A bettor's guide to Week 9
The Giants' victory over the Steelers turned when a reserve snapper hiked the ball out of the endzone. The Cowboys' winning drive over the Buccaneers was built on four penalties. Both NFC East heavyweights were tested severely, finally surviving afternoons of the most vicious hitting and now will face each other in still another one of those division slugfests.
If the Cowboys' hope to beat New York in the Meadowlands, it will have to be done with the punishing, almost manic gallops of Marion Barber, and with their defense. The Giants will bring ferocious pressure on Brad Johnson, just as they did on Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger. Finally they wore down a Steelers' offensive line that was missing two starters, just as the Cowboys' rush did to Tampa Bay.
People who are only too eager to write a finish to the Cowboys' up-and-down season should take note of the way they choked off the Bucs' Jeff Garcia and every phase of his offense. Anyone who still has doubts about the toughness of the Giants, had to be impressed with the way they wore out Big Ben and the Steeler offense in the late rounds.
Yes, it will be a brawl, just as everyone's predicting. Nothing will come easy for Eli Manning against the Cowboy rush, but the other side of the coin is that I frankly don't think Johnson will survive the Giants' rush. New York's defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, can be a vicious dude when he smells weakness along the enemy front. He wasn't timid about bringing blitz pressure in the postseason last year, and he faced some high profile QB's -- Garcia, Romo, Favre and Brady. I think he'll be smelling blood when 40-year old Johnson lines up under center, and the Giants' defense will be all juiced up to force turnovers and misfires and all sorts of mayhem.
The 8 1/2-point number is extraordinarily high...I mean how many of us can remember the 'Boys getting a price like that? Lay it. Turnovers could make the score lopsided. Giants minus 8 1/2.
Sticking with the Gotham angle, Jets QB Brett Favre has brought his Packers into the exotic terrain of Buffalo three times. Three losses, none closer than nine points. I'm going the "history repeats," route, even though it's an overused formula for most chartists, and taking the Bills minus 5 1/2.
Jimmy, who says he scored heavily on the late games last weekend, likes the Browns over Baltimore. That's two weeks in a row we've locked horns over the Browns because I'm taking the Ravens plus 1 1/2, but I've been faked out by Baltimore's defense before.
"Here's my pick of the week...the Titans over Minnesota," Jimmy says. Hmmm, sounds inviting, let me check that. Titans? TITANS! Is this a joke of some bizarre nature? Houston, nickname Texans, is getting 4 1/2 against the Vikes. I like Houston. Jimmy says he doesn't have the same interest, now that they've changed their name from the Titans. OK, let's move along and put this nonsense behind us. Houston's playing well enough to cover the 4 1/2 in Minnesota.
Do you liked Seneca Wallace against Jim Johnson's defense? Me neither. Eagles minus 7 at Seattle.
"Please, no more formula picks," the gamblers are screaming. Only six this week, an all time record. Hey look, I'll ride with this thing, now that it's finally starting to pay off, but I will admit to you that it makes me nervous to get on so many favorites. I mean that's the way all those prediction boxes in the papers go.
Chicago minus 13 over Detroit
Tampa Bay minus 8 1/2 over Kansas City
Miami plus 3 at Denver
Atlanta minus 3 at Oakland
Indianapolis minus 5 1/2 over New England, and I agree with you that it makes absolutely no sense, but that's why it's a formula pick.
Washington minus 2 over Pittsburgh.
Last week: 5-3-1