02/03/2006 1:00AM

NFL Analysis: Seahawks looking just as super


Betting on the Super Bowl usually follows a predictable pattern.

Oddsmakers post the opening line, professional sports bettor snatch up any rogue numbers and the line usually solidifies before the tourists descend on Las Vegas and ninety percent of the handle comes in over the big weekend.

This year has shown a little change in the script. The Super Bowl line went up two weeks ago with the Steelers favored by 3 1/2 or 4 points. The 3 1/2's were bought up pretty quick and sports books reported that they are taking two to three times as much action on the Steelers when the line was 4. Many books - especially those that cater to the locals crowd such as Coast, Stations and Leroy's - moved to 4 1/2, but the consensus opinion is that it's still more likely to rise.

Earlier this past week, the Rampant and Cannery in the suburbs and the Plaza and Golden Nugget downtown moved the line to 5, but by Friday they were all back down to 4 1/2. That would tend to suggest that 5 is the buyback number, though with public sentiment and the media hype surrounding the Steelers, there's no telling if the tourists will bet it past 5 over the weekend. It's still very much up in the air.

The total, which opened at 48 at some books, has pretty much settled at 47 everywhere and isn't as likely to fluctuate.

Super Bowl XL at Detroit
Seahawks (+4 1/2) vs. Steelers

Frankly, I'll just start out by stating that I think the Seahawks are the better team. The Steelers have some intangibles such as the game being closer to Pittsburgh and the whole Jerome-Bettis-returning-home angle, but if pressed to make a true line on this game I would make it around pick-em and perhaps the Seahawks as a small favorite.

Now, I understand all the reasons why oddsmakers had to make the Steelers favored by more than a field goal: they come from the stronger AFC, they went on the road to Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Denver and defeated the 1-2-3 seeds in that stronger conference and are on a bonafide roll.

But what people seem to be forgetting is that the Seahawks haven't done anything wrong. You hear experts and non-experts alike saying that the Seahawks played in a weak division (true) and that they got to play their two playoff games at home vs. the No. 5 and 6 seeds from the weaker conference. I fail to see how any of that should be used to discredit the Seahawks' chances. In most years when a team dominates its conferences, it earns home-field advantage and rolls into the Super Bowl. Isn't that how it's supposed to work? They lined up vs. whom they had to play, and they've earned their spot in this game.

They went 13-3 in the regular season, losing at Jacksonville and Washington - two playoff teams - and then at Green Bay when resting their starters in the regular-season finale.

In a way, I'm glad the Colts lost to the Chargers the week before their game with the Seahawks and then rested their players, because no one is giving the Seahawks credit for winning that game, but I think they would have beaten the Colts at full-strength, just like the Steelers did.

Yet, all we seem to be hearing about is Steelers this and Steelers that. So be it, I'll take the points as all this disrespect should only serve to inspire the Seahawks. After they beat the Redskins in the divisional playoffs, a lot of defenders said they were motivated because everyone was saying the Redskins had a better defense and that the Seahawks had the worst defense of the remaining teams. They were then told they couldn't slow down the Panthers' offense and they went out and did just that.

This defense has more speed than people give them credit for, and should be up to the test vs. Bettis, Ben Roethlisberger & Co.

All the talk has been about the Pittsburgh defense, but again there's no reason to think the Seahawks - who had the highest-scoring offense in the NFL - won't be able to move the ball on Sunday.

I also like the game to go under the total of 47 points, as I expect both teams to try and establish the run and both defenses have the ability to bend but not break. That should lead to time-consuming drives that could end up with more field goals than touchdowns. However, it should be pointed out that in the conference championship games, I was correct with the sides on the Seahawks and Steelers but was wrong as I went with the under in both those games, too, so take that with a grain of salt.

PLAY: Seahawks for 2 units and under 47 points for 1 unit.

Conference title games: 2-2 for a net loss of 0.3 units (laying 1.1 units to win 1). Postseason record: 9-11 for a net loss of 5.6 units.

Making some propositions

My above comments should give some hints as to what prop bets I'm considering. Here's a quick rundown of props I've bet or are waiting to bet, with odds courtesy of the Las Vegas Hilton as of Thursday night.

Total field goals: With my thought that there will be more touchdowns than field goals, I took over 3 1/2 field goals at +135.

Total touchdowns: Ditto for taking under 5 1/2 TD's at ?120.

Bettis props: I'll be looking to fade the action by going under after the public bets up the Bettis props. As of Friday, the over/under on these were 15 1/ 2 rushing attempts, 39 1/ 2 rushing yards (Stations had it at 44 1/ 2) and the ?no? on whether he would score a touchdown was at +135. All should be available at much better numbers Sunday.

Halftime leader/game winne: This has become my favorite annual bet since first making it three years ago. I take the ?halftime tie? to each team and cheer for it to be tied at the half and I have a guaranteed winner. Last year, the Patriots and Eagles were tied at the half and I had the Patriots at 10-1 and the Eagles at 14-1, cashing when the Pats won. This year, the Hilton opened the halftime tie/Steelers win game at 12-1 and the halftime tie/Seahawks win at 15-1. Some bettors have obviously also seen the value in this as the odds Thursday night were down to 10-1 and 12-1, respectively, but still worth a shot. Here's hoping for a 10-10 tie at half for the sake of all my wagers.