These are the things that make pro football boring: coaches who want to wait to look at the game films; instant replay officials who must be awakened to engage in their adjudications; prevent defenses; and the relentless, dull, magnificent Giants.
On the other hand, these are the things that make pro football exciting: vengeance, vitriol and unbridled hatred.
All of which have been in rich supply lately. Last week the Oilers hosted the Bengals. Forget the details, real life dictated that the only thing on the Oilers' minds was last year's 61-7 humiliation in Cincinnati. I'm still not sure if the Oilers are happy with the revenge they exacted last week. They crushed the Bengals like a grape, 48-17. But this was a case when they may have missed deposed coach Jerry Glanville. On that last field goal, Jerry would have faked it and gone for the touchdown. Then he would have ordered an onside kick. Present coach Jack Pardee refrained from such tactics. I think he should have sent a message to Bengals Coach Sam Wyche.
We were happy with 48.
But 62 would have been great.
Speaking of Glanville, his Atlanta Falcons faced the mighty 49ers last week. On paper, there was no way for the Falcons to match up. On the field, it was similarly hopeless. So Glanville tried a clear strategy. He tried to knock Joe Montana out of the game. He used linebacker blitzes, cornerback blitzes, safety blitzes. Okay, they didn't work. Montana and Jerry Rice picked the Falcons apart to win, 45-35. But the Falcons wouldn't have fared any better playing soft defense. And from the perspective of Glanville, Elvis Presley and James Dean, look at the bright side. They worked up a healthy hate.
The Giants and Redskins don't need to work up anything. These teams major in hate for one another. And last week they brought it all to the dance.
Nobody runs up the gut on the Giants. The Redskins did. Nobody exploits the Washington special teams. Reyna Thompson did. The result was a war. Both teams had to be strong just to survive. You want Baryshnikov, go to Lincoln Center. You want Iran-Iraq II, try one of those clogged roadways to the Meadowlands in 10 days.
I used to make fun of the Bay of Pigs games between Green Bay and Tampa Bay. No more. These guys hate each other and play hard, and the Bucs play well. At the risk of offending the Goddess of Wagering, I'll even add a very low-key gloat. I was the only person in Western Civilization to pick the Bucs to make the playoffs this year. Only one quibble: Of my three favorite teams, one wears silver and black. But the others dwell in Florida and garb themselves in turquoise and tangerine.
But not everything in the NFL is based on hostility. Consider the Eagles and Vikings, who played Monday night to save the jobs of their well-liked coaches. The result was one of the worst games in the annals of football. Minnesota Coach Jerry Burns responded by talking about retirement. Buddy Ryan, who won, might have talked about suicide if he didn't have a wonderful filly by the stallion, Smile, in his racing stable. Forget the good intentions of players who want to save coaches' jobs. Give us hatred, vengeance, mayhem. It has all made the NFL what it is today.
By the way, where the NFL is today is in the palm of my hand. Sorry, Goddess, I didn't mean that. I know you could send me tumbling to oblivion like an unbalanced ironworker on the 43rd floor girder of high steel. So I retain my humility as I embark on this week's journey into nowhere.
The Redskins are 4 over the Eagles, and the Redskins have covered seven of the last nine in this series. But be cautious. The Redskins have lost four straight as favorites after losing to the Giants. Teams are 16-5 after playing the Vikings, whom the Eagles beat Monday night. Sorry, Washington, the Redskins are a sorry home favorite. Go with the Eagles plus 4.
The Bills are 9 over the Jets, and they overwhelmed the Big Green non-machine a few weeks ago. This is a dangerous game, because the Bills are 6-0 in recent home games in October. But it's also a road series -- road clubs are 7-1 of late. And the crazy Jets are just eligible to pretend they're a real team this week. Jets plus the 9.
The Oilers are running and shooting at an edge of 6 over the Saints. But Houston is only 1-5 in its last six after routing someone, as it did the Bengals. New Orleans has won seven straight on the road against AFC teams. And assuming that Jim Mora is just talking gibberish about his quarterbacks and Steve Walsh will start, the Saints will win. Saints plus 6.
Seattle is 2 at home over the Chiefs. But the Seahawks are bad home favorites -- five losses in a row. And the dog has covered the last six Kansas City road games. By the way, the Chiefs are the better team. Chiefs plus 2.
About once a year, my stat guru, Dan Gordon, comes up with a Wicked Witch game. This is an event wherein everyone fears one side so much that it becomes wildly overrated. The Colts, with the plague Eric Dickerson back, are favored by 1 over Denver. This is not a misprint. The Colts are favored over a team that keeps going to Super Bowls.
The Colts are the Wicked Witch. The Broncos are Dorothy. They will pour water on the Colts and they will melt. Broncos plus 1.
Last Week: The Giants at pick'em edged the Redskins, 24-20. Kudos to Thompson. The Chargers, getting 5 from the Jets, crushed them, 39-3. The Lions, getting 6 1/2 from the Chiefs, opened an early 14-3 lead and then succumbed meekly, 43-24. The Bucs, giving 2 to the Packers in the Bay of Pigs, intercepted everything within reach and won, 26-14. The Oilers, giving 3 1/2, rubbed Sam Wyche's nose in last year's 61-7 score; Oilers 48, Bengals 17.
Total for week: 4-1.
Total for season: 19-11. Including 12-3 the last three weeks. I don't think we're in Kansas any more Toto.