10/14/2009 11:00PM

Expect bigger spreads to help underdogs even the score


Five weeks into the NFL season, it's clear there is a wide gap between the haves and the have-nots.

The Giants, Vikings, Saints, Colts, and Broncos are undefeated. The Buccaneers, Rams, Chiefs, and Titans are winless. And most people think the Lions, Bills, Browns, and Raiders are lucky to have one win apiece.

But what has this meant for bettors, and what should bettors expect moving forward?

The sports books in Las Vegas have been getting knocked around pretty good this season, but it's not from the so-called wise guys. The general public, which tends to bet the favorites no matter the line, has been cleaning up as the good teams have beat up on the bad teams.

Through the first four weeks of the season, favorites were 36-26 (58 percent) against the spread. Double-digit favorites, a subset that was 9-22 last year and usually finishes below .500, were 5-2 (71 percent) against the spread.

In Week 5, oddsmakers made four of the 14 games with double-digit spreads - Vikings -10 vs. Rams, Eagles -15 vs. Buccaneers, Giants -15 vs. the Raiders and Steelers -10 1/2 vs. the Lions - and had a hard time finding anyone to bet the underdogs. Only the Lions covered; the Vikings, Eagles, and Giants rolled. Double-digit favorites are now 8-3 (72.7 percent).

The books - and underdog bettors - got some relief last weekend, when dogs went 8-6 ATS overall, but oddsmakers have continued to inflate some of these lines in an effort to balance the action.

I think we'll definitely see a reversal of fortune with more underdogs coming in moving forward. Hopefully, for my sake, that begins this week.

Vegas contest update

The leaderboards of the top football handicapping contests are full of new names. Most of the consistently good contest players tend to choose more underdogs than favorites, so they've had a harder time finding winners in the early going.

The leader of the prestigious Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest is entered under the name Cody Lubisky, with a record of 19-6. Four players, using aliases of Jelly Donuts, Big Lib, Sean Lenahan and Eddie Money, are at 18-8; nine are at 17-8; and 19 are at 16-9. So the contest is wide open.

For those already out of the running - or for those who just want another jackpot to shoot at - Leroy's is offering a midseason edition of its Three N Out contest starting with the NFL games of Oct. 25-26 and running through the Super Bowl. Entries cost $25 with a limit of five per person, and you make one side or total play against the Leroy's contest lines.

Unlike other survivor-type contests, you're not eliminated until your entry loses three games, hence the name "Three N Out."

I'm partial to this contest - I was co-champion in the inaugural contest the second half of last year and won $3,700. The deadline to enter at any Leroy's is 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24.

Back to the bankroll

With more underdogs cashing last week, I posted a winning week, going 2-1 with wins on the Bengals +8 vs. the Ravens (my 2-unit play) and the Redskins +3 1/2 vs. the Panthers. I lost with the Raiders +15 vs. the Giants. I'll look for the underdogs to continue their turnaround this Sunday.

Ravens +3 vs. Vikings

Minnesota is 5-0 and a media darling because of Brett Favre's hot start. A lot of people are saying Favre isn't forcing the ball into coverage, but I've seen him do it many times, and he's gotten away with it. It'll be harder to get away with vs. the Ravens, whose pass rush should force Favre into errors. I've also noticed a lot of slow-developing running plays from the Vikings, and Baltimore's pursuit will minimize running back Adrian Peterson's effectiveness. Add in the Ravens' improved offense, and I predict they pull the slight upset here.

PLAY: Ravens for 1 unit.

Chiefs +6 vs. Redskins

I've been down on the Redskins all year, winning three straight bets against them before picking them last week vs. the Panthers. Winning with them last week didn't change my opinion; it was more of a bet against the Panthers laying more than a field goal. I'm back against them. The Redskins don't deserve to be favored by this many points over anyone. The Chiefs are winless, but they're 2-3 against the spread, so they've been at least competitive in most of their games.

PLAY: Chiefs for 1 unit.

Lions +13 1/2 vs. Packers

You would think I would have learned my lesson from losing with the double-digit underdog last week, but the key lesson was to not back the Raiders. The Lions got the job done last week by covering against the Steelers, and I think they can do the same here. The Lions have played great early in games. They were in it through halftime against the Saints, Vikings, and Bears before getting blown out late. You might consider a first-half wager on the Lions +7 1/2 here. But still, I think they can stay in it the whole game against a Green Bay team that hasn't played consistent enough to be favored by this much.

PLAY: Lions for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-1, including 1-0 on my 2-unit play, for a net profit of 1.9 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1 unit). Season record: 7-10 for a net loss of 4 units.