08/07/2001 11:00PM

Fish and bettors fried in opener

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The first big betting result of the football season went to the bookmakers when the Rams beat the Dolphins, 17-10, Monday night in the exhibition-season opener.

Most Nevada sports books had opened the game as the Rams -4, but when St. Louis coach Mike Martz was quoted as saying he would treat his team's first of five preseason games as a scrimmage, bettors jumped on the Dolphins. In 48 hours, the line moved all the way to the Dolphins -3.

If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Fortunately, I didn't fall into that trap and passed on the game. After all, there's always another opportunity right around the corner, and guess what . . . there's 15 preseason games this weekend, starting with three on Friday night.

The bankroll: Starting preseason bankroll: 100 units. Last week: 3-0, +30 units. Current bankroll: 130 units.

Friday's picks

Panthers at Jaguars (-4): The Jaguars usually knock around the Panthers in their annual expansion bowl. Neither Jeff Lewis nor Chris Weinke have started a pro game (unless you count Florida State), and they're battling for the starting QB job for Carolina. Also, Panthers coach George Seifert has a history of coasting in Week 1 of the preseason and picking up the pace in Week 2. This line was between 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 in Las Vegas earlier in the week, but after being as low as 4 at offshore books, the money has come in on the Panthers. As of Wednesday morning it was 4 at Caesars Palace and the Mirage. I'll take advantage of the line move and wager 11 units (to win 10) on the Jaguars -4

Bengals (+2 1/2) at Lions: For years, many handicappers loved the angle of betting a team that has a game under its belt vs. a first-timer, but that's not why I like the Bengals (besides, teams in this spot are 6-12 against the spread in the last three years). What I do like is the effort they put forth in their loss to the Bears. In addition, the Lions are banged up and will have a hard time with their timing in their new West Coast offense. I'll wager 11 units on the Bengals +2 1/2.

Giants at Patriots (under 34 1/2): I have no opinion on the side, but I see a low-scoring game, even though the Giants are 8-2 on the over in the last 10 preseason openers. The Giants will be without Tiki Barber, and you know Ron Dayne won't play the whole game. The Patriots have had a rough camp with the off-field woes of receiver Terry Glenn, and Tuesday's practice was canceled after the death of quarterbacks coach Dick Rehbein. Neither team will be clicking on offense. I'll wager 11 units on under 34 1/2.