The Super Bowl will be played next week. Why not? The nation needs entertainment while kids are dying in the Persian Gulf.

Right? Wrong.

I happened to spend this week with the pro football team with the most warlike image, the silver and black with the pirates on the helmets. The Raiders.

Almost to a man they were stunned by the bombing raid in Baghdad.

As Bob Golic put it, "Reality has set in. What we do is still a game. We're physical and brutal. But we're not talking about life and death." Howie Long had a similar perspective: "It doesn't affect your preparation for a championship game, but it does make you conscious of what's important in life."

There is a valid argument that big football games provide the troops with excitement and entertainment.

I don't buy it.

The NBA plays 82 games. Hockey, for those addicted to ice, goes on forever. Couldn't we spare a few games in respect of the kids who are risking death? Are we that committed to the thrill of a high-sticking penalty?

If this war goes on I vote for a moratorium on all sports. I'll confess, the first section I look to in my morning paper is sports. But if our young men and women are dying does it all really matter?

I think Golic, who never met a microphone he didn't like, put it best. "This is football. We fight you, we punish you. But in the end, it's just a game."

The suspicion here is that the nation could survive without the fabulous NFL Commissioner's Super Bowl party. I would gladly live without the endless halftime show.

But duty calls. Life goes on at least for those of us sitting in the comfort of the press boxes of the land. So with apologies to our noble fighters in the Persian Gulf, we will get back to football.

The Raiders are going to win the Super Bowl.

The Bills, favored by 7 are a solid home team and they thrive in the cold.

But the silver and black knows no temperatures. (Maybe Bo knows temperatures but he's not likely to play.)

The Raiders have covered seven straight as playoff underdogs. My ESPN colleague Joe Theismann will remember one of those games vividly. Say Jack Squirek, Joe.

The Raiders also have a big edge in turnovers. I love the Raiders plus the 7.

The 49ers against the Giants are a shakier pick. The Giants getting 8 have an edge in turnovers.

But despite a good showing against the Bears, Jeff Hostetler, the backup quarterback, has yet to prove himself. The Niners have proved themselves from here to Mars. I hate to lay this big price, but I'm going with the Niners minus 8.

Last week: the Bills laying 7 to the Dolphins won 44-34. The Redskins getting 7 1/2 from the 49ers were a major disappointment. The Bears getting 6 1/2 from the Giants got blown out. But the Raiders laying 6 1/2 to the Bengals prevailed 20-10. Another even-money weekend.

Total for playoffs: 5-3. Total for season 47-46-1. We're just getting started.