Dallas is favored by 7 1/2 over Tampa Bay, Miami by three over San Diego, Cincinnati by five over Buffalo and San Francisco by 5 1/2 over the New York Giants. But will the supposedly stronger squads take charge from the outset, or will they become a little conservative, under playoff pressure, and be upset because of fear of losing?
Often, in the playoffs past, superior teams have been done in by the way they approached postseason play. They forgot what got them through the regular season in such fine fashion, and quickly were eliminated.
Perhaps this will happen again. But I doubt, in the case of Cincinnati and San Francisco, that they will be afraid to open up their offenses early. And, if they do, they should cover the point spread.
Kenny Anderson has shown supreme confidence in the Bengals' passing game over the second half of the season. He wastes little time in going after the opposition, and he has the weapons with which to wage a successful attack, more often than not. I'll give the five for $1,000.
On Sept. 27, when Buffalo played at Cincinnati, the Bills were favored by three and lost in overtime, 27-24. The Bills have not improved as markedly since then as the Bengals, who started playing with gusto in late November. Buffalo will score perhaps as many as 20 points on the Cincinnati defense, but Anderson should be good for 30. He rates a big edge over the Bills' Joe Ferguson.
I doubt that Bill Walsh will permit San Francisco to play the least bit timidly against New York. Walsh is the coach of the year in the NFL. He's an innovator, a master tactician offensively. And the 49er defense came alive the day Fred Dean came up from San Diego to head the pass rush.
There is no doubting the Giants' defense. They are wonderfully aggressive, not afraid to gamble. But Walsh will design an effective short passing game for Joe Montana that will relieve some of the Giants' defensive pressure.
I still don't believe New York has a sound offense. Just how Rob Carpenter gained 161 yards against Philadelphia is a mystery only Dick Vermeil can explain. Remember, on San Francisco's slippery sod, nobody runs well. I'll give the 5 1/2 for $750. The 49ers were favored by five when they beat the Giants, 17-10, on the West Coast Nov. 29.
I'll also risk $750 on Miami giving three and $250 on Tampa Bay getting 7 1/2.
San Diego continues to be a glamor team. Certainly, when Dan Fouts is throwing to his fine receivers the Chargers appear to be unstoppable. Often they are.
Their problems develop when the other team has the ball. Jack Pardee has not been able to solve the linebacking and secondary deficiencies. This is one of the few defenses in pro ball that becomes weaker as the opponent moves closer to the goal line. The Chargers, conversely, occasionally have trouble scoring from inside the 10.
I like the Miami defense. It's the best of the eight left in the Super Bowl scramble. San Diego will test that defense severely, but I doubt that Fouts can score often enough to overcome the Chargers' glaring inadequacies on defense.
Tampa Bay doesn't figure to win at Dallas. Then again, the Buccaneers don't figure to get blown out, either. The Cowboys might well be looking ahead slightly to what they believe will be the NFC championship contest in San Francisco next week.
The Bucs' defense is solid enough to make Dallas work hard for its points. Doug Williams, meanwhile, just might have a reasonably good day throwing deep into the Cowboys' secondary. If he does, and he usually enjoys good protection, Tampa Bay should keep things fairly close and, getting 7 1/2, could well cover. Last Week: -$1,100 Season Totals: -$1,500
Last week's results: New York Jets, giving three, lost to Buffalo, 31-27, minus $275; Philadelphia, giving seven, lost to New York Giants, 27-21, minus $825.
Won-lost record: 38-37.