11/30/2004 12:00AM

All hot streaks must eventually cool

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LAS VEGAS - Regression to the mean. It happens, especially in sports betting.

For example, road favorites were clicking along at 67 percent through the first three weeks of the NFL season, but after 12 weeks they stand at 27-24-2 on the season (53 percent). That happens with almost every trend. Most will end up within a few percentage points of 50-50.

The same goes with handicappers. I hear all the time about handicappers who are hitting at 75 percent or 80 percent or more. But the law of averages almost always bring them back to earth. Over the long run, no one hits more than 60 percent of his football bets, and even the best of seasons rarely tops 70 percent, which is why the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest offers a $10,000 bonus for any champion exceeding 67 percent - and it only had to pay it once.

Cases in point:

* Adam Meyer is a tout who guaranteed he would hit 60 percent of his picks. "You Can Bet on It" radio host Larry Grossman had him put up $20,000 in cash. If Meyer hit 60 percent by giving out three picks a week for 17 weeks, Meyer would get his money back. If he didn't, the money would be given to charities of Grossman's choice. Meyer got off to a great start, hitting between 70 and 80 percent most of the season, and was extremely cocky about his success. But he regressed, of course, and after a few 1-2 weeks, he's now at 21-15 (a very respectable 58 percent), but he has to go 10-5 over the next five weeks to get his $20,000 back.

* Handicappers Dave Cokin and Ron Frazier were both hitting over 70 percent of their plays less than a month ago on the Sunday night "Stardust Line" radio show. Last week, Cokin went 1-2 and Frazier 1-3 (because he had an extra pick to make up) and now both are below 70 percent - Cokin at 27-12 (69 percent) and Frazier at 23-16 (59 percent).

* In the three top football contests in town - the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest, Golden Nugget Ultimate Football Challenge, and Station Casinos' Gambler's Challenge - after the top players broke from the gate fast, no one is hitting more than 70 percent. A Station Casinos contestant using the alias "4 Aces" has the top mark of 41-18-1 (69 percent), and that's only after going 5-0 this past week. "4 Aces" is the exception to the rule, but probably not for long.

* Even I have an example of regression. On the Friday morning "Race Day Las Vegas" radio show, I cherry-pick my top college and NFL selection of the weekend. Just two weeks ago, I had a record of 18-4 (82 percent) on the season. The last two weeks I've gone 1-1 and 0-2 to drop to 19-7 (73 percent).

Overall bankroll update

The record with my radio releases is especially gaudy when considering that my overall plays in Daily Racing Form are 54-51-3 on the season, just over 51 percent.

Last week, my college bankroll plays went 2-2 with wins on Georgia Tech +15 1/2 vs. Georgia and Missouri +4 1/2 vs. Iowa St. and losses on Virginia +4 vs. Virginia Tech and Notre Dame +23 vs. USC. For the season, my college plays are at 26-21-1 for a net profit of 2.9 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).

In the NFL, I went 3-2 and was oh-so-close to having a much better week. My wins were on three underdogs that won their games outright - Panthers +2 vs. the Buccaneers, Bills +5 vs. the Seahawks, and Raiders +11 vs. the Broncos - and the two losses were on the Giants +7 vs. the Eagles and the Jaguars +6 vs. the Vikings.

The Jaguars' loss was particularly painful as the Jags trailed by a spread-covering 20-16 in the closing minutes and were driving toward a potential winning score when Byron Leftwich fumbled and it was returned for a Minnesota TD for a 27-16 final score. I took the loss pretty hard until I heard Stardust race and sports book director Bob Scucci talking about a customer who was 14 for 14 on a 15-team parlay, needing only a Jaguars' cover to win $100,000 for a mere $5 bet.

Ouch! My loss is much easier to take.

For the season, my NFL bankroll is 28-30-2 for a net loss of 5 units

NFL betting trends

Underdogs in general were cashing often early in the year, but the recent run of favorites has taken care of that discrepancy. Last week, NFL favorites went 9-7 against the spread and now underdogs lead just 85-84-6 on the season.

Road teams did continue their unlikely dominance by going 9-7 and are now ahead 91-79-6 (54 percent).

Road favorites went 3-1 and now lead home dogs by a 30-25-2 (55 percent) margin. This trend has gone back and forth this year as road favorites dominated early, then home dogs actually took the lead, but now road favorites are 9-2-1 the past two weeks. I believe the home dogs will bounce back again. This week's home dogs are the Browns +7 1/2 vs. the Patriots, Bears +7 1/2 vs. the Vikings, Dolphins +3 1/2 vs. the Bills, and the Jaguars +3 1/2 vs. the Steelers.

In totals wagering, the under had its second straight winning week, at 10-6, helped by inclement weather. The under is now ahead 89-84-3 (51 percent).

Both double-digit underdogs covered, as the Redskins lost 16-7 to the Steelers as a 10-point dog and the Raiders beat the Broncos outright 25-24 as a 13-point dog. That makes double-digit dogs 5-3-1 on the year. This week, the Titans are +10 1/2 vs. the Colts and the 49ers are +10 1/2 vs. the Rams.

One trend that hasn't regressed (so far) is the AFC over the NFC. The AFC went 4-2 against the spread last week and is an impressive 31-16-1 (66 percent). This week, surprisingly, there are no interconference games to put that to the test.

Who's hot, who's not

Break up the Chargers. They have covered the spread eight straight weeks and are 9-1-1 vs. the number on the season. The Patriots are right behind at 8-1-2. The Eagles and Ravens are both 8-3, and the Steelers right behind at 7-3-1.

Heading into last week, six teams were 3-7 against the spread. Five of them covered. Talk about regressing to the mean. The Chiefs now hold the league's worst spread record at 3-8. The five teams that covered and are now at 4-7 are the Dolphins, Saints, Raiders, Redskins, and Cowboys. They join five teams that were 4-6 and lost to drop to 4-7: Browns, Seahawks, Rams, Titans, and 49ers.

In totals wagering, the Colts failed to make the over only because Peyton Manning and the other starters didn't play the fourth quarter on Thanksgiving Day. They dropped to 8-3 on the over, along with the Rams.

The Redskins, with an offense that still hasn't scored 20 points in any game this season, are the leaders in the under category at 9-2. The Jaguars, Eagles and Falcons are all next at 8-3.