Points will be at a premium in Steelers-Bucs clash

Forget about Family Guy or The Simpsons. If you want a good laugh on Sundays, tune in to a Dallas Cowboys game. Inevitably, the camera will focus in on Cowboys coach Wade Phillips at a moment of crisis. Watch as Phillips stands perfectly still with his hands on his hips, his mouth slightly agape and a confused look on his face like a disoriented grandpa who walks into a room and can’t remember why the hell he’s there—or what he should do next.

Cracks me up every time. Or at least it did until I pulled my own Wade Phillips last week, standing in stunned silence as I struggled to comprehend how I finally produced a winning record with my football selections … and yet lost money! So I won, but I didn’t.

My 5-4 record resulted in a loss of $108, dropping my bankroll to $4,185. But hey, look on the bright side: I may not be winning you money, but I’m saving you some serious coin on heartburn medicine. Last week, my two big winners (Bowling Green and the Packers) won by a combined 43 points; my two big losers (Duke and the Jaguars) lost by a combined 74 points!

No sweating out my plays, baby!

On to this week’s picks …

$330 (to win $300) on Steelers-Buccaneers UNDER 34: I’d play this game “under” even if the total was set at 24. Pittsburgh’s defense has been as stiff as an Oscar Goodman martini, first limiting Matt Ryan and the Falcons to three field goals and 295 total yards, then shutting down Chris Johnson (34 rushing yards) and the Titans (11 points, 238 total yards). Tampa Bay has surrendered just 21 total points in its two victories and now faces a Steelers offense that has produced just one touchdown (in overtime against Atlanta) and is down to its fourth-string quarterback. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman will look like a fourth-string QB against that tough Steelers D.

$110 (to win $100) on OREGON (-10½) at Arizona State: Oregon has scored more in its first three games than Hugh Hefner has in his entire glorious life. We’re talking Ducks 189, Foes 13. Granted, two of the three opponents (New Mexico and Portland State) would barely be favored against Bishop Gorman High, and the other was a team in transition (Tennessee). Still, Oregon is playing with a ton of confidence, while ASU is still licking its wounds after a heartbreaking 20-19 loss at Wisconsin (the Sun Devils had a game-tying extra point blocked after their final score). Oregon won and covered the last five meetings with ASU (including three straight wins in Tempe), with the Ducks prevailing by margins of 23, 34, 12, 35 and 14 points.

$110 (to win $100) on AIR FORCE (-11) at Wyoming: After losing back-to-back games to Texas and Boise State by a combined score of 85-13, you would think Wyoming is taking a step down in class this week. Think again. Air Force, which is coming off a near upset of seventh-ranked Oklahoma (the Falcons lost 27-24 as 17-point underdogs), has literally been running over opponents (399 rushing yards per game). That has to frighten the Cowboys, who have been outrushed 442-37 the last two weeks. The Falcons have covered the spread in seven of their last eight games against Division I-A competition, and they’ve won four straight in this rivalry.

$110 (to win $100) on RAVENS (-10½) vs. Browns: After tallying just 20 points in consecutive road games against the Jets and Bengals—two defenses that ranked first and fourth, respectively, last year—I’m looking for the Ravens’ offense to explode in a big way against the Browns (whose own offense has netted just four TDs in two losses). The Ravens have swept the last two season series with Cleveland, winning by a combined 115-40 margin.

BEST OF THE REST: Lions (+10½) at Vikings ($55); Florida State (-18) vs. Wake Forest ($44); Eagles-Jaguars OVER 44½ ($33); Bowling Green (+26) at Michigan ($33); Nevada (-5) at BYU ($33); Fresno State (+2½) at Mississippi ($33).

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