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BEHIND THE LINES

In a reality check, McCown to start

September 23, 2007|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

The Oakland Raiders will stick with Josh McCown as starting quarterback against Cleveland today, but Coach Lane Kiffin would get better results if he switched to Daunte Culpepper, according to AccuScore.com.

AccuScore, powered by a simulation engine, forecasts games -- play by play -- 10,000 times and it found that the Raiders have a 56% winning rate over the Browns with McCown. But when Culpepper was inserted as starter, Oakland won 60% of the simulated games.

Las Vegas oddsmakers still like the winless Raiders (0-2) -- even with McCown under center. Even though Cleveland (1-1) is coming off a highlight victory over Cincinnati, Oakland has been a three-point favorite all week.

According to wagerline.com, money has been pretty evenly split -- with the Browns holding a slight edge at 51.56% as of Saturday. But the true story of this game will be the over/under, which has ranged from 38 to 41 points on most boards.

After lighting up Cincinnati's secondary last week, Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson could have another successful day against the Raiders, who have one of the NFL's poorest pass defenses, giving up nearly 275 yards per game.

But Oakland should also move the ball with ease against the Browns, who have the league's worst overall defense. Cleveland is allowing 39.5 points and 448 yards per game.

Normally, first-year NFL coaches do not get a lot of respect from oddsmakers, but that is not the case with Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin. The Steelers (2-0) remain a strong bet and are 9 1/2 -point favorites over San Francisco today.

Major League Baseball

The Philadelphia Phillies have had big-time success whenever left-handed starter Cole Hamels has been on the mound this season. In 25 starts, Hamels is 14-5 and has pitched a whopping 167.1 innings with 156 strikeouts, 39 walks and a 3.50 earned-run average.

But in Hamels' last start, he lasted only three innings and left because of a sore elbow. That is of interest since Hamels will pitch today against Washington.

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lonnie.white@latimes.com

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