The toughest game to appear this season on the NFL schedule, from "playing Football's point of view, will be played Monday night with Miami at Houston. The Dolphins are 8.3, tied for first place with New England in the APC East; Houston has regrouped nicely at 7-4, two games behind Pittsburgh in the AFC Central.
It is one thing not to have a conviction about a certain contest, but it is something else to admit to having little idea as to what to expect in a given game. Miami at Houston fits the latter description.
The main reason Monday night's game is so intriguing concerns the quarterbacks, Bob Griese and Dan pastorini. Griese is the best in the business. Pastorini no longer is the worst.
Griese is a thinking man's quarterback. pastorini could not improvise a game-winning play against a top team if his career depended on it. Griese will find a way to beat you. Pastorini, more often than not, will discover a way to lose.
The new rules that give the offensive unit more freedom and flair with which to operate are custom tailored for Griese. The former Boilermaker has more time than ever to spot a secondary receiver, and when Griese is afforded that luxury he becomes the coolest eat in the jungle.
Pastorini has improved. He had to. He probably has more natural ability than Griese; certainly he has more talent than a majority of the quarterbacks in the league. But this not-so-Dandy Don never is going to lift a team up on his shoulders and carry them to a Super Bowl. Griese has that capability.
Both quarterbacks are lucky in that they have excellent runners to support them. The Dolphins' Del Williams has been the most effective back in the NFL this year. The Oilers' Clarence Campbell is one back of a rookie.
Griese also is fortunate in that he directs an attack from behind a superlative, veteran offensive line. Houston's offensive line is young and improving but it dose not measure up to Miami's.
Pastorini and Griese are blessed with fine receivers.
Defensibely, the edge goes to Houston. Few teams shut down against the run as effectively as the Oilers' 3-4 Ask O.J. or Walter P.
The Problem this year in Houston has been the secondary. There is a vulnerability to the past, particularly when a Griese is the man doing the passing.
As stated at the start, I'm not sure what all this information signifies, except that Houston's being favored by 21/2 points at home shows that Bob Martin Las Vegas in also found it difficult to separate these two teams at this particular time.
Still, a selection of some sort is in order following such a lengthly discussion. I will risk a mythical $100 on Houston giving the 21/2, and hope that Pastorini doesn't pull the plug, as he has so often in the past.
Physical reasons, I am going with the team that has the slightly superior forces. But, mentally, Don Shula and Griese going against Bum Phillips and Pastorini is a mismatch. That ought to tell you something about the lack of importance of mind over matter so far as professional football is concerned.
"Playing Football" is on a six-week tear. The net profit is plus $1,945. Unfortunately, there is nothing on this weekend's card that appears likely to add significantly to that total.
I will take a mythical $250 on Denver giving 9 at home against Green Bay. The Pack is in difficulty any time Terdell Middleton can't run.
Against Denver, he won't Still, 9 is a big spot for Craig Morton to cover.
I backed off Minnesota giving 3 1/2 over Buffalo, Pittsburgh 11 over Cincinnati, Baltimore 5 over Cleveland. Oakland San Francisco, Neww England 6 over the Jets, Philadelphia 2 over the Giants, Washington 4 1/2 over St. Louis and Kansas City 2 over Seattle.