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Say goodbye, byes

Nov 5, 2002 7:39 AM

   The NFL season is just past the halfway point with no byes in sight the rest of the season beginning next week.

   With the calendar now showing November weather becomes much more of a factor to consider in handicapping upcoming games. Cold weather and snowy conditions tend to favor teams that play better defense and teams that can run the ball effectively. By the same token teams that struggle to stop the run are more apt to wear down late in these games and have close games turn into one sided contests.

   The linesmaker often shades the total a point or two towards the UNDER in cold weather climates and the public often bets those games down further. Given the right fundamental matchups there will be value in playing the OVER. But the UNDER should still predominate the results in cold weather games. The five most common results for totals to fall on are 37, 41, 51, 30 and 38. About 20 percent of all games, roughly three per week, will fall on one of those key numbers.

   Buffalo, Carolina, Dallas and Tampa Bay are the final four teams to enjoy byes. Here’s a look at the fourteen games to be played, including seven divisional contests, of which three are rematches of games played earlier this season.

   Colts at Eagles (-8, no total): Indianapolis is struggling on offense as their running game has virtually disappeared. Too much pressure on QB Peyton Manning to produce the big play. Philadelphia remains one of the league’s best balanced teams. PHILADELPHIA.

   Bengals (+6) at Ravens (37½): Kudos to the Bengals for their best performance in years at  Houston for their first win. Things get tougher here. The Ravens outgained Atlanta in last week’s three-point loss, showing a solid running game. BALTIMORE.

   Lions (+10, no total) at Packers: Green Bay held on to win 37-31 back in Week 3 in a game they controlled more than the final score suggests. The Packers hosted Miami last Monday night and have a pair of road games on deck. The Lions were held to under 150 yards of total offense last week in their win over Dallas. Green Bay could be a bit flat. DETROIT.

   Giants (-1½) at Vikings (43): The Giants were very impressive in defeating Jacksonville last Sunday night. Minnesota continues to struggle but has won two straight at home against similar competition. MINNESOTA.

   Falcons (+5) at Steelers (43): After a 1-3 start Pittsburgh sits atop the AFC North with a 5-3 record. Despite the absence of RB Jerome Bettis the past two weeks the Steelers have gotten strong leadership from QB Tommy Maddox. Atlanta QB Mike Vick finally threw his first interception in last week’s win over Baltimore. Atlanta’s defense keeps improving. UNDER.

   Chargers (+6½) at Rams (44½): From 0-5 to 3-5 with a pair of home games this week and next and St Louis would be back at .500. They catch a deflated San Diego squad following the Chargers’ most lopsided loss in two seasons. In 2000, the Rams beat the Chargers 57-31 when the Rams’ offense was the NFL’s best. RB Marshall Faulk is in the game plan. ST LOUIS.

   Texans (+10½) at Titans (41): Houston suffered its worst loss of their inaugural season last week while Tennessee pulled a nice upset win at Indianapolis. While the Texans do not possess a high powered offense, all four of Tennessee’s wins have been by single digits. HOUSTON.

   Saints (-4, no total) at Panthers: Carolina is off of their Bye week with questions at QB. New Orleans also had the week off to regroup following the loss to Atlanta. At 6-2, the Saints are very much in the playoff chase. Carolina’s fast 3-0 start is a distant memory. However, the Panthers have been playing solid defense. The play is on the UNDER.

   Redskins at Jaguars (-2½, no total): Jacksonville has been erratic but generally has played better than expected. Washington is starting to display more consistency on both sides of the ball and has played one of the league’s most difficult schedules. WASHINGTON.

   Seahawks (+3½) at Cards (37): Seattle continues to be plagued by injuries and ranks last by a solid margin in rush defense. Arizona is capable of beating teams on its level or below but has  trouble stepping up in class. Arizona won 24-13 in Seattle in Week 2, running for 249 yards. ARIZONA.

   Patriots (-3½) at Bears (40½): New England got a much needed win at Division rival Buffalo last week, reversing a four game skid. The defense was solid and frustrated the Bills’ passing game. Chicago had chances against Philadelphia but did not have the firepower. The Bears will have similar problems here. NEW ENGLAND.

   Chiefs (+6) at Niners (51½): This should be the most entertaining game of the week.. Both teams run the ball extremely well which could lengthen possessions and keep this game lower scoring than expected. The Chiefs have excelled as underdogs this season, going 5-0-1 against the pointspread. KANSAS CITY.

   Dolphins (-1, no total) at Jets: Miami finally broke its eight game losing streak to the Jets with a solid 30-3 win at home in Week three. The Dolphins were at Green Bay last Monday night and play four of their next five games at home. The Jets seemingly came from nowhere to dominate San Diego with a strong running game. A pair of winnable games and QB Chad Pennington has breathed new life. NEW YORK.

   Raiders (+5½) at Broncos (46½): Following a 4-0 start the Raiders have dropped four in a row and face perhaps their biggest nemesis. Former Oakland coach Mike Shanahan has relished in beating the Raiders. Denver is 13-1 SU and 9-2-1 ATS under Shanahan. Plus, Denver is fresh from a bye week. The play is on DENVER.