10/31/2006 1:00AM

Patriots building momentum

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Let's see if I have this right.

Coming into this year, the talk was if the Steelers could repeat as Super Bowl champions. Then, a lot of people were saying the Bengals, with a healthy Carson Palmer, could be the team to surpass them. And the Chargers looked like a complete team with Philip Rivers stepping into the starting quarterback role. Then the Broncos were shutting down everyone and being proclaimed the top team in the AFC. Of course, the Bears and Colts got off to their undefeated starts and everyone was talking about that being a potential Super Bowl matchup.

But very quietly, almost under the radar, the Patriots - you know, the team that won the Super Bowl in each of the two years before the Steelers' surprising run last season, and who, if not for a few controversial calls in their playoff game at Denver might have won three in a row - have been racking up wins. With Monday night's 31-7 rout of the Vikings, they sit at 6-1 in their usual spot atop the AFC East and have a home game this Sunday night vs. the Colts that will determine who has the inside track on home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

The Patriots have also been winning money for bettors, going 5-2 against the spread. Heading into last weekend, the Vikings, Rams, and Saints were all 5-1 against the spread but they all lost and are tied with the Patriots at 5-2 for the NFL's top spread record along with the Falcons and Colts.

The Patriots and Colts pretty much cancel each other out with their 5-2 spread marks, but if you're looking to back these other hot teams, the Falcons are -5 vs. the Lions, the Vikings are -5 1/2 vs. the 49ers, the Rams are -2 1/2 vs. the Chiefs, and the Saints are -1 vs. the Buccaneers.

* On the losing end of the ledger, the Dolphins were on a bye last week after starting the season 0-6-1 against the spread. For those looking to continue fading Miami, the Bears are -13 1/2 vs. the Dolphins. The Panthers, who are idle this week, are right behind the Dolphins at 1-6-1 while the Cardinals are 2-6, and the Redskins, Texans, and Lions are all 2-5.

* In NFL totals wagering, the Jets dropped to 7-1 with the over in their 20-13 loss to the Browns. Other consistent over teams have been the 49ers at 6-1, the Bears at 5-1-1 (which I'm still kicking myself for not playing the over in the 49ers-Bears game last week), and the Lions, Chiefs, and Seahawks all at 5-2.

* As for unders, the Broncos also had their streak snapped as they dropped to 6-1 with the under. The Bills, Browns, and Patriots are all 5-2 with the under.

* Next Thursday, with the bye weeks all completed and every NFL team having played exactly eight games, I will provide a full chart of everyone's spread and totals records.

NFL betting trends

This past weekend saw only two games with home underdogs, and they split as the Raiders upset the Steelers, 20-13, but the Vikings lost to the Pats. Every winner this weekend also covered the spread. So, home teams were 8-6 straight up and against the spread and the same thing for favorites. For the season, home teams are 62-49-3 (56 percent after tossing out the pushes) while underdogs saw their lead dwindle in the dog vs. favorite category to 58-53-3.

* With the 1-1 mark for home dogs, they are now 25-16 (61 percent) on the season. This week's home dogs are the Redskins +3 vs. the Cowboys, the Buccaneers +1 vs. the Saints, the Lions +5 vs. the Falcons, and the 49ers +5 1/2 vs. the Vikings.

* With the 49ers failing to cover as 16 1/2-point underdogs vs. the Bears last week, double-digit dogs are still a losing proposition this year at 6-8-1. But they get three more tries this week with the Texans +13 vs. the Giants, the Dolphins +13 1/2 vs. the Bears, and the Browns +12 1/2 vs. the Chargers.

* Underdogs in the 7 1/2 to 9 1/2-point range - basically those that are more than a touchdown but not quite double-digit dogs - went 2-2 last week and are still showing a profit at 7-5. This week's dogs in that range look to be the Titans +9 vs. the Jaguars, and the Raiders +7 1/2 vs. the Seahawks on Monday night.

* The interconference battles had been surprisingly in favor of the NFC through the first seven weeks of the season, but the AFC rebounded last week by going 5-1 straight up and against the spread and holds a slim 17-16 overall lead after the Pats' win over the Vikes. This week's AFC plays would be the Chiefs +2 1/2 vs. the Rams, Texans +13 vs. the Giants, Bills -3 vs. the Packers, Dolphins +13o1/2 vs. the Bears, and Raiders +7o1/2 vs. the Seahawks.

* In totals wager, the over went 8-5-1 last week and is now 59-51-4 (54 percent) on the season.

Bankroll gets peppered

Have you seen that annoying Dr. Pepper commercial where everyone has the number 23 on their mind because the soft drink allegedly has 23 flavors?

As much as I hate the ad, I have to give them credit because the number is popping up even in real life. Case in point, I went 2-3 with my college bankroll plays on Saturday and then 2-3 on Sunday in the NFL. Hmmm, maybe I can get in one of those commercials to recoup the losses!

Anyway, that dropped me to 24-23 in the colleges for a net loss of 1.4 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1) and 20-18-2 in the NFL for a net loss of 0.9 units.

Unfortunately, I didn't use my selections on the under in the Jets-Browns game and the over in the Colts-Broncos game, as I did well with my non-bankroll plays.