11/30/2001 1:00AM

Flutie in his element when it rains


Chilly weather is a hot topic when rain, wind, snow, or freezing temperatures affect an NFL game.

To what degree should you let it into your handicapping equation? I wish there was a cut-and-dried answer. In inclement weather, some bettors will take the under because they figure the game will be sloppy with very little scoring. Others will say the receivers know where they're going while the DB's don't, so this can lead to high-scoring games. In addition, slick conditions can lead to fumbles and easy defensive TD's.

As I've written before, each game must be looked at on its own merits. Weather doesn't always affect the outcome, but it has to be taken into consideration.

Chargers (+3) at Seahawks

We'll start with one game in which the weather could play a big role. Heavy rains are predicted all weekend long in the Seattle area, with the temperature in the upper 30's around game time Sunday. One would think that the bad weather would help the hometown Seattle squad and hinder the team from sunny San Diego, but I think the X-factor will be Chargers QB Doug Flutie. Flutie excelled in the Canadian Football League in bad-weather games and spent the last few years in Buffalo. The Chargers, who have lost six of their last seven games against the spread after a fast start, must win here to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Their next two games are against the Eagles and Raiders. The Seahawks are also in the playoff hunt, but the weather is more likely to slow down their offense and aid the Chargers' defense.

Play: Chargers for 22 units.

Buccaneers (-5 1/2) at Bengals

Sunday's forecast calls for the temperature to be in the mid-50's in Cincinnati, so we don't have to worry about the Bucs' 0-20 record when the temp is below 40 degrees. The Bucs are about to make their annual playoff run after a poor start. Their five losses (to the Vikings, Titans, Packers, Steelers, Bears) were by a combined 18 points, and they should carry the momentum from Monday night's win over the Rams. The Bengals were a pleasant surprise early, but it's finally dawned on them that they don't have a quality quarterback among Jon Kitna, Scott Mitchell and Akili Smith.

Play: Bucs for 11 units.

Colts (+7) at Ravens

The Colts have certainly fallen from the NFL elite, and I was certainly glad I took the 49ers against them last week, but they haven't fallen so far that they should be a touchdown underdog to anyone, even the defending champs. The Ravens' defense is nowhere near as good as last year's, and the offense is doing it with mirrors. The Colts can't stop anybody on defense, either, but Peyton Manning is due for a stellar game, and I'll side with him (at least to stay within a TD) in a shootout.

That also puts me on the game to go over 43 points.

Play: Colts for 11 units, and over 43 for 11 units.

Patriots (+3) at Jets

The Jets' offense has been nonexistent this year (ranking 27th in the league) with the exception of RB Curtis Martin. The Patriots should be able to contain him, and they have fared well against pocket passers such as Peyton Manning, Chris Chandler, and Rob Johnson. Vinny Testaverde falls into that category. RB Antowain Smith has also been a workhorse for the Patriots, though QB Tom Brady is getting most of the ink. Both teams will try running the ball, and that will milk the clock and shorten the game, so I like it to go under the total of 38. The Jets won the first meeting 10-3 in Foxboro, but the Patriots had a fumble and a [Drew Bledsoe] interception in the end zone in the second half. The Pats are taking much better care of the ball since losing their first two games and three of their first four. Their only losses since then are to the Broncos and Rams.

Play: Patriots for 11 units, and under 38 for 11 units.

Starting bankroll: 1,000 units.

Bankroll entering this week: 929 units.

Thursday's result: 1-0, profit of

10 units on Eagles -3 over Chiefs.

Current bankroll: 939 units.