05/17/2005 11:00PM

Arena Football bet scenarios. Really.


When a sports season winds down, some geeks like to break down all the playoff possibilities, and they can tell you in excruciating detail what scenarios have to play out for each team to get in.

Okay, I admit it, that would be me. Guilty as charged. But this trivial pursuit can have practical applications in the sports betting world. Take this Saturday and Sunday's final weekend of the Arena Football League regular season.

Seven of the league's eight games have playoff implications, so there could be some cases in which a team might have its playoff fate locked in before it takes the field.

The four division titles have been clinched, with New York winning the National Conference's Eastern Division and Georgia winning the Southern, while Colorado has wrapped up the American Conference's Central Division and Los Angeles is the best in the West.

Georgia has secured home field throughout in the National Conference, but Colorado, a 2-point favorite on Saturday night at New York, needs a victory to do the same in the American Conference. If Colorado falls, Los Angeles, which is a 7 1/2-point favorite over Grand Rapids, would get home field with a victory. What I'm proposing is a two-team parlay with Colorado -2 and Grand Rapids +7 1/2. The rationale is that New York has nothing to play for and likely will not put up much of a fight versus Colorado, and if the Crush get out to a big lead, word will certainly spread to the L.A. game in Michigan (which starts a half-hour later) and the Avengers could pull some starters in the second half and allow Grand Rapids to stay close.

The wild-card chases are even more wild, as there are three teams in each conference battling over two wild-card berths.

In the American Conference, defending champion San Jose, Chicago, and Las Vegas are battling for the two wild-card berths. Chicago and San Jose control their own destiny - a win gets them in - and Las Vegas must win and have one of the other two teams lose. The picture will be clearer after Saturday night, when San Jose is -6 versus Georgia. A loss by the SaberCats, who aren't as good as they were last year (or else they wouldn't be in this position), would put Chicago in (and make the +1 1/2 on Nashville look attractive) and also provide added incentive for Vegas, which is -6 vs. Arizona.

But I'm not willing to bet on a Georgia team that doesn't have anything to play for, so I'll pass on those scenarios and instead look at the National Conference in which Orlando, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay are vying for the two wild-card spots.

Orlando and New Orleans actually play each other in a game that will seen by most of the country on NBC at noon Eastern. The winner gets in, with Orlando being a 4-point favorite. Tampa Bay, a 9-point favorite over Columbus at the same time, also gets in with a win, though Tampa Bay also backs in if Orlando beats New Orleans. My suggestion is to take Orlando -4 and parlay with Columbus +9 and hope Orlando cruises to a rout and Tampa, which doesn't need to win by nine points anyway, might take it easy down the stretch.

I'm obviously hoping to win both at typical two-team parlay odds of 13-5, but even a split of these two parlays will still show a tidy profit.

Second City hosts second-class fight

This weekend's top boxing match is between WBO heavyweight champion Lamon Brewster and Andrew "The Foul Pole" Golota, so named because he commits a lot of fouls and hails from Poland. This fight is being held in Chicago, mainly because Chicago has the second-biggest Polish population outside Warsaw, or so they say, whoever "they" are.

Despite being the challenger, Golota is between a -240 and -300 favorite with Brewster offered at between 2-1 and 5-2. It's not surprising that Brewster isn't get any respect, as it's a toss-up between him and John Ruiz as to who is the least-regarded heavyweight champion.

As expected, Ruiz was handed back his WBA belt after James Toney's positive drug test following their fight on April 29 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

'The Contender' finale live Tuesday

For months, Bally's race and sports book director, John Avello, has had odds on who will win NBC's boxing reality show, "The Contender." Because the results were part of a TV show (and someone knew the result before it aired), the odds were for entertainment purposes only.

When "The Contender" tapes its finale on Tuesday at Caesars Palace, however, Avello said he will have real odds on the fight and maybe an over/under for those attending the match. The boxing card is sold out, which can't be said for a lot of boxing cards, and shows the power of free exposure on TV, something boxing has gotten away from in the past decade.

Nextel Cup puts on exhibition

Nascar's Nextel Cup circuit puts on its version of the mid-season summer classic Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway - the Nextel All-Star Challenge, a showcase for its top drivers that doesn't count in the series standings.

Another prime-time event - this time on FX starting at 7 p.m., Eastern - the Nextel All-Star Challenge will be preceded by the Nextel Open, a 30-lap qualifying race for those further down in the points standings and less-established drivers. At Station Casinos, Jamie McMurray is the 2-1 favorite in the Nextel Open, with Kyle Busch and Jeff Burton at 5-1, and Casey Mears and Martin Truex Jr. at 6-1. In addition to the Open winner, fan voting will put another outsider into the All-Star Challenge.

Jimmie Johnson is the 7-2 favorite in the main event, which will be run in three segments: a 40-lap segment, then a 30-lap segment, and finally a 20-lap dash for the cash: a $1 million prize.