01/02/2003 12:00AM

Cold won't keep Jets-Colts under


LAS VEGAS - The NFL's second season begins this weekend with 12 teams feeling they can emerge as champions. Based on recent history - with the Rams, Ravens, and Patriots running the board and winning the past three Super Bowls - there's no reason to say that any team is in over its head.

On Saturday there are two intriguing matchups that will be played in cold weather. The Colts-Jets rivalry dates back to Super Bowl III when Joe Namath led the Jets to their legendary upset victory. After the NFL-AFL merger, the two teams were division rivals in the AFC East, battling twice a year, until this season when realignment put the Colts in the AFC North. This will be their first meeting this season.

The Falcons and Packers don't have much common history, but all the current players certainly remember when they met way back in week 1 at Lambeau Field. The Falcons played well enough to win that day, but the Packers prevailed 37-34 in overtime.

Colts at Jets (o/u 42 1/2)

When this matchup was first determined, I crunched the numbers and figured the Jets as a 27-24 winner. Both offenses should be able to move the ball, and New York quarterback Chad Pennington has made a believer out of me, so I rate him above Peyton Manning if the game comes down to the wire. When the point spread came out, however, with the Jets favored by 6 (which wasn't too surprising since the Jets have played so well recently while the Colts have basically backed into the playoffs), that was a little too rich for my blood. Instead, I'll look to play the over, which, based on my 27-24 projection, gives me a full touchdown margin for error.

A note on the weather: Advance forecasts call for game-time temperatures in the low 30's with a 50 percent chance of snow. If that remains the case, expect the total to drop closer to 40 by Saturday afternoon, offering even more value. The Jets certainly haven't been slowed by low temps (they scored 30 at New England two weeks ago and 42 vs. the Packers last Sunday, and both those teams have a better defense than the Colts) and the Colts put up 28 on the Browns three weeks ago in Cleveland.

PLAY: Colts-Jets over 42 1/2 points for 2 units.

Falcons (+6 1/2) at Packers

This game is being played at night (7 p.m. Green Bay time), so it will definitely be frigid, with forecasts calling for a temperature in the 20's with an 80 percent chance of snow. But even though the Packers have never lost a home playoff game, they're in a world of hurt.

Brett Favre is still brilliant, but he can't do it alone. Donald Driver, Favre's favorite receiver, is listed as questionable with a strained shoulder. When Driver has been out of the lineup, Favre has looked lost. The Packers' defense, which lost some of its swagger in the rout by the Jets last week, might also be without safety Darren Sharper (sprained knee).

The Falcons also come in off a loss, 24-16 to the Browns, but they have been exuding confidence all week because of their near-win over the Pack on opening day. Some people will say that the weather conditions will slow down Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick, but he will still be the fastest player on the field, and the conditions will make it even harder to catch him. He knows where he's going, and if defenders aren't able to get to him quick, he'll be gone. In fact, we might be witnessing a change in the elite guard of NFL quarterbacks on Saturday, with Favre not having many seasons left and Vick emerging as a superstar.

PLAY: Falcons +6 1/2 for 1 unit.

Season record: 61-72-4 for net loss of 17.9 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).