Bettors revel in debut of NFL season

September 10, 2002 8:52 AM
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   A fantastic week of action opened the 2002 NFL season. High scoring games, big plays on special teams, shocking upsets and controversial endings all combined to make this season’s first weekend of games the best of recent times and perhaps in the 83 year history of the NFL.

   Sure, there were some pathetic performances as well. Viewers of Carolina’s 10-7 win over Baltimore should be given some award for tolerance. But play was mostly exciting, and in Sports Books around Las Vegas there were shouts galore on an almost steady basis from 10 in the morning until the final gun sounded in Houston’s upset win over Dallas in the Texans’ NFL debut.

   High scoring games were the theme of the day with 11 of Sunday’s 14 games going OVER the total. But if the opening weekend is any indication, the 2002 season will be marked by surprises and disappointments, thrilling comebacks and exciting action.

   Be careful in relying too much on the opening week’s results when looking at plays for week two. Coaches will be some tinkering with schemes, formations, play sequencing, etc. during the week.

   Several teams have cause for concern, most notably defending NFC Champion St. Louis. But it’s still far too early for any team, even the Dallas Cowboys or Cincinnati Bengals, to panic. At least for now.

   Here’s a look at the games for week two.

   Miami (+3) at Indianapolis (Over/Under 46½): Miami was not really tested in their blowout win over Detroit while the Colts were more than tested in surviving a scare at Jacksonville. Fundamentally Miami brings the better defense into this game between former Division rivals. Miami has enjoyed both recent and longer term success against the Colts and the points are worth taking in a game the Dolphins can easily win. The play is on MIAMI.

   Jacksonville (+ 4½) at Kansas City (43): Jacksonville played better than expected in losing its home opener to Indianapolis. Kansas City was brilliant on offense in scoring 23 fourth quarter points in their bizarre win at Cleveland. But the Chiefs’ defense is a cause for concern. This should be a shootout, with the nod going to OVER.

   Green Bay (—2½) at New Orleans (46): Green Bay’s thrilling overtime win over Atlanta did expose some problems on defense. New Orleans made a statement with their overtime win at Tampa Bay. This should be an entertaining game as both teams have the ability to air it out and try for the big play. The preferred play is on the OVER.

   New England at New York Jets (No Line): New England opened defense of their Super Bowl win last Monday night against Pittsburgh. The Jets had a thrilling overtime win at Buffalo. This game should be played at a much slower pace and hence points might be scarce. The preference is for the UNDER.

   Chicago (+3) at Atlanta (42½): Chicago needed a big fourth quarter comeback to defeat Minnesota in the ”˜home’ opener at Champaign. Atlanta had a fourth quarter lead in Green Bay but still needed a frantic rally in the final minute of regulation to force the extra session with a tying FG. The Bears should be able to move the ball on Atlanta defense and they have a better defense. The play is on CHICAGO.

   Tampa Bay (—3½) at Baltimore (33): It was not the debut Tampa’s new head coach Jon Gruden envisioned. Still, Tampa had a couple of chances in overtime to get into FG position but failed to execute. If Gruden decides to be more aggressive the Bucs could win this contest easily. The preferred play is on TAMPA BAY.

   Detroit (+3) at Carolina (36): Detroit shows every sign of being no better this season than they were in 2001 while Carolina had about as ugly a win as there can be. Neither team has even an average defense although Carolina does have some young potential. Both teams might try to exploit the defensive weaknesses. The play is on the OVER.

 

   Cincinnati (+4½) at Cleveland (37½): Cincinnati was totally inept at home vs. San Diego. Cleveland’s defense was picked apart in the second half by Kansas City and the Browns were unable to protect a double digit point lead. Last week’s loss by the Bengals probably upped the line a couple of points suggesting the value is with the underdog. The preference is for CINCINNATI.

   Tennessee (—3) at Dallas (37½): Tennessee staged a fourth quarter comeback to defeat playoff quality Philadelphia. Dallas was stunned in Houston, displaying some major problems at QB. Quincy Carter is under pressure to produce or he will be quickly replaced. This game should feature both teams trying to establish the run. The play is on the UNDER,

   New York Giants (+13) at St Louis (46): The Giants were unable to run the ball in their tough opening loss to San Francisco. St. Louis was frustrated by Denver’s aggressive defense and their running game was even less productive than New York’s. The teams have met in each of the past three seasons with the Rams winning all three but by a lesser margin each time. The preference is for the NEW YORK GIANTS.

   Arizona (+3 ½) at Seattle (40): Both teams lost last week but the Cardinals looked better losing in Washington than did Seattle in losing at Oakland. Arizona has the edge at QB in what is otherwise an even game. Getting more than a FG against a team that is just as bad on defense as is the visitor does provide some wiggle room. The preferred play is on ARIZONA.

   Buffalo (+5) at Minnesota (47): Both teams lost winnable games last week. Buffalo’s breakdown came on special teams while the Vikings suffered lapses on defense. Both teams did show effective running games which can only help each team’s penchant for the big pass play. This game should be one of the higher scoring games of the weekend. The play is on the OVER.

   Denver (+3½) at San Francisco (44): Both teams are off of hard fought wins with Denver upsetting St Louis and the 49ers winning at the Giants a week ago Thursday. The extra time off should benefit San Francisco whose QB, Jeff Garcia, was not sharp. San Francisco appears to be the more well rounded team. The preference is for SAN Francisco.

   Houston (+13) at San Diego (35): Congratulations to both teams. Houston won the first game in franchise history over Dallas while San Diego ran, ran and ran the ball some more in blowing out Cincinnati. San Diego is clearly the better team. Houston is still developing an offense. The preferred play is on the UNDER.

   Oakland at Pittsburgh (No Line): Pittsburgh played at New England on Monday night with the results unknown as we go to press. Nonetheless the Steelers are in a favorable position in this game. The Raiders are still a very good team with a potent offense but they don’t match up well against strong defenses. The play is on PITTSBURGH.

   Philadelphia (—3) at Washington (45½): Philadelphia blew a double digit half-time lead as they were shut out in the second half of their loss at Tennessee. Washington survived a late rally by Arizona that fell short to give coach Steve Spurrier his first win as an NFL coach. The linesmaker was not fooled by those results, making the Eagles a slight one and a half point road favorite. The preference is for PHILADELPHIA.