The Raiders will be hurt by the loss of Howie Long but probably will be helped by the loss of the Houston Oilers to the Philadelphia Eagles. . . .
Houston's defeat extended Buffalo's lead in the AFC home-field advantage race to two games and lessened the need for the Bills to beat the Raiders Sunday at the Coliseum. . . .
The importance of rookie Anthony Smith to the Raider defensive line has been magnified by the injury to Long. . . .
Jimmy Ellis' fight with George Foreman Saturday night in Reno could add insult to injury for Long, who co-manages the prohibitive underdog. . . .
Before the Dodgers signed free agent Tom Candiotti, Manager Tom Lasorda sought the advice of another knuckleballer, Charlie Hough. The former Dodger gave thumbs up to Candiotti. . . .
How have the Dodgers fared with former American League pitchers? Dave Goltz and Don Stanhouse were busts. But Tim Belcher, Mike Morgan, Tommy John, Mike Marshall, Andy Messersmith, Claude Osteen, Al Downing and Phil Regan were successes. . . .
The Dodgers, who have one less established starting pitcher than a year ago, might be tempted to rush Pedro Martinez, but Fred Claire promised Pedro's brother, Ramon, that they won't. . . .
Look-alikes: Al Unser Jr. and Randy Travis. . . .
Fifty-three trainers--including Hall of Fame members Charlie Whittingham, Jack Van Berg and Ron McAnally--signed a letter that was sent to R.D. Hubbard in appreciation of the improvements at Hollywood Park. . . .
Suggestion for another improvement at the track: Start the races precisely at post time. . . .
The replay on Showtime the other night strengthened the notion that James (Buddy) McGirt turned in one of the finest performances in recent years when he won nearly every round from World Boxing Council welterweight champion Simon Brown. . . .
Brad Davis, who is still playing for the Dallas Mavericks, was one of three Laker first-round draft choices in 1977. He was taken before Norm Nixon and after Kenny Carr. . . .
At last report, Michael Jordan was endorsing Wheaties, Wilson basketballs, NIKE, Coca-Cola, Gatorade, McDonald's, Hanes underwear, Chevrolet, After Six tuxedos, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Illinois lottery. . . .
Notre Dame Coach John MacLeod must wish that he was back with the New York Knicks. . . .
One of the surprises so far is Paul (Snoopy) Graham, who has been starting at forward for the Atlanta Hawks after spending the last two seasons in the Continental Basketball Assn. . . .
When the U.S. Davis Cup team plays Argentina in the first round of the 1992 competition Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in Hawaii, captain Tom Gorman should call upon Pete Sampras to give him more Cup experience. . . .
A survey of baseball farm systems shows that the New York Mets have produced the most major leaguers, 55, and the Houston Astros the fewest, 30. The Dodgers have produced the second-highest total, 51, and the Angels 40. . . .
Bill Hardekopf, who was assistant athletic director in charge of marketing at USC, has been named president of the Birmingham Barons baseball team. . . .
Casey Burrill, a USC catcher, was caught in the I-5 pileup near Coalinga Friday but escaped unhurt. . . .
Gavin Osteen, son of Claude, has made the Oakland Athletics' 40-man roster as a left-handed pitcher. . . .
The first part of HBO's history of TV sports was unfocused, poorly edited and generally a disappointment. . . .
The Indianapolis Colts, who aren't exactly sensational on the road, are the only team in the NFL that hasn't won at home. . . .
Jeff George has been sacked 46 times this season. Mark Rypien has been sacked four times. . . .
Willie Davis, the wealthy Los Angeles businessman and former Green Bay Packers defensive end who reached the Hall of Fame, is part of the group seeking an NFL franchise for Memphis, Tenn. . . .
Dino Voyne, an all-Angelus League defensive tackle for Loyola High, is a grandson of the late Tom Harmon. . . .
For the record: The college football awards show Saturday after the Army-Navy game is on ABC. . . .
It seems physically impossible that a team with Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, Tomas Sandstrom, Jari Kurri and Tony Granato can have a power play as lousy as that of the Kings. . . .
Next time, they should decline the penalty. . . .