Giants continue their run to the Super Bowl

Jan 9, 2001 6:49 AM

Denny The Dog is always on the prowl for live underdogs. This time of year, that’s not a stroll in the park. Late in the regular season and into the playoffs, the home favorites start frothing at the mouth and make betting the dogs an uneasy feeling at best.

Two weeks ago, an unlikely set of circumstances made picking the pups easy. Three of the four dogs were playing at home and everyone knows how tough a home dog is late in the season. But last weekend, there were no home dogs to be found on the board. There were only home faves, and they were ferocious. Only the Ray Lewis-led Ravens prevented the home favorites from going 4-0.

No need to spend much time handicapping the playoffs this season. In the first two weekends of play, the home clubs are 7-1. At that rate, you can make plenty of dough just blindly betting home clubs.

Does the fan noise make all the difference? Are the NFL officials intimidated at all by doing their jobs in front of such hostile fans? Hmmmmmm?

Oh, well. Enough pondering about the last two weeks. The search for live dogs continues into the AFC and NFC championship games. You may find a live dog. But one thing’s for sure: you won’t find a home dog until next season!

GIANTS + 1 vs. Vikings
Ravens + 6 vs. RAIDERS

GIANTS +1 vs. Vikings: Bow Wow Wow, Yippie YoYippie Yaaay! Imagine the shocked look on Denny The Dog’s snout when the G-men appeared on the first board I saw as a home underdog! That’s not supposed to happen to a No. 1-seeded divisional champion. But I’ll take it! The G-men, sparked by a bold prediction from Jim Fassel, are on a six-game roll. The Giants have plenty of momentum going into the NFC championship at the Meadowlands. There should also be more than enough cold weather moving into New Jersey to give the home team an even bigger advantage.

The Giants play all their home games outdoors. The Vikings played just five games outdoors all season. The Vikes were a mere 4-4 on the road.

The natural grass (or mud, depending on conditions back East) should favor the G-men. They can run quite a one-two punch at the Vikes with Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne. The offensive line did a miraculous job protecting Kerry Collins from a great Eagles’ defensive front. As a result of great protection, Collins has been able to make some great decisions in the pocket the last two months.

The Vikes’ D finally stepped up their performance a notch versus New Orleans. But Brooks was forced to throw more than anticipated because the Saints couldn’t run the ball. Thunder and Lightning will run the ball enough to allow Kerry Collins to stretch the field with Amani Toomer. You might also watch out for Pete Mitchell, the tight end who emerged as a big factor against Philly last Sunday.

The Vikes have a potentially explosive offense, but nasty weather has a way of silencing big guns. Still can’t take my eyes off the Vikes’ last three regular season games in which they gave up over 100 points, losing all three.

Ravens + 6 vs. RAIDERS: Difficult to pull the rubber band off the bankroll for this one. The Raiders are on a four-game winning streak. And like I told you last week, the Raiders have a tendency to beat their opponents at home by an average of 27 points. That’s what the average margin of victory has been the six home games previous to Miami. What was the final score at Oakland last Saturday? Someone told me the final was Oakland 27, Miami 0. Hmmmmmmmm? How the heck could the Raiders win by 27 points? You can see why it’s hard for me to pick against the Raiders. The trend has been for Oakland to demolish whoever they’re playing in the Coliseum.

But Baltimore brings a whole new ball game to the Black Hole. The Ravens’ D was ranked No. 1 against the run for the entire season. It was No. 2 overall to the Titans heading into last week’s showdown. I’d say the Ravens’ defense is the best in the NFL right now and quite possibly of all time.

Take the Ravens plus the points. This team wins without a great passing game. Trent Dilfer only completed five passes against the Titans! This team wins without a running game. Jamal Lewis only ran for 47 yards! But man, can they play defense. Ray Lewis is playing defense like a man possessed.

One of these days, Trent Dilfer is going to catch a hot hand. Jamal Lewis is very capable of having a huge day running the football. And don’t forget the Ravens’ special teams. Stover may be the best kicker in the league. Jermaine Lewis may be the difference you need to cover the point spread, if not win the game straight up!

I’m not taking anything away from the Raiders. I love the team. I love Jon Gruden. They’re playing well on both sides of the ball and have some great special teams of their own. But I’m always looking for a live dog. I think I’ve found one in Baltimore.

In fact, I believe I’ve found two live dogs for this Sunday. I just never expected the G-men to be a dog at home. Bow-Wow-Wow Yippie Yo Yippie Yaaay!