09/08/2003 11:00PM

Future wagers aren't only for horses


LAS VEGAS - Sometimes when watching an NFL game, I'll hear comments such as, "I knew they were going to blow them out. That's going to inflate the line on next week's game."

The Imperial Palace sports book gives bettors the opportunity to profit from such a prediction. The IP takes bets on NFL games more than a week in advance, posting lines 12 days ahead, by Tuesday afternoon. For example, this past Tuesday, the IP posted lines for the games of Sept. 21-22. The lines will come down when the Sunday games kick off, and then they are readjusted after the afternoon games conclude, usually around 4:30 p.m.

If you can get down on a hot team (or against a cold team), you can find some value. Think of it as making a future bet on a horse before it runs a big prep race. You can lock in your price before everyone gets on the bandwagon.

"We get a good combination of wise guy and tourist money on our early lines," said Jay Kornegay, the IP's race and sports book director. "We write more tickets from tourists and get a lot of positive feedback, like 'I won't be around later Sunday to get next week's lines at most books, so it's great to get my bet down now,' or 'I'm going to that game.'

"But we also get the smart money coming in to see if there's any bargains. That's where we'll take our bigger bets."

Some examples for this Sunday's games: You could have had the Lions +8 1/2 vs. the Packers instead of the current +6 1/2, the 49ers +5 1/2 vs. the Rams instead of +3, the Broncos PK vs. the Chargers instead of -3, and the Vikings -6 vs. the Bears instead of -8 1/2. Of course, if you had figured last Sunday's games wrong, you would be stuck with a bad number, but that's part of the gamble.

As for the games of Sept. 21, the Colts are -7 vs. the Jaguars. If you think the Colts might struggle vs. the Titans this Sunday and that the Jaguars will continue to play well vs. the Bills, there might be value in taking the Jaguars +7. On the other hand, if you think the Bills are for real and will blow out the Jaguars, you might want to consider the Bills +4 1/2 at the Dolphins on the night of Sept. 21, especially if you think the Dolphins' loss to the Texans wasn't a fluke. That line could easily drop to +3.

Last week's betting results

In the opening weekend of the NFL season, favorites went 9-5-1 against the spread (the Rams-Giants game closed at pick-em, so that isn't included), but it was the favorites that lost outright that had everyone talking. The Dolphins, a 13 1/2- to 14-point favorite over the Texans, lost 21-20. Las Vegas sports books made a killing on that game, because in addition to bettors backing the Dolphins in straight bets, a ton of parlay cards and teasers included the Dolphins. In addition, while some offshore books had a money line (-1100 on the Dolphins to win straight up, with the Texans at +800) on the game, most Vegas books don't offer a money line if an NFL line is 10 points or higher. Those tend to attract an overwhelming amount of underdog money, as bettors are not as likely to risk $110 to win just $10, but they might take a stab at risking $10 to win $80. So, without that added liability, Vegas sports books cleaned up.

Bettors fared much better with the Vikings, who opened as a 6 1/2-point underdog to the Packers and were bet down to +4 before winning outright 30-25, and the Colts, who opened as a 1 1/2-point dog to the Browns and closed as a 1 1/2-point favorite before winning 9-6. But those were the exceptions to the rule, as the seven games that moved off the opening number went 2-5 against the spread.

The results that kept the sports books from having a huge day Sunday were the Falcons, Seahawks, and 49ers rolling in the afternoon games and the Titans kicking a late field goal to cover a 3-point spread over the Raiders, 25-20, in the Sunday night game. Those games helped bettors cash a lot of parlays that cut into the books' earlier profits.

In other NFL betting trends, home teams were 8-7-1 against the spread, and the under held a 9-7 advantage.

* My NFL bankroll plays started the season 2-2-1 with a push on the Jets +3 last Thursday, wins on the Colts PK and Broncos -6, and losses on the Ravens +5 1/2 and Saints +3. Laying 1.1 units to win 1, that's a net loss of 0.2 units.

In the colleges, you know you're off to a bad start to the season when you go 1-3 and actually improve your winning percentage. The win was on Utah +9 1/2, while the losses were on Syracuse -1 1/2, Ohio +18 1/2, and Oklahoma -8. Oklahoma was up 20-10 and Alabama kicked a field goal with 1:32 remaining in the game to get the back-door cover.

For the season, the college bankroll is 2-8 for -6.8 units.

Tackling the trends

As the football season goes on, you're sure to hear of many interesting trends, such as Team A covering the spread 10 straight years against Team B. The thing to remember is that you're likely only getting one side of the story - there is often just as convincing a trend on the other team.

On Thursdays, I will examine some of the trends and discuss which ones might have valid reasons behind them and which are statistical anomalies.

North Carolina St. is 7-0 against the spread as a road underdog under coach Chuck Amato. The Wolfpack is +11 at Ohio St. this Saturday and might be worth a look against a Buckeye team that keeps winning close games, such as last week's lucky 16-13 win over San Diego St.

Notre Dame is 5-1 against the spread the last six meetings vs. Michigan and is getting 10 1/2 points this weekend. I'll have to pass on this one, as this Michigan team is hitting on all cylinders right now.

Iowa St. has covered the last five times vs. in-state rival Iowa and is getting +4 1/2 at home. This smells like a trap. How high would this line be if so many people weren't aware of this trend?