11/28/2005 1:00AM

Faulty logic 101 says NFL dogs are due


Go into any casino and stand near a roulette table with one of those monitors that show the recent numbers. If, let's say, "red" comes up four or five times, invariably someone will walk up, plop some cash on "black" and proclaim something to the effect that "black is due."

People do this all the time, even though the next spin is a random event and has about the same 50-50 chance of flipping a coin (not counting the 0 and 00) and is no more likely to be black after a run of red than it is if black has come up multiple times in a row.

Sports bettors often think the same way. On "The Simpsons," after losing a bet against the Harlem Globetrotters, Krusty the Klown kvetched "I thought the Generals were due."

The mantra in the books and on local sports talk radio shows has been that the NFL dogs are due to start barking. Favorites have been covering in the NFL at a record rate. Sports books here have been getting buried, and professional bettors and wise guys have fared poorly. So would this past weekend, with a full slate of 16 pro games, be the week that the dogs started covering and evening the slate?

Not by a longshot.

By halftime of the early games, around 11:30 a.m. Vegas time, things looked promising for underdogs bettors: As the clock struck noon here in Vegas, the Texans, 3 1/2-point underdogs vs. the Rams, were leading 20-3; the Redskins, 3 1/2-point dogs to the Chargers, led 10-7; the 49ers, 9-point dogs to the Titans, led 14-9; the Bears, 3-point dogs vs. the Bucs, led 10-3; and the Bills, 3 1/2-point dogs vs. the Panthers, led 6-3.

That's five of the eight early games, and even with the Bengals, Chiefs, and Vikings on the way to blowouts of the Ravens, Patriots and Browns, respectively, it looked like this might finally be the week that the dogs had their day. But then the clock struck noon and all heck broke loose.

* The Titans turned around their game first, outscoring the 49ers 21-0 in the third quarter on the way to a 33-22 win and cover.

* The Rams looked dead in the water, trailing 27-17 with 2:49 remaining and rookie third-string quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald in the game. But they scored a quick touchdown, recovered an onside kick, and kicked a field goal to send the game to overtime. Most NFL overtime games end on field goals, so bettors holding tickets on the Texans +3 1/2 still had to feel reasonably confident with the Texans receiving the opening kickoff, but they had to punt and then Kevin Curtis took a Fitzgerald screen pass and rambled 56 yards for the TD, the 33-27 win and cover.

* The result of the Chargers-Redskins game was no less shocking. The Skins went up 17-7 late in the third quarter and seemed to repel every San Diego threat, but the Chargers rallied to force overtime. Again, most people were expecting the game to be decided by a field goal, but LaDainian Tomlinson broke free for a 41-yard run on the second play of OT for the 23-17 win and cover.

* The Bills and Panthers continued their field-goal battle until Carolina, trailing 9-6, finally got a touchdown pass with 2:16 remaining to win and cover, 13-9.

* The Bears were the only underdog to hold on as they beat the Buccaneers 13-3. But when all the dust had settled, favorites had covered 7 of the 8 early games, and if you include the Thanksgiving Day games with the Falcons blowing out the Lions and the Broncos winning 24-21 in overtime to cover the 2 1/2-point spread against the Cowboys, favorites were 9-1 after the first 10 games of the weekend.

And the sports books couldn't take much solace in the Bears' win, as the Bears had their share of support.

The afternoon games helped the books a little, especially the Dolphins upsetting the Raiders 33-21 as 7-point underdogs. In addition to a lot of side bettors loading up on the Raiders, that result also killed a lot of parlays and teasers. Teasers are a bet in which you can move the line 6, 6 1/2, or 7 points in your favor on two or more games. The payoffs are lower, but they're easier to hit. The team that covers the spread is also a winner on a teaser bet, but the books really get hurt when a lot of games land within 6 or 7 points of the spread because then people win those teasers no matter which side they choose. For instance, in the five games detailed above, all five were winners for all teaser bettors. In addition to the Dolphins-Raiders game, the only other games that weren't won by both sides were the Chiefs' 26-16 win over the Patriots as 3-point favorites and the Vikings' 24-12 win over the Browns.

Early line moves

This weekend's college football schedule offers an interesting mix of conference championships and traditional rivalries.

At the Stardust, Northern Illinois opened as a 12-point favorite over Akron in Thursday's MAC title game and got bet to -13. Texas also took early action in Saturday's Big 12 title game, being bet from -27 to -27 1/2 vs. Colorado.

In the game involving the Longhorns' likely opponent in the Rose Bowl, USC opened as a 20-point favorite over UCLA at the Stardust and got bet to -21. The Stratosphere had opened the line at 22 and it also got bet to 21, which was the consensus line around town as of noon Monday.

In the annual Army-Navy game, the Stratosphere opened Navy at 7 1/2 and it was bet to 7, which was the opening line posted by the Stardust.

In the NFL, there were some differences of opinion between the oddsmakers. At the Imperial Palace, the Lions opened as a 1 1/2-point favorite over the Vikings at 4 p.m. Sunday. When the Hilton put up its lines at 4:30 p.m., it had the Vikings -1 1/2, then the Stratosphere went with -1 at 5 p.m. and the Stardust made the Vikings -2 1/2 at 5:30. By noon Monday, after the announcement that Detroit coach Steve Mariucci had been fired, the line was pretty much 3 everywhere.

There was also a change of favorites in the Broncos-Chiefs game. The IP and Stratosphere both made the Chiefs a 1-point favorite at home, but the Broncos were bet to favoritism and by noon Monday the consensus line was Broncos -1 1/2.

The only other multi-point move was in the Cardinals-49ers matchup. The Hilton and Stratosphere both opened the Cards -1 while the Stardust opened at -3 1/2. By Monday, it was a solid 3 everywhere.

Excalibur resumes free contest

When Hollywood Park stopped running Wednesday cards, Excalibur race book manager Eddie Malinowski said he would suspend the free weekly contest until the opening of the Santa Anita meet. But in the course of telling his regular customers, he found out how popular the contests were.

"They're back by popular demand," Malinowski said.

Contestants pick a horse to win and a quinella in each race, with points determined by the pari-mutuel payoffs.

With no Southern California racing on Wednesdays the next few weeks, Malinowski said he will use the cards at Golden Gate on the next three Wednesdays through Dec. 14, the Turf Paradise card on Dec. 21, and then Santa Anita on Dec. 28.