08/21/2001 12:00AM

Low road still the way to go in NFL preseason


LAS VEGAS - Last Thursday, I pointed out that NFL underdogs were 13-5 against the spread after the first full week of preseason games, and the under was also 13-5. The headline even read: "NFL preseason: Easy game if you play dogs and unders."

If you listened to what I said, you probably had a good weekend. Underdogs went 11-3-1 against the spread. and the under was 12-3.

So what did I do? I was 1-4 on sides, including 0-2 on favorites. Fortunately, I did a little better on over/unders, going 3-1, although the only losing bet was on an over.

The bankroll, which started the preseason at 100 units and entered last week with 137, now stands at 122 after losing 15 units (five losses cost me 11 units each while four wins profited 10 units each). Picks are 11-8 so far this preseason.

In handicapping this weekend's games, I'll stick to my guns and look to the dogs and the under.

Chiefs at Jaguars (under 34): This is the highest total on any of the Thursday games. All six teams playing Thursday were under last weekend, and they averaged a mere 8.5 points per game (inflated by the Titans' 23-point outburst vs. the Rams) while their opponents averaged 15.1 points. That's a combined 23.6 points. I'll wager 11 units (to win 10) on the under.

Panthers at Ravens (under 31): The Panthers scored only 8 points last week against the Patriots, and it doesn't get easier for quarterbacks Jeff Lewis and Chris Weinke. The Ravens looked rusty in their first preseason test, a 16-3 loss to the Jets, and will be without three starting offensive linemen. This is a low total, but I'll still wager 11 units.

Eagles at Titans (under 33): Both coaches have said they plan to play their starters more this week. Some people will say it's time to bet the over, but I still like the under. Eddie George will see his first action for the Titans, and that will only lead to keeping the clock running more. Neither team is an offensive juggernaut anyway. I'll wager 11 units.

Lean: I like the Chiefs +3 1/2; they're the better team and getting more than a field goal. (My lean games are 3-2 this preseason.)