08/22/2001 12:00AM

Forget Browns, take the Colts


LAS VEGAS - Pro football players use the preseason to fine-tune their game, and handicappers have to do the same.

The past two weeks, I went against the Browns and lost both times as they beat the Packers 10-3 and the Buccaneers 7-6. That shows I have something to learn about the Browns, so I won't play their game against the Redskins Friday night.

After losing 20-0 to the Chiefs and 27-6 to the Falcons with quarterbacks Sage Rosenfels and Todd Husak (you're excused if you say, "Who?"), the Redskins are another puzzle to be solved. Jeff George threw well in practice Tuesday and might play Friday. Cowboys castoff Tony Banks is also expected to play, but there is just too much uncertainty.

However, I will be watching these two teams closely to see what I can learn for use during the regular season.

Colts (+3) at Vikings (under 44): Through Monday, only eight preseason games have gone over the total, and three of them have been played by these two teams, so it's no surprise that the total was posted at 44 (the first preseason total to exceed 40). However, I feel this total is an overadjustment. The Colts have two punt returns for touchdowns, and the Vikings have a defensive score, so unless some crazy things happen, this should land in the mid to upper 30's.

I'll risk 11 units (to win 10) on the under 44 and another 11 on the Colts +3. The bet on the Colts will also act as insurance on the under bet. If this game does become a shootout, I think the Colts have the edge in quarterback depth with Mark Rypien taking over the No. 2 role behind Peyton Manning.