10/26/2004 12:00AM

Books clean up as bettors get sacked

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LAS VEGAS - Late in the Bengals' 23-10 upset of the Broncos on Monday night, ABC announcer Al Michaels talked about how stock market and football predictions are worthless, going so far as to call the Bengals-Broncos contest "a trap game."

John Madden added that NFL stands for "No Figure League."

That was certainly the case last weekend as football bettors, as a whole, took a beating and sports books here (and elsewhere) had their best football weekend of the year. The books did okay on Saturday's college slate, but then really cleaned up on Sunday's NFL card as most of the big-money games went in their favor.

Two big losses for bettors were on the Giants and Seahawks, who were bet from 6- to 7-point favorites vs. the Lions and Cardinals, respectively, and lost outright. Bet-takers not only locked up straight bets but also the vast majority of parlays and teaser bets. Money also showed for the Bills and Titans in their losses, and it also helped the books when popular teams such as the Rams and Colts lost outright and the Eagles failed to cover in their victory.

But the coup de grace was the Monday-nighter, which is traditionally the "get out game" for football bettors as they try to recoup their losses from the weekend. The Broncos looked like a sure thing and were bet, by both professional bettors and the less-sophisticated public, from the opening number of 5 1/2 up to 7. Bookmakers were reluctant all week to move the line up to 7 for fear of getting sided, and they actually cut into some of their profits when they did. Sharp bettors jumped in late and took the Bengals +7 and even at 7 1/2 at some offshore books that had to limit their liability in case of a Broncos cover.

But it wasn't meant to be, as the Broncos were never even tied after 0-0.

Go figure.

NFL betting trends

I consider myself a contrarian and usually like home dogs, almost to a fault. I've been writing for weeks that home dogs are due to turn it around, but I could only pull the trigger on the Browns +7 1/2 vs. the Eagles (who covered) and watched as home dogs went 4-0 against the spread, with the other three (Dolphins over Rams, Cardinals over Seahawks, and Bengals over Broncos) pulling outright upsets.

That performance leaves home dogs at a nearly respectable 15-16-1 after a slow start. This week's only home dogs are the Redskins +2 1/2 vs. the Packers, the Chiefs +1 1/2 vs. the Colts, and the Steelers +3 vs. the Patriots.

The home dogs led home teams to their first winning week of the season, going 9-4-1 overall against the spread. For the year, road teams still lead 55-42-5 (57 percent).

Dogs went 8-5-1 on the week and improved their record to 52-45-5 (54 percent) on the year.

It was also the first week this season with more overs than unders, as the tally was 8-6. Unders still rule with a mark of 55-45-2 (55 percent).

There were no double-digit dogs for the second straight week, so they still stand at 3-2-1. However, it should be pointed out that out of the higher point spreads of the past weekend, the Colts closed as a 9-point favorite over the Jaguars, the Eagles were -7 1/2 vs. the Browns, and the Giants, Buccaneers, Seahawks, and Browns were all favored by 7. Of those six teams, only the Bucs covered the spread. Parity is alive and well.

The AFC went 4-2 against the spread in interconference games and improved its record to 13-9-1 (59 percent). This week's interconference games are the Ravens +7 1/2 vs. the Eagles, the Bills -3 vs. the Cardinals, and the Broncos -6 1/2 vs. the Falcons.

Who's hot, who's not

The Patriots and Eagles are the only unbeaten teams left in the NFL, but the Pats' push as 6-point favorites in their 13-7 win over the Jets has them atop the point-spread standings at 4-0-2, while the Eagles dropped to 5-1 and are tied with the Chargers, who are 5-1-1. The Colts' loss to the Jaguars dropped them to 4-1-1. The Jaguars are 5-2 along with the Steelers, while the 49ers are 4-2.

In keeping with the topsy-turvy nature of the week, the worst spread teams all improved, as the Bengals, Dolphins, Saints, and Chiefs won outright and covered the spread. The Bengals are still only 1-5, while the Dolphins and Saints are 2-5, as are the Titans, Raiders, and Falcons. The Chiefs are 2-4 along with the Redskins, Panthers, Bears, Cowboys, and Rams (actually 2-4-1, but the same).

In totals wagering, the Steelers are 5-1 with the over, with the Rams and Saints at 5-2 and the Colts, Texans, Vikings, and Cowboys at 4-2.

The Panthers have been golden with the under as they are 5-0-1, with the Bears and Redskins at 5-1, the Broncos at 5-1-1, the Jaguars and Falcons at 5-2, and the Ravens, Bills, and 49ers at 4-2.

Bankroll updates

It didn't surprise me to hear that the sports books had a good weekend, because I certainly contributed my share. My college bankroll plays went 2-3, with wins on Boston College +7 vs. Notre Dame (an outright 24-23 upset) and Alabama +7 vs. Tennessee (a spread-covering 17-13 loss) and losses on Indiana +13 1/2 vs. Ohio St. (a 30-7 blowout), North Carolina St. +7 1/2 vs. Miami-Fla. (a 45-31 loss), and Fresno St. +9 1/2 vs. Boise St. (a 33-16 loss). That dropped my overall college season record to 16-14 for a negligible net profit of 0.6 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).

The news in the NFL was no better as I went 1-4. The lone win was on the Browns +7 1/2 vs. the Eagles (a spread-covering 34-31 loss in overtime). One of my losses was on the Patriots -6 1/2 vs. the Jets. I bet it at -6 and got a push as the Pats won 13-7, and I'm assuming most bettors had access to the line at 6 over the weekend, but I have to grade it as a loss here. My other losses were on the Titans +7 vs. the Vikings (a 20-3 loss), the Bears +7 vs. the Buccaneers (a 19-7 loss), and the Broncos -6 vs. the Bengals (a 23-10 loss). After making a nice comeback to get near .500, my NFL season bankroll fell to 15-19-1 for a net loss of 5.9 units.