09/10/2009 12:00AM

Take Chiefs to cover double-digit spread


LAS VEGAS - Football season is here. Long live football season.

Actually, I love all the changes of seasons, whether they be the ones named spring, summer, winter, and fall, or the seasons we chronicle in the race and sports books here. Of course, there's always a blurring of the seasons. We've started the football season, but baseball is still going strong. And before those seasons end, the basketball and hockey (yeah, I will go ahead and mention hockey) seasons will get under way.

And here in Vegas, we're also always looking ahead because there are tons of future-book odds to try and find wagers on upcoming seasons.

So, even though I'm dying to get into my first NFL picks of the new season, it's appropriate to announce (especially since this a horse racing publication, after all) that the 2010 Kentucky Derby futures were posted this past week at the Wynn Las Vegas.

Dublin, a D. Wayne Lukas-trainee and the winner of Saratoga's Grade 1 Hopeful this past Monday, was installed as the 40-1 favorite. Lookin at Lucky, winner of the Del Mar Futurity on Labor Day, and Sidney's Candy, who set a track record in a maiden race at Del Mar back on Aug. 22, are the co-second choices at 45-1. In all, the Wynn's original list had 130 2-year-olds that will all turn 3 en masse on Jan. 1.

The full list can be downloaded on the "Race Book Notes" page at ViewFromVegas.com (note: odds are subject to change), where there are also future-book sheets for eight Breeders' Cup races to be run Nov. 6-7 at Santa Anita.

Back to our regularly scheduled column.

Fueling my personal enthusiasm for the football campaign is the fact I'm coming off a great year when I finished tied for second in the Leroy's Pro Challenge and tied for 14th in the Hilton SuperContest. Using mostly plays I submitted in those contests, I also posted a record of 26-14 (65 percent) with 2 pushes in this space in DRF. I will be hard-pressed to repeat that success. No matter how loud some touts love to yell and make outlandish claims about their winning percentages, no football handicapper can expect to pick 60 percent winners over the long term (I'm much closer to 50 percent than 60 percent over the years). Even doing it in back-to-back years is a longshot, but I would love nothing more than to prove myself wrong. Here's three plays for Sunday:

Chiefs +13 vs. Ravens

Those who followed my plays last year know I did very well with double-digit NFL underdogs (they started the season 17-1 against the spread - I wish I had bet them all! - and finished 23-9, including the Cardinals +10 vs. the Panthers in the playoffs, which I also had), so you know I have to go with at least one double-digit dog this opening week. The other big spreads are the Lions +13 vs. the Saints and Bills +11 vs. the Patriots, but I'm afraid to jump in front of those high-scoring machines with those teams. This spot seems softer. This line has steamed upward with the injury to K.C. starting QB Matt Cassel last week, but I think either Brodie Croyle or Tyler Thigpen can produce enough offense to stay inside the inflated number. The Ravens did open up the offense more in the preseason, but they're still a team that is going to rely on the running game and defense to grind out low-scoring wins. The total on this game is 36 points, and that's pretty low for a game with this big of a spread (the Lions-Saints total is 49; the Bills-Pats is 47.5). If we do the math on the spread and total, that would give us a score of 24.5-11.5, and I see the Chiefs of having a better chance of exceeding 11.5 (even against this defense) than the Ravens exceeding 25.

PLAY: Chiefs for 1 unit.

Jaguars +7 vs. Colts

The Jaguars play a physical style that always gives the Colts fits (Jacksonville is 9-5 ATS vs. Colts since becoming AFC South division rivals in 2002). The Jags are flying under the radar with low expectations after a disappointing 5-11 season, but I expect the Colts to slip a little too with the Tony Dungy era ending. Maurice Jones-Drew is the big-play back for the Jaguars, but even if he's less than 100 percent, the Jacksonville line will open holes for whoever is carrying the ball. Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard should bounce back, thanks to the addition of new targets such as Torry Holt, formerly of the Rams. For years, people have said Peyton Manning is like a coach on the field, and now he will get the chance to prove it. He might pull out the win, but I will take the Jaguars to stay within the touchdown.

PLAY: Jaguars for 1 unit.

Bears +3.5 vs. Packers

Jay Cutler makes his debut for Chicago and has to make it at Lambeau Field, but he handled going into a hostile environment in Denver (I know it was only preseason) and performed well against his former team. He should have the Bears in the game this whole way against a defense that underperformed last year. Devin Hester continues to improve at the wide receiver position and now has a quarterback to get him the ball deep, which will also open up things for Matt Forte's running or catching passes out of the backfield. This game is pick-em in my mind. If it was less than a field goal, I would pass, but getting more than a field goal is enough value to get me to pull the trigger.

PLAY: Bears for 1 unit.