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Raiders good bet to lose

Just when it seemed everything was going wrong for the Oakland Raiders, they got some positive news. JaMarcus Russell was unable to practice Friday because of a sore right knee.

The beleaguered second-year quarterback might not play Sunday when the Raiders host the Carolina Panthers.

It’s good news for two reasons: Andrew Walter could replace Russell as the starter, and the Carolina defense now is in a state a chaos while guessing which bad quarterback to scheme for this week.

Despite all of that, my pick is the Panthers as 81/2-point favorites.

If I bet against Oakland almost every week, I figure I’ll win more than I lose. It’s a strategy I won with the past two weeks.

Sit down and ponder it for hours and you might come up with a legitimate reason to bet the Raiders — they are home underdogs getting more than a touchdown, and anything can happen in the NFL.

It’s unfair to blame Russell for all of the Raiders’ failings. He’s a small part of a big problem in a pitiful franchise. Even terrible teams should make a stand at home, but Oakland is 3-12 against the spread in its past 15 home games. Walter isn’t the answer, but he might give the team a lift if he replaces Russell for a week. Just don’t count on it.

Russell’s play was ridiculously bad last week in a 24-0 home loss to the Atlanta Falcons. He completed 6 of 19 passes for 31 yards and was intercepted once and sacked four times. Oakland’s offense, producing a league-low 13.4 points per game, rolled up a total of 77 yards.

Raiders owner Al Davis and interim coach-in-over-his-head Tom Cable put their heads together this week and cut starting cornerback DeAngelo Hall, a move that probably won’t rally the rest of the team.

Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme has a 122.3 passer rating in his past two games, he’s surrounded by playmakers on both sides of the ball, and his coach, John Fox, knows what he’s doing.

The Panthers, off a bye week, are a motivated team in the playoff hunt, and they should win easily.

Four more plays for Week 10 (Home team in CAPS):

Titans (-3) over BEARS: Tennessee, 8-0 straight up and 7-1 against the spread, has few weaknesses. Kerry Collins’ play is not a great strength. He has just three touchdown passes in 207 attempts and a passer rating of 72.9. But he’s avoiding turnovers and watching the running game and defense do the work. Chicago is expected to start turnover-prone Rex Grossman at QB, and that makes the Titans more attractive.

Saints (+1) over FALCONS: Running back Reggie Bush is out, but quarterback Drew Brees has the rest of his weapons ready to fire for New Orleans’ high-powered offense. Although rookie QB Matt Ryan and the Falcons are looking strong, Brees gives the Saints a slight edge.

STEELERS (-3) over Colts: Even if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger does not play, Pittsburgh should be OK with backup Byron Leftwich.

Roethlisberger practiced Friday despite a right shoulder injury. The Steelers’ No. 1-ranked defense can contain the Colts, who are 4-4 but easily could be 2-6.

Giants (+3) over EAGLES: With running back Brian Westbrook healthy, the a will be tough. The Giants are too good on the road (15-3 against the spread) and in the underdog role (10-2 ATS) to not take the points.

Last week: 2-3 against the spread

Season: 24-18-3

Review-Journal sportswriter Matt Youmans can be reached at 702-387-2907 or myoumans@reviewjournal.com.

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