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Cleveland savors Dog Day Afternoon

Oct 23, 2001 8:40 AM

It’s said that every dog has its day and this past weekend in the NFL the underdogs were in virtually complete control of the pointspread results. Going into Monday night’s game underdogs won 10 of 12 games straight up Overall, the underdog covered 11 games with only the unbeaten St Louis Rams winning and covering as a favorite in their rout of the New York Jets. The only game in which the line mattered in that a favored team won but failed to cover the pointspread was Tennessee’s 27-24 win at Detroit.

This might be a good week to cash in any favors owed to you by sports book management since there should be smiles and good moods all around. In general, when favorites do poorly the books do well. Although the ”˜wise guys’ often play the underdogs their action is usually much more than offset by the public action on parlays and parlay cards which often includes a majority of favorites.

Favorites had won 35 of 54 pointspread decisions (65 percent) with four pushes through the season’s first four weeks. But over the last two weeks underdogs have won 22 of 25 pointspread decisions (88 percent) with another push. That means for the season favorites have covered in 38 games and underdogs have covered in 41 games (with five pushes) which is pretty close to what is expected over a full season. Normally the split will be very close to 50-50. There may still be a week or two where favorites or underdogs dominate greatly but it would be surprising if either of those events occurs in the next few weeks.

Atlanta, Cleveland and Green Bay have Byes this week. The terrorist attacks of September 11th, which caused the postponement of that week’s games, also caused baseball’s World Series to be pushed back a week. This has resulted in the moving of the Indianapolis at Kansas City game from Sunday back to Thursday. The New York Giants at Washington game will not be played in prime time on Sunday night so as to not conflict with Game 2 of the World Series.

Here’s a preview of this week’s schedule.

Thursday:

Colts (—3) at Chiefs (47½) : Both teams have been disappointments in the early going. The Colts fell victim to the Patriots for the second time in less than a month having now lost two games to New England by a total of 52 points. Kansas City, once having the largest home field advantage in the NFL, has lost all three home games this season. Still, the Chiefs are a team that figures to improve under a new coaching staff and has more upside potential. The play is KANSAS CITY.

Jaguars (+7½) at Ravens (34): Jacksonville has struggled after opening the season with two wins, having lost to winless Buffalo in their most recent game. Baltimore has seen their defense look quite ordinary in losses at Green Bay and Cleveland the past two weeks. Returning home should cure those ills as they allowed just 13 points in their first two home games this season. The preferred play is on the UNDER.

Vikings (+3½) at Bucs (39): Minnesota won the first meeting 20-16 as a home underdog and are off of their best effort of the season following last week’s 35-13 rout of Green Bay. Tampa has been a disappointment thus far. All five of their games have been decided by seven points or less. The preference is to the OVER.

Bengals (+2½) at Lions (40): The Bengals’ home momentum was snapped last week in a one sided loss to surprising Chicago. Detroit came close to winning last week but could not contain Tennessee’s offense which drove for the winning field goal after the Lions had tied the game with barely a minute left in regulation. That’s how winless teams remain winless. The play is on CINCINNATI.

Niners (+2½) at Bears (40): Both teams are amongst the early season surprises with 4-1 starts. The 49ers have run the ball very effectively which takes the pressure off of QB Jeff Garcia to continually make big plays. The Bears have shown improvement in the ground game over the past two weeks with rookie RB Anthony Thomas. The preference is for the UNDER.

Saints (+12) at Rams (49): New Orleans has struggled on offense all season as QB Aaron Brooks has been unable to make the big plays he made after taking over for Jeff Blake last season. The defense is still amongst the league’s best but will face their toughest test yet against the Rams. St Louis is an even more potent offensive force with an improved defense enabling the offense to take even more chances. The play is on the UNDER.

Jets (—2½) at Panthers (39): Carolina failed to hold a fourth quarter 14 point lead last week at Washington last week, losing on the last play of the game for the second straight week. They had some success running the ball against the league’s worst rush defense and now face the Jets who are the new league leaders in allowing the most rushing yards per game. The preferred play is on CAROLINA.

Cards (Pick’em) at Cowboys (39): Dallas is rested following their Bye and despite their 1-4 record continue to play hard. Arizona has won twice but tried hard to hand over last week’s game to Kansas City in the final minutes. Dallas opened a two point favorite here and the early move to the Cardinals is puzzling. The Cards allowed over 450 yards to the Chiefs. Dallas has shown steady improvement on both sides of the ball, especially on defense. The play is DALLAS.

Raiders at Eagles (No Line): Oakland had their Bye last week while Philly tried to snap their lengthy losing streak to the Giants on Monday night. The Raiders are a well balanced team on offense and have been above average on defense. Philadelphia has been solid in virtually every statistical category and should be a small favorite here. This is a tough scheduling spot for Philly following three straight Divisional games and three more to follow in the next four weeks. The preference will be for the UNDER.

Patriots (+8) at Broncos (44): Denver has clearly felt the loss of WR Ed McCaffrey as the offense is struggling and the entire team is playing with shaken confidence. Both teams are 3-3 and while Denver is in fourth place in the AFC West the Pats trail Miami by just half a game in the AFC East and have gained momentum after a second rout of the Colts this season. The Pats also upset San Diego. The preference play is on NEW ENGLAND.

Bills (+8) at Chargers (38): This is an intriguing matchup as struggling Buffalo gets to face their former QB, Doug Flutie, who has resurrected the Chargers, leading them to four wins in six games. Buffalo finally got their first win in Jacksonville and has a few extra days to prepare for this game. San Diego has had an easy early slate. The play is BUFFALO.

Dolphins (—2½) at Seahawks (37): Both teams are rested following Byes. Seattle has played better in recent weeks behind QB Trent Dilfer who took over for injured Matt Hasselback who has been assured of returning to the lineup once fully healthy. The preferred play is on the UNDER.

Giants at Redskins (No Line): The Giants are off of a Monday night game against Philadelphia and in the midst of a stretch of games that sees the G-men playing five divisional games in a six week span with the other game having been their 15-14 loss at St Louis two weeks ago. The week before that loss the Giants defeated Washington 23-9. The play is UNDER.

Monday:

Titans (+3) at Steelers (36½): Tennessee has started to turn their season around with a pair of three point wins following an 0-3 start but in both of those wins the Titans surrendered fourth quarter leads. Pittsburgh is winning behind the running of RB Jerome Bettis and a traditionally sound defense to lead the AFC Central at 4-1. Titans have won seven straight over Pittsburgh but were favored in six. The play is PITTSBURGH.