seventeen weeks, plus four more for the playoffs.

So you're playing a game of "21." Not every week's schedule is attractive. It's important, therefore, to know when to back off a bit.

This is such a week.

The game I liked the most, San Diego getting six points at Kansas City, was played last night, too early to be included in the column. The Chiefs are a notoriously poor pick when asked to cover a fair-sized number at Arrowhead Stadium.

They tend to win, but not by much, because that's the way coach Marty Schottenheimer plays the game. He's conservative in his approach to offense. You would be, too, if you had Elvis Grbac at quarterback.

San Diego, meanwhile, had shown improvement in defeating the Ravens and Oakland before a bye week. The return of cornerback Dwayne Harper helps the secondary, and Gary Brown ran impressively against the Raiders. Last night appeared to be a good time to go with an underdog.

Another problem this week was that every team I liked a little was playing on the road. That's scary.

So I wound up with only four selections, all at the mythical $100 minimum.

This week's picks

Redskins at Oilers (pick): Knee injuries to running back Terry Allen and wide receiver Michael Westbrook take much of the zing out of Norv Turner's offense. Westbrook is always hurt, or so it seems. Even so, Washington's offensive line has a chance to dominate the action for Stephen Davis, who filled in so admirably for Allen against Dallas.

Steve McNair's passing leaves much to be desired for the Oilers, whose wide receivers don't figure to do much against Washington's superb corners. This permits the Redskins to stack the deck defensively against Eddie George.

Take Washington for $100.

Jaguars at Cowboys (-4 1/2 ): Don't write off the Cowboys. They're not dead. They're just hibernating until offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese comes up with a new collection of pencils. I don't believe I'll ever get used to seeing Emmitt Smith on the second-half sideline in favor of Sherman Williams. Stepfret Williams looks as though he might help Dallas' passing game since Anthony Miller has failed as the second wide receiver.

The Jaguars' Natrone Means got banged up a bit by Philadelphia, but James Stewart filled in rather nicely, scoring five times. This should be an exciting contest, with the AFC enjoying yet another opportunity to do well against the NFC.

Take Jacksonville for $100.

Patriots (-3 1/2 ) at Jets: The Patriots can't beat Denver, and they won't win the Super Bowl (if they get there) against the NFC champion, but they sure are beating the heck out of the rest of the NFL. New England is 5-1 straight up atop the AFC East and 4-2 against the point spread.

The Jets covered as a 10-point underdog despite losing, 27-24, in overtime at Foxboro in Week 3. They disappointed at home to Miami, however, and I wonder if some of the early excitement isn't beginning to wear off for Bill Parcells' club.

Also, the Patriots have deep threat Terry Glenn this time around. He can make a difference.

Take New England for $100.

Broncos (-5 1/2 ) at Raiders: History would indicate I should lay off this game because no one ever got rich picking the Broncos on the road against the Raiders. But this is 1997, Denver is on a Mile High roll (6-0 overall, 5-1 against the spread) and Oakland is at the bottom of the AFC West.

The Raiders are certain to mount a maximum effort, and Denver's secondary has had a difficult time covering Tim Brown. Still, the running of Terrell Davis has taken the pressure off John Elway, just as Ed McCaffrey's presence makes it more difficult for opponents to double up on Shannon Sharpe.

Take Denver for $100.

Forced to choose, I'd also go with Carolina giving 5 1/2 at New Orleans; Philadelphia giving 8 1/2 over Arizona; St. Louis getting 2 over Seattle; San Francisco giving 10 1/2 at Atlanta; Detroit giving 6 1/2 over the New York Giants; the Ravens getting 1 1/2 against Miami; Pittsburgh giving 5 at Cincinnati; and Indianapolis getting 2 against Buffalo.

The numbers

Last week's record: 3-2. Net for week: Plus $230.

Season record: 21-17-2. Net for season: Plus $965.

Pub Date: 10/17/97

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