01/10/2005 12:00AM

Colts take early money as underdogs

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The NFL didn't do the four bye teams any favors by scheduling the No. 4 vs. No. 5 games last Saturday, thus making everyone wait until Sunday's results to know who would be playing this weekend in the divisional playoffs.

It became clear early in the Colts-Broncos game that the Colts, seeded third in the AFC and leading 35-3 at halftime, were going to advance, so the sports books here in Nevada were able to have their AFC odds up shortly after noon local time, while the Colts game was still in the third quarter.

The NFC picture was cloudier much later as the Packers kept threatening to rally in the final game of the weekend, but once the Vikings prevailed, the NFC odds were posted and betting started in earnest for next weekend's games. Here's a look at how each game's odds got pounded into place:

Colts at Patriots: There was a difference of opinion by the bookmakers on this matchup. LVSC sent out the Patriots -3 with a total of 51. Most books, sensing rising sentiment among bettors on the high-flying Colts, posted the line at Pats -2 1/2. It seemed to be a wise move, as early money came in on the Colts. The line was as low as Pats -2 at the Coast properties on Sunday night. The Mirage was among those that opened the line at 3, but attached a -125 price (as opposed to the standard -110) for those wanting to take the Colts +3. The Mirage took money on Indy, but simply adjusted the line to +3 with a -130 premium while offering the Pats at -3 and +110. All other books that opened at 3 were at 2 1/2 by Monday morning. The total was moving up from 51 to 51 1/2 at most books and as high as 52 at the Imperial Palace.

Jets at Steelers: Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which supplies lines to the vast majority of the state's legal sports books, sent out the Steelers -9 with an over/under of 34 points. Most books went with those numbers, though the MGM Mirage properties and Harrah's/Rio opted for 9 1/2. The number was actually shaded even higher to 10 by Station Casinos (headed by Pittsburgh native Art Manteris - hmmmm). Stations took enough money to drive the line to 9 before it was raised back to 9 1/2. Coast Casinos, which opened at 9, had its line bet to 9 1/2, while the Stardust, which opened at 9 1/2, got bet to 9. As of Monday morning, the books were split pretty evenly between 9 and 9 1/2. The totals range from 34 (Imperial Palace) to 35 (Palms and Leroy's).

Rams at Falcons: LVSC sent out the Falcons -7 with a total of 47. Some books, including the Stardust, Caesars, and Harrah's/Rio, went with 6 1/2. All but Caesars were at 7 as of Monday morning. Most books shaded the total higher and went with 48, and that appeared to be the consensus total on the only matchup that isn't dependent on weather reports, though the Palms was dealing 49 on Monday.

Vikings at Eagles: LVSC sent out Eagles -9 1/2 and a total of 49 1/2. That's easily the most solid point spread of the week, as every book agreed with the 9 1/2. Most books shaded the total lower because of the possibility of inclement weather, but it had settled at 48 1/2 at just about every book as of noon Monday.

Wild-card results were pretty wild

In the previous eight years, home teams had gone 21-10-1 against the spread in the wild-card round, but this past weekend they were 1-3 both straight up and against the spread. So, it wasn't too much of a surprise that the public mostly backed the favorites and that the sports books had a good weekend, especially when you throw in the fact that the public generally likes to bet overs (the under went 3-1 as well).

The exception to both was the Colts' 49-24 win over the Broncos on Sunday, which was also the only game to come in with the popular favorite/over parlay. Dog/under cashed in the other three matchups.

The Rams' 27-20 win over the Seahawks on Saturday afternoon had fairly even action on both sides, so it wasn't a major decision, though some books were happy to see their early-season liability on the Seahawks get wiped clean from their future books.

The Jets' 20-17 overtime upset of the Chargers on Saturday night was huge for the books as the Chargers' bandwagon (they were 13-1-2 against the spread) came to a grinding halt. The Chargers were also a pretty big future-book liability, as their odds were in the 300-1 range at some books before the season started.

On Sunday, after the Colts' rout of the Broncos, the books completed a profitable weekend as the Vikings upset the Packers 31-17. While most books were cheering for a Vikings cover, others needed the outright win because a Packers non-covering victory would have still resulted in losses from those betting 6-point teasers. (Since the Packers were a 6- to 6 1/2-point favorite, they were a pick-em or 1/2-point favorite on those tickets.) The books also cleaned up on the total, which was bet from 49 to 53, but fell short after looking like it would fly over.

Bankroll continues winning form

While the majority of bettors had a tough weekend, my bankroll plays made it through the maze with a 3-1 mark for a net profit of 1.9 units (based on laying 1.1. to win 1).

My winners were on the Rams +4, the Jets +7, and the Packers-Vikings under 49 1/2, with my loser being on the Broncos +10.

For the year, that makes me 44-43-3 for a net loss of 3.3 units, though I'm 13-7 (65 percent) over the past four weeks for a profit of 5.3 units. Please refrain from doing the math to see how much I was down prior to this late run.