01/22/2002 1:00AM

Here's an NFL trend: Trends are no guarantee


LAS VEGAS - Historical trends are fun and they certainly give the media plenty to talk about when previewing football games, but they're not the most sound system for handicapping.

Sure, the Buccaneers still have never won a game when the temperature at kickoff is below 40 degrees. And Packers QB Brett Favre never loses in the cold; he continued that trend with a win over the 49ers in the wild-card round. And Favre usually does poorly in domes; the Packers lost at St. Louis Sunday as he threw six interceptions.

But like on Wall Street and at the racetrack, past performances do not guarantee future results. All streaks eventually end.

Case in point: The Eagles were the first NFC road team to win straight up in the divisional playoffs in the last six seasons, and only the second in the last dozen years. In the AFC, both home teams won divisional playoff games for the first time in three years, and only the second time in seven years.

So maybe the value of looking at trends is to see which way the general public is likely to bet a game and try bucking a trend and be ahead of the curve.

Here are a few more trends as they relate to this weekend's games:

NFL playoffs

The road team (and consequently the underdog) has won the AFC Championship Game straight-up the last two years, three of the last four, and five of the last nine. In the NFC, where form has held much better, the home team has won the last two years, six of the last eight years, and 16 of the last 21 years.

Favorites won three of the four divisional playoff games last weekend and were 2-1-1 against the spread. Overall, favorites (all have been home teams) are 6-2 straight up and 5-2-1 against the spread.

Early money from the professional bettors in Las Vegas was 1-1-1, winning with the Rams, losing with the Ravens, and pushing with the Raiders - making early money 4-2-1 in the current postseason. This week, the wise guys and the general public both have jumped on the favored Steelers and Rams.

The over was 3-1 last weekend with the Raiders-Patriots game the only one staying under. The over is 5-3 in the first two playoff rounds.

The Steelers have the league's best pointspread record this season at 12-4-1. The Eagles are right behind at 12-5-1. The Patriots are 11-5-1 (8-1-1 in their last 10 games), while the Rams are 10-6-1, but have had to cover much bigger numbers than any of the other three teams. The Rams have won and covered six of their last seven games.

The Rams, despite their high-scoring offense are only 9-8 with the over this season. The Eagles, with a strong defense, are 10-7-1 with the under. The Steelers are 9-8 with the under; the Pats are 9-8 with the over. However, the Steelers have gone over in each of their last five games, and the Pats are 7-3 with the under in their last 10.

Small win for bankroll

The divisional playoffs were a winning round for the bankroll, but it could have been better. I was 2-1-1 on the weekend, but the push in the Raiders game feels like a loss.

My 22-unit best-bet play on the Bears-Eagles over 32 1/2 (which was bet down to 31 in Vegas) was an easy winner as the two teams went over the total in the third quarter of the Eagles' 31-19 victory.

It looked like a Saturday sweep for the bankroll as the Raiders were ahead 13-10 when Charles Woodson sacked Patriots QB Tom Brady and forced the fumble that was overturned on replay. The Patriots won 16-13 in overtime. My 11-unit play on the Raiders +3 was a push.

My 22-unit play on the Ravens +6 in Sunday's early game was a loser as the Steelers won 27-10. The bankroll ended on a winning note with an 11-unit play on the Rams -10 1/2 as they rolled to a 45-17 victory.

The bankroll, which started the season at 1,000 units and entered the weekend at 807, showed a net profit of 8 units to now stand at 815. For the playoffs, bankroll plays are 4-3-1 for a net profit of 5 units.