12/30/2005 12:00AM

Last game vital to Steelers, Vikings bettors

Email

LAS VEGAS - When sports books post odds on NFL over/under season win totals, they're usually pretty accurate and the final weekend of the season usually sees around 10 to 12 results hang in the balance.

But this year, if you have an over/under season win ticket, odds are that you already know if you've won or lost and just need the season to be completed (house rules specify that a team must play its 16 scheduled games) to make it an official wager.

Based on the opening over/under season win totals at the Plaza, which over Kentucky Derby weekend became the first Vegas book to post them, there are only three undecided teams. The Steelers, with a betting total of 10, have exactly 10 wins heading into their season finale at home vs. the Lions. Bettors who have the over are hoping the Steelers still need a win to make the playoffs while those with the under will be hoping they have a wild-card wrapped up and will rest starters.

The Vikings, for all their turmoil this season, are exactly where oddsmakers expected them to be. Their season win total was 8 1/ 2 and they have eight wins heading into their finale vs. the Bears, who have wrapped up the No. 2 seed in the NFC and are expected to rest starters.

The 49ers, who opened with the lowest total in the league at 3 1/2, have three wins heading into their finale vs. the Texans.

Here's a look at the teams that have "over" achieved

Fourteen teams have exceeded their projected win totals with the Bears being the biggest "over" achiever after having a preseason win total of 5 1/2 and now having 11 wins. Below, the first number is the team's over/under season win total at the Plaza, the second is their current number of wins. The other teams to surpass their number are: Colts 12/13, Panthers 9.5/10, Seahawks 9.5/13, Broncos 8.5/12, Chiefs 8.5/9, Jaguars 8.5/11, Chargers 8/9, Redskins 7.5/9, Bengals 7/11, Buccaneers 7/10, Giants 6.5/10, Dolphins 4.5/8, and Browns 4/5.

Fifteen teams have fallen short of their total, with the Jets the biggest "under" achiever after having a preseason total of 9.5 and having just 3 wins so far. The rest of the under teams: Eagles 11.5/6, Patriots 11.5/10, Ravens 10/6, Falcons 9.5/8, Rams 9/5, Packers 8.5/3, Bills 7.5/5, Lions 7.5/5, Cowboys 7.5/9, Raiders 7.5/4, Saints 7.5/3, Texans 7/2, Cardinals 6.5/5, and Titans 6.5/4.

This week's slate is tough with so many teams either resting starters for the playoffs and others playing out the string, but I've found enough reasons to recommend these four games in addition to the Raiders +8 1/2 play I made for Saturday.

Bills (-1 1/2) at Jets

The Bills were my best bet last week as a 14-point underdog vs. the Bengals and came through with the outright upset (I wish I had made a bankroll play on the money line like I did at the Gold Coast at 10-1), and I'm going to come back with them again this week. The Bills, despite being out of the playoffs, continue to play hard as they showed two weeks ago in their loss to the Broncos and then again last week. They're obviously a much better offense with Kelly Holcomb at quarterback and the defense is stepping down in class to take on the struggling Jets. I think they close the season strong with back-to-back wins.

PLAY: Bills for 2 units.

Panthers at Falcons (+4)

The NFC South was pretty much epitomized in last week's Falcons-Bucs game: Neither team looked like it wanted to go to the playoffs by making mistake after mistake and missing short field goals in the Bucs' eventual 27-24 overtime win. Carolina has also failed to take control of the division when given a chance, and I think they will have problems in this must-win game. The Falcons are just a year removed from playing in the NFC title game and they will try to end a disappointing season on a winning note. I very easily see this also coming down to a late field goal, so I will take the points with the home dog.

PLAY: Falcons for 1 unit.

Lions (+13 1/2) at Steelers

This is a game I bet at Lions +17 last Monday based solely on the fact I felt that the Chargers would beat the Broncos on Saturday to clinch a wild-card spot for the Steelers and cause them to rest starters in this game, figuring that even the Lions' starters could keep within 17 points of the Steelers' subs. Obviously, others felt the same way and the line was down to 13 1/2 by Friday, but I still think there's value there as this line could drop below a touchdown if the Chargers win. If the Chargers lose and the Steelers still need to win this, I will be praying for them to get the lead and then rest starters in the second half.

PLAY: Lions for 1 unit.

Redskins at Eagles (+7 1/2)

The Redskins come into this game needing a win to secure a playoff spot (and a possible division title if the Giants lose Saturday), but I see the Eagles putting up a fight in this divisional rivalry for the same reasons as the Falcons. Washington quarterback Mark Brunell's right knee is not 100 percent and the Skins could really be in trouble if they have to rely on Patrick Ramsey again. This should also be a low-scoring battle with the point spread coming into play.

PLAY: Eagles for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-3, including a 2-unit win on the Bills +14 vs. the Bengals, for a net loss of 0.3 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).

NFL bankroll record: 33-45-6 for a net loss of 18.5 units.