Sunday, September 7, 2003

NFL Week One: Best bets


Dolphins are opening weekend's best pick

By BOB MATTHEWS
Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle

The Miami Dolphins are the greatest frontrunners in the NFL today. They've won their last 11 opening games and often appear to be the league's best team for the first half of the season.

The Houston Texans shocked the NFL in general and Dallas in particular by beating the visiting Cowboys in their first-ever game last September. They probably won't be so fortunate this Sunday in Miami.

The Dolphins have much to prove after another late-season collapse in 2002 and they don't figure to show much pity against the second-year Texans. Miami is 13-3-1 against the spread (ATS) as a home favorite the past two seasons and should carry on the tradition as a 13 1/2-point favorite and this week's "Best Bet": MIAMI 30, Houston 10.

Sunday's other games (Home team ALL CAPS)

BUFFALO 24, New England 20 - An early moment of truth for the Bills, particularly QB Drew Bledsoe, who has yet to prove he can beat his former team and coach Bill Belichick. He threw five interceptions in two losses to New England last season. Buffalo is 13-5 ATS as a favorite in September and a 1-point favorite in this early AFC East showdown.

St. Louis 30, NEW YORK GIANTS 20 - No excuses here for the 1-point underdog Rams, who begin this season healthy and at full strength and are 9-4 ATS in the last 13 meetings. The Giants are 4-7-1 ATS as home favorites the past two years.

PITTSBURGH 23, Baltimore 13 - The 5-point favored Steelers have a suspect secondary but Ravens rookie QB Kyle Boller might not be ready to take advantage. Warnings: Baltimore is a highly profitable 42-24-4 ATS the past four seasons, including 15-5 as a road underdog.

CAROLINA 20, Jacksonville 14 - The 4-point favored Panthers rate the edge at home in what figures to be a relatively low-scoring game. Carolina was 8-24 straight up the past two years but a respectable 17-14-1 ATS. The rebuilding Jaguars are in a 2-5-1 ATS slump as road underdogs in September.

DALLAS 24, Atlanta 14 - It might take a few weeks for the 2-point underdog Falcons to get used to playing without injured QB Michael Vick. The Cowboys players and fans will be pumped up in coach Bill Parcells' debut.

Indianapolis 30, CLEVELAND 17 - The 1 1/2-point favored Browns figure to pay a steep price against the high-powered Colts for budget-minded defense cuts in the offseason. Warning: Indianapolis is 12-20 ATS the past two seasons, including 2-8 as a road underdog.

Denver 33, CINCINNATI 20 - The 6-point underdog Bengals will improve under Marvin Lewis but it won't happen quickly. The Broncos couldn't pick many softer opponents to unveil new QB Jake Plummer. Something has to give: Cincinnati was 1-6 ATS as a home underdog last season and Denver was 1-6 ATS in its last seven games as a road favorite.

DETROIT 24, Arizona 13 - The Lions won't be favored in many games this year but they appear solid as a 4-point pick over the hapless Cardinals. Recycled Emmitt Smith could be Arizona's main weapon and Dallas decided he was expendable. Detroit leads the series 28-21-5 but the Cardinals won the last five meeting since 1995.

GREEN BAY 24, Minnesota 21 - The Packers have too many defensive holes to comfortably spot any decent opponent 5 points, particularly a bitter division rival. The Vikings are 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings. The series is tied 41-41-1 and the teams traded home wins each of the past two seasons.

KANSAS CITY 28, San Diego 20 - The 5 1/2-point favored Chiefs might finally have run into a team with a worse defense. Kansas City is 4-0-2 ATS in the last six home games against San Diego.

New Orleans 27, SEATTLE 24 - Upset special. The 3-point underdog Saints have high potential on offense and are eager to erase memories of their second straight late-season swoon. New Orleans is on a 7-2-1 ATS roll as a road underdog in September and the Seahawks are 1-7 ATS in their last eight season openers.

SAN FRANCISCO 30, Chicago 14 - The 7-point underdog Bears are 0-5 ATS in the last five visits to the 49ers and 1-7 ATS in the last eight meetings overall. San Francisco is slipping but not as quickly as Chicago did after its 13-3 season in 2001.

Oakland 26, TENNESSEE 20 - Age might catch up with the 3-point underdog Raiders before this season ends but they're primed for a quick getaway after their embarrassing performance in Super Bowl XXXVII. The Titans are 7-2 ATS in the last nine meetings but 2-7 ATS in their last nine games as favorites in September. Oakland is 12-5-1 ATS as a road underdog since 1999.

Monday night's game

Tampa Bay 24, PHILADELPHIA 17 - The Eagles are favored by 3 points but the Buccaneers won 27-10 in Philadelphia in last season's NFC title game and should enjoy the warmer weather for this rematch. Warning: the Eagles are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 Monday night games vs. NFC opponents and were 6-3 ATS as home favorites last season.




BENGALS GAME
Broncos 30, Bengals 10
Daugherty column: Still the same old Bengals
Offensive line takes the blame
BENGALS PREVIEW
Lewis brings a new style
Daugherty column: Time for redemption has arrived
Dillon record motivates both Bengals, Broncos
Bengals fans need to chart their way home
Who will have better debut, Lewis or Plummer?
This & that

MORE NFL HEADLINES
The NFL kicks off from the parking lot
Curnutte: Around the NFL
NFL Week One: Best bets
Curnutte's Power Rankings

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
OSU survives serious scare from Aztecs
Geiger dismisses criticism
UK, Lorenzen air it out, top Murray State
Wake Forest stuns No. 14 Wolfpack
Berlin thwarts Gators once again
Sooners hold off Tide's charge
Pickett rebounds against Hoosiers
Fighting Irish 'fortunate'
Boilermakers unable to make crucial plays
Top 25 roundup: Southern Cal fends off BYU
Scores, how Top 25 fared
Small college roundup

REDS
Sunday's Game: Cardinals 9, Reds 0
Saturday's Game: Cardinals 13, Reds 6
Notes: Shoulder problem bothers Graves
Clock starts now for trade evaluations
Reds chatter
Reds Q&A

MORE BASEBALL HEADLINES
MLB power rankings
Notes: Glavine satisfied being a Met
NL games: Giants maintain NL West lead
AL games: Boston tees off on Clemens, Yankees

PREP SPORTS
Roger Bacon weathers Holy Cross bid at upset
Saturday's other games
Football finals stay north
Numbers shouldn't dictate athletes
New focus works for St. Ursula
Prep sports results

KROGER GOLF
Neighbors Morgan, Tewell say Amen
Kroger scores, matchups

U.S. OPEN TENNIS
For Roddick fans, glass is half full
Henin-Hardenne topples Clijsters

MOTOR SPORTS
Newman survives late restarts; captures sixth win

ENQUIRER PAGE TWO HEADLINES
McNick product finds place at UC
That rainy day feelin'
Page Two power rankings

ON THE AIR
Sports on TV, radio

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