10/26/2006 11:00PM

Ride streaks, don't buck them


Sports fans love to talk about streaks.

Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. Cal Ripken's 2,632 consecutive games played. Brett Favre's 227 straight starts. Mariano Rivera's 33o1/3 scoreless innings of postseason baseball. Even Kenny Rogers's 23 straight scoreless innings this postseason, or seven straight scoreless without "dirt" on his hand. This is being written prior to Friday's Game 5, so it was unknown if Rogers would get the chance to extend those streaks in Game 6.

There are also streaks to watch when betting on teams. For instance, the Jets have gone over in all seven of their games this season, while the Broncos have gone under in all six of theirs.

There is a temptation to say a team is "due" to end such a streak, but an axiom of sports bettors is to not bet against a streak. In the long run, it's better to ride streaks than to try and predict when they will stop. The math backs this up, too, as you can lose multiple bets if you keep trying to bet against a streak while you can only be right one time. Some professional bettors make their living by finding teams on the starts of streaks (winning or losing, and this is especially popular during baseball season) and riding them. The feeling is that good teams on a streak are more likely to continue playing well than to throw in a clunker, and bad teams on losing streaks are more likely to keep losing than to suddenly start playing well.

All that being said, I'm flying in the face of that conventional wisdom by taking the over in the Colts-Broncos game (I bet it at over 38 before it rose to 39) and under in the Jets-Browns game (that total opened 38 and it was down to 37 and I'm waiting to see if it goes any lower before betting it).

Here's a rundown of other bets I plan to make in addition to the bankroll plays below:

Sides: I was hoping to get the Seahawks +7 vs. the Chiefs, but that line got taken down when K.C. quarterback Damon Huard was hurt in practice Thursday. If he plays and the line climbs again, I will jump in on Seattle. I already have the Eagles -6 vs. the Jaguars, but with that line rising, I will probably buy back most of that on the Jaguars +8 or higher and try to hit a middle (where both bets would win if the Eagles win by 7) or catch a side (where I would push one bet and win the other if the Eagles win by exactly 6 or 8). I'm also considering plays on the Raiders if the line gets to +10 vs. the Steelers (not likely) and Cowboys +5 vs. the Panthers.

Teasers: Last week, I'm glad I passed on the only two teasers I was considering (Falcons +8 1/2 and Seahawks -1) as the Vikings blew out the Seahawks, 31-13. This week, the optimum teasers - which grab the key numbers of 3 and 7 - would be Eagles -1 1/2 vs. the Jaguars, Ravens +8 or +8 1/2 vs. the Saints, Jets +8 vs. the Browns, and Vikings +8 vs. the Patriots on Monday night.

Now for my bankroll plays, which have shown a profit each of the past three weeks. That's one streak I hope doesn't end.

Falcons (+4) at Bengals

My Steelers' selections vs. the Falcons was my lone loser last week, and I was very impressed with the changes in the Atlanta offense. Coupled with the Bengals' continued struggles to play a complete game (they really lucked out last week with Jake Delhomme's late interception in the end zone), the Falcons are the play here as the league's No. 1 rushing offense takes on the No. 25 defense against the run. And while Atlanta has had trouble against the pass, Cincy's Chad Johnson certainly provided bulletin-board material for DeAngelo Hall & Co., which should rise to the challenge.

PLAY: Falcons for 1 unit.

Rams (+9 1/2) at Chargers

This line has been steadily climbing toward 10, and that's what you should hope to get. But since the consensus line is 9 1/2 as I write this Friday morning, I will go with that. The Chargers, who lost at Kansas City last week, will get a tougher test on offense against an ever-improving St. Louis defense that is carrying its weight for a change. The offense is also coming along with Stephen Jackson's running and Marc Bulger's passing and should keep up with the Chargers, who are playing without defensive end Igor Oshansky and outside linebacker Shaun Phillips, and with the shadow of Shawn Merriman's impending suspension. The Rams are a live dog.

PLAY: Rams for 1 unit.

Buccaneers (+9) at Giants

I made this bet at Buccaneers +10, but I believe it still offers value at anything more than a touchdown. The Buccaneers, coming off impressive back-to-back upsets of the Bengals and Eagles, are finally playing like the team that was expected at the start of the season as opposed to the one that started 0-4. Thus, I think this line is out of whack with how they're playing now. I'm not sure they can come out with the straight-up win (the previous two upsets were at home), but I love their chances to stay within a touchdown.

PLAY: Buccaneers for 1 unit.

Jets (+2) at Browns

Is the right team favored? The Jets are 4-3 with road wins at Tennessee and Buffalo. The Browns are 1-5 and are 0-3 at home. Some would call it a trap; I will call it a gift.

PLAY: Jets for 1 unit.

Texans at Titans (-3)

This was the fifth game I took in the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest. Last week, my fifth play was the Chiefs +6 vs. the Chargers and I left it off the bankroll and regretted it, so I'm including it this week. These two teams have pulled the two biggest upsets the last two weeks - Titans vs. Redskins and Texans vs. Jaguars - but I grade the Titans' performance better as they pulled the feat on the road while the Texans were at home. And now the Titans have the home-field advantage in a game that I will be one of the few watching. The X-factor in this game is the fact that Vince Young thought he had done enough in the Rose Bowl to be drafted No. 1 by his home state Texans. Now he gets the chance to prove himself, just like he did after losing the Heisman to Reggie Bush and taking it out on USC.

PLAY: Titans for 1 unit.

Last week: 3-1, including a 2-unit loss on the Steelers, for a net profit of 0.8 units. NFL season record: 18-15-2 for a net profit of 0.4 units.