Television coverage of the game between the Los Angeles Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks in the Kingdome two weeks ago produced yet another example of what happens when the TV types try to explain any aspect of the point spread.
The play-by-play announcer couldn't understand why Seattle was favored by one point when the Raiders were 6-2 atop the AFC West and the Seahawks were struggling at 4-4.
A few minutes later the network analysts attempted to come to the rescue of the perplexed announcer.
The reason Seattle was favored, it was said, was because the home-field advantage was worth six points to the Seahawks and the Raiders were rated only five points better than their rival. Six minus five made Seattle a one-point favorite.
Maybe it's time somebody talks to the boys in the booth. There isn't a stadium in the NFL worth more than three points. The great majority are worth two.
The strongest edge for a home team is in Denver, Seattle, Miami and Washington, in my opinion, and opinion is the key. Point spreads are based on power ratings but they are somewhat subjective. But six points? Never.
To carry the TV commentator's explanation to its logical absurdity, the rematch between Seattle and the Raiders in the Los Angeles Coliseum on Dec. 15 would find the Raiders favored by 11 on their own turf -- if they're five points better and the home-field advantage is worth six. GAME OF THE WEEK
Chicago at Dallas, rated even. Everything hinges on the condition of Bears quarterback Jim McMahon's bruised right shoulder. If McMahon can't play, the Cowboys would be favored against his backup, Steve Fuller.
I'll take Chicago if McMahon is ready to start. Otherwise, I'll watch. McMahon's being available to come off the bench if needed, as he did at Minnesota, wouldn't be good enough.
If McMahon is not 100 percent, Coach Mike Ditka would be unwise to risk further injury to his passer with the Bears (10-0) already close to clinching the NFC Central and odds-on favorites to have the home-field advantage in conference playoffs. It is imperative that McMahon be healthy in January. The Bears' trying to remain undefeated in November is not nearly as important.
Danny White, Tony Dorsett and the Dallas offense played a mistake-free game in Washington last Sunday.
I doubt they'll be able to duplicate that performance against the Bears, whose defense exerts much more pressure than the Redskins'. But the Dallas defense would be able to shut down the Chicago offense if Fuller is at quarterback. OTHER PICKS
I'll take Seattle giving 4 at home to New England and Pittsburgh giving 3 at Houston.
When last they met, on the third week of the 1984 season, Seattle stormed to a 23-0 lead at Foxboro only to lose, 38-23. That disastrous turnabout should have left a lasting impression on the Seahawks, who appear to be coming on nicely at 6-4 after an up-and-down start in '85.
Seattle's defense should be able to pressure New England passer Steve Grogan. That is the key in playing the Patriots. Such pressure means turnover, enough to help cover the spread.
Pittsburgh still is my selection to win the AFC Central, although the Steelers have been defeated twice by Cincinnati and are tied with the Bengals for the division lead at 5-5. The Steelers enjoy a decided edge in manpower on both lines of scrimmage against the Oilers. They should be able to run on Houston and stop the Oilers' running game.
I have a hunch the Oilers hit their highest mark of the year at 4-5 when they tied for first (and last) place in the division. They are now 4-6 after being shut out at Buffalo. How can anybody be shut out by the Bills? MONDAY NIGHT
New York Giants at Washington, the Redskins favored by 1.
I picked Washington last week against Dallas on the premise that the Redskins would turn in an excellent defensive effort. They did, but still managed to lose, 13-7. Dallas' offense refused to turn the ball over and Washington's passing game still couldn't get organized.
Now the Giants come to RFK, tied with Dallas for the NFC East lead at 7-3. The Giants continue to be one of my favorite teams, but they were a little lucky to have covered last Sunday against the Rams when two controversial calls went against Los Angeles.
The Giants' offense has not been sharp in recent weeks and the defense, while one of the best in the league, does not always exert the relentless pressure on a passer that Dallas or Chicago does. I have a feeling the Redskins are going to make a heroic last stand, in a desperate attempt to stay in playoff contention. Give the 1. THE LINE
Other early-week numbers from Las Vegas had Cleveland 8 over Buffalo, the Los Angeles Raiders 6 over Cincinnati, San Francisco 11 1/2 over Kansas City, the Los Angeles Rams 6 at Atlanta, Miami 7 1/2 at Indianapolis, Detroit 3 over Minnesota, Green Bay 8 over New Orleans, St. Louis 2 1/2 over Philadelphia, Denver 4 1/2 over San Diego and the New York Jets 10 over Tampa Bay.