11/15/2007 12:00AM

Odds-on to be NFL champs, Patriots chase perfection

EmailThe Patriots have been the talk of the NFL in non-gambling circles, as they're off to a 9-0 start.

Gamblers know that they were 8-0 against the spread heading into the marquee matchup against the Colts two weeks ago and failed to cover for the first time this season. They were 5-point favorites and won the game 24-20. Now, with the Patriots coming off their bye week, most of the talk in the mainstream media is about whether the team will run the table on an undefeated season and match the mark of the 1972 Dolphins and their undefeated season. Of course, Las Vegas has a line on that. At the Hilton, the question of "Will the Patriots go 16-0?" has the "no" at -150 (risk $1.50 for every $1 you want to profit) with the "yes" at +130 (win $1.30 for every $1 wagered).

The Patriots have also been pounded in the Super Bowl futures. They have been bet to the prohibitive price of 4-11 at the Hilton, which is close to the 1-3 offered at the Palms.

The Patriots' dominance, as well as most of the NFL's other top teams playing in the AFC, has the Super Bowl line at the Hilton at AFC -14 1/2. The line had been as high as AFC -16 1/2 two weeks ago, but the NFC's Cowboys have continued to impress. The feeling is that if the Cowboys make it versus the Patriots or Colts, the number could be much closer to a touchdown, but any other NFC team will probably be at least a 17-point dog, with a line of 20 not out of the question.

The Cowboys actually are now the second choice in Super Bowl futures at the Hilton at 6-1, followed by the Colts (8-1), Steelers (12-1), and Packers (14-1). If those odds seem high for teams that are playoff-bound, that just shows how much they're trying to get money on other teams. The Chargers, who are back on top of the AFC West, are 25-1.

College race wide open

College football is in the stretch drive, though the fight for the No. 1 and 2 spots in the BCS standings for a berth in the title game is far from decided. Before Oregon's game at Arizona on Thursday night, the Ducks were the 8-5 co-favorites along with LSU to win the Jan. 8 BCS Championship Game in New Orleans. Oklahoma is the third choice at 4-1.

The Hilton posted a lot of teams in its futures, but Kansas was not expected to have the kind of season the Jayhawks have had, so they're the only team in the "field" with a shot at 8-1. Yet another Big 12 team, Missouri, is 12-1, with West Virginia and former No. 1 Ohio St at 15-1. The Buckeyes play at Michigan Saturday as 4-point favorites and hope to win that game and then have all the teams ahead of them falter.

Futures in other sports

Football rules in the sports betting kingdom, but we have a convergence of seasons, which makes it a great time to do a rundown of other future-book prices.

* The Red Sox and Patriots already had the Boston area beaming with pride, and now the Celtics have bolted to a 7-0 record both straight-up and against the spread. They have been dropped from the 13-1 posted after the off-season acquisition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to the current number of 7-1 at the Hilton. The Spurs are still the favorites at 4-1, followed by the Mavericks and Suns (both at 9-2), and the Rockets (5-1) ahead of the Celtics.

* There have been a lot of upsets already in college basketball, but UCLA is still the 5-1 favorite to be on top at the end of March Madness. Other top contenders are North Carolina and Memphis (both at 8-1); Kansas (10-1); Louisville, Tennessee, and Georgetown (15-1); and Indiana and Duke (25-1). The big news here is that North Carolina and Louisville are expected to meet next Saturday, Nov. 24, in the final game of the Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena. Of course, a similar preseason tournament plan backfired when Kentucky got upset by Gardner-Webb last week on its way to New York.

* The Senators are off to a torrid 14-2 start and are the Stanley Cup co-favorites along with the Red Wings at 5-1. They are followed by the Rangers (8-1) and the Ducks, Sharks and Avalanche (all at 10-1).

* Baseball is in the off-season, and it seemed that all hot stove league discussions had been moved to the back burner, but then Alex Rodriguez couldn't resist staying in the news and is back in discussions with the Yankees. At midweek, the Red Sox were still the 5-1 favorites to repeat as World Series champions, followed by the Yankees (6-1); Angels, Tigers, and Indians (9-1); and the Mets, Cubs, and Phillies (13-1). It will be interesting to see what happens with the odds on the Yankees if A-Rod stays.

Gordon favored in Ford 500

All of those titles are down the road, but one to be decided this weekend is the Nextel Cup Chase for the Championship with Sunday's running of the Ford 500 at Miami-Homestead Speedway. Station Casinos had Jeff Gordon as the 2-1 favorite to win the race with Jimmie Johnson at 3-1, but the logistics of the points race means neither might be out to win. Johnson has an 86-point lead over Gordon and needs to finish only 18th or better to clinch the title even if Gordon wins. If Johnson has car troubles or wrecks, Gordon might not need to win either.