Sunday's first four picks were home free. Kansas City, getting three points at home against the Los Angeles Raiders, was in position to make it five for five. The Chiefs led, 16-14, with less than two minutes to play when the Raiders took over on their own 20. What could be better? If L.A. won, it figured to be 17-16, on a field goal. Either way, they wouldn't cover the spread. I'd "win" with K.C.
That is how a bettor's mind works in those situations. He doesn't care who wins or loses, only who covers.
So what if Jim Plunkett hit Calvin Muhammad for 14 yards, Cliff Branch for 29 and then Todd Christensen. Less than a minute was left and the Raiders were in field goal range for Chris Bahr. Wonderful.
But on the next play one of the Raiders' offensive linemen was detected holding. Instead of being within reasonable field goal distance, L.A. had to worry about gaining some more yardage, to accommodate Bahr.
So, on first and 20, Plunkett's pass went incomplete. On second down, pressured slightly, Plunkett put up a pass that would cause a high school coach to cry. Three Chiefs had a shot at it, one caught it briefly, but was he content merely to hold on to it and preserve the victory? No indeed. He was going to return the ball upfield. Instead, the ball was knocked loose and ruled an incompletion, instead of an interception followed by a fumble.
Now it was third down from the K.C. 35, some 25 ticks left on the clock and L.A., most assuredly, would be trying only to get close enough for Bahr with a short- or medium-range pass completion.
So what happened? I'll tell you what happened. On third down Plunkett put up a ridiculous looking wobbler in the general direction of the end zone. It was absurdly short, but his receiver, Muhammad, a rookie, came back for the ball while the defender fell down and watched the action lying on his stomach.
Exactly how the Chiefs wound up in one-on-one coverage in that situation is something only their coaching staff knows. But Muhammad caught Plunkett's pass, touchdown. It was 20-16, soon to be 21-16. The Raiders covered. I lost.
My Sunday-suffering wife happened to pick that precise moment to poke her head into the TV room. Why all the screaming, she asked. I sighed, it was time to go to the neighbor's annual Christmas party.
I went to the party. The kids got a big kick out of hearing and seeing an allegedly grown man cry.
This week I have five more selections at an imaginary $250 each. They are: Miami, even, at home against the Jets (Saturday); Seattle, giving four, at home to New England; Detroit, giving 3 1/2, at home against Minnesota; San Francisco, giving four, at home to Atlanta Sunday night, and (Monday night) San Diego giving three as host to Cincinnati.
The Jets have fared well against the Dolphins in recent years, but Don Shula against Walt Michaels is a mismatch. I love the Dolphins' defense. Seattle's defense also is solid and the Patriots, on the road, won't be able to put their maintenance man back to work on another team's field; Detroit's defense is going to give Tommy Kramer a rough day. San Francisco's defense will be delighted to face Steve Bartkowski after having been embarrassed by Dan Fouts.
Defense. It's coming back . . . slowly, in the NFL, although not in San Diego. The Chargers have the only defense in the league that becomes weaker as the opposition comes nearer their goal line. But Fouts is amazing, and so is his pass protection. If the Chargers are going to beat the Bengals, this is the spot.
In other games, Las Vegas lists the Raiders 7 1/2 over the Rams (Saturday), Tampa Bay 1 1/2 over Buffalo, Green Bay seven at Baltimore, Philadelphia six over Houston, Denver six over Kansas City, Dallas 10 over New Orleans, Washington four over the Giants, Pittsburgh four at Cleveland and St. Louis one at Chicago.
Last week $450
Season's Total +$1,600
Last week's results: San Francisco, giving two, lost Saturday to San Diego, 41-37, minus $275; Seattle, giving 3 1/2, defeated Chicago, 20-14, plus $250; Washington, even, defeated St. Louis, 12-7, plus $250; Kansas City, getting three, lost to the Raiders, 21-16, minus $275; Cincinnati, giving eight, defeated Cleveland, 23-10; plus $250; Buffalo, even, defeated Pittsburgh, 13-0, plus $250.