The game supposedly features the last of the NFL's undefeated squads, Buffalo, against Balitmore, a strong challenger for the AFC East Crown that the Bills are attempting to win.
Bettors know better.
What we have, Sunday in Buffalo, is a confrontation between the two unbeaten, untied leaders in national pointspread play. The Bills are perfect against the spread, 5-0. So are the Colts, even though they are 3-2 in the won-lost column.
Buffalo opened by defeating Miami at home, 17-7, as a three-point underdog; then downed the New York Jets, 20-10, when favored by two; trounced New Orleans, 35-26, as a one-point underdog; whipped Oakland, 24-7, when favored by 2 1/2, and, last Sunday, upset San Diego, 26-24, with the Chargers a seven-point choice.
Baltimore has been almost equally impressive against the numbers, defeating the Jets, 17-14, as a six-point underdog; losing to Pittsburg, 30-27, as a 6 1/2-point underdog; losing at Houston, 21-16, as a seven-point underdog; beating the Jets, 35-21, when favored by four at home, and coming back from a 17-10 halftime deficit to drop Miami, 30-17, in a contest rated even.
Quick arithmetic shows that Buffalo has beaten the spread by 55 1/2 points over five games. Baltimore has been 37 1/2 points superior to its week-to-week rating.
The Bills are favored by three over the Colts Sunday.
This is the most important game of the season for Baltimore. If the Colts get past the Bills, they figure to capture the division title. Their schedule, over the last 10 weeks, is considerably easier than the ones faced by Buffalo, New England and Miami.
But, should they lose Sunday, the Colts would be three games back, with only an outside chance of making up so much ground.
I have never had any luck in picking against the Bills at home. Their defense is steadier than Baltimore's, and they have been extremely tough in their Snow Bowl since Chuck Knox came to coach. Knox prepares a team beautifully. I can't go against the best passer in pro ball, however, and that is exactly what the Colts have in Bert Jones. So I'll pass the game, and recommend that serious bettors do likewise. There will be other spots in which to back both teams.
Having mentioned Buffalo's and Baltimore's records against the spread, it should be noted that six teams are 4-1 in the "Risk-$11-to-Win-$10 League." They are Dallas, Philadelphia, Detroit, Los Angeles, Atlanta and New England.Grouped at 3-2 are St. Louis, Cincinati, San Diego and Seattle. The only 0-5 team, as you might have guessed, is the Jets.
The Las Vegas line this week lists Minnesota 3 1/2 over Chicago, Pittsburgh 13 over Cincinnati, Seattle four over Cleveland, Tampa Bay 7 1/2 over Green Bay, Houston five at Kansas City, Los Angeles 3 1/2 at St. Louis, New England seven over Miami, Detroit 11 1/2 over New Orleans, Atlanta seven over the New York Jets, Philadelphia 7 1/2 at the New York Giants, San Diego 4 1/2 at Oakland, Dallas nine over San Francisco and (Monday night) Denver 6 1/2 over Washington.
This represents slim pickings for a bettor hoping to build his bankroll. The line destroyed my preliminary interest in New England, Houston, Denver and St. Louis. Detroit giving 11 1/2 is no great bargain, either, except that New Orleans appears to be in such disarray that a blowout is possible, and the Lions should be hungry following their poor performance in Atlanta. I'll take Detroit for an imaginary $250 in what can best be described as a little game hunting.
I'll also nibble on Minnesota and San Diego for $100 each. The Vikings handled the Bear's defensive front rather nicely in Chicago three weeks ago and have the ability to do it again. The Chargers have too much firepower for the Raiders. All they must do in order to cover is to cut down on the costly turnovers they committed last week against Buffalo.
For those of you looking for more action, wait one week. Restraint is an important factor in attempting to cover the spread over a 20-week span. At this point, at least three games on the Oct. 19-20 schedule figure to merit serious consideration.