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NOTEBOOK : RAIDERS DID MATH, BUT COULD JUST KICK THEMSELVES OVER 4-6 RECORD.

Byline: Dave Goldberg Associated Press

What looked like a minor move for the Oakland Raiders may be turning into a major problem.

If the Raiders had kept placekicker Jeff Jaeger instead of cutting him and using Cole Ford, they might be 6-4 and in the middle of the playoff race instead of 4-6.

Jaeger, a 10-year-veteran, signed with the Bears and beat the Raiders on Sept. 29 by kicking four field goals, including one that gave Chicago the 19-17 win. Last Sunday, the Raiders maneuvered into position to give Ford a point-blank 28-yard shot to beat Tampa Bay, and he missed.

The Buccaneers won 20-17 in overtime.

That's 6-4 instead of 4-6. But there's other math.

Ford will make $175,000 this year. Jaeger was to earn a half-million more, money the Raiders saved under the salary cap.

``You get what you pay for,'' Jaeger said when he was cut.

What happened to Jaeger is part of a trend.

Last season, it was Morten Andersen. Cut by New Orleans, he went to Atlanta, kicked the Falcons into the playoffs and the Saints out of them.

This year, Pete Stoyanovich was traded from Miami to Kansas City, and Matt Bahr (Patriots), Jaeger and Kevin Butler (Bears) were cut. Carlos Huerta, who replaced Butler, was cut for Jaeger after going 4-for-7 on field goals. Butler caught on in place of Greg Davis in Arizona.

But keeping young kickers can be dangerous. Like quarterbacks, they often take time to get their confidence.

``Most young kickers go through the situation where they first face a real type of pressure and they have to deliver,'' Raiders coach Mike White acknowledged in giving Ford a vote of confidence. ``Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.''

Nick Lowery, who this year passed Jan Stenerud as the NFL's career-leading field goal kicker, is an example.

In 1978 and 1979, Lowery tried out with the Jets, Patriots, Bengals, Redskins, Colts (twice), Bucs (twice) Saints and Chargers before catching on in 1980 with the Chiefs, ironically as Stenerud's replacement.

Of course, Jaeger is no Nick Lowery. But he's no Cole Ford, either.

Coach of the Year? Cincinnati's 34-24 win over Pittsburgh just about ensured coach Bruce Coslet will be back next season and into the future.

Coslet, who played for the Bengals and was offensive coordinator there before his four-year stint as head coach of the Jets, was the odds-on favorite to get the full-time job anyway. But losing would have made him a much harder sell.

At 3-0 since taking over for Dave Shula, he has one fewer win in three games than Rich Kotite, in Coslet's old job with the Jets, has in 26.

The win over Pittsburgh also counts more than the previous two, over Jacksonville and Baltimore. The Steelers are the class of the AFC Central, and the win came before a nearly full house in Pittsburgh.

Such unexpected success is a huge lift as the the Bengals try to sell 50,000 permanent seat licenses to finance a proposed new stadium.

Coslet also is winning with the same players Shula had, simply by imposing more discipline and letting every player know his role. An example is Ki-Jana Carter, the No. 1 pick in last year's draft, but for now no more than a third-down and short-yardage specialist.

AFC reigns: While oddsmakers still list Green Bay, Dallas and San Francisco as the three favorites to win the Super Bowl, the AFC finally has some hopes of ending its 12-season drought in the NFL's championship game.

As of last weekend, the AFC leads the NFC 24-15 in interconference games, and AFC teams have outscored their NFC counterparts by 399 points.

Buffalo, which has lost four Super Bowls this decade, finished the season 4-0 against the NFC East with its win in Philadelphia last Sunday. Four other AFC teams are unbeaten in interconference games: Baltimore, Denver, Kansas City and Pittsburgh.

By contrast, only the 49ers are unbeaten against the AFC. Five NFC teams - Arizona, Minnesota, Detroit, Carolina and Atlanta - are winless. Those five have a combined record of 20-30, which shows they're not doing very well against anyone.

No free parking, boss: Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, lives in the same Dallas neighborhood as Jerry Jones. That's about the only similarity between them.

Last Sunday, Hunt drove a rental car to Arrowhead Stadium and parked it in the lot in front of the Chiefs' offices, where coach Marty Schottenheimer, general manager Carl Peterson and other team officials have their own parking places. The low-key Hunt does not.

Just before the game, when Hunt's son went out to fetch an item from his father's car, it was gone - towed to another lot. Hunt had forgotten to put his parking sticker on it.

His lack of a parking space isn't the only thing that separates Hunt from his fellow NFL owners. Jones travels by private plane, and so does Art Modell - who cited financial problems for moving his team from Cleveland to Baltimore. Those who fly commercial airlines go first class.

Hunt flies coach.

Strength in numbers: When the San Francisco 49ers tried and failed to sign Rodney Hampton as a free agent last spring, they turned to Plan B in their search for the running back they needed.

Plan B was strength in numbers.

So while the 49ers rank ninth in the NFL in rushing, their leading rusher, Terry Kirby, ranks just 16th in the NFC and 34th in the NFL. San Francisco is the only team in the league to have six players with more than 100 yards rushing, including quarterback Steve Young.

In order, they are Kirby, 299; Derek Loville, 160; Tommy Vardell, 158; Anthony Lynn, 137; Young, 131; and William Floyd, 101.

59 points? Before last week's game with Atlanta, the St. Louis Rams were last in defense, last in offense and generally considered the NFL's worst team.

Then they rolled to a 59-16 victory over the Falcons, a team that had lost by four points in Dallas, three to Pittsburgh and had a three-point win at home over Carolina.

``We know how much young talent they have,'' says Bill Polian, general manager of the Carolina Panthers, who play the Rams on Sunday.
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 17, 1996
Words:1040
Previous Article:RUNNER A BURST OF FAITH : RUSHING, SERMONS MIX FOR HANSPARD.
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