09/12/2002 11:00PM

Give me last week's flops - and foes of good-lookers


LAS VEGAS - There's an old saying: a team is never as good as it looks in victory nor as bad as it looks in defeat.

It still rings true today. The NFL season is one of ups and downs, ebbs and flows. Teams that look like dynasties in the making one week can look like garbage the next. Most of my plays this week are either on teams that looked bad in their season openers (and thus aren't getting any respect from oddsmakers or bettors) or against teams that played above their heads in their openers.

Bengals (+4 1/2) at Browns

It's true the Bengals looked awful last week (I lost on them - and I've already had a friend laugh at me when I suggested I would play them again this week), but they should bounce back from that performance. With Corey Dillon, the offense should succeed as well as the Chiefs', which shredded the Cleveland defense. The Browns are banged up in the offensive line, and QB Tim Couch still might not play, so that disarray will help the Bengals' defense fare better, too. The line on this game should not be more than a field goal.

PLAY: Bengals for 1 unit (see below for play on the total).

Titans (-3) at Cowboys

It's surprising that this line isn't higher considering how poorly the Cowboys looked and the Titans' impressive win over the Eagles, so I'll lay the short points. The Titans' D should hold Quincy Carter and the Cowboys' offense in check while Steve McNair and Eddie George should ride roughshod over the Cowboys' defense.

PLAY: Titans for 1 unit.

Buccaneers (-3 1/2) at Ravens

The Bucs lost a shootout to the Saints last week and should get no such resistance from a Ravens team that sure seems farther than two seasons removed from its Super Bowl title. The Ravens don't match up well with anybody right now. The Bucs' defense isn't as strong as it was a few years ago either, but the offense won't have to score much to cover this spread.

PLAY: Buccaneers for 1 unit.

Packers at Saints (+2 1/2)

Michael Vick shredded the Packers' defense last week, and Saints QB Aaron Brooks can do some similar things by rolling out and avoiding the Packers' pass rush. For whatever reason, Green Bay QB Brett Favre fares poorly in domes.

PLAY: Saints for 1 unit.

Raiders at Steelers (-4)

The AFC-favored Steelers laid an egg on Monday night against the Patriots, but now they return home. We should see a better representation of the Steelers' abilities in this game. They ended the Pats game on a good note by getting into the end zone, and coach Bill Cowher should build on that.

PLAY: Steelers for 1 unit.

Texans (+13) at Chargers

Most people are chalking up the Texans' opening-game victory as a fluke (or more due to the Cowboys' ineptness). They're not being shown too much respect as a double-digit dog to a Chargers team that isn't as good as its 34-6 victory over the Bengals would indicate. With coach Dom Capers' game planning and a young and hungry team, the Texans should keep this close if not pull the outright upset.

PLAY: Texans for 1 unit.

Eagles (-3) at Redskins

The Redskins weren't too impressive in their 31-23 victory over the Cardinals last week. In fact, if it was any team besides the Cardinals they probably would have lost. The Eagles were pretty much handling the Titans before allowing two late TDs to lose. They should bounce back from that loss and handle the Redskins on Monday night.

PLAY: Eagles for 1 unit.

Over/under wagers

After last week's offensive explosion - the highest-scoring opening weekend in NFL history - oddsmakers made the totals for this week's games high.

Bettors, ignoring that the value is probably gone, went ahead and bet the over on several games.

I'll take a stand against those inflated totals and wager 1 unit each on the Jaguars-Chiefs under 45 (bet up from the already artificially high 43), Packers-Saints under 46 (bet up from 44 1/2), Patriots-Jets under 42 (bet up from 39 1/2), Bears-Falcons under 44 (bet up from 41), and Bengals-Browns under 39 (bet up from 37 1/2).

Season record: 3-5 (1-0 on best bets) for -1.5 units, based on laying 1.1 units to win 1.