10/10/2003 12:00AM

There's no such thing as a sure thing. Is there?


LAS VEGAS - Have you ever looked at a horse racing card and thought you had it all figured out? The daily double jumps off the page at you; you see "sure things" to single in the pick three, pick six, or to use as keys in trifectas; the vulnerable favorites also seem obvious and you're sure you have the longshots to upset them.

Then the races are run and you can't cash a ticket.

Of course you've had days like that. We all have.

And if you're like me, you've probably had a so-called friend who admonishes you by saying, "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is."

Well, the only trepidation I have with this week's NFL selections is that they all look too easy. I've got four favorites (Buccaneers, Dolphins, Bills, Ravens) that I think will roll to easy victories. They are all the better teams in their matchups and are laying cheap prices. I've also got a pick-em game in which I'm shocked the Eagles aren't favored, and I have a live longshot in the Texans.

I'm probably overconfident, but at least I know I'm overconfident, so I'm still making them all only 1-unit plays.

Buccaneers (-3) at Redskins

Tampa Bay burned me last Monday night, but I'm coming right back with them and only have to lay 3 points, down from 3 1/2 earlier in the week. Even with their injuries, the Bucs are still among the premier teams in the league and, just like the Eagles did last week, they should dominate the Redskins for the majority of the game. The fact that Washington got the backdoor cover against the Eagles, combined with Tampa's collapse, should guarantee the Bucs will play the full 60 minutes to secure the win.

PLAY: Buccaneers for 1 unit.

Texans (+10) at Titans

Here's my live longshot on the card. The Texans are fundamentally sound under coach Dom Capers and just need to get more consistent and make more plays. The Titans don't generally blow teams out. Coach Jeff Fisher likes to milk the clock when his team gets ahead and that should help keep the game close, just like Tennessee's 17-10 win last year, when they played the Texans at home. The game at Houston last year was a 13-3 Titans win, and I think the Texans are better than last year. Another factor I like is that the Texans were on a bye last week and Capers has shown he is dangerous with extra time to prepare for a team. The Texans' record off a layoff is 3-0. They upset the Cowboys last year in the season opener, they covered a 7 1/2-point spread in a loss to the Bills after their bye week last year, and they shocked the Dolphins in this season's opener.

PLAY: Texans for 1 unit.

Dolphins (-3) at Jaguars

Speaking of the Dolphins, they've bounced back from that embarrassing loss to post three straight impressive wins. Last week at the Imperial Palace, this line was Dolphins -6 1/ 2. Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich has fared well, but so far he's faced the Bills and Colts in garbage time, made crucial mistakes in a loss to the Texans, and beat the Chargers. None of those defenses (especially the Bills and Colts in prevent mode) are as good as Miami's. Leftwich gets his first real test this Sunday, and it's only reasonable to expect the rookie mistakes will be magnified. Meanwhile, the Dolphins' offense should have no problem putting up points against the Jaguars' defense.

PLAY: Dolphins for 1 unit.

Eagles (pick-em) at Cowboys

First off, let me say I've been backing Bill Parcells and the Cowboys at the window and they've been very good to me, but they're still not at the Eagles' level. For one thing, the Cowboys' wins are over the Giants, Jets and Cardinals - throw in their loss to the Falcons - and you can see that many teams in the league would be 3-1 with that schedule. In addition, the Eagles have rebounded from their slow start to post solid wins over the Bills and Redskins. Again, the Imperial Palace had this line at Eagles -3 before last week's games. Most books put up the Eagles -1 or -1 1/2 this past week, which seemed like an overadjustment, and then the public bet it to pick-em. Seems like a gift, and I'll accept it.

PLAY: Eagles for 1 unit.

Bills (-2 1/2) at Jets

The Bills were caught in a letdown spot last week vs. the Bengals and still had enough of a talent edge to pull out the 22-16 overtime win over the Bengals. Now, they face the Jets, a division rival, and should be more focused. The Jets have lost and failed to cover three straight games after getting a push in the opener vs. the Redskins. It's not likely that coach Herman Edwards found many solutions to the Jets' problems during the bye week. Even if the Bills play down to their competition again, we just need them to win by a field goal.

PLAY: Bills for 1 unit.

Ravens (-5 1/2) at Cardinals

The Ravens are coming off their bye week, and you just know they were shown the game films from the Cardinals' Week 3 home upset of the Packers to keep them from getting overconfident. The Ravens' defense should have little trouble shutting down the Cardinals, just like the Cowboys did last week (and every team besides the Lions in the season opener has been able to do). Once the Ravens get the early lead, they should be able to pound the Cardinals into submission with Jamal Lewis, who should rack up another huge day running the ball.

PLAY: Ravens for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-2-1 for a net loss of 0.2 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).

Season record: 12-9-4 for net profit of 2.1 units.