Last week's card produced a mini-meltdown, reducing the mythical bankroll to less than $1,000. Things would have been even worse if the St. Louis Rams hadn't rallied for three fourth-quarter touchdowns to cover at New Orleans.
The most disappointing effort was turned in by Dallas at home to Carolina on Monday night. The Cowboys embarrassed themselves in their loss to the Panthers.
You can't help but wonder how much longer Barry Switzer will hang on as coach. His team is in tatters. Owner Jerry Jones made a colossal mistake in forcing Jimmy Johnson out and bringing in Switzer.
Now Jones threatens to take an even more active role in the team's on-field operation. Shed a tear for the fans in Big D.
This week's picks
(All bets in mythical dollars)
Redskins at Giants (-3): How can this game be critical in the NFC East race? These teams are common, but common is good enough in certain divisions of the NFL these days. New York starts a college-level quarterback in Danny Kanell. Washington counters with Jeff Hostetler, an old pro chained to the bench by Norv Turner until Gus Frerotte broke a hip and the coach was forced to turn to Hoss for help.
The Giants dominated the line of scrimmage, offensively and defensively, when these squads tied, 7-7, on Nov. 23. I expect much the same thing will happen in the rematch. The Giants' defensive front should be particularly effective against the Redskins' banged-up offensive line. Running back Terry Allen is out for the Redskins. Rodney Hampton returns for the Giants. It would require a superlative performance from Hostetler to upset the odds.
Take New York for $100.
Steelers at Patriots (-2 1/2 ): New England's victory at Jacksonville on Sunday was one of the biggest surprises of the season. I never know what to expect from the Patriots. They're as unpredictable a bunch as the league offers. Point-spread statistics show the Steelers 6-1-1 against the number in their past eight outings, with New England 2-6 over the same period.
The Patriots thumped the Steelers, 28-3, in the AFC playoffs last season. The final score should be much closer this time around, but I'll gamble on New England being primed for a maximum effort and Drew Bledsoe finding holes in the Steelers' suspect secondary. It would be nice if Terry Glenn were healthy enough to make one of his rare starts at wide receiver.
Take New England for $100.
Bears at Rams (-4): St. Louis seemed to become a better team the day Lawrence Phillips left town. They were always competitive; now they've won two in a row and threaten to end the season on a promising note if, as he has done recently, quarterback Tony Banks keeps from fumbling and stops throwing heartbreaking interceptions.
The Rams can stop the run. Their pass rush isn't bad, either. This is a squad that, despite its 4-10 record, could easily improve to over .500 next year.
Take St. Louis for $100.
Broncos at 49ers (-4): They're going to retire Joe Montana's jersey at halftime. Jerry Rice will be in uniform and might see action for the first time since suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the opener at Tampa Bay. Everything points to a gala Monday evening for the home team before a national television audience, but I don't believe the Broncos are going to cooperate.
Denver's defense couldn't handle Pittsburgh's power game, but the 49ers rely much more on finesse than power. John Elway's receivers had a hard time catching the ball at Three Rivers Stadium. The return of Ed McCaffrey should improve that situation. The Broncos are going to move the ball. San Francisco might outscore them, but it's not going to be easy.
% Take Denver for $100.
Last week's record: 1-5-1. Net for week: minus $450.
Season record: 44-41-5. Net for season: plus $910.
Pub Date: 12/12/97