12/22/2009 12:00AM

Feeling good about the Colts? Not so fast


The Colts are the only undefeated team left in the NFL after the Saints lost to the Cowboys last Saturday night. Not only do they have the best overall record, at 14-0, they also have the best record against the spread at 10-4 (71.4 percent and a net profit of 5.6 units if risking 1.1 units on all of their games).

The 49ers had the best ATS record until their non-covering, 27-13 loss at Philadelphia last Sunday; they are now 8-4-2 ATS (66.7 percent and plus 3.6 units). The Packers covered the 3-point closing spread vs. the Steelers last Sunday despite their last-second 37-36 loss. The Packers have given backers a 9-4-1 record (69.2 percent).

The hottest teams against the spread have been the Colts and the surprising Browns, with five covers in a row. I've gone on record, however, as saying that the Colts are frauds and will stumble along the way because they can't stop the run. Their win last week over the Jaguars was just the latest example.

They won 35-31, barely covering the 3 1/2-point spread. It was the fifth straight game in which they were short of covering late in the game (and losing outright in most of them) before pulling out the win and cover. I'll be betting against them in the playoffs, where they probably will face the Patriots and Chargers, and maybe even this week against the Jets and their strong running game.

The Packers, still in control of their playoff destiny, have covered four in a row.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Steelers pulled out the victory over the Packers and got back to 7-7 in the standings to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, but they fell into a tie with the Bears for the worst record against the spread at 4-10 (28.6 percent and a net loss of 7 units). The Bears have dropped a league-worst seven straight games against the spread.

The Lions got out of the cellar in their spread-covering, 31-24 loss to the Cardinals, so they improved to 4-9-1. The Seahawks, Chiefs, Buccaneers, and Jaguars have also been bad bets at 5-9.

* Underdogs went 11-5 against the spread in Week 15. This was beginning to look like Year of the Favorite II (after 2005, when favorites hit 58 percent for the whole season) when chalk was 36-26 (58 percent) through the first four weeks, but underdogs have gone 90-69-3 (56.6 percent) in the last 11 weeks to hold an overall 116-105-3 advantage.

Double-digit underdogs have made a similar turnaround. After going 5-11 against the spread in the first seven weeks of the season, when most people were building the case that parity was dead in the NFL, double-digit dogs are 21-13-1 ATS (61.8 percent) and are actually ahead for the season at 26-24-1.

Back to the NFL betting board

Bankroll plays went 3-0 last week as I had the Cowboys over the Saints on Saturday night and the Browns over the Chiefs and Bengals vs. the Chargers on Sunday. I've got three more underdogs for this Sunday as we try to finish the regular season on a roll.

Buccaneers +14 1/2 vs. Saints

Based on my above comments, you know I have to land on a double-digit underdog. The Saints are coming off having their perfect-season bubble burst (we call this an anti-swagger play on my Website) with their loss to the Cowboys. They can still clinch home-field throughout the NFC playoffs with a win, but they just need the win - asking them to cover by more than two touchdowns is asking too much. They've failed to cover three straight, including their wins over the Redskins and Falcons in which they did not cover. Add to that the fact the Buccaneers are coming off a confidence-building, 24-7 upset of the Seahawks, and you have a very live underdog.

PLAY: Buccaneers for 1 unit.

Jaguars +7 1/2 vs. Patriots

The Jaguars have lost two straight close games to the Dolphins and Colts, but this looks like a good spot, especially against the spread and against a Patriots team that lately hasn't impressed. They did cover last week in a lackluster 17-10 win over the Bills, but just barely - the consensus closing line around Las Vegas was -6 1/2, though several books had the line at -7. Before that, they had a non-covering win over the Panthers and back-to-back straight-up losses to the Saints and Dolphins. The Jaguars can keep this close.

PLAY: Jaguars for 1 unit.

Ravens +2 1/2 vs. Steelers

I also mentioned the Steelers' 4-10 ATS record above, so that's enough to look to bet against them. One thing you're going to hear leading up to this game is how the Ravens beat the Steelers, 20-17, in Week 12 and how it's hard to beat a divisional rival twice. But don't believe it. In fact, in divisional rematches this year, the team that won the first meeting has gone 23-11 (67.6 percent) against the spread in the rematch. Often, a team is just better than its rival. The Ravens are more balanced and should hold on to their wild-card lead.

PLAY: Ravens for 1 unit.

Last week: 3-0 for a net profit of 3 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). Season record: 26-21, including 2-2 on 2-unit plays, for a net profit of 2.8 units.