12/16/2010 3:28PM

Four NFL teams have beaten the point spread most of the season

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In sports betting circles, we often talk about regression to the mean, especially as it pertains to trends.

The point spread is the great equalizer, as it’s designed to balance out the wagering on the favorite and underdog and make every game a theoretical 50/50 proposition in which the house keeps its vig. So, when word spreads about a particular trend, the oddsmakers see and read everything that the rest of us do and they eventually tweak the numbers to the point where there is no longer value (and often reverses the trend and making it a losing proposition going forward).

Now, that’s an oversimplification of what goes on as there are countless factors that go into making a line on a given game, but I hope it makes the point.

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This comes to mind because this was looking like the Year of the Underdog in the NFL as dogs were flirting with 60 percent after the first month of the season, but as we sit here with three weeks to go, dogs are just 106-93-6 against the spread, slightly more than 53 percent.

The oddsmakers have also done a good job of making individual teams a coin-flip as 15 of the league’s 32 teams are within a game of .500 against the spread (all the teams between 7-6 and 6-7, with four teams at exactly .500).

However, there are a few teams the oddsmakers haven’t quite caught up with yet. There are four teams (Jaguars, Falcons, Lions, and Rams) tied for the best ATS record at 9-4, with the Jaguars on a league-best six-game covering streak and the Falcons cashing for their backers in five straight games. On the other end of the spectrum, the Panthers have the worst spread record of 3-10 to go with their league-worst 1-12 straight-up mark.

One trend the oddsmakers haven’t been able to reverse – yet – has been totals as overs are hitting at 56-percent clip at 114-89-5. Eighteen teams have a better record with the over, led by the Patriots and Cowboys at 11-2 with the Cowboys going over in 10 straight games. The Packers have the best under record at 9-4, which is surprising since most people thought they were going to have one of the best offenses in the league (but oddsmakers have shaded their totals higher from the start, plus the Packers have underachieved).

Race and sports book notes

Before getting to the NFL plays this weekend, let’s catch up on some other race and sports book news:

◗ The college bowl season kicks off Saturday with a tripleheader. One of the most intriguing bowl games this year is right here next Wednesday, Dec. 22, with Boise State –17 vs. Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Broncos are saying all the right things about being excited about playing here, but just a few weeks removed from dreaming of playing in the national championship game or another lucrative BCS bowl, no one is buying it. In fact, I would rather buy Utah +17.

◗ After “The Decision” when LeBron James announced he was taking his talents to Miami, the Heat were made heavy favorites to win the NBA title. After their slow start, they dropped to the second choice behind the two-time defending champion L.A. Lakers. However, the Heat ran off nine straight wins heading into Friday night’s game vs. the Knicks at Madison Square Garden and are playing more like the team everyone expected them to be, and they have regained the top spot in the Las Vegas Hilton’s futures at 9-5 with the Lakers at 5-2.

◗ On Tuesday, the South Point will host a meet-and-greet with jockey Garrett Gomez at 9 a.m. hosted by Raceday Las Vegas radio host Ralph Siraco. The venue will also have a free $1,000 handicapping contest on that day’s races.

Back to the betting board

I went 1-1 last week with a loss on the Rams +9 vs. the Saints and a win on the Cowboys +3 1/2 vs. the Eagles. I went 1-4 with my Hilton SuperContest plays, so no regrets about not using all my plays like I had the previous week when going 5-0.

Jaguars +5 vs. Colts

If this play looks familiar, it’s probably because I have taken the Jaguars in this match-up five times in the past three seasons. The Jags are 3-2 ATS in those games and, in my opinion, outplayed the Colts and should have won the other two games in which they failed to cover by a combined 3 points. Obviously, the Jags match up well vs. the Colts with Maurice Jones-Drew pounding out the yards on the ground and allowing David Garrard to excel off play-action. Even though the Jaguars are playing their best ball in years (and beat the Colts, 31-28, earlier this season), bettors continues to bet the public Colts, so we are getting more than a field goal with the team that’s playing better right now.

PLAY: Jaguars for 1 unit.

Lions +5 1/2 vs. Buccaneers

As stated above, the Lions are among the best teams against the spread this year (and some people have them at 10-3 as they were +2 1/2 vs. the Browns a few weeks ago in earlier betting when the line closed 1 1/2 and they lost, 14-12. The Bucs have also been a pleasant surprise, but I have to fade them in the favorite’s role here with a Detroit team that battles to the end and is coming off a confidence-building upset of the Packers.

PLAY: Lions for 1 unit.

Last week: 1-1 for a loss of 0.1 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 23-17 for a net profit of 4.3 units.