Updated on 09/18/2011 1:15AM

NFL favorites go 13 for 13


LAS VEGAS – Heading into Sunday’s NFL action, the top stories were Terrell Owens’s return to Philadelphia, whether the Bears and Colts would stay undefeated, Matt Leinart’s first start at quarterback for Arizona, and the defending champion Steelers trying to avoid a 1-3 start.

At the end of the day, those were still the main stories, though Owens was mostly a non-factor in the Eagles’ thrilling 38-24 win, which seemed headed for overtime until Lito Sheppard intercepted a Drew Bledsoe pass in the end zone and returned it 102 yards for the clinching score. The Bears routed the Bills, and the Colts rallied to beat the Titans. Leinart played well and got the Cardinals in position to tie their game, but Neil Rackers missed the field goal. And the Steelers got out to a 10-0 lead but were defeated by the Chargers, 23-13.

When all the results were in, the favorites had won all 13 games on the day. However, it wasn’t a bloodbath for the books like it usually is when a lot of favorites win. For one thing, some of the week’s most popular plays were on underdogs, especially the Bills plus the points vs. the Bears and the Cowboys vs. the Eagles – both of which went up in flames. Also, there were six games in which the game-winning favorite didn’t cover (the Colts were favored by 17 1/2 in their 14-13 win over the Titans, the Saints beat the Buccaneers 24-21 as a 6 1/2-point favorite, and the Chiefs beat the Cardinals 23-20 as a 3 1/2-point favorite) – or the game fell right around the number.

Close calls were the other story for bettors, reinforcing the need to shop for the best numbers. In the Rams-Packers game, the line was Rams –3 most of the week, so early Green Bay bettors got a push when the Rams won 23-20. The line dropped to 2 1/2 over the weekend, so Rams bettors who laid that number got the win while late Packer backers were stuck with a loss.

The Panthers-Browns game was even a better example of how important line-shopping is. The Panthers were favored by 8 1/2 early in the week and were as high as 9 (which, actually, is where the Las Vegas Hilton kept it even through Sunday morning) before money came in on the Browns and most books dropped the line to 8 and even to 7 1/2 at the Palms and the MGM Mirage properties. So, when the Panthers won 20-12, the early Cleveland bettors were winners, as were the late Carolina bettors . Those who played the game at 8 settled for a push and those who took a bad price with either team (Panthers –8 1/2 or higher, or the Browns +7 1/2) ended up losers.

The Dolphins-Patriots game was one that no bettor should have lost. The game was mostly available at 9?1/ 2 and 10. When the Patriots won 20-10, those laying less than double digits got the victory while everyone playing at 10 pushed.

Early line moves

The best line shoppers were out Sunday night in Vegas trying to grab the best numbers for this upcoming weekend’s games.

The Stratosphere opened the Bears –8 1/2 vs. the Cardinals, and the Hilton opened at –9. Those spreads both quickly were bet to –11 before settling at 10 1/2, which was the consensus number when the rest of the Vegas books put up their lines Monday morning.

There are a couple of other big NFL spreads this week. The Hilton opened the Cowboys –11 1/2 over Houston and, with offshore books opening at 13?1/2, the line moved upward with the adjustment looking to be 12 1/2 – though Wynn and the Harrah’s-Caesars group were sticking with 13 as of noon Monday. The Broncos-Raiders game was off the board at most books since Denver was hosting the Ravens on Monday night football – but the early lines at the Stratosphere and Hilton had the Broncos favored by 15 and 16 points, respectively.

Before the Sunday night game, the Hilton opened the Chargers at –7 vs. the 49ers, and some bettor got that price before it went to 7 1/2. After the Chargers’ 23-13 win over the Steelers, every book in town adjusted the Chargers to –10 vs. the 49ers.

Huge scores at Orleans

In the handicapping tournament format at the Orleans – whereby each entrant makes 12 mythical $100 win wagers a day with the first $20 credited at track odds and the remaining $80 capped at odds of 20-1 – the winning score is usually around the 10,000 mark.

The Fall Classic at the Orleans drew 732 entries last Thursday through Sunday, and with big longshots coming in from coast to coast (with the notable exception of the Grade 1 races at Belmont on Saturday), Tom Lewis set a record with 12,815 points. And he needed nearly every single one of them as George Phipps almost caught him – finishing with 12,624 (with $100 bets, that 181-point difference is the equivalent of one $3.62 winner). Ken Esterline was third with a score of 10,626, which would normally easily win an Orleans event.

Lewis took home the first prize of $117,120 with Phipps earning $58,560 and Esterline $29,280. The top 80 finishers cashed, with the top 50 earning automatic berths into the Horseplayer World Series on Jan. 18-20 at the Orleans.

Casamayor win anticlimactic

It wasn’t exactly Ali-Frazier.

Joel Casamayor took away Diego Corrales’ WBC lightweight title belt Saturday night in the rubber match of their three meetings, but it was the least thrilling of them. Corrales didn’t make weight, so he was stripped of his belt on Friday, which obviously cut into the attendance as just 6,638 showed up at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. The early rounds were most notable by the amount of booing at the lack of action. Things picked up in the fifth round when Casamayor, an 8-5 underdog, went to his knees after going off-balance and Corrales more or less pushed him over with his left hand. Casamayor appeared more determined both after the “knockdown” and on several other occasions when Corrales landed big punches. In the end, Casamayor won a split decision, with two judges clearly giving him the win and Jerry Roth scoring it 114-113 for Corrales, who was obviously disappointed with himself for not making weight. He hinted after the fight that he may retire.

• At the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., Nickolai Valuev retained his WBA heavyweight title with an 11th-round knockout of Monte Barrett as a –500 favorite.