‘We must protect which house?’

Sep 6, 2005 5:09 AM

The NFL preseason is over. Pardon me, while I light a few fireworks and uncork the champagne.

It’s only been torturing me for four weeks, but it feels like four months. Are you tired of not being able to break open the bankroll because you’re not quite sure if the starters will play one series or one half? Are you hurting because you’re not sure what agenda the coach has for a meaningless exhibition game? I feel you’re pain.

Preseason party time is over. At least now you know the major objective of each head coach heading into their regular season games. Just win baby! It doesn’t get any simpler than winning the game.

Our objective in this space, as it has been for the last 20-plus years is, "Just cover baby!"

Raiders +7½ at Patriots: I think the Pats are vulnerable in the middle of their defense without Bruschi. I don’t buy 100 percent of all the Raiders hype, but I’m on board with 85. The addition of Randy Moss and a steadier Kerry Collins will make the Raiders a dangerous opponent. If the starters stay healthy, Oakland can do some damage. Raiders starters usually had the lead at half in preseason. RAIDERS.

Saints +6 ½ at Panthers: Katrina battered New Orleans, but the football team is still alive. The Saints will show up to play at Carolina and are out to prove their strong finish (4-0 to close 2004) was no fluke. SAINTS.

Bears +6½ at Skins: The burning question for the Bears this season was, "Can Rex Grossman stay healthy?" So much for "da Bears" season. Down "da" drain! But not so fast Bears backers. Don’t give up on making a little moolah. Chicago has made some offensive line improvements and still has a strong defense. And the kid from Purdue, Kyle Orton, can play a little. BEARS.

Broncos -4 at Dolphins: Nick Saban has spoken, and winner is, Gus Frerotte! Whether Frerotte or A.J. Feeley, forget about it! Fish have long-term hope with Saban, but team will continue to feel the affects of Dave Wannstedt. A second-round pick for Feeley still has Fish fans fuming! BRONCOS.

Texans +4 at Bills: J.P. Losman looks like a stretch here as a first-time, opening day starter. But the Bills D is scary fast and I think the coaching staff will see how quick their defensive dogs can chase that Carr down! BILLS.

Seahawks +3 at Jaguars:Interesting matchup of two teams with promising young QBs, whose performances regressed in key areas last season. Byron Leftwich’s offense averaged only 16 points a game and Matt Hasselbeck’s completion percentage, TD passes and QB rating were all down. Fred Taylor has only seen limited action, but it looks like he’s ready to rumble. JAGUARS.

Titans +7 at Steelers: Norm Chow, the Titans new offensive coordinator, is looking to protect aging QB Steve McNair. Steelers Ben Roethlisberger has at least one bad tire on "the bus." Forget about the nail in the tire, watch out for the hook if you’re going all in on Pittsburgh. This number had a hook on the early line. TITANS.

Bengals -3½ at Browns: Everyone knows how great Cincy is supposed to be this year. I’m not sure everyone realizes how far the Browns have come under Romeo Crennel. Trent Dilfer may raise a few eyebrows by late Sunday afternoon. BROWNS.

Bucs +6 at Vikings: The Rolling Stones must be in Minnesota this weekend. How else can you explain no Moss? I think the Vikes will be more balanced and improved in the long run. The defense is improved, but it may take a few weeks to find the way without Randy Moss. Counting on Bucs D to keep this one very close. BUCS.

Jets +3½ at Chiefs: I’m not going to allow the winless Chiefs preseason to scare me. I think you know what you have in Trent Green. Jury still out on Chad Pennington after inconsistent, but encouraging training camp rehab. Look for KC to bring a defensive team onto the field this year. Last season was a no-show. CHIEFS.

Cards +2 at Giants: I think the G-men will be able to rattle Kurt Warner even though he will be playing in familiar surroundings. Will Warner continue to slip or will he be rejuvenated and find an oasis in the middle of the desert? Right now I’m leading towards that oasis being a mirage. Eli Manning starting to look a little like his brother. GIANTS.

Rams -5 at 49ers: Make no mistake about it, Mike Martz scares the heck out of me. But as bewildering as some of his actions are, his players look amazing. Bulger and Jackson should be all the edge you need here. RAMS.

Packers +3 at Lions: Packers have lost ground to every team in their division if you listen to the so-called experts. Preseason would make a case for that statement. Lions were supposed to be improving to the point of a "can’t miss" post-season appointment. Detroit’s preseason performance fell considerably short of that prediction. It’s time to see if Harrington can step up to the plate and deliver the game winning, division-changing blow. I think he might do it. LIONS.

Cowboys +5 at Chargers:Demarcus Ware and all of the Dallas defenders lived up to their off-season hype. Should be enough heat on Brees to force a couple interceptions and make Bledsoe the winner in the battle of Drews. No Gates, no Merriman, means no confidence vote for the Bolts. COWBOYS.

Colts -3 at Ravens: The Ravens have upgraded in several areas. So it’s now up to Kyle Boller to carry this team as far as they’re going to go. Oooooops, where did that banana peel come from? Kyle can step up to front and center stage, or step back and watch the maestro, Peyton Manning. COLTS.

Eagles -2 at Falcons: Can Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens put the ugly past behind them? Of course they can. The first play the Eagles called after the controversy was a bomb to Owens and it went for a TD. They’re tremendous athletes. But they’re not speaking to each other and that’s not a great indicator of things to come. FALCONS.