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BEHIND THE LINES

Longshots in the NFL could be best shots

September 16, 2007|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

At first glance, this looks like an NFL weekend to get work done in the yard unless you are a bettor who likes longshots.

Five teams -- Baltimore, Denver, Chicago, Jacksonville and Pittsburgh -- are favored by at least 10 points today, and each is playing at home.

That's a big difference compared to last week's NFL games, which did not include a team favored by more than 7.5 points.

Oddsmakers have set the lines so high this early in the season mainly because of quarterback questions for the underdogs.

The New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons are either starting a new quarterback this week or made a change in training camp.

The Steelers, who were impressive in defeating Cleveland last week, are 10-point favorites over Buffalo, which has stuck with quarterback J.P. Losman. Pittsburgh is a big favorite because it's 5-1 against the spread in its last six games played on grass.

But the Bills could be an interesting pick considering they are 6-1 in their last seven games against the spread when they've been underdogs.

According to NFL consensus picks, the Cincinnati Bengals are the team getting the most action this week in their game at Cleveland.

The Browns will start Derek Anderson at quarterback. The Bengals opened as a six-point favorite but the line has moved to seven and may still climb before kickoff.

Women's basketball

Imagine the Utah Jazz entering Game 7 of the NBA Finals without Karl Malone. No chance, right?

Well, that may be the situation for the Detroit Shock today as it takes on Phoenix in Game 5 of the WNBA championships. Detroit's leading rebounder Cheryl Ford, Malone's daughter, reinjured her left knee in the closing seconds of the Mercury's Game 4 victory on Thursday.

Ford is listed as doubtful for today's game, along with Shock guard Deanna Nolan, who is reportedly suffering from a hyper-extended left knee. Nolan leads the Shock in postseason scoring at 18.1 points a game.

Detroit, which is seeking back-to-back league titles and third since 2003, has gone from a three-point to 2.5-point favorite for Game 5.

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lonnie.white@latimes.com

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