Steelers' overtime shift in philosophy works both ways On the line


Everything was proceeding rather nicely on Sunday. The Chiefs had pummeled the 49ers, the Bills beat the Jets and the Falcons upset the Seahawks. There had been only one disappointment, the Giants losing to the Bucs, and the mythical money on the Cardinals, getting 5 1/2 points from the Steelers, looked safe as the game moved into overtime.

Arizona had blown several chances to win outright or cover the spread but, what the heck, Pittsburgh was going to kick a field goal and win by three, right? Except that Jerome Bettis pounded his way 10 yards into the end zone and the visitors won by six. Plus $100 became minus $100.

The young man watching the game with me was upset. "Anybody else would have gone for the field goal when they got down that far," he said.

I agreed. I also remembered Jacksonville at Pittsburgh, Oct. 26, the Steelers favored by three. I had Pittsburgh.

Bill Cowher's club had driven inside the Jaguars' 20 in overtime. Instead of kicking a field goal, Cowher had Kordell Stewart flip a ++ shovel pass to Bettis, who rambled 17 yards for a touchdown. A push became a win. I surely didn't criticize Cowher's tactics then, so I wasn't about to yell at him Sunday (or at least not too loudly).

This week's picks

(All bets in mythical dollars)

Broncos at Steelers (-1 1/2 ): The Broncos have a much more reliable passer. Stewart vs. John Elway is a mismatch. Both teams have an outstanding running back, strong offensive and defensive fronts and both are suspect in the secondary. Cold weather would help the home team, but the long-range forecast called for decent playing conditions. Denver is 6-2-1 against the spread as an underdog under Mike Shanahan.

Take Denver for $100.

Packers (-3 1/2 ) at Bucs: Green Bay is coming off tough, highly emotional outings against Dallas and Minnesota. The Bucs are primed for their best effort. They're 6-0 against the number as an underdog, winning five straight up. I have one fear: Trent Dilfer. He's no Brett Favre. But Favre has been known to put up stupid passes on occasion and Tampa Bay is physical enough on both lines of scrimmage to make this matchup interesting.

Take Tampa Bay for $100.

Giants at Eagles (-5): Dave Brown will never be Phil Simms, but Jim Fassel has no choice. Brown is the Giants' only hope in this situation. Look for Danny Kanell to get a quick hook if Philadelphia begins to take command. Bobby Hoying has been a pleasant surprise at quarterback for the Eagles. His receivers are much better than New York's. Philadelphia looked dead at 4-6 (which is why Hoying got his chance). Now the Eagles have a chance to win the NFC East.

Take Philadelphia for $100.

Patriots at Jaguars (-3 1/2 ): The 8-5 Patriots could wind up 8-8 and out of the playoffs unless they're careful. They appear to lack the leadership and guidance needed from Drew Bledsoe and Pete Carroll. Jacksonville has no such problem, especially on offense, where Mark Brunell takes charge. Jacksonville has won 13 in a row at home. New England is 1-6 against the spread since Oct. 19.

Take Jacksonville for $100.

Rams at Saints (-2 1/2 ): Mike Ditka has scared the Saints into being 5-8. How could this team, which has no offense, have won three of its past four? St. Louis doesn't have much offense, either, but the Rams are the best 3-10 team in many moons.

Take St. Louis for $100.

Lions at Dolphins (-3): Lawrence Phillips probably needs help. But Jimmy Johnson needs Phillips. So everything's cool, especially since Miami has covered four straight.

Take Miami for $100.

Panthers at Cowboys (-6 1/2 ): Dallas is 3-9-1 against the spread, but the 6-7 Cowboys' playoff hopes are still alive thanks to the messed-up NFC East. Look for at least two Cowboys stars (Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith) to give it their best shot.

% Take Dallas for $100.

The numbers

Last week's record: 4-2. Net for week: plus $330.

Season record: 43-36-4. Net for season: plus $1,360.

Pub Date: 12/05/97

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