Most football fans, including many of us who attempt to prognosticate about games, are not overly bright. We meekly observe The Grand Censor Tagliabue as he proclaims that no one should even think about those evil point spreads that are printed in most newspapers.
We watch John Madden bang on tables and yell, "Gamble! Go for it on fourth and one," when the truth is that Madden was among the most conservative coaches in history: His Raiders never scored a touchdown in the first half of an AFC championship game.
In a phrase, we're not talking rocket science here. We're talking simplistic trends.
For several dismal seasons, I have heard radio talk show callers insist that the Dolphins should cure their defensive ills by blitzing more often. Sadly, if your linebackers, like your running backs, are slow and fragile, you might as well be blitzing the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front.
Then there is the wonderful theory that controversial Jerry Glanville should have taken Houston to the Super Bowl because he had the best talent. This was intriguing because Glanville only got them as far as he did by firing up marginal special team players. The regulars? Try Bubba McDowell, the cornerback recently referred to on one telecast as "last year's sensation." Coaches and scouts describe him as a three-career cornerback. This means that he is certain to leave three defensive coordinators unemployed after they try to coach him.
Now we have the latest myth, the Run and Shoot. On the early evidence, this vaunted offense is a little like the Lambada. By the time you learn to dance, they've closed the disco.
The solution to all this: Face the Lambada music and keep everything simple.
With Atlanta, Aundray Bruce spent several seasons as the only No. 1 pick in the draft who never hit anyone. Glanville decided that Bruce was lost in coverage and tentative against the run. So he told him to forget the playbook and tear a quarterback's head off. Warren Moon of Houston won't forget it.
In Kansas City, Coach Marty Schottenheimer had a more skilled linebacker in Derrick Thomas. But he still turned him loose on what seemed a one-man desert wave. Minnesota's Wade Wilson still feels like Kuwait.
This trend is epitomized by Lawrence Taylor of the Giants. But I believe that more and more wild-eyed linebackers will remind quarterbacks why they call their area the weakside. No, this game isn't a science. But it can be almost nuclear.
This week I hope not to bomb myself. The targets of opportunity:
The Packers are three-point favorites at home over the Bears. They are also 0-7 as favorites in their division since 1987. And in a stat of the week, note that in Packers home divisional games since 1987, the underdog is 10-1. I've always mistrusted Jim Harbaugh, but that's one more reason why Mike Ditka is smarter than me. Bears plus 3.
The Bengals are favored by three in San Diego. They are a meager 2-8-1 at AFC West teams since 1982. And every surfer south of La Jolla knows that the Chargers have covered their first home game in even-numbered games since 1984. Go, Billy Joe Tolliver. Chargers plus 3.
The Buccaneers, my sleeper club of the season, burst out of the gate on top. Now they face the Rams, who are favored by three in Tampa Bay. One weird stat should suffice. In the Rams' second straight road game, the underdog is 15-1. And the one that didn't cover got a push. Push the Bucs plus 3.
Now we get to the fifth teams. The Patriots are bad, but they're getting 2 1/2 from Eric Dickerson's latest alma mater. Indianapolis is 2-12 in early season games. Patriots plus 2 1/2.
Can we sink lower? How about the Jets, getting 2 from Cleveland at home? In Jets home games against AFC Central teams since 1977, the underdog is 12-2. And last year the dog was 12-2 in games teams played after Cincinnati. Grit your teeth and take the Jets plus 2.
Last week: The Bucs, getting 6 1/2 in Detroit, galloped, 38-21. The Chiefs, the second-best choice receiving 1 1/2 from the Vikings, won the game, 24-21. Now if I'd just stopped there . . .
But I pressed on with the Rams, giving 3 at Green Bay: They disgraced themselves, losing by 36-24. My self-made cult hero Merril Hoge helped the Steelers, plus 3, to bow to Cleveland, 13-3. And the Eagles, getting 4 with a Giants prevent defense trying gamely to let them cover, bungled it away, 27-20.
Result for the week: 2-3.
Result for season: the same, obviously, since it was Week 1. I'm trying to keep all this simple, stupid.