Raiders advancing, whether it’s Jets or Seahawks

January 08, 2002 5:11 AM
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The NFL regular season is over. They beat themselves up for 17 weeks to see who would be the 12 clubs left standing. And so, we head into Wild Card weekend with eight of the 12 teams squaring off and the four best earning the right to take the week off.

The Pats, Steelers, Rams and Bears will rest up to host a playoff game another week from now. In the meantime, the other eight money teams will have to play elimination games this weekend.

Here’s my take on Wild Card Weekend.

RAIDERS (—3) over Jets: The Raiders haven’t been able to stop anyone. They’ve lost three of their last four home games and four of their last six regular season contests. This team is clearly on its heels. But they should get a break this week. If the Ravens have done their job, the Jets will have to get back on a plane and go back to Oakland.

The Jets just beat the Raiders for the first time at Oakland in nearly 40 years. The Raiders hadn’t lost to the Jets since they were called the Titans in 1962. Oakland outplayed the Jets last week and will again Saturday. Charlie Garner and Tyrone Wheatley will be able to run the ball effectively and open things up for Rich Gannon. The Raiders will cover the spread, whether they play New York or Seattle.

Bucs (+3½) over Eagles: These two just slugged it out a few nights ago in Tampa Bay. It wasn’t McNabb versus Johnson. The starters really didn’t play much so you can throw the result out the window.

This weekend you will see Staley, Dunn, Alstott and all the big-time players. The Eagles deserve to be favored. They’ve earned the homefield advantage, but I don’t think it’s going to win them the money. McNabb is coming off the biggest performance of his life. I don’t think he will be quite as strong as he was against the Giants. The Bucs should be able to run in the second half and Warren Sapp and his posse will be able to pressure McNabb.

49ers (+3½) over Packers: Green Bay won its last three home games and looked very impressive. The Packers are difficult to bet against. However, there’s a mighty big hook on this game right now and I feel like the public might just bet this game up to four points. The Pack might be a tad inflated at that line.

Once the Brett Favre mystique is factored in, how can the public pass on him? But, I think the Niners are the right side. They’ve been able to post a couple of shutouts against Miami and Buffalo. Granted both were at home, but the Niners have gradually built some momentum heading into the playoffs. San Francisco could scare the Pack with big performances from Hearst, Owens and Garcia. The Niners have become one of the best running teams in the league with Barlow and Hearst. Garcia’s success finding receivers has opened up the running game.

Ravens (+3) over Dolphins: The Ravens haven’t had a great season, but their defense is still dangerous. And, if they did their job Monday night, they’ve earned the right to go to Âí­Miami. I don’t think Miami is officially healed after one suspect win over a Van Pelt-less Buffalo team.

Up until the win over the Bills, the Fish had failed to run for more than 67 yards in four of the previous five games. Miami had not held the ball for over 24 minutes in three of those contests. The Dolphins have struggled into the playoffs and are vulnerable in a big way.

If Baltimore should lose to Minnesota and New York heads to Miami, take the Jets plus the points.