Bob Martin is a man of excellent opinions when it comes to the National Football League and point spreads. Making the line is his business, out there in limitless Las Vegas, and when he ticks off the numbers for the weekend's games there are few surprises.
Again this week, the numbers were what they figured to be.
"I make Pittsburgh 10 1/2 or 11 over Washington," Martin began.
"I like Washington," he volunteered.
Okay. It's a free country. Getting 10 1/2, a man might do worse than take the underdog, although it's part of my religion never to bet against the sun in the morning, the moon at night, Cheryl Tiegs in a swimsuit competition, Ronald Reagan at a DAR convention and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Three Rivers Stadium.
"You don't understand," Martin persisted. "I like Washington straight up, to win without the points. Forget the points. Get somebody to lay odds of 4 1/2 to 1 on the Redskins winning the game, and take it."
I asked Martin when he had first begun to feel a little dizzy. Had he been drinking? Had he stayed out one night too many for one lounge show too late? Had Joe Theismann finally gotten to him, torturing him with all that talking?
"No," Martin replied. "I just have a feeling. I get one, every once in a while, and I have one about this game. Washington is going to beat Pittsburgh."
Maybe Martin is trying to get even with the Redskins, having helped establish lines that enabled Washington to beat the spread in seven of their first nine games this season. Tampa Bay is the only other team with as impressive a record.
Pittsburgh, by comparison, is only 5 to 4 against the numbers. The Steelers might be in for a letdown, after embarrassing Denver, 42-7, and defeating Dallas by more than the final 14-3 count indicated. But Washington to win? Straight up! That's a good way to wind up on the rocks. I'd want 40 to 1, not 4 1/2.
Still, I respect the source of the opinion and pass it along for whatever it might be worth.
I plan a much less daring weekend. San Diego, giving 6 points at Kansas City, and denver, giving 6 points at home against New Orleans, are worth an imaginary $250 risk each. Miami, giving 3 1/2 Monday night as host to Houston, attracts $500.
Dan Fouts has thrown for a record 300 or more yards in each of his last four appearances, during which the Chargers are 2-2. If he doesn't stop it, and concentrate a little more on developing San Diego's running game, he could pass the Chargers right out of the playoffs.
I think he'll come back to earth Sunday. Certainly, the Chiefs offer an excellent opportunity.Their offense is struggling, lacking a passing attack, and the essence of their defense is up front, not in the secondary. Fouts will have time to throw. He always does. Now if he'll just throw a little less . . .
Denver's defense will make New Orleans sweat for every yard it gains within the Bronco 40. The difference with Denver lately is that its offensive line is affording Craig Morton more time to find his receivers. Despite their goal-line heroics last Sunday in Washington, the Saints' defense is not one to inspire confidence. Denver should cover.
I was set to risk $1,000 on Miami against Houston until the Dolphin injury report followed the accounts of their 27-7 victory over Green Bay. Del Williams is out two to six weeks with cracked ribs. Jim Langer's broken bone under the right kneecap will sideline him until December. Norm Bulaich suffered a broken jaw.
That's a lot of offense for Bob Griese to be missing, particularly since Griese's passing has been spotty. Still, I like the Dolphin defense at home. And Houston has to be worried about Earl Campbell's banged-up knee. So I'll stick with Miami, although cutting the originally intended investment in half.
On other games this week, Las Vegas lists Dallas 7 1/2 over the New York Giants, New England 4 1/2 at Buffalo, Philadelphia 3 over Cleveland, Tampa Bay 2 at Atlanta, Baltimore 2 1/2 over Cincinnati, St. Louis 4 1/2 over Minnesota, Chicago 6 1/2 over Detroit, Seattle 3 over Los Angeles, the New York Jets 4 at Green Bay and Oakland 10 1/2 over San Francisco.