10/28/2010 2:42PM

NFL underdogs continue their success

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LAS VEGAS – The year of the underdog got back on track last week as they went 9-5 against the spread and now stand at 61-38-4 (61.6 percent after tossing out the pushes) on the season as we approach the halfway point.

Beep . . . beep . . . beep . . .

We interrupt this regularly scheduled NFL picks column to bring you a Breeders’ Cup update as this is a horse racing publication and the sport’s two-day festival of championship races is coming up next weekend, and it’s a big deal in Vegas, even during football season.

The BC Week festivities actually get under way Wednesday with the Pick the Ponies handicapping tournament that runs through Friday. This tournament almost always sells out its 200-player maximum (so everyone can have a seat in the SuperBook) but as of 11 a.m. Thursday there were still 14 spots available, so hurry if you still want to make it to the starting gate. Contestants make 10 mythical $100 across-the-board wagers each of the three days. There is no cap on the first $50 of each wager as those are credited at track odds, but then the remaining $50 is capped at $42 to win, $18 to place, and $10 to show (or 1,750 in contest points). Assuming the sellout, first place will be worth $38,000.

DRF SPORTS: Latest betting lines, StatFox matchups, and handicapping news for every game

Handicapping seminars are always an integral part of the big-race-weekend experience here in Las Vegas, whether it’s at Derby time or for the Breeders’ Cup, and there are many options for handicappers. Kicking it off will be yours truly, Dave Tuley, and Dan Shapiro at the Plaza Hotel in downtown Las Vegas at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4. Also that night, at 6 p.m., will be another seminar at Palace Station. At 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5, the “Track Talk” radio crew of Gordon Jones, Patrick McQuiggan, and John Kelly will have their annual BC seminar at Sam’s Town. At 10 a.m. Saturday, Jon Lindo will do a seminar at the Orleans. Also Saturday, after doing his “Race Day Las Vegas” radio show from the Sonoma Ballroom at the South Point, RDLV host Ralph Siraco will be joined by Richard Eng in discussing the BC card all day between races.

In next Saturday’s Daily Racing Form , I’ll run down the special wagering options and promotions offered around town.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled column, already in progress . . .

. . . and we’ll see if the dogs continue to bark the rest of the season.

Back to the betting board

I bounced back with a 2-1 mark in this space last week as the Browns and Giants not only covered vs. the Saints and Cowboys, respectively, but beat them outright. The loss was on the Cardinals. Now, a lot of times I land on some very ugly underdogs and fortunately I’ve continued to have success playing that way, but this week I have three good teams I’m focusing on and hopefully they perform as well as underdogs.

Packers +6 vs. Jets

Okay, the Jets have run off five straight wins after losing their opener and they’re now the 5-1 favorite to win the Super Bowl, according to odds at the Hilton. They’re also the No. 2 team – behind the Steelers – in the NFL Oddsmakers’ Poll by former Las Vegas Sports Consultants chief Kenny White. However, the Packers (the future-book favorite after Week 2) are still a pretty good team, and I see this as close to a pick-em affair. The Oddsmakers’ Poll, which also includes power ratings, only has the Jets 1.8 points better than the Packers, so even with home field factored in, I feel I’m getting value at +6. Besides, home field hasn’t been much of an advantage in recent years as road teams are hitting at a 55 percent clip this year (55-45-4) against the spread. I’ll take the generous points in a game that should come down to a field goal.

PLAY: Packers for 1 unit.

Vikings +6 1/2 vs. Patriots

The Vikings might stretch the definition of a “good team” with their 2-4 record and the way they’ve been playing, but the talent is still there. This line also seems higher than it should be (note: of Minnesota’s four losses, only one of them was by more than this spread, and it was due to a late pick six by the Jets three weeks ago in a 9-point loss), especially when you consider the Vikings’ offensive weapons and the Patriots’ young defense that mostly still puts the onus of outscoring the opponents on the offense. There are some questions about Brett Favre’s injuries (some self-inflicted), but I would still feel comfortable with this bet if Tavaris Jackson was forced under center – in fact, an argument can be made that it might be better for the team at this point.

PLAY: Vikings for 1 unit.

Texans +5 1/2 vs. Colts

Regular readers saw this one coming, but I love this play as we get the Texans who have been playing the Colts very tough in recent years. They’re 4-1 against the spread in the last five meetings, including a 34-24 outright upset in the season opener. In that game, Arian Foster ran for 231 yards against the Colts’ porous run defense (ranked 26th in the league), and I don’t think we have any fears of them abandoning that game plan. The Texans also are 11-3 ATS in their last 14 games as underdogs. It also looks like Peyton Manning and the Colts’ offense will be without Joseph Addai, Austin Collie, and Dallas Clark, so that helps as well.

PLAY: Texans for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-1 for a profit of 0.9 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 14-8 for a net profit of 5.2 units.