10/03/2007 11:00PM

Five NFL teams still unbeaten (vs. spread)

EmailLAS VEGAS – It's hard to believe the NFL regular season is already a quarter of the way over as all but the four teams that had a bye last week have played four of their 16 games.

So now is a good time to look at how teams are faring not only in the standings but also against the oddsmakers' lines. The accompanying chart ranks each team by its record against the spread ("ATS" in the middle column). While four games is a short sample, it can give bettors some clues as to what teams the oddsmakers have yet to make the proper adjustments on when setting the lines.

As most people know, the Patriots, Cowboys, and Packers are all 4-0 both straight up and against the spread. But what most casual observers probably don't know is that the Cardinals, despite a 2-2 overall record, are also 4-0 against the spread, and the Titans are undefeated ATS at 3-0. Of course, oddsmakers are adjusting on these teams as we speak and the Patriots are a whopping -16 vs. the Browns this week, the Cowboys are -10 vs. the Bills, and the Packers are -3 vs. the Bears (just three weeks ago in advance lines available at the Las Vegas Hilton, the Bears were -3 in this game). Even the Cardinals are -3 1/2 vs. the Rams.

The Colts are 4-0 straight up, but only in the middle of the pack at 2-2 against the spread as they failed to cover in their wins over the Titans and Texans. The latter line was -6 at a lot of books and resulted in a push for a lot of bettors, but for the sake of consistency, I'm using the closing lines at the Hilton, where the Colts-Texans line closed at 6 1/2.

The Rams, Bears, Broncos, and Ravens have all disappointed bettors every week and are all 0-4 against the spread, with the Saints at 0-3. The Dolphins have also yet to cover, but they do have two pushes.

The final column in the chart shows each team's record with the over/under, and even though they're not listed in order, we can see that the Browns and Raiders, two teams that were expected to have decent defenses and woeful offenses, are both 4-0 with the over. Don't you wish you had known this back in Week 3 when the two teams met with a total of 41 and the Raiders won 26-24? The Raiders are idle this week, but the Browns are playing the Patriots - who are in a group at 3-1 with the over - with a total of 48.

The Rams, who were expected to have a high-scoring offense and swiss-cheese defense, are 4-0 with the under. The Redskins and Titans are 3-0 with the under while the Vikings are 3-0-1 after pushing last week. The Vikings are idle this week, but the Rams-Cardinals game has a total of 40, the Lions-Redskins is 46 (but beware the Lions are 3-1 with the over) and the Titans-Falcons is 40 1/2.

NFL-wide betting trends

Underdogs have been barking through the first four weeks at 35-22-5 against the spread (61 percent), and that's especially impressive since they were 6-9-1 in the first week. Home dogs have been especially potent as they are not only 14-7 against the spread (67 percent) but also have won 11 of those 21 games straight up, many at juicy money-line prices. After offering nine home dogs last week (the public went 6-3 both straight up and against the spread), the schedule has only four home dogs this week - the Chiefs +2 1/2 vs. the Jaguars, Rams +3 1/2 vs. the Cardinals, 49ers +3 1/2 vs. the Ravens, and the Bills +10 vs. the Cowboys.

* Another favorite subset of mine in the NFL is double-digit underdogs, but they haven't fared as well in the early going as they are only 1-4 against the spread with the Chiefs' win over the Chargers last week being the first one to cash. But double-digit dogs will get a chance to rebound this week with the Browns +16 vs. the Patriots, the Buccaneers +10 vs. the Colts, and Bills +10 vs. the Cowboys. Even though the big dogs haven't had much bite, mid-range dogs - which I define as those more than a touchdown and less than double digits - or from +7 1/2 to +9 1/2 underdogs - are 5-2 against the spread. This week's only mid-range dog is the Falcons +8 vs. the Titans, though the Colts-Bucs might fall into this category as some books have moved to 9 1/2.

o Conventional wisdom says the AFC is far superior to the NFC, but the NFC has been holding its own in interleague play as the games have been split 8-8 overall and the NFC holding a slight edge of 7-6-3 against the spread. But an argument can be made that the AFC hasn't shown its dominance yet as the Patriots have yet to play an NFC team and the Colts are just 1-0 with the win over the Saints. An interesting thing to note is that the AFC teams that are over .500 in the standings (Colts, Patriots, Steelers, Jaguars, and Titans) are a combined 4-1 against the NFC while the teams under .500 (Bengals, Jets, Bills, Chargers, and Dolphins) are a combined 1-4. The six teams that are 2-2 overall are a combined 3-3 vs. the NFC. So, if you still think the AFC is superior and the cream will rise to the top, there would be six interconference plays this week: The Titans -8 vs. the Falcons, Steelers -6 vs. the Seahawks, Jets +3 1/2 vs. the Giants, Colts -10 vs. the Buccaneers, the Ravens -3 1/2 vs. the 49ers, and Bills +10 vs. the Cowboys. Personally, I'll back the NFC with the Falcons, Seahawks, and Bucs.

* On a side note to the AFC/NFC debate, the line on the Super Bowl that is up at many Vegas sports books. It was around AFC -5 during the summer and is now around -8 and as high as -9 (at the Wynn Las Vegas) with the Cowboys' impressive start probably the only thing keeping it from being double digits.

o One last betting note, the Wynn has a proposition wager that asks if any NFL teams will go either undefeated or winless. It opened at -1500 on the "no" with +1000 on the "yes" and was adjusted this past weekend to -1700 on the "no" and +1100 on the "yes" after the Falcons and Bills got off the schnied last week. The undefeated teams are the Patriots, Colts, Cowboys, and Packers, though there are some elimination games as the Pats play both the Colts and the Cowboys. Among the winless teams (the Dolphins, Saints, and Rams), the Saints and Rams also play each other.

NFL Betting Standings

Team (record)ATSO/U

Patriots (4-0)4-03-1

Cowboys (4-0)4-03-1

Packers (4-0)4-01-2-1

Cardinals (2-2)4-02-2

Titans (2-1)3-0 0-3

Steelers (3-1)3-12-2

Buccaneers (3-1)3-11-3

Browns (2-2)3-14-0

Texans (2-2) 3-1 3-1

Lions (3-1)2-1-13-1

Seahawks (3-1)2-1-11-3

Chiefs (2-2)2-1-11-3

Vikings (1-3)1-1-20-3-1

Redskins (2-1) 1-1-10-3

Colts (4-0)2-22-2

Raiders (2-2)2-24-0

Panthers (2-2)2-22-2

Giants (2-2)2-2 1-3

Falcons (1-3)2-22-2

Bills (1-3)2-21-3

Jaguars (2-1)1-21-2

Jets (1-3)1-2-12-2

Bengals (1-3)1-2-12-2

49ers (2-2)1-31-3

Chargers (1-3) 1-33-1

Eagles (1-3)1-31-3

Dolphins (0-4)0-2-23-1

Saints (0-3)0-31-2

Ravens (2-2)0-43-1

Broncos (2-2)0-43-1

Bears (1-3)0-42-2

Rams (0-4)0-40-4

 

SU – straight-up record; ATS – against the spread; O/U – over/under; records based on closing lines at Las Vegas Hilton; chart courtesy of ViewFromVegas.com.