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Old 09-08-2004, 04:19 AM   #11
Anthony
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Home team in capital letters; point spreads (opening line) in paretheses after underdog team.

THURSDAY NIGHT

NEW ENGLAND 27, Indianapolis 17 (+3) - Pats have dominated this series for a long time, winning 12 of the last 14 meetings (covering in eleven), including all seven at home; and the key head-to-head matchup here could involve new arrival Corey Dillon against a Colt defense noted for its soft play in general and its weak play versus the run in particular.

SATURDAY

MIAMI 17 (+2), Tennessee 13 - If there was such a thing as an over-under line for total rushing yards gained the number for this game wouldn't be very high. And while parts of California are under high fire danger right now due to hot, dry weather, Tennessee is under high looking-ahead danger as the Titans host AFC South rival Indianapolis next week - the one thing that might allow what figures to be a dismal season in Miami to get off on a deceptively positive note.

SUNDAY

N.Y. JETS 20, Cincinnati 13 (+3 1/2) - Three and a half can be a pain, but the Bengals have known nothing but pain at Club Med, with an 0-7 lifetime record there (five losses to the Jets and two to the Giants), and even last year they could only muster three road victories over opponents that went a combined 15-33.

PHILADELPHIA 27, N.Y. Giants 23 (+9) - Tom Coughlin has decided that Eli Manning isn't ready yet, so two-time league MVP Kurt Warner will waste no time going after the undersized and inexprienced Philadelphia secondary - and with the Eagles having lost six of their last seven openers and not having both won and covered at home on opening day since all the way back in 1989 there is absolutely no good reason to lay this number.

Tampa Bay 16 (+2 1/2), WASHINGTON 13 - Like giving three and a half, taking two and a half is going against the grain, but would tend to believe that Brad Johnson has more left in the tank than Mark Brunell even though Brunell is two years younger and chances are the Redskins will play better late in the season than early on.

BUFFALO 31, Jacksonville 14 (+3) - I've always maintained that whoever makes up the NFL schedule has a sick sense of humor. Case in point: Four teams went winless on the road last year - and all four are on the road to open this season! The Jags have in fact lost nine in a row on the road dating back to their visiting finale of 2002 and have also dropped six straight on rugs, so until proven otherwise ...

PITTSBURGH 23, Oakland 16 (+3 1/2) - The Raiders are one of the other three teams who did not win on the road in 2003 and, like Jacksonville, have a current nine-game losing streak on the NFL highway - and in case you're concerned about the admittedly tricky 3 1/2-point spot Oakland covered in only one of the nine games.

Baltimore 23, CLEVELAND 10 (+2 1/2) - Browns did little if anything over the spring to strengthen a front seven against which Jamal Lewis ran for an unconscionable 500 yards in two games a year ago - and the new Cleveland franchise has yet to win on opening day, with five losses and only one spread cover since its 1999 reincarnation.

CHICAGO 28, Detroit 7 (+3) - How this line can be only a field goal boggles the mind: The Bears finished two games ahead of the Lions last year - a gap which would have been wider had Rex Grossman been installed as the starting quarterback earlier than Week 15 - and as if you didn't know Detroit brings an NFL-record 24-game road losing streak into the new season which includes 5-11-1 against the line in the 17 of those games that were played on natural grass.

ST. LOUIS 49, Arizona 14 (+9 1/2) - But the Bears aren't the best bet of the opening week. The Rams are: Marc Bulger has never lost a regular-season home game as a starter (he's 14-0 straight up and 9-4-1 versus the points), while on the other side of the home-and-away coin, not only have the Cards lost 13 straight on the road, but they're 1-12 against the spread in those 13 games and have been outscored therein by an almost unbelievable 473 to 169. Mike Martz has never been shy about running up scores, and this game presents him with perhaps the best opportunity to do that in his NFL head-coaching career to date.

NEW ORLEANS 23 (+1), Seattle 20 - Let the Seahawks prove they can win on the road - and especially on the road outside the NFC West where they dropped six out of six in 2003 with one half-point cover and five losses against the spread - before even considering giving points on them to do so. And this series provides a tough proving ground, as the home team has won the four most recent renewals of it.

HOUSTON 27, San Diego 21 (+4) - This game is Exhibit A of the sharp drop in schedule difficulty the Texans will be taking this year; indeed, this is the first time in franchise history they have been favored by this much. The only thing that could go wrong here is rain in the Houston area on Sunday, forcing the closure of Reliant Stadium's retractable roof; then San Diego's lucrative 16-6-1 spread record indoors since 1992 comes into play.

MINNESOTA 31, Dallas 24 (+3 1/2) - A Monday night visit to Philadelphia (where they haven't won in nearly 20 years) is next up for the Vikings, so they're staring down the barrel of an 0-2 start unless they win this; but fortunately they've owned Dallas of late, winning and covering the last four meetings, and the Cowboys have had their problems inside NFL domes, going 2-11 straight up and 3-10 against the line in that venue dating back to 1996.

SAN FRANCISCO 28 (+4), Atlanta 27 - Not sure if it means anything, but the Falcons were shut out in both of the preseason games they played on the road - but considerably more meaningful is the fact that they have lost ten consecutive games at The Building Formerly Known As The Building Formerly Known As Candlestick Park, and were outscored a staggering 346-141 doing it. And until it demonstrates to the contrary, Atlanta's defense can't stop anybody - not even John York's bargain-basement offense. Upset special.

DENVER 34, Kansas City 24 (+3) - It looks as if "regime change" is likely in the AFC West this year and the Broncos have covered five of their last six against the Chiefs, who still have not found the answers on defense.

MONDAY NIGHT

Green Bay 24 (+2), CAROLINA 17 - Green Bay is 31-17 straight up in road games played on grass since 1993 and the Panthers are like a spot of grease in a skillet - for those of you in Rio Linda and West Palm Beach, that means they're a flash in the pan, and the first sign of that will make itself evident right away.

BEST BETS: BUFFALO, CHICAGO, ST. LOUIS

Last edited by Anthony; 09-15-2004 at 09:02 AM.
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