12/11/2008 12:00AM

Giants may have stumbled, but can stand up to Cowboys

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The Giants entered last week as the hottest team in the NFL, with seven straight wins both straight up and against the spread before losing 20-14 to the Eagles.

But they were the exception to the rule when it comes to the hottest teams in the league. Of the eight teams at the top of the NFL against-the-spread standings, the Giants were the only ones to lose last week, as they dropped into a second-place tie with the Ravens with a still-respectable 10-3 spread record behind the Titans at 11-1-1. (Find the full NFL against-the-spread standings at my website, viewfromvegas.com, under "Facts and Trends.") The teams behind that triumvirate are the Falcons and Saints at 9-4 (note: the Saints were to play Thursday night at Chicago), the Cardinals and Eagles at 8-5, and the Panthers at 7-5-1.

An interesting clash takes place this week when the Titans visit the Texans, who enter the week with the Saints having covered a league-high four straight games. The Titans are a 3-point road favorite.

The Jaguars have dropped a league-worst four straight games against the spread to hold the worst against-the-spread record at 3-10, edging out the Rams and Bengals at 4-9.

The Redskins continue to be the best under bet at 10-2-1. They play at Cincinnati on Sunday with a total of 36 1/2. The Raiders have the second-best under record at 9-3-1 after pushing vs. the Chargers a week ago Thursday after going under in their five previous games. The total on the Raiders' game vs. the Patriots was 40 earlier in the week, but that was subject to change with the death of the father of New England quarterback Matt Cassell and uncertainty at deadline about whether or not Cassell will play. The Patriots have gone over in four straight games, tied with the Panthers for the longest over streak.

The Texans had been the best over team when they exceeded their total in nine of the first 10 games this season, but they have gone under in three straight.

Other stats and trends:

* I've written often about how home teams have struggled against the spread this year, but they did go 12-4 against the spread in Week 14. Still, road teams remain way ahead at 112-90-5 (55.4 percent after discarding pushes) against the spread on the year.

* After starting the year 17-1 against the spread, double-digit underdogs have really gone in the tank in recent weeks, failing to cover six of the last seven times, with the Lions losing 20-16 to the Vikings last week being the lone exception. Still, double-digit dogs are 18-7 (72 percent) overall. This week's big dogs are the Lions +17 vs. the Colts and the Browns +14 vs. the Eagles, but I'm not backing either of them.

* Over/unders are dead even after 208 games with 99 overs, 99 under, and 10 pushes, according to the closing lines at the Las Vegas Hilton that I use for my NFL betting stats. The overs had been dominating, but unders went 10-6 in Week 13 and 11-4-1 in Week 14 to pull even.

* The NFC went 1-4 in interconference play last week and 2-3 against the spread. For the year, the NFC is still 29-21-1 (58 percent) in interconference play. Coupled with the Giants' loss, the Hilton lowered its generic Super Bowl line to NFC -3.

It's Week 15 time

Longtime readers of this column may recall that I've talked in the past about how Week 15 has been very successful for yours truly. From 2002 through 2006, I went 23-6 against the spread in this space before going 3-3 last year to drop to 26-9 (still 74 percent) overall.

Maybe the Week 15 success has been an aberration, or maybe it's that, after nearly a full season of watching all these teams, this week is the perfect storm of when teams are in form (and before teams begin resting starters for the playoffs). Here's hoping that's the case, at least with my top three selections for Sunday:

49ers +6 1/2 at Dolphins

The Dolphins have overachieved this year, but with that success has come an overinflation of their lines from oddsmakers and bettors. They won last week going up to Toronto to beat the Bills, but while they've been a live underdog all season, they've failed to cover in their last four games as a favorite vs. the Ravens, Seahawks, Raiders, and Rams. And now along comes the resurgent 49ers, who two weeks ago traveled to Buffalo for a road victory and then knocked off the Jets at home. Anything over a field goal looks like value.

PLAY: 49ers for 1 unit.

Chiefs +5 1/2 vs. Chargers

Yes, the Chiefs are 2-11 in the standings, but they're 7-6 against the spread and nearly upset the Broncos last week. The Chiefs have played their best at home and now face the underachieving Chargers, who beat them only 20-19 in San Diego in Week 10.

PLAY: Chiefs for 1 unit.

Giants +3 at Cowboys

I won't hang the Giants for their loss to the Eagles last week (especially since I was on Philly). They're still the best overall team in the league. If anything, that loss gives them added incentive with the Panthers breathing down their neck for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, not that the Giants needed any home games to sweep through last year's playoffs. With renewed focus, I think they'll take their act on the road and take great joy in putting a nail in the coffin of the Cowboys' season.

PLAY: Giants for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-1 for a net profit 0.9 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). Season DRF record: 21-11-2, including 1-2-1 on 2-unit plays, for a net profit of 7.7 units.