12/19/2006 12:00AM

Bills, Titans on win streaks vs. spread


LAS VEGAS - After the Colts' 34-16 victory over the Bengals Monday night, the experts on ESPN made a lot of comments about four teams being at 8-6 in the AFC wild-card standings and another four teams at 7-7.

Much of the focus was on the Broncos and Bengals at 8-6, since they meet on Sunday in what is widely considered an elimination game. The Jaguars and Jets are the other teams at 8-6, with the Jets having the decidedly easier schedule over the last two weeks. If those teams stumble, it could open the door for one of the teams at 7-7 - the Steelers, Chiefs, Bills, and Titans - to sneak into the playoffs. ESPN's Chris Berman kept saying to watch out for the defending champion Steelers and no one was giving any chance to the Bills or Titans, but an argument can be made (and I think I'll make it) that they're playing as well as anyone, especially for those who follow their point-spread exploits.

The Bills have covered a league-high seven straight games, while the Titans have covered six in a row, including four consecutive outright upsets.

Those teams are both 10-4 against the spread on the season - along with the Bears, who didn't cover in their 34-31 overtime win over the Buccaneers - and face each other this Sunday with the Bills as a 4-point favorite. Barring a tie, one of them will win on Sunday and then have a very winnable game in the finale as the Bills face the Patriots and the Titans play the Ravens. That doesn't sound promising, but the Ravens have already wrapped up the AFC North title and might not be in a position to improve their playoff seeding, and the Patriots might be in the a similar position to rest starters in Week 17.

If the Patriots beat the Jaguars and the Dolphins beat the Jets this weekend, there could be as many as six AFC teams at 8-7 battling for the final wild-card spot as the Jags, Jets, and Bengals-Broncos loser would drop to 8-7; the Bills-Titans winner would improve to 8-7; and the Chiefs and Steelers are both favored in their games.

It would certainly make for convoluted tie-breaking scenarios.

More team trends

Other teams with lofty spread records are the Chargers, Saints, and Jets at 9-5, and the Cowboys, Jaguars, and Browns at 8-5-1. After the Bills and Titans, the Steelers have the next longest cover streak, at three.

o On the losing side of the ledger, the Panthers continue to have the worst spread record, 3-10-1, after dropping their league-high fourth straight game to the number in a 37-3 rout at the hands of the Steelers. The Lions aren't much better at 4-10, with the Seahawks at 4-9-1 after their 24-14 loss to the 49ers last Thursday. The Chiefs and Raiders, who play each other Saturday night, have each failed to cover three straight games.

* The Bears might have lost against the spread to lose sole possession of first place in the spread standings, but they went over for the third straight game and are 10-3-1 with the over on the season. Other top over teams are the Titans at 8-3-3 (they pushed in their 24-17 win over the Jaguars), the Seahawks at 10-4, and the Cowboys at 8-4-2. The Cardinals have a league-high four straight overs.

* The Patriots kept scoring in their 40-7 rout of the Texans to drop to 10-4 with the under along with the Raiders. The Falcons, who had a streak of six straight unders snapped in their 38-28 shootout with the Cowboys last Saturday night, are next at 9-5-1 with the under, while the Dolphins are 9-5. The Bengals have the longest under streak at five.

League-wide betting trends

Road teams dominated Week 15 by going 10-6 against the spread, but home teams still hold a slight overall edge at 111-106-7. Underdogs went 8-7 on the week and still lead 118-96-7 on the season, winning at a 55 percent rate, or five of every nine games. (The Dolphins-Bills game closed at pick-em at the Las Vegas Hilton, so there were only 15 games in the favorite/underdog category.)

* The subset of home underdogs took a bit of a hit at 1-3 against the spread, with the Titans' win over the Jaguars the only one to come through, but home underdogs still are 44-29-3 (60 percent) on the season. This week's home dogs are the Raiders +6 1/2 vs. the Chiefs on Saturday night, the Texans +9 vs. the Colts, Lions +4 1/2 vs. the Bears, and the Seahawks +5 vs. the Chargers.

* Double-digit underdogs went 2-1 against the spread this week to improve to 17-13-2 (57 percent), but unless the Colts' line vs. the Texans rises to double digits there will not be any big dogs this week.

* The AFC continues its dominance over the NFC, going 3-1 against the spread last week, for a record of 36-24-1 (60 percent) on the season; the AFC hasn't had a losing record since Week 6. This week's only AFC plays are the Browns -3 vs. the Buccaneers and the Chargers -5 vs. the Seahawks.

* In totals wagering, overs went 8-7-1 last week and are slightly ahead, 108-106-10, on the year.

Bankroll: Another winning week

NFL bankroll plays went 4-2 last week, though it certainly looked like it would be better as I was 4-0 during the day Sunday with the Browns covering vs. the Ravens, the Titans pulling the outright upset of the Jaguars, the Buccaneers covering by taking the Bears to overtime as 13 1/2-point underdogs, and the Eagles upsetting the Giants. But then I lost with the Chiefs vs. the Chargers on Sunday night and the Bengals vs. the Colts on Monday night. Still, the 4-2 mark improved the season-long NFL bankroll to 43-38-2 for a net profit of 1.4 units after being in the red since Week 1.