Tis the season to be jolly, to take the $4,000-plus profit from the 14 weeks of the National Football League regular season - and not do anything stupid.
So often I see friends who have built a bankroll by using their head from mid-September to mid-December turn around and lose their heads once the playoffs begin. They pyramid their play, sending everything in over the final weeks, or on the final game, in a feast-or-famine fling. Maybe it's because only seven games are left, and the thought of not having any action for the next eight months is more than they can bear.
Do not fall into this common trap. So not wind risking everything for no good reason. Don't gamble with the playoffs simply because they are here. As betting attractions, the playoffs games merely offer seven more possibilities. The fact that they are more important to the public, and to the media, does not mean thy are important to "Playing Football."
My chances for a bone-crushing season probably ended three weeks ago, when the Colts, Oilers and Raiders failed to deliver the goods. If that's the case, so be it. With a little luck I'll be around in the fall of '78. So will you. So don't go cashing in your chips prematurely.
I had intended to get excited over Oakland at Baltimore, if that matchup presented itself in this weekend's opening round.
The Colts appear to be "made" for the Raiders. Oakland should control the offensive line of scrimage, with Van Feghen and Davis running well behind Upshaw and Shell. Stabler should have time to throw into a Baltimore secondary that is suspect, at best.
Baltimore, conversely, will not run on Oakland. Bert Jones will have to come up with another little miracle if the Colts are to advance - and that's just the point. Jones is the best quaterback in pro-ball. He can be a miracle worker, in a given game, and with the Raiders hurting slightly at linebacker and in their secondary, well, I'm cutting back Oakland from a mythical $500 to $250.
Oakland opened as a 3 1/2-point favorite in Las Vegas. The spread yesterday was out of 4.
Other games find Dallas favored by 11 over Chicago (up from 10), Denver still a 3-point favorite over Pittsburgh and Los Angeles 9 1/2 (down from 10) over Minnesota.
The Denver line seems to be a trifle cheap. The Broncos faced up to the toughest schedule in the NFL this year and played superbly, week after week. Certainly they were not embarrased Sunday in losing to Dallas while they went with their quickest, better even than that of Dallas.
Craig Morton may crack under pressure. Heaven knows he has before. But Terry Bradshaw is just as likely to become confused when confronted by the Broncos' 3-4. Most importantly, I believe several members of the Steelers' defensive unit is still be sub-par, physically, and pittsburgh needs a maximum effort if it is to win. I'll take a mythical $250 on Denver.
Chicago doesn't belong in the playoffs. This is a weak-sister, a one-man show that was able to survive only because of a soft schedule in a sad conference. Walter Payton is magnificent but Dallas is going to move the ball freely on the Bears' defense. Tony Dorsett will out-rush Payton, if Tom landry permits. Make it a mythical $250 on Dallas, despite the big number.
Los Angeles will beat Minnesota. But by 9 1/2? Chuck Knox's conservtive offense usually runs into trouble somewhere along the way. The Vikings could keep things close, according, for a while. Still, with Tarkenton out, Minne-ha-ha is kinda playing for laughs, trying to get lucky. I'll take a mythical $125 on L.A. and hope Knowx unlimbers.
Vegas' Super Bowl has Dallas and Oakland 5 to 2, Denver 7 to 2, L.A. 4 to 1, Pittsburgh 5 to 1, Baltimore 9 to 1, Minnesota 30 to 1, and Chicago 40 to 1. There are no bargains there. Play one game at at a time . . .and Merry Christmas.