If Lady Luck had a fair bone in her unpredictable body, she will see to it that the Kansas City Chiefs cover the point spread Sunday against the Los Angeles Raiders.
The Chiefs, once again, are an underdog at home against the Super Bowl champions. This time the number is 3 1/2. It was 3 in 1982 and 1983, when L.A. won by 21-16 and 28-20.
In '82 the Chiefs led, 16-14, inside the last two minutes. The Raiders moved into position for what, 99 percent of the time, would have been a field goal attempt -- only to have Jim Plunkett loft a long pass into the end zone that was caught for a touchdown. Anyone who backed the Raiders that day had to feel extremely fortunate.
Then, last year, the Raiders led, 21-20, with less than 30 seconds remaining. The Chiefs had the ball. They put up a desperation pass -- only to have it intercepted and run back for a touchdown. Anyone who backed L.A. that day had to feel they had overcome 300-to-1 odds.
Perhaps there's another little miracle in store at Arrowhead this weekend. Perhaps the Raiders won't need one. They do, after all, have the best defense in the NFL, and that certainly can help make good things happen.
But I have not been impressed this season with the Raiders' offense. They struggled early against Houston and Green Bay, two of the league's poorest defenses. And Green Bay lost Lynn Dickey early on Sunday, killing the Packers' chances. L.A. is 2-0, but so are the Chiefs as Todd Blackledge has filled in admirably for injured quarterback Bill Kenney. I like the setting, if not the recent history, for an imaginary $250, taking the 3 1/2. It's not smart to tempt the Raiders, or Lady Luck, with more than that.
Other games find Washington favored by 5 1/2 over the New York Giants, Cincinnati 3 at the New York Jets, New England 2 over Seattle, St. Louis 5 1/2 at Indianapolis, Atlanta 2 1/2 at Minnesota, Green Bay 1 1/2 over Chicago, Dallas 8 over Philadelphia, San Francisco 6 over New Orleans, Pittsburgh 3 over the Los Angeles Rams, Detroit 3 1/2 at Tampa Bay, San Diego 10 1/2 over Houston, Cleveland 4 over Denver (Sunday night) and (Monday night) Miami 7 at Buffalo.
St. Louis and Miami are the strongest selections, for $750 each, while Washington attracts $500 and Pittsburgh and San Diego draw $250 each, along with Kansas City.
The Cardinals are emerging as one of the best-balanced teams in pro ball. That is not to say they are one of the two or three best teams in the league, but it means they are equipped to give anybody a serious argument. Both lines have improved. Don't be misled by the Colts' 35 points last week. Houston's defensive front made Mike Pagel look like Johnny Unitas. Give the 5 1/2.
Miami was arguably the best team in the NFL before acquiring Chuck Muncie from San Diego. Muncie could provide the missing link the Dolphins need to win another Super Bowl. It's much too early to predict how Miami will be playing two months from now, but right now no one is playing better than Don Shula's club. Buffalo, meanwhile, has no running game, which means all opponents are trying to tee off on Joe Ferguson. The Dolphins' defense is ideally suited to that task. Give the 7.
Washington's biggest problem, at 0-2, has been the schedule. The Giants, despite their 2-0 record, are not Miami or San Francisco. Not yet, anyway. The New York defense is genuine. The offense still has much to prove. Give the 5 1/2.
Vince Ferragamo's passing has been terrible for the Rams during their first two games. It does not figure to improve in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers' defense can make the brilliant Eric Dickerson work for every yard. Chuck Noll's club has several promising new faces. Give the 3.
San Diego turned the ball over eight times in Seattle -- four interceptions and four fumbles. That's most un-Foutslike. Dan doesn't do that often. He should have a great day passing against the Oilers, who are in desperate need of help up front on defense. Give the 10 1/2.