Love dogs? Bite into Texans

Aug 13, 2002 12:06 PM

Remember that +3 line Houston received against the New York Giants. It just may be the best line Vegas books offer all year.

"It really could happen that way," said John Avello, the sage race and sports director at Bally’s / Paris Las Vegas. "The line actually moved down from 4. If the Texans don’t pan out, they are liable to see huge spreads."

The first-year expansion team dropped its preseason opener 34-17, a deceiving score considering Houston was inside the 10 and about to pull within four points in the final minute. A 99-yard interception return for a score sent the total well OVER the listed 30.

"It’s too early to look at trends, but seeing Houston-Giants go over the total was a real surprise to us," Avello said. "The Carr kid looked pretty good and Shockey is probably going to be a heck of a player."

Avello, whose to the point opinions are heard nationally on radio periodically, believes the best time for bettors to wager and win preseason games is now.

"The first two weeks can offer the best opportunities," he said. "It helps to know the coaches involved in games because some want to win more than others. If numbers go up on the board that are say 3-to-6 points, that’s should send a message to play the dog."

That logic applied to the opening 7½-point line that went up at most books for Washington in its game at Carolina.

"(Steve) Spurrier said he would use the QBs and open the game up, and he likes to win at everything he does," Avello said. "That tends to make people want to bet the Redskins."

Avello does have some teams to watch in both the NFL and college football. As usual, these are not the safe, standard picks most so-called experts spout out to protect their reputations.

"San Francisco. The 49ers made a run last year and (Jeff) Garcia can do it all," he said. "He’s gutsy. It’s easy to make this picks after what New England did last year. Anyone can step up to the plate and win now."

Avello believes Emmitt Smith will pass Walter Payton as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, but it won’t be pretty.

"Emmitt needs 500 or 600 yards, but he has reached the end of his career," Avello said. "He’ll be a backup before the year is out."

Indianapolis is Avello’s team to watch in the AFC, provided the defense improves and QB Peyton Manning can "control his mistakes."

"Cleveland could be in for a breakthrough year," he said. "A few heart-breaking losses set them back last year."

On campus, Michigan State is our consensus surprise choice based in part on a very appealing schedule.

"The Spartans can go a long way," Avello said. "Texas, Florida State, Oklahoma also look good. USC, LSU, Boston College and Texas A&M also could sneak through. And, Penn State will bounce back with a winning record."

Heading into Monday night’s Dolphins-Bucs game, picking either favorites or the underdogs ATS is 8-8-1. The Under holds a slim 9-8 edge through 17 games.

Just the way the books like to see it.

The most critical injuries were to Cleveland’s All-Pro LB Jamir Miller (torn ACL) and Seattle QB Trent Dilfer (severely sprained knee).

CLOSER: Bucs DL Warren Sapp needs to post more sacks and talk less smack.