01/20/2007 1:00AM

One more time: Pats over Colts


I've taken a stand against the Colts twice this postseason and gone with totals in two other games. I've lost all four. Considering my overall playoff record is 4-4, that means I'm 4-0 in my other plays when I've picked a side or the Colts weren't involved.

This Sunday we have the Bears hosting the Saints and the Colts hosting the Patriots. But even though I've lost both of my totals bets and my two games going against the Colts, I'm sticking to my guns and taking the under in the Saints-Bears game and the Patriots vs. the Colts.

Saints at Bears (o/u 43 1/2)

As I've stated before, I have a 200-1 future bet on the Saints to win the Super Bowl ($10 ticket), so it's been hard for me to be objective in analyzing the point spreads on their games. So, just like last week, when I went with under 48 points in the Eagles-Saints game, I'm firing back with under 43 1/2 in this game.

The Saints' defense has surprised me this year, allowing only 307.3 yards per game, which was fourth-best in the NFC. The Bears' offense has been inconsistent and should have problems mounting sustained drives. Even though they led the NFC in scoring, much of that was due to Devin Hester's six returns for touchdowns and a defense that is capable of scoring. I don't see the New Orleans offense making the kinds of mistakes in this game that lead to fluke touchdowns.

The Bears also have the top defense in the NFC, allowing just 294.1 yards per game. The defense wasn't as dominant in the second half of the season as it was in the first, but it should step up with a big effort with a Super Bowl spot on the line.

The gametime temperature is expected to be in the upper 20's or low 30's, so we could see more conservative game plans. Both offenses have been explosive at times, but this could evolve into a battle of field goals, which is always good for under bettors. The weather can also wreak havoc on the kicking game, making the ball harder to handle for the snapper and holder, plus it's tougher to kick a cold ball.

PLAY: Under for 1 unit.

Patriots (+3 1/2) at Colts

I don't think much of Peyton Manning's ability to handle pressure in the postseason. The Colts have won the last two regular-season meetings with the Patriots, but the Patriots have won the last two playoff meetings and are still seen as having Manning's number. New England coach Bill Belichick has excelled in devising game plans to stop Manning, and I expect it to continue here. The Patriots disguise their coverages better than anyone, and no matter what adjustments and gyrations Manning makes at the line of scrimmage, he's yet to figure out the Patriots in the playoffs.

A lot is being made of the Colts' resurgent defense, but I'm not buying it. I'll give them credit for shutting down the Chiefs in the wild-card round, but it's not as much of a feat to shut down the Ravens, which they did in the second round. The Patriots pose significant problems for the Colts' defense in that they can run the ball with Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney, or they can throw the ball to a receiving corps that is less than spectacular but certainly capable. I'll trust Belichick to do whatever he thinks will give his team the best chance to win.

Some say the Patriots do it with mirrors, but they are the very definition of "team." They've played just as well on the road in the past - two of their last three AFC championship victories came on the road in Pittsburgh - and this season they're 8-1 on the road, both straight up and against the spread.

Add in Tom Brady's 12-1 record in the playoffs and 10-0 record in dome games (regular season and playoffs), and it's impossible for me to even consider going against them. With the line going to 3 1/2, I'll step up and make this a 2-unit play and try to get over .500 with my best bets this season.

PLAY: Patriots for 2 units.

Last week: 2-2, including 1-0 on 2-unit plays with the Patriots vs. Chargers, for a net profit of 0.8 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 53-41-2, including 2-2 on 2-unit plays, for a net profit of 7.7 units.