10/20/2005 11:00PM

All Chiefs-Dolphins bets wiped out


LAS VEGAS - When Hurricane Wilma caused the Chiefs and Dolphins to move their scheduled game from Sunday to Friday night, it set off the usual questions about the impact on the wagers taken here.

The short answer: All bets on the game that were made prior to the game being taken off the board Thursday morning were canceled, and the game was removed from all parlay cards. If you wanted to play the game, you had to re-bet it.

Bettors should be familiar with the drill by now, because moving, postponing, or canceling games has become almost commonplace in the last few years. For example: All games were postponed the week after 9/11 and rescheduled for the end of the season; the 2003 Dolphins-Chargers game in San Diego was moved to Tempe, Ariz., because of wildfires in Southern California; and this year's home games for the Saints have been moved because of Hurricane Katrina. And that's just the pro teams. Even more college games have been rescheduled because of hurricanes the last two seasons.

As far as handicapping contests go, the high-end contests such as the SuperContest at the Las Vegas Hilton and The Challenge at Station Casinos kept the Chiefs-Dolphins game valid for use as long as picks were put in prior to Friday's 4 p.m. Pacific kickoff. Some lower-end contests just graded the game a winner for everyone, while others called it no contest, which has the same net effect.

It's always wise to check an individual book's house rules, but the general rule of thumb is if it's not played on the same day or at the same venue, you can count on the bet being voided.

Here's hoping these picks send us back to the windows for happier reasons.

Titans (+3 1/2) at Cardinals

When playing teams among the league's elite - such as the Steelers and Colts - the Titans have been blown out, but when they face lesser teams such as the Ravens, Rams, and Texans, they've looked much better. The Cardinals certainly fit more in the latter category, so I'm thinking the Titans will fare well Sunday in Tempe. The Cardinals shouldn't be laying more than a field goal to anyone. They don't have a running game, and now Dennis Green is trying to be cute and withhold naming whether his starting quarterback will be Josh McCown or Kurt Warner. There's not too much of a difference, which is why this game wasn't taken off the board. In much the same way, Steve McNair (back injury) is expected to play for the Titans, but even if he is sidelined, it's not much of a dropoff to Billy Volek. I will take the points with one mediocre team facing another.

PLAY: Titans for 2 units.

49ers (+13) at Redskins

Speaking of taking points, this is just too many for one NFL team to be giving another. Don't get me wrong; I've been impressed with how well the Redskins have played so far, beating decent teams in the Cowboys and Seahawks and hanging tough with the Broncos and Chiefs, but I can't help but think they're the type of team that will now likely play down to the competition. The defense should come to play, but the offense probably won't explode for a lot of points and that should allow the 49ers to stay within single digits. I liked the way coach Mike Nolan had the 49ers prepared in the season opener vs. the Rams, and the bye week should help them here.

PLAY: 49ers for 1 unit.

Steelers at Bengals (-1)

This is a statement game of a different sort. The Bengals, despite struggling to put the Titans away last week, have been putting it all together on both sides of the ball, but they haven't faced a real test yet, with the possible exception of their Sunday night loss at Jacksonville two weeks ago. But now they get the Steelers at home, while the Steelers are not at full strength. That puts the Bengals in a perfect position to proclaim a changing of the guard.

PLAY: Bengals for 1 unit.

Ravens at Bears (-1)

These teams are very similar, talent-laden defenses and non-existent offenses. In fact, the Ravens are even playing a version of the Bears' famed 46 defense. But there are clearly differences: The Bears have been more consistent on offense and their defense also shows up every week while the Ravens have sometimes shut down opponents but then shown a tendency to give up big plays. This game has the lowest total in memory at 30 1/2, so it should be a low-scoring slugfest and I have to side with the more consistent team at home that is laying the bare minimum of points. In addition, the Bears play better at home - they're 2-1 straight up and against the spread while Ravens are 0-2 on the road.

PLAY: Bears for 1 unit.

Cowboys at Seahawks (-3)

The Seahawks are another team that plays so much better at home - 3-0 on the scoreboard and vs. the number. The Cowboys went into San Diego in the season opener and upset the Chargers, but they will have their hands full with Shaun Alexander, plus Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck continues to get the job done no matter who is on the receiving end of his passes. I would probably pass this game if it were in Dallas, but the Seahawks perform so much better in Seattle that they are the play.

PLAY: Seahawks for 1 unit.

Broncos (+2) at Giants

The Giants let a big divisional game vs. the Cowboys slip away in overtime last week while the Broncos held off the Patriots in a big statement game and one that could determine playoff seeding. I think the momentum from each could carry over this week. Both teams are playing conservative, grind-it-out offenses, but the Broncos' defense has been more dominant and that should be the difference.

PLAY: Broncos for 1 unit.

Last week: 3-5, including 1-2 on 2-unit bets, for a net loss of 3.7 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 13-22-2 for a net loss of 14.7 units