Philadelphia is 5-0 and 5-0 against the line.
Washington is 0-5 and 0-5.
The two extremes of the NFL standings are unusual in that the two teams' won-lost records are identical with their rankings in the point-spread parade. As every bettor learns every week, winning or losing is one thing; covering the numbers is something else.
Philadelphia and Washington are a world apart, which translates into something like 10 points. But the National and American conferences no longer are so easily separated. The NFC suddenly has three teams capable of playing the best of the AFC on even terms. The Eagles, Dallas and Atlanta must be rated right at the top of any 28-team power grid for the NFL at the moment.
This could change, of course, by the end of the regular season. Philadelphia, in particular, runs the risk of wearing down as the competition grinds through 16 weeks. But the Cowboys and Falcons have the depth of any of the elite teams in the AFC. This could be the year the NFC representative goes to the Super Bowl as the favorite. . . and wins. And when was the last time that happened?
That does not mean the NFC has as many good squads as the AFC. It doesn't. But things are beginning to even up, finally, after a decade of AFC dominance, even though the AFC holds a 7-5 edge in interconference contests this season.
Los Angeles is another strong NFC entrant, Detroit was formidable before losing quarterback Gary Danielson to injury, and San Francisco rapidly is on the way to rip-roaring respectability. Meanwhile, in the AFC, New England and Oakland have fallen from favor while Pittsburgh, Houston and Cleveland are life and-death to separate themselves from Cincinnati.
San Diego is the AFC's showcase team, but the Chargers lack a reliable defense to go with their unmatched passing game.
The sixth week is upon us. Time to start to loosen slightly the rubber band on the imaginary bankroll. Restraint and caution always are recommended during the early part of the season, until the form settles a bit. Now, however, I'll pick Green Bay for $250, giving 3 1/2 at home against Tampa Bay; Kansas City for $250 at home against Oakland in a game rated even, and Los Angeles for $250, getting 4 at Atlanta. I'll also take $500 on Denver, giving 7 at home against Detroit; $500 on Dallas, giving 4 1/2 at San Francisco, and (Monday night) $750 on Buffalo, giving 4 at home against Miami.
Denver's defense should have an excellent outing, operating against a Detroit offense that sadly misses Danielson. Dallas figures to put 30 points on the board in San Francisco. Buffalo is faced with the first "must-win" situation confronting a major contender this year. A loss to Miami would virtually end the Bills' hopes for a division title.
In other games this week, Las Vegas lists Baltimore 2 over Cincinnati, Pittsburgh 4 over Cleveland, San Diego 7 over Minnesota, New England 1 at the New York Jets, Philadelphia 9 at New Orleans, the New York Giants 1 over St. Louis, Houston 7 over Seattle and Chicago 4 1/2 over Washington. Last Week $- 575 Season Totals $- 350
Last Week: Buffalo, giving 7, defeated Baltimore, 23-17, minus $275; New York Giants, giving 3, lost to Green Bay, 27-14, minus $275; Washington, giving 2, lost to San Francisco, 30-17, minus $250; Philadelphia, giving 1 1/2, defeated Atlanta, 16-13, plus $250.
Won-lost record for season, 11-9.