For 26 hours last weekend, there was the exhilaration that goes with a man's coming back from the handicappers' cemetery.
Minnesota, Seattle and San Diego beat the spread. Only Philadelphia failed. So, going into Monday's night's game with Los Angeles at Atlanta there was this giddy feeling of being $170 ahead after having been buried $3,125 deep after the action of Oct. 1.
But the Ram folded in the face of an inspired Falcon defense. Pat Haden might be a Rhodes scholar but he can be considerably less than brilliant when confronted by a tough problem on a professional football field. The imaginary $500 on L.A. went south, into the loss column, again sending me into minus figure ($380) after having completed, hopefully, The Long March Back.
Be not dismayed. Our 20-week season (16 regular, four playoffs) arrives at the halfway point this weekend and there is reason to believe that this will be the week that was.
Minnesota, giving seven points at home to Detroit is worth an imaginary $250. The Vikes' offense continues to impress. Fran Tarkenton has more good receivers than ever before, and Chuck Foreman appears ready to make the ground game respectable.
The Lions, judging by the number, supposedly are improved. That assumption is based on their victories the last two Sundays over San Diego and Chicago. Both those teams were way down, however, emotionally. Minnesota won't be. The Vikes can't afford another mistake if they are to overtake Green Bay.
St. Louis, giving two points at home to the New York Giants attracts an imaginary $500.
QB Jim Hart noted after the Cards' first success of the season Sunday in Philadelphia, that his offensive line was together for the first time this year. Pass protection is the heart of the St. Louis team.
There is the added factor that the Cardinals, despite their 1-8 record, appear to be slightly in love with Coach Bud Wilkinson. Why, exactly, escapes me. New coaches have been fired for better performances than his. All the gush coming out of the St. Louis locker room makes me think this club is going to play out the schedule, not just play the schedule out.
The Pick of the Week is Miami, getting one point at home against Dallas.
Miami should be favored. Bob Griese, with the extra time to throw afforded by this year's rules changes, is going to be extremely effective down the stretch.
The Dolphins will move the ball on Dallas. Delvin Williams is the best running back in the NFL at the moment. His offensive line is second only to New England's.
Dallas, meanwhile, is struggling to get its act together. Harvey Martin is hurting as his knee brace clearly indicates. Too Tall Jones doesn't take the game too seriously intil playoff time. And Randy White was trapped more times by Tarkenton last week than the announcers cared to acknowledge.
White can be a tiger. He also would be a sucker for Gunter Gebel Williams.
Stripped of their excellent pass rush, the remainder of the Dallas defense stands naked in the NFL world. The only risk with risking an imaginary $1,000 on Miami Sunday is that the Cowboys may be able to generate a strong offense against the Dolphins' inconsistent defensse.
But Miami is at home, playing a game it must win, and hometown fans have a way of picking up a defense, as Atlanta showed Monday in manhandling the Rams.
The Las Vegas line on the other games shows Washington 3 1/2 over Baltimore (based on Bert Jones playing). San Diego 7 over Cincinnati. Houston 4 over Cleveland. New England 8 over Buffalo. Pittsburgh 10 over New Orleans. Denver 8 1/2 over the Jets. Oakland 6 1/2 over Kansas City. Atlanta 4 over San Francisco. Chicago 3 over Seattle and Los Angeles 10 over Tampa Bay.
No line is available on Green Bay-Philadelphia, pending word on the availability of the Eagle running backs. Ordinarily, Philly would be 4 over the Pack.