10/20/2003 11:00PM

Home not so sweet for laying points


Las Vegas - Parity is praised and blamed for just about everything in the NFL. Some people say it's great that the league's revenue sharing and salary cap make it possible for even the small-market teams to be competitive - the longer teams stay in the playoff chase the more interest is generated. Critics say there are no great teams any more and that it's a league of mediocrity.

There's something to be said for both points of view, but what does it mean from a betting perspective? Basically, with more parity and the "on any given Sunday" status of the league, it should mean that underdogs would fare very well. But that has not been the case with favorites having gone 53-44-3 against the spread. (Note: Favorites and dogs split last weekend's games 7-7, so we could be seeing a shift as oddsmakers make chalk players lay more points).

But one thing that has happened is the erosion of home-field advantage. It still counts for something, as home teams are 57-45 straight up through seven weeks, but road teams hold a convincing 59-40-3 (60 percent) edge against the spread, including a 9-5 mark last week.

Road favorites continue to excel, going 4-2 last week. Actually, that lowered the winning percentage for road chalk to 21-7 (75 percent). In the past, oddsmakers have been reluctant to make NFL teams lay too many points on the road because home dogs were usually very live. We might, however, be seeing a change in thinking this week, as the Titans opened as a 5-point favorite at the Jaguars (some early bettors saw value there and bet it down to 3 1/2 as of noon Tuesday), the 49ers are favored by 7 at the Cardinals, and the Dolphins opened 4 1/2 at San Diego for next Monday night's game (it has since been bet down to 3 1/2).

It's always a cat-and-mouse game between oddsmakers and bettors. We will see if home dogs start covering more as a result of these type of adjustments.

More NFL betting stats

The Vikings, thanks to Randy Moss's lateral to Moe William at the end of the half and the Broncos needing to use Danny Kanell to try to come from behind, improved to 6-0 both straight up and against the spread. The Colts, Patriots, and Cowboys are all 5-1 against the spread. The Cowboys are the only one of those teams getting points this week, as they are a 6 1/2-point underdog at Tampa Bay.

On the losing side of the ledger, the Raiders fell short to the Chiefs Monday night and are now 0-7 against the spread (0 for their last 12 if you include the Super Bowl and all four preseason games this year). The Falcons are 1-6. Both teams are mercifully on a bye week. The Cardinals, coming off their bye week, are 1-5 and are 7-point home dogs vs. the 49ers this week.

The Texans had their first under of the season last week in a 19-14 loss to the Jets and are still a game ahead of every other team in the league, as no other team has fewer than two unders. The Bengals also saw their streak of five straight unders end in a 34-26 shootout victory over the Ravens. The Bills now have the best under record at 6-1. The Dolphins and Seahawks join the Bengals at 5-1.

Overall, the over/unders went 7-7 last week, and the unders still hold a slight 53-47 (53 percent) edge for the year with one push.

The AFC won and covered two of the three interconference games last Sunday and are 12-9 straight up and 12-7 (63 percent) with two pushes against the spread for the season. This week's AFC/NFC matchups are the Steelers -1 vs. the Rams, the Bengals +2 vs. the Seahawks and Jets +3 1/2 at the Eagles.

Tackling the trends

Every week in this section, I try to look at some lopsided against-the-spread trends and determine if there is basis in logic or if we can just chalk it up to coincidence. Well, despite the items above regarding home teams struggling to cover the spread, it is just a coincidence (or is it?) that all three trends I am looking at are about teams with distinctive trends at home.

Kansas St. is 21-7 (75 percent) as a double-digit home favorite over the past five years, as coach Bill Snyder is notorious for running up the score in front of the Wildcats' fans. But the part of that trend you might not hear about is that K-State is 0-2 in that role this year (a non-covering win over Troy St. and a shocking outright loss vs. Marshall as a 22 1/2-point chalk). In addition, the Wildcats are 20 1/2-point favorites this Saturday over intrastate rival Kansas, which is a much-improved team. I will pass on that trend.

Western Michigan is 0-6 in its last six games as a home underdog, including coming up short this year vs. Bowling Green and Virginia. As of noon Tuesday, the Broncos' game vs. Marshall was off the board because of the questionable status of Western Michigan quarterback Chad Munson (who has a league-high 18 TD passes this year). When the line comes out, we should see Marshall favored between 8 and 10 points. This losing trend could very easily continue as Marshall, while not as strong as its teams in the past, is playing better after a slow start.

In the NFL, the Pennsylvania teams are also struggling at home. The Steelers are 3-10 in their last 13 home games at Heinz Field. That trend should continue as they entertain the Rams' high-flying act this Sunday as a lukewarm 1-point favorite.

Things are even worse for the Eagles, who are 0-3 against the spread on their new home field (who would ever think they would miss Veterans Stadium?). They're being asked to lay 3 1/2 points this Sunday vs. the Jets. The first inclination is to follow the trend and take more than a field goal with the Jets, but I want no part of this game.

Bankroll results

The college bankroll plays went 5-2 last week, winning with Colorado St. -6 last Thursday over Air Force, Nebraska -10 over Texas A&M, California +3 1/2 vs. UCLA, Washington St. -9 1/2 vs. Stanford and Utah -2 over UNLV. The losses were on Arizona St. -5 1/2 at North Carolina and Iowa +3 1/2 at Ohio St. For the season, the college bankroll plays are now 22-17 for a net profit of 3.3 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1). That's very surprising since I started the season 1-5 and a net loss of 4.5 units. Since then, I'm 21-12 (64 percent) in the college picks.

In the NFL, I went 4-1 on Sunday with wins on the Eagles +3 vs. the Giants, Titans +2 vs. the Panthers, Patriots +5 1/2 vs. the Dolphins and Rams -4 vs. the Packers. The lone loss was on the Broncos +3 1/2 at the Vikings. For the season, the NFL bankroll is 19-13-4 for a net profit of 4.7 units.