10/19/2004 12:00AM

Books prefer blowouts to close games

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LAS VEGAS - When a game falls right on the point spread, people invariably say things like, "How do the oddsmakers do that?" or "The sports books must have made a killing."

But the truth of the matter is when a game lands on a number, it usually works against the bet-takers.

Take the Rams' 28-21 victory over the Buccaneers on Monday night. The Rams opened as a 7-point favorite last week at most sports books in Las Vegas and offshore, though some opened at 6 1/2. The books that stayed at 7 ended up refunding all their straight bets and had to consider themselves lucky. Many books bounced back and forth between 6 1/2 and 7 and they got sided (meaning they lost the majority of their bets at 6 1/2 and refunded all bets at 7).

For this reason, sports book operators usually prefer blowouts in every game. There's another reason for that: teaser bets.

It's never good for bookmakers that allow teaser bets when a game lands around the number. In a teaser, the bettor can move the point spread in his favor. The most common is a 6-point teaser, though some parlay cards have lines teased by 5 points while many casinos allow you to tease by 7 or 10 points off the board. But let's stick to the most common, the 6-point teaser. In the case of Monday night, the bettor could have had either Rams -1 or the Bucs +13. As you can see by the final score, both sides won.

In the NFL this past Sunday and Monday, half of the games (7 of 14) were within 6 points of the closing point spread, which means that no matter which side you teased, you wouldn't have lost. Because it's easier to hit teasers, the odds are much lower, but in a week like this past one, those can add up quickly and eat into a sports book's profits.

Of course, don't shed any tears for the books. They have a way of coming out ahead in the long run. I guess weeks like this past one are the ultimate tease and keep bettors coming back for more.

NFL betting trends

Road teams had another winning week (barely) at 7-6-1 and are still hitting at 51-33-4 (61 percent) for the season. The really impressive stat for road teams is the continued success of road favorites, which were 2-1 last week and are 16-11-1 (59 percent) on the year. Road favorites traditionally have a losing record against the spread. As I have written previously, I expect home dogs to make a comeback. This week's home dogs are the Browns +7 vs. the Eagles, Dolphins +6 1/2 vs. the Rams, Cardinals +7 vs. the Seahawks, and Bengals +5 1/2 vs. the Broncos. It's just with those four ugly teams, I'm not sure if this is the week home dogs start reversing the trend.

Despite home underdogs failing so far, dogs went 7-6-1 overall for the week and hold a slight edge over favorites at 44-40-4.

The AFC went 3-1 both straight up and against the spread in interconference games last weekend and is 10-6 straight up and 9-7-1 on the season. There are six interconference games this week.

Conventional wisdom says that teams off a bye should do well since they should be healthier and also have two weeks to prepare for their opponent. That didn't pan out last week as the Eagles were the only team to win or cover off their bye. The Bears, Bengals, and Chiefs all lost. For the year, teams off their bye are 5-7 both straight up and against the spread. Last week's bye teams were the Cardinals, Ravens, Colts, and Giants.

For the second straight week, there was a split in the overs and unders with seven apiece. Unders are still ahead 49-37-2 (57 percent) on the year.

Who's hot, who's not

The Eagles are the only unbeaten and untied team in the point spread standings at 5-0. The Patriots and Colts are both 4-0-1 (with the push for each coming in their season-opening game vs. each other). The Giants are 4-1, the Chargers are 4-1-1, and there are three teams at 4-2: Steelers, Jaguars, and 49ers, who are 1-5 overall but covered for the third time as an underdog Sunday in a 22-14 loss to the Jets as a 9 1/2-point dog. The Jets, despite a 5-0 record, are only 3-2 against the spread.

On the downside, the Bengals are 0-5 against the spread, while the Dolphins and Saints are 1-5, the Chiefs are 1-4, and the Raiders, Titans, Packers, Redskins, and Falcons are all 2-4.

In totals wagering, the Steelers are 5-1 with the over, with the Vikings at 4-1 and the Rams, Saints, Chargers, and Texans at 4-2. There are far more teams with winning under records, led by the Panthers at 4-0-1; the Jaguars, Falcons, and Redskins at 5-1; the Dolphins and Broncos at 4-1-1; the Eagles, Giants, and Bears at 4-1; and the Browns and 49ers at 4-2.

Bankroll updates

I went 2-2 last Saturday with my college football selections for a net loss of 0.2 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1). The wins were on Iowa pulling an outright 33-7 upset of Ohio State as a 1 1/2-point underdog and North Carolina State also winning straight up, 13-3, as a 3-point dog at Maryland.

The losses were on Arizona State +11 in a lopsided 45-7 loss to Southern Cal (and it wasn't even that close) and on Purdue, which was a 7-point favorite and led Wisconsin 17-7 in the fourth quarter before giving up two late touchdowns to lose, 20-17. For the season, college bankroll plays are still slightly ahead at 14-11 for a net profit of 1.9 units.

My comeback in the NFL continued with another 4-1 record on Sunday. The lone loss was on the Panthers +8 1/ 2 in a 30-8 loss to the Eagles. The wins were on the Packers +2 vs. the Lions (an easy outright upset at 38-10), Chargers +5 1/2 vs. the Falcons (a 21-20 non-spread-covering win by Atlanta), the Steelers +3 vs. the Cowboys (a 24-20 outright win), and the Broncos -2 vs. the Raiders (an easy 31-3 victory). For the season, my NFL bankroll plays are 14-15-1 for a net loss of 2.5 units.