01/15/2007 12:00AM

All four NFL road dogs cover


LAS VEGAS – Four NFL divisional playoff games were played this past weekend. All four road underdogs covered the spread. This traditionally has been a round when the teams fully rested off a first-round bye have dominated. Who woulda thunk it?

ESPN's Chris Berman, for one. Most sports fans know that Berman, using his "Swami" alter ego, gives out NFL picks against the spread every week on his "Two-Minute Drill" segment of SportsCenter. Except in rare cases, Berman is usually right around 50 percent and not someone you'd follow blindly to the betting window. However, he did go out on a limb last weekend and used the four dogs - Colts, Eagles, Seahawks, and Patriots - as his four selections, and all four covered with the Colts and Patriots pulling outright upsets.

(While we're handing out kudos to the Worldwide Leader, Hank Goldberg, who also gives out weekly picks on ESPN and is a staple of the network's horse racing coverage, finished in eighth place of the Glory of the Gridiron football contest at Caesars Palace and the Harrah's properties with a record of 58-44, collecting $4,200.)

Here's a look at the four games:

Colts at Ravens: This line was Ravens -4 most of the week with a total of 41 1/2 points. Late money showed on the Colts as the Las Vegas Hilton closed with the line at 3 1/2. With the Colts winning 15-6, the late money ended up being on the right side as the Ravens never led in the game. The under was also never in doubt with all the scoring coming on field goals.

Eagles at Saints: This line slowly rose during the week with the Saints closing as 5 1/2-point favorites and a total of 49. The game started out slow with the Saints going up 6-0 on two early field goals and seemed to be winning the battle on both sides of the ball until Philadelphia's Jeff Garcia hit Donte Stallworth with a 75-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring floodgates. The Eagles led 14-13 at the half and went up 21-13 early in the third quarter before the Saints battled back with two Deuce McAllister touchdowns to claim a 27-21 lead, and it looked like they might still cover the spread. The Eagles kicked a field goal to get within 27-24 - putting it over the total - but the Saints were marching toward another potential spread-covering score when Drew Brees and Reggie Bush botched a pitchout for a fumble and gave the Eagles a chance to tie it or pull off the upset. But Philly went three-and-out and punted to the Saints, who ran out the clock.

Seahawks at Bears: After opening as low as 7-point favorites, the Bears closed as 9-point favorites with a total of 37. The Bears were never clear of the number, though they led by 7 points three times in the first half. The game went over the total in the third quarter, and the Seahawks took a 24-21 lead - pretty much leaving the money line as the only gambling question left. The spread bets were settled when game went to overtime (since NFL teams can't win by more than 6 in sudden-death OT) and the Bears pulled out the 27-24 victory.

Patriots at Chargers: This game took a lot of balanced action at the 4o1/2-point spread available most of the week, and late money pushed it to 5 by kickoff with a total of 45 1/2. (The Palms actually went to 5 1/2 at one point before going back down to 5.) By the time you read this, this game will have been rehashed untold times as to the number of ways the Chargers shot themselves in the foot (muffed punt, fumbled interception return, multiple personal foul penalties, wasted timeouts). So, suffice it to say that this was a rollercoaster for bettors as the Chargers led 14-3 late in the first half and were again covering in the fourth quarter at 21-13 before the Patriots mounted clutch drives to get back into the game. The Patriots' eventual 24-21 victory gave underdog bettors their second outright upset, along with the four point-spread covers. The total fell under by a half-point.

Conference title game odds

Saints at Bears: After Saturday's games, the CRIS offshore book actually posted an advance line of this potential matchup of Bears -5 1/2, but after their lackluster performance on Sunday, this line opened 3 just about everywhere in Vegas. The Palms opened at 3 1/2, but that got bet quickly to 3, and that's where it stood when the Patriots-Chargers game kicked off 20 minutes later. Over the next few hours, it became apparent that early bettors were siding with the Saints as the lines started getting shaded to the Saints +3 with a money line of -120 attached to it, meaning bettors wanting that line had to risk $1.20 to win $1 as opposed to the standard risk of $1.10. During the course of the night, most books ended up moving the line to 2 1/2 with the books holding the line at 3 and still charging the extra vigorish on the Saints' side. The total opened between 42 1/2 and 44 and basically settled at 43 1/2 by Monday morning.

Patriots at Colts: This line was Colts -3 on Saturday at CRIS, and that's what it opened everywhere after New England's victory on Sunday. Early action came in slightly more on the Colts and continued into Monday morning as some books started going to -115 or -120 on the Colts -3. This line can be expected to go up during the week as the professional bettors, aka the wise guys, will wait and see if the line goes to 3 1/2 or even 4 before buying back on the Patriots. The total opened at 48 at Leroy's and 49 at the Hilton, where it got bet down to 48 1/2, 48 and then 47 1/2, before getting bet back up to 48, which appears to be a solid number.

Adjusted Super Bowl odds

With the Chargers out, there was a shakeup in Super Bowl future book odds. The Hilton now has the Colts, with home-field advantage in the championship game of the dominant conference, as the 8-5 favorites to win it all with the Patriots right behind at 9-4 (basically 2.25-1). The Bears are 7-2 and the Saints are 9-2.

For those who can't wait another week to see the Super Bowl matchup and betting line, the Hilton still has the AFC representative, whoever it may be, favored by 6 1/2 with a total of 50.