09/11/2006 11:00PM

NFL homers fall flat in Week 1


People talk about home-field advantage all the time. Sleeping in your own bed, eating home-cooked meals, playing in your own stadium with your own fans - those are all supposed to be positives. Meanwhile, your opponent has to travel, sleep in a strange bed, and get harassed by your fans.

But if you came from another planet and watched Week 1 of the NFL season, you would think that home-field advantage was an Earthly myth.

Home teams won just 5 of the 16 games in Week 1 and were 4-12 against the spread. That's an out-of-this-world record. But there's more. Home favorites were 0-7 against the spread on Sunday and Monday. These are teams that are assumed to be better and have the supposed benefit of playing at home, and yet not a single one could cover the spread. The lone exception was the Steelers, the defending Super Bowl champions, who beat the Dolphins, 28-17, last Thursday.

The Patriots, a 19-17 winner as a 9 1/2-point favorite vs. the Bills, and the Cardinals, a 34-27 winner as a 9-point favorite over the 49ers, were the only other favorites to win. The Titans, Buccaneers, Panthers, Browns, Cardinals, and Redskins all lost outright.

(Note: The Jaguars did open as a home favorite vs. the Cowboys, but the majority of the money during the week and leading up to kickoff came in on the Cowboys, who closed at -1 at the Las Vegas Hilton and as high as -2 1/2 around town. For the purposes of this column, the official lines used in computing betting records during the season will be closing lines at the Hilton unless otherwise noted.)

More NFL betting trends

Last year was the well-documented "year of the favorite," as the chalk went 58 percent against the spread in the NFL. Oddsmakers and bookmakers - as well as professional bettors who tend to play more underdogs than the general public - were encouraged to see that underdogs went 10-6 in the opening weekend. Another positive for the sports books here was that the popular favorite/over parlay only came in on the Steelers-Dolphins game.

* The other reason for the lack of favorite/over parlays was that unders went 12-4, which is consistent with the adage that the defense is ahead of the offense at the beginning of the season. The Bears, Ravens, and Chargers all recorded shutouts, but the lowest-scoring game was the Seahawks' 9-6 win over the Lions, a game that had the fourth-highest total of the week, at 44 points.

* Since half of the games had home favorites, half had home dogs, which is historically a strong play but has had a losing record each of the past two seasons. Home dogs went 3-5 against the spread over the weekend, with the Rams and Jaguars being the only ones to come away with outright upsets. This week's home dogs are the Vikings +2 vs. the Panthers, Packers +1 1/2 vs. the Saints, 49ers +3 vs. the Rams, and Jets +6 vs. the Patriots.

* The Patriots were -10 at some books vs. the Bills, but they were 9 1/2 at the Hilton, so there were no official double-digit spreads in Week 1. However, dogs of 7 1/2 or higher were 2-0 - the Bills covered the 9 1/2-point spread against the Patriots, and the 49ers covered their 9-point spread after a last-minute field goal vs. the Cardinals.

We're seeing much bigger spreads this week, when the double-digit dogs are the Raiders +11 vs. the Ravens, Texans +13 vs. the Colts, Browns +11 vs. the Bengals, the Titans +11 1/2 vs. the Chargers, and the Chiefs +10 1/2 vs. the Broncos.

* Interconference games were split 3-3 both straight-up and against the spread. There are no interconference games this weekend.

College bankroll outperforms pro

Entering last weekend, my college bankroll was 2-2 for a net loss of 0.2 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1) with a 2-0 record on totals and 0-2 on sides.

I continued to focus on the unders and came away with three more winning wagers: I had Colorado St.-Colorado under 44 1/2 (the final was 14-10), UNLV-Iowa St. under 52 1/2 (the final was 16-10), and Ohio St.-Texas under 50 1/2 (the final was 24-7). It's nice to win under bets with three touchdowns to spare.

With my point-spread wagers, I won with Georgia -3 vs. South Carolina in an 18-0 victory, but I lost with Fresno St. +4 1/2 vs. Oregon in a 31-24 barnburner.

Overall, my college bankroll sits at 6-3 for a net profit of 2.7 units, with a 5-0 record on totals and 1-3 on sides.

* The results weren't quite as good in the opening weekend of the NFL. It started out promising with the Ravens (+3 vs. the Buccaneers) and Falcons (+6 vs. the Panthers) easily winning their games outright, but the Browns (-3 vs. the Saints) put in a disappointing performance, the Giants (+3 1/2 vs. the Colts) came up just short, and the less that's said about the Raiders (+3 vs. the Chargers on Monday night) the better.

In the Giants' 26-21 loss to the Colts, I was in an odd situation inside the two-minute warning, when the Colts led, 23-21, and had a 3rd-and-2 on the Giants 15-yard-line. I was actually cheering for the Colts to pick up a first down so they could just take a few knees and close out the win, but the Giants stopped them, and an Adam Vinatieri field goal gave Colts bettors the money.

So, that leaves the NFL bankroll at 2-3 for a net loss of 1.3 units.