12/06/2002 12:00AM

My go-to meets my go-against


LAS VEGAS - It's funny what people focus on when you pick football games in a public forum like this.

Back on Breeders' Cup weekend, I didn't make a play on the Notre Dame-Florida St. game, but instead wrote this:

"I just can't lay the 10 points, even though I feel the value is on Florida St. If you disagree, I would suggest a money-line play on Notre Dame. If Florida St. gets up on Notre Dame, the Irish don't have the offense to rally, and the Seminoles will probably cover. So if you think Notre Dame is for real, you should take the plus-money for the outright upset."

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement, yet when Notre Dame won, 34-24, I received more kudos for that than for any of my actual winning plays this season.

People have also brought to my attention that I often pick the Broncos and pick against the Jets. I love betting the Broncos because they can beat you with the run or pass. When they grab a lead, they go for the jugular instead of sitting on the ball, but then they can also run out the clock with the ground game and guard against a back-door cover. The Broncos are also a team that if they somehow fall down by two touchdowns, you don't have to give up hope. They're explosive enough to overcome any deficit. In addition, their defense has improved from past years.

On the other hand, I feel the Jets have been getting it done with mirrors.

For proof, consider their 13-10 win over the Dolphins, when their lone TD drive covered six yards, after a Ray Lucas fumble.

The Jets also lucked out from a Miami TD taken away by replay and a Ricky Williams fumble inside the Jets' 5-yard line. Last Monday night, the Jets were thoroughly dominated by the Raiders yet somehow lost by only six points. So, my top play on Sunday shouldn't surprise anyone.

Broncos (-1 1/2) at Jets

The Broncos have the fifth-ranked offense in the NFL and take on the Jets' 25th-ranked defense (28th vs. the run). The Raiders abandoned the run last Monday, but the Broncos won't make that same mistake with Clinton Portis. The Broncos' fourth-ranked defense (No. 1 against the run) shouldn't have any problem shutting down the Jets' 22nd-ranked offense. In a game that will see the loser's playoff hopes severely diminished, the better team will prevail - and I don't see it being close. Since I've been eyeing this game for a while, I grabbed the Broncos -1 as soon as the line on this game went up Tuesday morning, but I still feel laying anything under a field goal is safe.

PLAY: Broncos for 3 units.

Rams (+5) at Chiefs

Everyone is jumping off the Rams bandwagon again, so this is the time to give them a look. Sure, they got abused by the Eagles' defense last week in a 10-3 loss, but the Chiefs aren't the Eagles. The Chiefs' defense is ranked 32nd, last in the NFL. Even with Jamie Martin taking over at quarterback, the Rams should again move the ball at will. The Chiefs have the No. 2 offense and padded their stats last week in a 49-0 win over the Cardinals, but they'll find it much harder against the Rams' No. 7-ranked stop unit. Before last week's games, some offshore books had a line on this game at Rams -2. A seven-point swing in seven days is too much.

PLAY: Rams for 1 unit.

Texans (+13 1/2) at Steelers

I jumped off the Texans last week, long enough to make a winning wager on the Colts, but they kept me sweating to the end, losing 19-3 and always within a touchdown of covering. They should stick around similarly this week against a Steelers team that might need an adjustment period with Tommy Maddox returning as the starting quarterback. The Steelers need only to win to keep alive their march to the playoffs, and this line will likely move to 14 by Sunday. That's a lot of wiggle room for the underdog to cover.

PLAY: Texans for 1 unit.

Colts (+2) at Titans

This is a battle for first place in the AFC South, with the Colts leading the division by one game. The Titans won the first meeting 23-15 in Indy, but I look for the Colts to return the favor. Since that loss, the Colts have won and covered four straight games, including road wins over the Eagles and Broncos.

PLAY: Colts for 1 unit.

Eagles (-3) at Seahawks

The Eagles keep rolling even without QB Donovan McNabb. Seahawks QB Matt Hasselback threw for 427 yards in a losing effort last week, but he'll find it much harder against an Eagles defense ranked No. 3 against the pass. Did you see how little time Kurt Warner had to throw last week? The same thing will limit Hasselbeck's effectiveness. Meanwhile, Eagles QB A.J. Feeley should feel much more comfortable going against the Seahawks' No. 29 defense than he did last week against the Rams in his first start.

PLAY: Eagles for 1 unit.

Bears at Dolphins (-9)

This game looked much more attractive to ABC Sports before the season started. The Dolphins allow fewer than 12 points per home game this year and that should continue against an injury-plagued Bears offense. The only thing to hold back the Dolphins would be if Jay Fiedler is rusty in his return. Otherwise, this should resemble Miami home wins this year against the Lions, Jets, Ravens, and Chargers - victories in which they jumped out to early leads and pulled away.

PLAY: Dolphins for 1 unit.

Season record: 48-55-4, including 2-0 on 3-unit plays, and a net loss of 10 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).