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But seriously folks

Months away from the time of the season when it is considered admirable to give and not receive, we are locked into a pattern of generosity. Mostly because the teams that are getting the points just aren't worth supporting. Of course, giving points is always a risky proposition early in the season as you try to assess teams; consider last week, when giving 8 points resulted in a pair of losses by the slimmest of margins.

Not to despair, for the season is still young and there are, safe to say, enough miserable teams out there to warrant support for those teams giving the points.

The plays:
Jacksonville at Tennessee

No question, Jack Del Rio has the Jaguars playing great defense, but the 2-0 record isn't indicative of how good they are. There's been no offense to speak of -- the Jaguars have scored 20 points in two games; have been outgained, 598-401 yards; have made 22 first downs to the opponents' 36; and have converted a mere 3 of 23 third-down chances -- and quarterback Byron Leftwich hardly fills you with confidence. Battered by the high-powered Colts' offense a week ago, the Titans should have an easier time against the weak Jacksonville offense, and while they may only win by something like 13-6, they should take their sixth straight against the Jaguars. Jacksonville has scored just 68 points in losing their last five trips to Tennessee. Pick: Titans -6.

Tampa Bay at Oakland
It's hard to believe the Raiders won't be motivated to stick it to Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden on his first trip to Oakland since he walked out on the franchise a couple of years ago. Surely, the work-release crowd that fills up much of the stadium will be unfriendly to Gruden, and being a night game, it could be worse than usual. Throw in the other personalities involved (Raider Warren Sapp vs. his old team; Buc Tim Brown vs. his old team) and there's plenty of spice. There's just so very little offense for Tampa Bay (122 yards rushing in two games, 318 through the air) that Oakland warrants the play despite a less-than-stellar 1-1 start. Pick: Raiders -3.

Pittsburgh at Miami
Granted, it's questionable to go with an 0-2 team, but in losing to Tennessee and Cincinnati, the Dolphins yielded just one touchdown and have allowed just 176 yards passing in two games. In other words, they've played terrific defense and they'll get a chance to play a third straight great game because the Steelers, with untested rookie Ben Roethlisberger, are hardly a frightening sight. If Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt can stick with one quarterback -- A.J. Feeley seems to be it -- perhaps the offense will become cohesive enough to pose a threat. The opponents have put up 617 yards yards in two weeks against the Steelers' defense. Pick: Dolphins -1.

Last week: Lions, giving 3, beat Texans, 28-16; Raiders, giving 3 1/2, beat Bills, 13-10; Bengals, giving 4 1/2, beat Dolphins, 16-13.

Season record: 3-3.

JIM McCABE

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