11/22/2005 12:00AM

Go 'under' on Turkey Day

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LAS VEGAS - It's Thanksgiving tradition to eat turkey and sit around cheering for high-scoring games.

But, if I've handicapped the games correctly, that might be a less-than-appetizing combination for fans of offensive football. If the tryptophan in the turkey doesn't have people dozing off in front of their televisions Thursday, the lack of scoring might.

Early lines available on the two NFL games had the Falcons -2 1/2 vs. the Lions and the Cowboys -2 1/2 vs. the Broncos. I missed out on grabbing those juicy prices on the Falcons and Broncos, as the Falcons are now -3 and Broncos have been made 2-point favorites. I'm discouraged from going ahead with those plays not only because the lines have moved but also because it's not advisable to go against the home teams on Thanksgiving.

So, I look to the totals and both games have over/unders of 42 points.

In the Falcons-Lions matchup, I don't expect either offense to be clicking with the short week of preparation. The Lions have a strong defensive front seven and should be able to contain Michael Vick, while the Falcons should come with an inspired effort after losing, 30-27, to the Buccaneers on Sunday.

The Broncos-Cowboys game is between division leaders - AFC West and NFC East, respectively, and should have a playoff-type intensity as both have their eyes on a first-round bye. Both teams try to minimize mistakes from the quarterback position, so things should be played close to the vest with lots of runs and short passes, which should keep the clock running and shorten the game.

PLAY: Falcons-Lions under 42 points and Broncos-Cowboys under 42 points for 1 unit each.

Last week: 3-3, including a loss on my 3-unit play on the Eagles +7 1/2 vs. the Giants and a 2-unit win on the Titans +4 vs. the Jaguars, for a net loss of 1.5 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).
NFL season record: 26-38-3 for a net loss of 18.6 units.

NFL betting trends

Another reason for not going against the home dogs is the fact they were barking Sunday, going 4-2 against the spread with outright upsets by the Bears and Ravens. Home dogs are still only 21-24-1 (47 percent, excluding pushes) on the season but that record was really skewed by the 1-6-1 mark three weeks ago. The other home dogs, in addition to the Lions and Cowboys, this weekend are the Bills +4 1/2 vs. the Panthers, Redskins +3 1/2 vs. the Chargers, Texans +4 vs. the Rams, Cardinals +3 1/2 vs. the Jaguars, and the Jets +1 1/2 vs. the Saints.

* Home teams as a whole went 9-7 last weekend and are 84-71-4 (54 percent) on the year.

* The home dogs also cut into the favorites' overall domination as faves were 7-9 last week - only the second sub-.500 week for chalk this year - and saw their overall record dip to 87-69-4 (56 percent).

* Double-digit underdogs went 1-2 last week with the 49ers covering vs. the Seahawks but the Bills and Jets getting blown out by the Chargers and Broncos. That dropped double-digit dogs to a barely profitable 9-8. There won't be any double-digit dogs this week unless the Ravens-Bengals line moves up from the 9 that was most widely available as of noon Pacific on Tuesday.

* Over/unders were split for the third straight week, 8-8, with unders clinging to a slight 79-76-5 edge.

* Teams off their bye week won three of four games for the third straight week and finished the season 18-11-1 (62 percent) as the byes ended two weeks ago and we will have to wait until next year to see if the trend works then.

NFL who's hot, who's not

The top teams continue to also have the top spread records. It seems easy. Just back the best teams and you would be winning a high percentage of your bets. The problem is coming up with the top teams before they start playing. Raise your hands if you would have had the Eagles and Patriots in this group if quizzed before the season.

Instead, the 8-2 Broncos have the league's top spread record at 7-2-1, followed by the undefeated Colts at 7-3 and the Cowboys, Bears, Giants, and Chargers at 6-3-1.

Thursday's Broncos-Cowboys game pits the two hottest teams in the league as the Broncos have covered five straight and the Cowboys have covered four in a row and are 5-0-1 in their last six games.

* On the losing end of the ledger, the Eagles' 27-17 loss to the Giants Sunday was their sixth straight non-cover and drops them to a league-worst 2-8. The Jets, Rams, and Cardinals are all 3-7.

* The Cardinals went over the betting total in their 38-28 upset of the Rams to improve to 8-2 with the over. The NFC West is also represented with the Rams and Seahawks both 7-3 with the over. As mentioned last week, the Colts started the season with five unders but have now gone over in five straight.

* The Browns' 22-0 win over the Dolphins made them 8-2 with the under. The Bears and Ravens are next at 7-2-1 with the Bengals and Vikings at 7-3.

College who's hot, who's not

Texas was idle last weekend and takes its best-in-the-nation 9-1 spread record into Friday's game vs. Texas A&M as a 27-point favorite. For comparison's sake, USC dropped to 5-5 against the spread after its narrow escape last Saturday vs. Fresno State as a 23-point favorite. Several books around town have a line on the potential Rose Bowl matchup with USC favored by 6 1/2 over Texas.

Other teams covering the spread at a 70-percent clip or better: Virginia Tech and Auburn at 8-2; Fresno State at 7-2; Clemson, Penn State, Ohio State, Tulsa, and TCU at 8-3; and East Carolina, Oregon, and Notre Dame at 7-3, though the Irish have failed to cover twice in a row.

Duke covered a 22-point spread in a 24-21 loss to North Carolina for the Blue Devils' first cover of the season to improve to 1-9, but they still have the worst spread record in the nation. Others who have had trouble covering this season are Tulane at 1-7-1; New Mexico State at 2-9; Utah, which also covered last weekend in an upset of BYU, at 2-8-1; Mississippi State at 2-7; and San Jose State and Kent State, which is an 11-point dog at Akron on Thursday, at 2-6-1.

* Texas is also 9-1 with the over to lead the nation in that category. Friday's total vs. Texas A&M, which is 6-2-1 with the over, is 70 points. Other top over teams have been UCLA and Rice at 8-2 and Missouri at 8-3.

* North Carolina State didn't have a total for its 24-3 win over Middle Tennessee State last Saturday on most betting boards in Las Vegas, though it was in the 40-41 range offshore, so I will just keep the Wolf Pack's record with the under at 7-1. Mississippi State is next at 7-2 and faces Mississippi (6-3 with the under) in the Egg Bowl on Saturday with a total of 36 1/2.