Las Vegas lists Pittsburgh a 6-to-5 favorite to win the Super Bowl. $1Dallas and San Diego tie as the second choice at 12 to 5, followed by Philadelphia, 10-1; Houston, 12-1; Miami and Los Angeles, 15-1 and Tampa Bay, 45-1.
This is another sucker line. There is not a bargain in the bunch, pricewise, with the possible exception of the Eagles, and I have a personal hangup about Ron Jarorski that precludes my taking Philly at almost any quotation.
My pick is San Diego, which only goes to show how much the NFL has changed since the rules were turned around, starting last season, to favor a pass-oriented offense.
The Chargers have a poor running game. Their defense is average. But Dan Fouts is the hottest passer in the game, his receivers are outstanding and his offensive line provides the kind of protection that other quarterbacks dream about.
On blanace, Pittsburgh is by far the best team. The Steelers, however, are going to have to play the Chargers in San Diego next week, if opening-round form prevails. The home-field advantage for the game could well prove the difference.
This weekend's games present problems for any handicapper. Dallas is a nine-point favorite at home against Los Angeles and Pittsburgh is 9 1/2 over a good Miami squad. Those are big numbers, designed to turn one's attention to the underdogs. Philadelphia is a four-point favorite at Tampa Bay -- and the world still is waiting fro a professional line on San Diego against the injured Houston Oilers.
I will go with Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Dallas and San Diego for an imaginary $250 each.
The eagles should beat the Buccaneers and cover the spread. They probably won't. Tampa Bay's fine defense can shut down Wilbert Montgomery. p This puts the responsibility on Jaworski, and I don't appreciate his performances under pressure. Throw in Dick Vermeil's conservative game plan and everything figures to play right into the Bucs' chances of pulling off an upset, or a least keeping the score close.
Miami's defense will not be embarrassed in Pittsburgh, but Terry Bradshaw eventually should find some openings in the Dolphins' secondary and I doubt that Bob Griese can do the same to the Steelers. Griese has tended to fold when subjected to strong pressure from the better defenses this season. Pittsburgh will apply the heat early and often.
Dallas, with its run-down defense, no longer appears to be nine points better than anyone -- except, possibly, Los Angeles. The Rams are not the quality team they were in recent years. Their defense, while still solid, should buckle under Roger Staubach's probing. The only danger here is that Bob Lee might pump some points into the L.A. offense, enough to cover late. Otherwise, Wendell Tyler has an excellent chance of outfumbling Tony Dorsett.
Finally, what to do with Houston at San Diego? Bob Martin rated the Chargers a five-point favorite had all the key players been healthy. With Dan Pastorini questionable and Earl Campbell not likely to be anywhere near 100 percent, the line (when it is posted) must go up to at least seven.
I had intended to make a big play on the Chargers. Now, not knowing what the number will be, I choose to stay small and avoid the headache that goes with the early-late point-spread differential, such as occurred last week with Denver-Houston.