10/09/2006 11:00PM

Betting bye teams no sure thing

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In theory, it should take less time than usual to handicap this week's NFL card since there are only 13 games because six teams have a bye.

Since putting in the bye week in 1990, the typical schedule calls for the 32-team league to have eight weeks of byes with four teams off from weeks 3-10. This year, there are only nine such weekends, with week s6 and 7 (this week and next) having six teams off.

In listening to handicappers and bettors, many will mention that a team is coming off a bye and has had two weeks to prepare for its next opponent and should be well-rested. It all sounds logical, but teams off a bye are a combined 308-294-9 against the spread since bye weeks were instituted in 1990 and 91-100-1 the past six years.

This year, teams off a bye are 5-3 against the spread, so it has been profitable, but it's obviously a short sample. If you're a believer, the plays on the teams off a bye this week would be the Bengals -6 vs. the Buccaneers, Falcons -3 vs. the Giants, Texans +12 1/2 vs. the Cowboys, and the Seahawks -3 vs. the Rams.

What you don't hear as much, and what I've been looking into, is playing teams before their bye week, reasoning that they want to put in their best effort before taking time off. This season, teams are 10-7-1 against the spread before their bye weeks. With six teams off next week, that opens it up for possible plays with the Titans +10 vs. the Redskins, Rams +3 vs. the Seahawks (coming off a bye), Saints +3 vs. the Eagles, Ravens -3 vs. the Panthers, 49ers +10 vs. the Chargers, and Bears -10 1/2 vs. the Cardinals.

Just like with any trend or situational betting, I don't think it should be the only reason for a bet, but it's something to weigh into your handicapping.

More NFL betting trends

Favorites won all 14 games straight up this past weekend and went 9-4-1 against the spread, using the closing lines at the Las Vegas Hilton. For the season, favorites have gone 53-21 straight up (72 percent) but are just 37-35-2 against the spread.

* Home teams won 12 of the 14 games, as there were only two road favorites, and were also 9-4-1 against the spread to improve to 39-33-2 on the season.

* Home underdogs were 1-1 as the Packers failed to cover in a 23-20 loss to the Rams as a 2 1/2-point dog, though many people got the Pack at +3, but the Cardinals covered in a 23-20 loss to the Chiefs as a 3 1/2-point dog. For the year, home dogs are still barely profitable at 14-12. This week's home dogs are the Bucs +6 vs. the Bengals, Lions +1 vs. the Bills, Rams +3 vs. the Seahawks (supporting that week-before-the-bye angle), Saints +3 vs. the Eagles, 49ers +10 vs. the Chargers, and the Cardinals +10 1/2 vs. the Bears.

* As stated in last Thursday's trends column, no favorite of 7 points or more had lost a game straight up this season, and that continued this past week. That streak is now up to 24 games, with six such games on the slate this weekend. But those big dogs have been covering more often, as evidenced by the Titans losing 14-13 to the Colts as 17 1/2-point underdogs and the Dolphins losing 20-10 to the Patriots as 10-point dogs and getting the push. Dogs of 7 or more points were 3-2-1 against the spread this past week and are 12-10-2 in those 24 games.

* With several great defenses this year, including those of the Bears, Ravens, Broncos, and Chargers, you would think that the unders would be coming in like crazy. But through five weeks, the unders have just a 37-35-2 advantage.

Who's hot, who's not

The Bears and Colts improved to 5-0 overall this past Sunday, but there are no undefeated teams against the spread. The Saints beat the Buccaneers, 24-21, but didn't cover the 7-point spread. Still, the Saints are tied atop the league point spread standings at 4-1 along with the Bears, Vikings, Eagles, and Rams.

* The worst spread team is the Panthers at 0-5, followed closely by the Raiders at 0-4 (only because they've had a bye week) and the Dolphins at 0-4-1.

* Central Michigan improved to 6-0 against the spread with a 42-20 outright upset of Toledo as a 2-point underdog. Oddsmakers are making it harder on the Chippewas as this week they are 9-point favorites over Ball State Other undefeated college teams include Ohio State (5-0), East Carolina (5-0), and San Jose State (3-0).

* Fresno State is easily the most underachieving college team this year, going 0-5 against the spread, including last week's unimaginable 13-12 loss to Utah State as a 25-point favorite. San Diego State is 0-5 and Marshall is 0-4.

NFL bankroll rebounds, college slips

I went 5-0-1 in my NFL bankroll plays but broke even on my non-bankroll plays that I laid out in my Sunday column.

The push was on the Dolphins +10 vs. the Patriots (though as I mentioned in Sunday's column, I also had a lesser ticket on the Patriots -9, so it worked out nicely). The bankroll wins were on the Browns +8 1/2 vs. the Panthers, the Eagles -2 vs. the Cowboys, the Cardinals +3 1/2 vs. the Chiefs, the over 39 points in that game, and the Broncos -4 vs. the Ravens.

The other non-bankroll plays that I made pretty much were a wash. I went 3-0 on early bets, though I gave back some profits on Jets +7 and Steelers +3 1/2. I went 2-1 on totals, and 1-1 on a pair of later side bets, winning on Bucs +6 1/2 and losing on the Bills +10 1/2. I had a slight loss on my teaser bets, but I did cap off the weekend with a five-team parlay on my five bankroll sides that paid 20-1. I played a "ties win" card at the Gold Coast, which made the Dolphins +10 a winner.

But, believe me, I'm not getting overconfident. For one thing, all my bankroll winners were within one score of losing, so it's not like they were all routs. Also, earlier this year, I had a 3-1-1 week and followed it up with a 1-4. Besides, I still have ground to make up as NFL bankroll plays are still just 11-13-2 for a net loss of 3.3 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1).

* The college bankroll plays went 3-4, including 2-2 on totals and 1-2 on sides. For the year, I'm 19-14, including 15-8 on totals and 4-6 on sides, for a net profit of 3.6 units.