11/14/2003 12:00AM

Bills give more than they'll get

Email

LAS VEGAS - With the bye weeks behind us in the NFL, we have 16 games to choose from each weekend for the rest of the season. It was difficult to narrow it down to my best bets for Sunday, so without further ado, let's get to six selections that I'm hoping have a decided edge.

Texans (+7) at Bills

It's hard for a team to cover a 7-point spread when its offense can't score more than 6 points, as the Bills have failed to do in three of their last four games. Okay, it's a stretch to think the Bills won't put up more points at home this Sunday against the Texans, but the Buffalo offense is nowhere near the juggernaut it appeared to be after putting up 31 and 37 on the Patriots and Jaguars in the first two weeks of the season. But even if the Bills offense picks up this week, they'll be hard pressed to pull away from a Texans' offense that has been playing better in recent weeks with the running of rookie Domanick Davis and the return of David Carr at quarterback. Carr has decent targets in Andre Johnson, Corey Bradford, Jabar Gaffney, and tight end Billy Miller - and they pose matchup problems for the Bills' secondary, which hasn't been playing well to begin with. A big play or two for the Texans should have them easily covering and in position to pull the outright upset.

PLAY: Texans for 1 unit.

Rams (-6) at Bears

The Rams' offense was held to 121 total offensive yards last week by the Ravens, but the Rams still came away with a victory. The Bears' defense should help Marc Bulger & Co. get back on track, especially with Marshall Faulk expected to carry more of the load. The Rams have struggled on the road in recent years, and they're 1-3 again on the road this year, but they're 2-2 against the spread. They beat the Steelers outright and nearly upset a decent Seattle team earlier this year. The Bears are a step down in class for the Rams, who should be able to get out to a big lead and not be in much danger of a back-door cover from Chris Chandler and the Bears' offense. Besides, the Rams aren't like a lot of teams that go into a shell when they get a lead. They'll continue to pass and could win this by four touchdowns.

PLAY: Rams for 1 unit.

Redskins at Panthers (-6)

The Panthers are not the type of team I like to lay this many points with - five of their seven wins have been by 3 points or less, and they have only one blowout victory - but I like them in this spot. The main storyline is running back Stephen Davis, who feels he was disrespected in Washington and been on a mission to show the Redskins that they made a mistake by giving up on him. Now he gets to do it in person. While I think he will have success running the ball on the Redskins' D (26th in the league, allowing 129 yards per game on the ground), I especially like that this should make Jake Delhomme's play-action passes even more effective than usual. He should be looking at a lot of single coverage. Carolina's defense also has the ability to shut down the Washington offense, which has allowed a league-high 29 sacks, while the Panthers are third in the league with 22 sacks, led by Mike Rucker's 11. Once the Panthers get up, they should be able to pound away with Davis and coast to a rare lopsided victory.

PLAY: Panthers for 1 unit.

Jaguars (+10) at Titans

The Titans are playing great, second only to the undefeated Chiefs, but I can't resist taking 10 points in this spot even though the Titans beat the Jags 30-17 three weeks ago in Jacksonville. Since then, the Jaguars played well in a 24-17 loss to the Ravens and put it all together in a 28-23 upset of the Colts last week. The offense has been improving every week with rookie QB Byron Leftwich and the running of a healthy Fred Taylor. This week, the Jaguars picked WR Kevin Johnson off the waiver wire from the Browns and he should immediately make Jimmy Smith better on the other side. The Titans don't have the grind-it-out type of offense they've had in the past, and this game should set up just like the Jags' game vs. the Colts last week with the last team to score getting the victory.

PLAY: Jaguars for 1 unit.

Falcons at Saints (-8 1/2)

The Falcons had their season highlight last week in routing the Giants, but that makes it less likely that the Saints will overlook their division rivals. The Saints beat the Bucs 17-14 before having a bye last week and should continue that momentum into the second half of the season. Deuce McCallister should have a big game against the Falcons' defense and set things up for Aaron Brooks to dissect the secondary. I rarely lay more than a touchdown in the NFL, but anything under a double-digit spread looks like a steal.

PLAY: Saints for 1 unit.

Chargers at Broncos (-8)

Hmm, I rarely lay more than a TD, but I'm doing it in back-to-back games? True. The Broncos are also coming off a bye and should be well-prepared for the Chargers, as coach Mike Shanahan is 5-0 against the spread after a loss and a bye. In addition, the Broncos get Jake Plummer back at QB (4-1 against the spread before he got hurt). I expect a repeat of the Broncos' 37-13 victory in San Diego in which Clinton Portis was able to run wild for 129 yards in the first half and Plummer threw three touchdown passes, also in the first half. Both left that game with injuries but are healthy now. The Doug Flutie-led Chargers are coming off an upset of the Vikings, but the lightning won't strike twice.

PLAY: Broncos for 1 unit.

Last week: 1-4 for a net loss of 3.4 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).

Season record: 28-21-4 for net profit of 4.9 units.