The Pack’s back!

Nov 12, 2002 7:29 AM

   In what has been thus far another wacky and unpredictable season, it appears that every week a new team emerges as the team to beat — only to be defeated in their next game or two. Right now the Green Bay Packers have been anointed as the front-runner at 9-2 to win the Super Bowl after an impressive performance this past Sunday against Detroit.

   The New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers also are playing well while the Philadelphia Eagles took a stumble last week. But don’t be surprised if in three weeks the Eagles are once again listed as a major contender.

   And don’t look now but the St. Louis Rams are just one prime time Monday night home game win away from evening their record at 5-5 following an 0-5 start. At odds of 7-1, it would be foolish to count them out.

   Things are just as uncertain in the AFC where Denver is considered the team to beat. Pittsburgh had been mentioned but their come from ahead tie against Atlanta has raised questions once again about the state of the Steelers’ defense.

   Let’s expect some more surprises over the rest of the season. Upsets, it seems, have become the norm.

Green Bay (—6 1/2) at Minnesota (Over/Under 50): Green Bay is the NFL’s hottest team and they catch Minnesota in a state of confusion. Green Bay has had problems in Minnesota over the years but not this year. The play is on GREEN BAY.

New Orleans (+3) at Atlanta (51): Atlanta has the better defense but they were torched for over 600 yards in last week’s overtime tie in Pittsburgh. They could be feeling the effects of those extra 15 minutes here. The preference is for the UNDER.

Cleveland (—3 1/2) at Cincinnati (41): The Bengals’ ability to run the ball with RB Corey Dillon and their effort last week in Baltimore suggests they have not thrown in the towel on the season. This is a winnable game for the Bengals. The preferred play is on CINCINNATI.

Dallas (+6 1/2) at Indianapolis (41): Dallas has scored 17 points or less in all but one game this season. Indy had their best effort in several seasons. Indy’s defense has shown signs of improvement under coach Tony Dungy. The play is on the UNDER.

Buffalo (+3 1/2) at Kansas City (51 1/2): Kansas City has had a high powered offense all season with only a few bumps. Unlike the 49ers, Buffalo shall not be able to dominate time of possession which should allow Kansas City to force an up-tempo pace. The preference is for the OVER.

Baltimore (+4 1/2) at Miami (35): Baltimore’s win last week over Cincinnati put the Ravens within a game and half of their Division lead. The teams have met in each of the past two seasons and both have been low scoring defensive battles. There’s little to suggest this game will be any different. The preferred play is on the UNDER.

Washington (+3 1/2) at New York Giants (37): Washington continues to be plagued by an inconsistent offense. The Giants have had strong running games the past few weeks and it is suggestive that the Giants right now are the more complete team. The play is on the NEW YORK GIANTS.

Arizona (+11 1/2) at Philadelphia (38): Arizona had a surprisingly poor effort in their one sided home loss to Seattle. Arizona catches the Eagles in a ”˜fowl’ mood this week and Philly’s embarrassed defense should control the day. The preference is for PHILADELPHIA.

Pittsburgh (—3) at Tennessee (43): Pittsburgh should have RB Jerome Bettis back although backup Amos Zeoroue came up big in his absence. That tandem might be too much for the Titans defense in the fourth quarter especially now that the Steelers have developed a solid passing game behind backup QB Tommy Maddox. The preferred play is on PITTSBURGH.

San Francisco (—2 1/2) at San Diego (43): This is a very important game for the Chargers if they are to maintain a course to the Playoffs. San Francisco has played well all season with a balanced offense and an improving defense that is fresh because of the Niners’ ability to run the football. The play in on the UNDER.

Carolina (+9) at Tampa Bay (34): There’s not much reason to expect either team to open things up here although Carolina did show some offensive spunk behind QB Rodney Peete. Tampa Bay’s still emerging offense might be rusty. The preference is for CAROLINA.

Denver at Seattle (No Line): This is a natural letdown spot for the Broncos following their clash against the hated Raiders. Yet over the past five seasons the Broncos have won 7 of 10 games following games against Oakland but are just 5-5 against the points. Hesitatingly the underdog must be considered here. The preferred play is on SEATTLE.

New York Jets (—3) at Detroit (43 1/2): Winners of three of their last five game with the two losses by just 4 and 3 points the Jets are starting to show signs of a playoff team. The Jets still have a realistic shot at post season play. The play is on the NEW YORK JETS.

Jacksonville (—6) at Houston (37): Houston continues to struggle on offense as they were again held to less than 250 yards by a below average Tennessee defense. The Jags have won only once on the road in four games this season but this will be their weakest host of the season. The preference is for JACKSONVILLE.

New England at Oakland (No Line): This will be billed as “Revenge for the Tuck”, the controversial play reversal that cost the Raiders AFC title this past January. The Pats figure to be emotionally spent following that game and they catch a desperate Oakland team seeking to save their season. The preferred play is on OAKLAND.

Chicago at St Louis (No Line): Expect the Rams to show great focus and intensity as they seek to become a playoff factor with a win. They’ll be a few points higher priced than perhaps they should, but their overall edges justify the line. The play is on ST. LOUIS.