08/13/2001 11:00PM

NFL preseason: Easy game if you play dogs and unders

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If you haven't been playing the dogs and the under so far this NFL preseason, you're probably not making any money.

When the Dolphins, a 3 1/2-point underdog, beat the Buccaneers 17-14 Monday night - on a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game - it improved the dogs' record to 13-5 this preseason. The game also stayed under the total of 32 1/2, making the under 13-5.

These trends certainly make sense when you consider that underdogs typically have more to prove in the preseason, plus a lot of subs are playing and the defenses are generally ahead of the offenses, which explains the unders.

Thursday's selections

Jaguars (+3) at Giants: In the ESPN game, expect the Jaguars to be playing to win more than the Giants are. Even after failing to cover against the Panthers, the Jaguars are 19-9-1 against the spread in preseason games under coach Tom Coughlin. The Giants went 0-4 last year in the preseason before making their Super Bowl run, so there's no reason to think they will be putting too much stock in preseason games this year (as evidenced by their 14-0 loss to the Patriots). I'll wager 11 units (to win 10) on the Jaguars +3.

Steelers (+4 1/2) at Vikings: Again, I have to look to the dog here, and for most of the same reasons I liked the Steelers in their preseason opener versus the Falcons (a 17-16 victory). The Steelers will have scoring opportunities throughout with their quarterback rotation of Kordell Stewart, Kent Graham, Tommy Maddox, and Tee Martin. In addition, the Vikings' depleted secondary had trouble with the Saints' Aaron Brooks last week, and his style of play is similar to both Stewart and Martin. The Vikings will probably put up their share of points, depending on how much Duante Culpepper, Randy Moss & Co. play, but the total of 40 is too high. I'll wager 11 units on the Steelers +4 1/2.

Bankroll and weekend recap

The bankroll, which started the preseason at 100 units, stood at 130 entering last weekend's games. My selections, risking the standard 11 units to win 10, eked out a small profit by going 4-3. The four wins earned +40 units while the three losses set me back 33 units for a net profit of 7 units to bring the bankroll to 137.

I was 2-1 on Friday night as the Bengals (+2 1/2) rallied to beat the Lions 27-24 and the Giants-Patriots easily stayed under 34 1/2 in a 14-0 Patriots win. The loss was the Jaguars (-4), who had a chance to cover with a touchdown in the final minute but instead kicked a field goal from the one-yard line in a 18-16 non-covering victory.

Saturday produced another bad beat as the Seahawks (+4 1/2) failed to cover against the Colts, despite leading 21-11 late in the third quarter of a 28-21 loss. I had also bet over 38, so that game was basically a push. The Packers (-2 1/2) made it a losing day with a 10-3 loss to the Browns.

Fortunately, the weekend showed an overall profit when the Chiefs (-3 1/2) rolled over the Redskins 20-0 on Sunday night.