12/10/2002 1:00AM

Bears-Dolphins under a miracle to some

Email

LAS VEGAS - It won't replace "Do you believe in miracles?" as his signature line, but ABC play-by-play announcer Al Michaels uttered another classic at the end of Monday night's Bears-Dolphins game.

With all due respect to Roone Arledge, who died last week and was honored throughout the telecast, Monday Night Football owes most of its success to the fact that it's the get-out game for bettors. Those needing to bail out for the NFL week will watch even when it's a snoozer of a game like Bears-Dolphins. Michaels knows this, and has become known for his subtle inside jokes when blowouts come down to the wire in relation to the pointspread or over/under. You can almost hear him wink.

To those in the know (not, obviously, John Madden), the over/under on the total points in Monday night's game was 37 1/2. The Dolphins led 27-3 when Bears third-string quarterback Henry Burris mounted a two-minute drill against a soft Dolphins prevent defense. Michaels said it was an important drive, even though the game was out of reach.

When Burris hit Marty Booker on a six-yard touchdown pass with 44 seconds remaining, Michaels said, "And now for the all-important two-point conversion."

When Burris rolled out and his pass was woefully short and fell incomplete, Michaels coyly said, "He under threw it."

Michaels can sure be a wiseguy.

NFL betting trends

The Dolphins' cover made favorites 8-5-1 against the spread on the weekend. Two games closed at pick-em (the winners of those games, the Titans and Cardinals, had opened as favorites before being bet down). Those results dropped underdogs to 116-84 (58 percent) with six pushes.

Home dogs also had a rough week, going 2-3 against the spread, though it should be noted that the home team won both those pick-em games. For the year, home dogs are still a solid 43-29 (59.7 percent) with two pushes. This week's home dogs are the Bears +6 vs. the Jets, the Bengals +3 vs. the Jaguars, the Browns +2 vs. the Colts, and the Texans +3 vs. the Ravens.

The Dolphins' win also improved the AFC's spread record to 29-23-1 in games against NFC teams. There are only two interconference games this week - the Jets -6 at the Bears (kind of cancels out the above play on the home dog) and the Steelers -8 1/2 vs. the Panthers.

December weather again failed to produce low-scoring games as the over went 10-5-1, with the push coming on the Browns' Hail Mary touchdown to beat the Jaguars 21-20. The over is a combined 21-10 (67.7 percent) with one push so far this month.

The Chiefs' 49-10 rout of the Rams improved them to 9-3-1 against the spread. The Buccaneers are second in the league at 9-4. The Dolphins and Saints are both 8-4-1. The Eagles and Jets have both covered their last four in a row.

The worst spread records are now held by the Bengals (no surprise) and Rams (big surprise) at 3-10. The Steelers, with their 24-6 loss to the Texans, have dropped their last six against the spread despite going 3-2-1 straight-up. The 49ers, despite winning their last two games, and Rams have both lost their last five against the spread. The Cardinals snapped a seven-game losing streak against the spread last week.

The Saints have the best record with the over at 11-2. The Bengals, with no defense to speak of, are 10-3 with the over, including their last seven in a row.

The Panthers' offensive explosion vs. the Bengals dropped them to 9-4 with the under. The Dolphins and Patriots are also 9-4 with the under, with the Pats on a four-game under win streak.

So much for revenge - teams that covered the first meeting between divisional rivals are 17-8-1 (68 percent) against the spread in the second meeting. Teams in that role this week are the Eagles -7 1/2 vs. the Redskins, the Giants -5 vs. the Cowboys, the Rams -9 vs. the Cardinals. All three teams are home after covering as road favorites in the first meetings. The Broncos, who pushed with the Chiefs in their first meeting at Kansas City, are 4-point favorites at home this week.

Tackling the team trends

Under 43 points might be the way to look in the Raiders-Dolphins game. As stated above, the Dolphins are 9-4 with the under this season, plus they are 6-1 with the under at home. In this series, the under is 6-2 in the last eight meetings. In addition, the Raiders have gone under in six of their last seven games. Hopefully, this one doesn't come down to a late two-point conversion attempt.

The Buccaneers are 9-4 against the spread while the Lions are a lowly 4-8-1, so the public is looking to lay the 8 1/2 points with the Bucs on Sunday. Nevertheless, keep in mind that the Bucs are only 3-3 against the spread on the road while the Lions have fared better at home (also 3-3 against the spread). One Lions' loss was by one point (a non-covering 9-7 win over the Cowboys as a 3-point favorite) and another was by two (a 20-12 loss to the Patriots as a 6-point dog on Thanksgiving).

The Jaguars have won seven of the last eight meetings vs. the Bengals and are 6-1-1 against the spread in those games. This year, the Jaguars are 5-2 against the spread on the road, so it's tempting to lay the short price of -3.

Bankrolls take beating

The NFL bankroll lost 2.2 units on the week despite a 3-3 record because of a 3-unit loss on the Broncos -1 1/2 vs. the Jets. Other losers were the Rams and Colts, while the Texans, Eagles, and Dolphins were winners. For the season, the NFL bankroll plays are 51-58-4 for a net loss of 12.2 units.

The college bankroll started out great last Saturday with Virginia Tech covering +17 1/2 points in a 56-45 loss to Miami-Fla., but in the later games both UCLA and Arkansas failed to cover. The 1-2 record and net loss of 1.2 units dropped the college bankroll to 28-30 and a net loss of 5.2 units heading into the bowl season.