09/16/2002 11:00PM

Eagles backers survive pepper spray scare


LAS VEGAS - When the Eagles cleared their bench with 6:38 remaining in Monday night's NFL game against the Redskins and walked onto the field clutching their throats, ABC broadcaster Al Michaels echoed the fears of many American viewers who thought it might be an act of terrorism.

But football bettors had other thoughts. Just 16 days earlier, the lights went out at Sam Boyd Stadium with 7:41 to play and Wisconsin leading UNLV 27-7 on national television. That game was called (amid conspiracy theories that a big UNLV bettor had cut the power, or that the sports books were behind it, since they stood to lose more on Wisconsin), giving a lot of novice bettors a lesson in the rule that football games must reach the 55-minute mark for them to be official for wagering purposes.

With slightly more than a minute and a half to go before Monday night's game would become official, bettors thought "here we go again" - especially those with tickets on the Eagles, who were leading 37-7. Redskins bettors were looking for a reprieve.

It turned out it was not terrorism but pepper spray, used by a security guard to break up a fight in the stands, and the game continued after a short delay.

Michaels usually doesn't miss the chance to make a gambling reference. In fact, when play resumed, the Eagles continued driving for another score as they were running out the clock. The over/under on the game opened at 45 1/2 and it had been bet down to 44 1/2 at most books and even 44 at a few, so there was a lot more money bet on the under.

When faced with fourth down inside the Redskins' 10-yard line with 1:15 to play, the Eagles sent the field-goal unit onto the field. Michaels said, "That'll make a lot of people happy," referring to bettors who had the over.

However, the Eagles called timeout and - despite the entire NFL coaching fraternity probably cheering for him to run up the score on Redskins coach Steve Spurrier - Philly coach Andy Reid opted instead to run the ball into the middle of the line and turn the ball over on downs.

Michaels quipped, "They didn't take it over the top" with an emphasis on the word "over."

Singing the bankroll blues

"Do as I say, not as I do." That's the appropriate response when I give out winning advice and then don't make a profit with my published bankroll.

In Sunday's NFL selections, I pointed out that oddsmakers had made totals high after the record scoring outburst in Week 1, and that bettors had bet them up even further. I made bankroll plays on the under in five games and went 3-2 for a 0.8-unit profit (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1). However, if I had just taken all the unders on the NFL card - since they were all shaded higher and thus offering value - I would have gone 10-6 on the week for a 3.4-unit profit.

In addition, in my NFL season previews on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, I wrote that the Broncos would be live underdogs against the Rams and 49ers in their first two games. But did I bet them in either game? No.

As it was, I went 3-4 on seven 1-unit plays on sides (winning with the Bucs, Saints and Eagles and losing with the Bengals, Titans, Texans, and Steelers) in addition to my 3-2 on totals to go 6-6 on NFL selections for a net loss of 0.6 units. My overall record on the NFL is now 9-11 for a net loss of -2.1 units.

In my college picks on Saturday, I wrote that my four underdog plays were also worthy of money-line consideration. But since money lines are less readily available for most bettors, I didn't include those in my bankroll. So instead of making a nice profit with California (a 2-unit play) and Notre Dame (1 unit) pulling outright upsets, I ended up showing a -0.3 loss on the day as Washington State (1 unit) and South Carolina (2 units) didn't cover, though South Carolina nearly made it a very profitable day nonetheless as the Gamecocks had a fourth-and-one at the Georgia 2-yard line in the closing seconds, but fell short of the upset in a 13-7 loss.

For the college season, I'm 3-8 for a net loss of 7 units.

But it's still early. I just have to listen to my own advice.

NFL betting trends

As mentioned above, the under was 10-6 in Week 2 after going 4-12 in the opening week. You would think that oddsmakers would adjust again and lower totals, but the early totals for this weekend's game look like they may still be shaded a little bit high.

Underdogs went 11-5 against the spread for the second straight week and are 22-10 on the young season.

Road teams also went 11-5 against the spread.

The bettors were on the winning side of nine of the 14 NFL pointspreads that moved, making for a losing NFL slate for bookmakers, especially when parlay bettors also had a good weekend.

One Strip bookmaker described it as "miserable" on Sunday afternoon, and it didn't get any better as the Raiders and Eagles covered in the primetime matchups on back-to-back nights.

Tracking team trends

The Jets have beaten the Dolphins eight straight times and are 7-0-1 against the spread against Miami the past four years. Oddsmakers say "trends, schmends." The Dolphins are a 6 1/2-point favorite over the Jets this Sunday.

Including last Sunday's loss at New Orleans, the Packers are 5-14 against the spread in their last 19 games on artificial turf. They are 8-point favorites this week at Detroit on that kind of surface.

The Browns were 8-0 with the under in away games last year, and they play their first road game this year on Sunday at Tennessee. The total is 38.

Michigan State has defeated Notre Dame five straight times, and six straight against the spread. The Spartans are only laying 1 1/2 points at home this Saturday.