Teams off bye week present challenge

Four teams present unique betting opportunities in Week 5. The problem is deciphering whether to side with rest or rust when it comes to handicapping Dallas, Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

Early bye weeks are another piece in the NFL handicapping puzzle.

The last thing the Chiefs needed was a bye after turning around their fortunes with a 3-0 start. Adding a degree of difficulty today is the fact they play at Indianapolis, with the Colts coming off a last-second loss at Jacksonville.

“As for the early bye week, it was a nonfactor to us,” Las Vegas Hilton sports book director Jay Kornegay said. “It was surprising when we made the numbers last week that the largest favorite was going against the last unbeaten team in the league. Kansas City has done it with smoke and mirrors thus far.”

The Colts are 7-point favorites, down a point from the opening line.

The Cowboys (1-2) finally showed signs of life and possibly saved coach Wade Phillips’ job with a solid win at Houston. Then Dallas was forced to shut it down for a week.

A little wagering support is showing on the Cowboys, who are 7-point home favorites and will have to contend with speedy running back Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans.

The Buccaneers might have benefited most from the bye after taking a physical pounding from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tampa Bay is at Cincinnati, a 6½-point favorite, and the Bengals are smarting from an upset loss at Cleveland a week ago.

A game that could have been considered at the outset of the season to be a complete waste of time — St. Louis at Detroit — could actually prove to be one of the most entertaining games of the week.

The Lions are 3-point home favorites.

The upstart Rams are 2-2, a record that could be better, while the winless Lions are competitive and have faced high-caliber opponents.

San Diego stomped on Arizona last week and might have emerged from its annual September hibernation. The Chargers are 6-point favorites at Oakland. It’s always wise to take notice of a home underdog in a division game, but in this case it is buyer beware of the Raiders.

The Chargers are more than comfortable jumping into the “Black Hole,” having won six straight as road favorites by an average margin of 13 points.

Also off a bye are the Minnesota Vikings. The 11 days between their season opener and a Week 2 loss to Miami made Minnesota look sluggish. The layoff this time is 15 days.

The Vikings are 4-point road underdogs to the New York Jets on Monday. The trade for wide receiver Randy Moss immediately upgrades the Minnesota offense, and Moss has recent game experience against the Jets.

This might be the time to find value in futures wagers. Minnesota is about 15-1 to win the Super Bowl, but the odds will drop like a rock if the Vikings upset the Jets.

“This is the most wide-open wagering in futures I can remember,” Kornegay said. “There are currently three co-favorites at 8-1 — Green Bay, Baltimore and the Jets.”

Brian Blessing, host of Sportsbook Radio on ESPN (1100 AM and 98.9 FM), can be reached at blessproductions@yahoo.com.

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