11/07/2005 12:00AM

Good week for chalk, bad week for books

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When a lot of favorites win and cover the spread in the NFL, you can pretty much assume it's not a good week for the bookmakers.

This past weekend was more of the same. Favorites won 12 of the 13 games on Sunday heading into the Colts-Patriots game on Monday night and went 9-3-1 against the spread. But even the exceptions didn't save the books much. The lone underdog that won was the Panthers, who were +1 vs. the Buccaneers and a very popular play. The other two favorites that lost to the spread were the Chargers, who were available at -5 1/2 to -6 1/2 and beat the Jets, 31-26, and the Jaguars, who were -13 1/2 and beat the Texans, 21-14. Both spreads were high enough that the Jets and Texans received their share of support.

The push didn't help the books, either. The Bears, who closed as 3-point favorites, beat the Saints, 20-17, and were offered at several books at -2 1/2, including on most parlay cards, so the books that held the line at 3 refunded their wagers and fared better than those that went to 2 1/2 and got sided.

It will be interesting to see how this week goes, because early money has again showed on the favorites. When the Imperial Palace put up its opening lines at 4 p.m., the only "dog" that was bet was the Bills +1 vs. the Chiefs, and the Bills were quickly bet to favoritism and moved all the way to -2. Other favorites to take early action were the Bears from -9 to -12 vs. the 49ers; the Giants from -9 to -10 vs. the Vikings; the Broncos from -3 to -3 1/2 vs. the Raiders, though it got bet right back to 3; the Seahawks from -5 1/2 to -6 1/2 vs. the Rams; and the Falcons from -8 1/2 to -10 vs. the Packers.

The trend continued when the Las Vegas Hilton put up its lines at 4:30 p.m.: the Bills went from -1 to -2 1/2, the Patriots from -3 to -3 1/2, the Jaguars from -7 to -8, and the Broncos from -2 1/2 to -3. The only underdogs to take enough early action to move the lines were the 49ers from +12 1/2 to +12 vs. the Bears and the Cardinals from +5 to +4 1/2 vs. the Lions.

At 5 p.m., even with the Bills being pounded at other books at the lower number, the Stratosphere opened the Bills -2 vs. the Chiefs and adjusted the price to -2 1/2. A lot of the bets were also the same there as the Bears opened -11 1/2 and were bet to -12, the Giants were bet from -9 to -10, the Jaguars were bet from -7 to -8, and the Panthers went from -8 1/2 to -9 1/2. The Cardinals were also back as a dog at the Stratosphere, going from +5 to +4.

By the time the Stardust posted its openers at 5:30 p.m., it saw more balanced action with three favorites and three dogs taking early money. The Stardust opened the Bills -1 1/2 and got bet quickly to -2 1/2 (with -120 juice attached), the Broncos were bet from -2 1/2 to -2 1/2 (-120), and the Seahawks were bet from -6 1/2 to -7 (even-money). The three dogs were the Cardinals again, going from +4 1/2 to +4, the Ravens from +8 1/2 to +8 vs. the Jaguars, and the Packers from +10 to +9 1/2 vs. the Falcons.

* In early college betting, the Stardust had 11 line moves with six on underdogs and five on favorites. The most significant was LSU being bet from -1 to -2 vs. undefeated Alabama (the line opened -2 1/2 offshore), Oregon going from -3 to -4 1/2 vs. Washington St. (the Stratosphere opened it 5 1/2), and Central Florida going from +8 1/2 to +7 vs. Alabama-Birmingham (it was 6 1/2 offshore)

Sports book notes

Carl Edwards won his second straight Nextel Cup race, the Dickies 500, Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Even though Edwards won the previous week and the Roush Racing team has been red-hot, Station Casinos had him as the seventh choice, at 12-1. The Chase for the Cup tightened up, though Tony Stewart finished sixth to stay in the lead heading into the final two races of the season.

* If Edwards's recent run was unexpected, it's nothing compared to Bart Bryant, who won The Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta with a record 17-under-par score to beat Tiger Woods by six shots. Bryant was a 75-1 longshot to win the tournament. Woods was, of course, the favorite at 5-2.

* Justin McBride, a UNLV alumnus, won the Professional Bull Riders' world championship title Sunday at the Thomas and Mack Center. His season-long victory, which earned him a $1 million bonus and a gold belt buckle, was shown on ESPN, and he received all the local media coverage. Brazil's Guilherme Marchi, however, won the individual event over the weekend, and that is how the betting was determined at the New Frontier, which had Marchi as the second choice behind McBride at 9-5.

* After already being delayed three times this year, the Vitali Klitschko-Hasim Rahman heavyweight title fight scheduled for this Saturday at the Thomas and Mack Center was postponed again after Klitschko, the WBC champion, injured his right knee in a sparring session last Thursday. The previous postponements were due to a back injury to Klitschko. Promoter Bob Arum is looking for a date in 2006.

Handicapping contest update

With the start of the Hollywood Park meeting on Wednesday, there are some changes in the local handicapping contests here in town.

The Coast Casinos, which holds weekly contest on Wednesdays and Thursdays and traditionally uses the first five races at the Southern California track that's running at the time, is instead going to use the last five races at Hawthorne, starting with this week's contests.

The reason for the switch is partly because of small fields in Southern California and also because Hollywood is only running Wednesday cards this week and next before going to a Thursday-to-Sunday schedule.

The Coasts' Wednesday contest has a $5 entry fee, and the Thursday contest is $10. In addition to daily prizes for the top scores, both have separate bonuses for going 5 for 5 that carry over to the next week until hit. The Wednesday bonus starts at $1,000 this week and the Thursday bonus is reset at $1,500, with all entry fees going in the pot. The contests will run through Dec. 22, with Thanksgiving Day being the only dark day.

With that being the case, the Excalibur, which has a free weekly contest each Wednesday on the full card from Southern California, will hold its contest this week and next and then go on hiatus until the first Wednesday of the Santa Anita meet on Dec. 28.