12/02/2003 12:00AM

Football bettors thankful for last weekend's results

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LAS VEGAS - Football bettors had a lot to be thankful for last weekend. With most precincts reporting, the sports books in Las Vegas had a down weekend as bettors fattened up on a lot of games.

Thanksgiving Day got it started with bettors posting a small winning day, but it was nothing compared to Friday, which was a banner day for chalk players as favorites went 7-0 in the college games. It was more of the same on Saturday, as favorites went 13-7 with some well-backed underdogs also getting there, foremost among them being Hawaii bet from +6 vs. Alabama all the way down to +2 1/2 before winning 37-28 to award its many backers.

In addition, Tennessee opened as a 10-point favorite over Kentucky and was bet up to -14 at most books. The Vols won 23-10, causing the books to get middled by everyone who bet Tennessee minus anywhere from 10 to 12 points and/or Kentucky plus 14.

Sunday was also a losing day for the books, as the bettors were on the right side time and time again. The books were bailed out a little by the Jets winning 24-17 over the Titans, who had been bet from -1 1/2 to -3 by kickoff, on Monday night.

But there's no need to shed any tears for the bet-takers. They have the house edge, making bettors lay 11 units to win 10, and also a pretty high takeout on parlays. At the end of the season, they're still going to be holding between 3 and 5 percent on straight bets and over 20 percent on parlays.

It seems that I have been hearing more stories this year about big parlays getting hit, but I equate it to when you see a person hit a slot jackpot. You might think that would hurt the casino's bottom line, but look around and you'll notice hundreds - or thousand in bigger casinos - of people pumping their coins in machines. It's that slow grind that makes the money back for the casino, and then some. The same goes when you see a blackjack or craps table going wild - there are usually a dozen or so tables with less-than-exuberant players.

In the long run, the highs and lows even out for the casino and they pocket the house edge.

That's also true when we look at stats and trends in football betting. With very few exceptions, trends revert to 50 percent over the long haul. It only took 13 weeks in the NFL for many trends to even out.

* After going 7-21 through the first seven weeks of the season, home underdogs now actually hold a slight 26-25-3 advantage after ending up 4-1 last week - with pointspread wins by the Lions, Chargers, Jaguars, and Jets. The loss was by the Raiders. This week, it appears the only home dogs available will play on the Sunday and Monday night games with the Falcons +1 1/2 vs. the Panthers and the Browns +4 1/2 vs. the Rams.

* After favorites were winning at a 60 percent clip in the early weeks of the season, underdogs now have a 90-89-10 overall edge, after going 9-6 this past weekend (the Saints-Redskins game closed at pick-'em and is not included).

* Road teams were winning at nearly 60 percent over the first seven weeks, but now their lead is down to just 92-89-10.

* Totals were split 8-8 last week with unders now holding a slim 95-92-5 edge for the year.

* The only trend that I've been tracking that appears to be increasing is the AFC's dominance over the NFC. After going 4-1 both straight-up and against the spread last week, the AFC is now 24-16 (60 percent winner) against the spread with six pushes.

Hot and cold teams

While most teams' records against the spread also seem to gravitate toward the .500 mark, some continue to over- or under-achieve.

* The best bet in the NFL continues to be the Bills with the under, at 11-1 after last week's 24-7 win over the Giants, a game in which the points total was 35. This week, the total is 36 1/2 on the Bills game with the Jets. No other team in the league has hit more than eight unders.

* After going over in five of their last six games, the Rams are again the top "over" team in the league at 8-3-1. The Texans and Colts are 8-4.

* Even if the Patriots hadn't pulled off their impressive goal-line stand vs. the Colts in their 38-34 win last Sunday, they still would have covered and improved to 9-2-1 against the spread, tops in the NFL.

The Bengals are right behind at 9-3 with the Chiefs falling to 8-4 on Doug Flutie's last-second TD pass to get the backdoor cover for the Chargers in a 28-24 loss. Three teams that entered last week at 7-3-1 - the Titans, Colts and Cowboys - all lost.

* The Raiders' 22-8 loss to the Broncos dropped them to 2-9-1 against the spread. The Falcons and Giants are a game behind at 3-8-1.

College bankroll down, NFL up

There was bad news and good news for my college bankroll last weekend. The bad news is that I gave out losing selections on Virginia Tech and Alabama-Birmingham. The good news is that I lost only those two games.

In last Saturday's column, I wrote about how difficult it was for me to find games that I would have liked on a regular college weekend schedule instead of the abbreviated one we had last week. I mentioned that I nearly picked Mississippi on Thanksgiving Day, which would have been a winner, but that I also considered Colorado, Arizona, and Arkansas on Friday's card, all of which lost. On Saturday, I also passed on three more losers - Pittsburgh, TCU, and Fresno St. - and two winners - Missouri and Boise St.

All told, instead of my 0-2 record for a net loss of 2.2 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1), I very easily could have gone 3-8 for a net loss of 5.8 units. So, even though I'm not happy with my 0-2 record, I'm glad that I recognized that I didn't have a handle on the weekend card and exercised restraint. For the season, my college bankroll plays are 32-30 (51.6 percent) for a net loss of 1 unit.

* The news was much better for my NFL bankroll.

After splitting the games on Thanksgiving Day - winning with the Lions and losing with the Cowboys - I went 4-0 on Sunday with the Patriots, Bengals, Broncos, and Chargers all coming through.

The weekend ended with a loss on the Titans on Monday night, but I still went 5-2 for a net profit of 2.8 units. For the season, the NFL bankroll is now 38-28 (57.6 percent) with five pushes for a net profit of 7.2 units.