10/09/2001 11:00PM

Monday Night Football in the dark


NEW YORK, N.Y. - Football fans have become accustomed to seeing the NFL's best teams and best games on prime-time television each week on Monday Night football. However, this year Monday Night Football has dropped the ball by scheduling some of the worst teams and most boring match-ups imaginable.

Last week, Green Bay played Tampa Bay, Minnesota played New Orleans, and Tennessee played Baltimore, but the game we were "treated" to was a 35-0 blowout between St. Louis and Detroit that was over halfway through the second quarter. This weeks game is even worse. The 0-4 Redskins visit the 0-4 Cowboys in what's certain to be an almost unwatchable horror show.

Is there anyone anywhere who expected Washington and Dallas to be playoff teams this season? Somebody forgot to tell ABC that both teams are rebuilding, and the result is that this is already the second time this year we are being forced to watch the pathetic Redskins.

The games will soon get a bit better on Monday night (Eagles at Giants, Oct. 22; Denver at Oakland, Nov. 5). Until then, stick with the Sunday action. That's what I'm doing.


Oakland at Indianapolis (-3 1/2)

The Raiders visit Indianapolis for the second straight year, but this time the Colts will be ready for them following last season's 38-31 loss. Indy blew an early 21-0 lead in that game, and now the Colts will seek revenge back in their building where they've covered six of their last nine. Indianapolis will have a couple factors helping their cause in this game. In addition to the revenge motivation, the Colts come off a bye and have had two weeks to prepare for the Raiders. That's two full weeks to simmer from the 44-13 beating they took against their nemesis New England in their last game. Despite last year's win at Indianapolis, Oakland is not a particularly good artificial turf team. The Raiders have not only failed to cover their last two turf games, but they've also lost two in a row on carpet to Pittsburgh and Seattle. The Raiders are 0-1-1 against the spread on the road this year, and have lost two games in a row as road dogs dating back to last season. Play: Indianapolis for 2 units.

New Orleans (-5) at Carolina

New Orleans turned things around last season under first-year head coach Jim Haslett (Coach of the Year), and the Saints appear to continuing their forward progress this season, perhaps heading toward a showdown with St. Louis atop the NFC West. This will certainly not be the Saints' toughest spot on the schedule this season. New Orleans' lone loss this season came against the Giants when the Saints were very rusty following 21 days of inactivity. They rebounded nicely last in last week's spanking of the Vikings at home. The Saints hit the road this weekend, but are 7-3 against the spread in their last 10 games away from home. Also, despite that loss to New York, New Orleans has also covered five of its last six games on grass. Carolina started the season with a win, but has taken a bit of a siesta since then with three straight no-cover losses thanks to an offense that has totally gone cold (12 points per game) during that span. The Saints defense should continue to shut down the Panthers as they did last season in two easy wins against Carolina. Play: New Orleans for 2 units.

Denver (-7) at Seattle

It's funny what a quarterback change can do for a team. The Seahawks were a farce with Matt "Hasselback-up" at QB, but suddenly awakened with Super Bowl-winner Trent Dilfer behind center to beat visiting Jacksonville, 24-15 last week. Seattle is actually 2-2, but certainly not as good as its record would indicate. The Seahawks are 1-3 against the spread, still without Ricky Watters, and in for their toughest test yet against Denver. Mike Holmgren hasn't had much success since coming to Seattle, and there is no better illustration of that than the Seahawks' 1-3 straight up and against the spread record against the division rival Broncos the last two years. The Broncos won and covered at Arizona in their only road game so far, and this will be their first game of the year on artificial turf after going 5-0 against the spread on plastic the last two seasons. Denver is a good bet on the road. The Broncos are 13-5 against the spread away from home the last two years. Play: Denver for 1 unit.

Miami (-3) at New York Jets

Certain teams just don't beat certain other teams, (i.e. Giants over Eagles), and that's what has happened in this series in recent years. Dan Marino once owned the Jets as Miami beat New York seven of eight times from 1994-97, but that trend has reversed in recent years as the Jets have now beaten the Dolphins six straight times since '98. Well, every winning streak begins and ends with a loss, and that's what is about to happen here, as New York must rely on new head coach Herman Edwards to carry on their winning ways against the Fish. Not since Pete Carroll roamed the sidelines of New England has a NFL head coach looked so utterly clueless and bewildered as Edwards does on the Jets' bench. The Jets are already 0-2 (SU and ATS) at home under Edwards, and now must host Miami, whose lone road loss was on artificial turf at St. Louis. On road grass, the Dolphins are 12-4-2 against the spread dating back to 1997. Discount New York's win over the hapless Bills last week, the Jets are 5-11-2 against the spread in their last 18 home games. The Dolphins' Jets-jinx is over. Play: Miami for 1 unit.

San Diego (-3) at New England

San Diego has taken advantage of a weak fifth-place schedule to open its season 3-1. Make no mistake though, poor opposition is not the only reason for the Chargers' turnaround from last season's 1-15 record. San Diego's additions of Doug Flutie and LaDanian Tomlinson were pure genius, as the Bolts are averaging 26.5 points per game after scoring just 16.8 a game last season. The Chargers may not have a recent tradition of winning on the road, but Doug Flutie does. He won in hostile territory with regularity as quarterback of the Bills. Flutie also knows something about playing New England after playing with Buffalo in the AFC East the last few years. As QB of the Bills, Flutie beat the Patriots in New England the last two years (1-0-1 against the spread). The Pats were impressive in their last home game, a 44-13 win over Indianapolis. However, if you took Indy out of the mix, the Pats have covered only three of their last 12 games against the rest of the league. Also, New England played Miami last week, and plays Indianapolis again next week, making this a non-division sandwich game. Play: San Diego for 1 unit.

Pittsburgh at Kansas City (-3)

The early-season schedule has been very tough on the Chiefs, who return home for the first time since their Sept. 9 push against the Raiders. In addition to Oakland, the Chiefs have played the Broncos and a fired-up Giants team, and now play their first really winnable game since the 45-13 victory against Washington. Kansas City once had one of the better home-field advantages in the NFL, and could regain that advantage once again under coach Dick Vermeil, who covered a perfect eight of eight at home in his final season as head coach of the Rams. The Chiefs need a win badly, while Pittsburgh is due for a possible letdown following its victory over division rival Cincinnati in the extravaganza opening of their brand-spanking-new stadium last week. Pittsburgh has played just once on the road so far this season, and the result was an ugly 21-3 no-show loss against divisional opponent Jacksonville. Play: Kansas City for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-3 (even units)

Season record: 13-8-1 (plus 10 units)