12/21/2004 1:00AM

Injury to Owens sparks odds shift


LAS VEGAS - Injuries happen all the time in football and are usually greeted here with a slight adjustment in the point spread and very little impact on future-book prices.

After all, football is the ultimate team sport, and the top contenders for the Super Bowl are usually greater than the sum of their parts, so the best teams are capable of overcoming injuries even to their top players.

So it was quite interesting Monday afternoon when the news came out that Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens would be out for the rest of the season and most of the playoffs with a leg fracture and sprained ankle, with only a slight hope that he could play in the NFC title game or Super Bowl. The way the experts on TV were talking, you would think the Eagles and the whole city of Philadelphia was ready to throw in the towel like Nicolette Sheridan.

Here in Vegas, the news was greeted with sports books taking down their Super Bowl futures and odds to win the NFC so that oddsmakers could adjust their prices.

Before the injury, the MGM Mirage properties had the Eagles as the 9-5 favorite to win the Super Bowl and adjusted them to 5-2 following the news. Las Vegas Sports Consultants had them at 2-1 and raised them to 3-1.

LVSC, which doesn't take bets but provides odds to the majority of sports book in Nevada, also raised the Eagles from 2-5 to win the NFC to even money.

"They still have home field throughout the playoffs and that's still a big advantage," LVSC chief operating officer Ken White said. "But it makes the path easier for the other NFC teams."

The Falcons, who have the NFC's other first-round bye, were lowered from 4-1 to 3-1 to win the conference title and from 8-1 to 7-1 to win the Super Bowl.

The biggest moves came on the Vikings, which White said were lowered from 15-1 to 8-1 to win the NFC earlier in the day when his staff adjusted its futures, and then dropped again to 5-1 after the news on Owens. In Super Bowl futures, the Vikings were at 30-1 at the start of the day, lowered to 15-1, and then to 10-1 after the news broke.

"The Vikings have the talent to knock off the Eagles and are in a better position after their win on Sunday," White said. "With [Randy] Moss getting healthy and [Daunte] Culpepper playing great, they are a dangerous team."

The other team to see significant adjustment in their odds was the Packers, who were lowered from 7-1 to 6-1 to win the NFC and 15-1 to 12-1 to win the Super Bowl. The odds on the Vikings and Packers will probably be adjusted further after their meeting on Friday afternoon in Minnesota in a game that will give the winner the inside track at the NFC North title and a home game in the opening-round of the playoffs, while the loser will likely be spending the entire postseason on the road.

White said the odds on the AFC's teams have remained the same, though he pointed out that the Patriots' loss to the Dolphins on Monday night could have a huge impact if the Pats lose again Sunday to the Jets.

Currently, the Patriots and Steelers are the co-favorites at 6-5 to win the AFC, with the Colts at 7-5, the Chargers at 5-1, and the Jets at 7-1. The Patriots and Steelers are 2-1 to win the Super Bowl with the Colts at 5-2, the Chargers at 10-1, and the Jets 15-1.

NFL betting trends

For the most part, the top teams struggled for the second straight week against the spread, especially those favored by double digits. The Steelers, Eagles, and Patriots all closed as double-digit favorites and all failed to cover, and the Dolphins' win over the Patriots was only the second time in 20 games this season that a double-digit dog has won outright. But bettors have fared well on them anyway as double-digit dogs are 12-7-1 (63 percent) against the spread. The only double-digit dog this week looks to be the 49ers +11 vs. the Bills.

Home underdogs had a second straight winning week as they were 4-3 against the spread. For the year, home dogs are still performing subpar at 31-37-2 (46 percent). This week's home pups are the Titans +4 vs. the Broncos, Jets +3 vs. the Patriots, 49ers +11 vs. the Bills, and Cowboys +1 vs. the Redskins.

Underdogs as a whole went 9-6-1 last week and the season ledger now stands at favorites 108, underdogs 107 with 8 pushes.

In totals wagering, despite a lot of focus on the games with inclement weather, the overs went 10-6. In another virtual dead heat, the season tally is unders 111, overs 110 with three pushes.

In a trend that I wish I was playing as much as I've mentioned it in this space, the AFC won all four interconference games last week and was 3-1 against the spread. For the year, the AFC is 37-18-2 (67 percent) against the spread vs. the NFC. There are no interconference games this weekend.

Who's hot, who's not

Break up the Bolts. The Chargers just keep rolling along as their 21-0 win over the Browns improved them to 11-1-2 against the spread. Despite their loss, the Patriots stayed in second place in the ATS standings at 9-3-2, followed by the Colts at 9-4-1, the Ravens at 9-5, and the Eagles and Panthers at 8-5-1.

Of the four teams that entered the weekend at 4-9 against the spread, the Rams, Browns, and Titans all lost to drop to 4-10. The Raiders won to stand at 5-9 along with the Seahawks. The Dolphins, Saints, Chiefs, and Giants all entered the week at 5-8 but covered.

In totals wagering, the Falcons, Jaguars, and Redskins were all 10-3 with the under entering the weekend, but all went over their totals and are now 10-4 with the under.

The Colts went under for the second straight week to drop to 9-5 with the over along with the Raiders, Packers, and Seahawks.

Second straight winning week for bankroll

My NFL bankroll plays went 3-2 with wins on the Panthers +3 1/2 vs. the Falcons, Texans +1 vs. the Bears, and Saints +7 1/2 vs. the Buccaneers and losses on the Broncos -1 vs. the Chiefs and Ravens +8 vs. the Colts. That slightly improved my overall NFL record to 34-38-3 for a net loss of 7.6 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).

I also won with my only college bowl play last week - Southern Mississippi -5 1/2 vs. North Texas - to improve my overall college record to 29-21-1 for a net profit of 5.9 units.