01/30/2007 12:00AM

Super Bowl trends for the bettor


LAS VEGAS – In the Thursday column during the NFL regular season, I always offer up trends and betting angles. Some have merit and some are statistical anomalies; sometimes it pays to follow them and other times it doesn't.

Well, if the Super Bowl is the ultimate game of the year, it's also the watershed game when it comes to looking at trends and seeing if they, well, hold water.

Anyone reading through this will find several trends that seemingly support the side they want to play, but keep in mind there's just as many trends in favor of the other side.

The line for this year's game between the Colts and Bears hasn't totally settled yet. The consensus number the past week and a half has been Colts -7, but money has shown on the Bears and several books have gone to 6 1/2 before having it bet back to 7.

With 7 being the second-most common winning margin in pro football (after 3), bookmakers are reluctant to move off that number in case it lands and they get sided (meaning they would refund all the bets made at -7 or +7 but lose the vast majority of bets they would take on the favorite at -6 1/2). At most Las Vegas casinos, instead of moving the line, they've just adjusted the price attached to it. Instead of going with the standard -110 on each side, books have opted to go to Bears +7 and -115 or -120 and offer the Colts at -7 and -105 or even-money in order to balance out their action.

The 7-point spread is the basis of a trend that's been getting a lot of notice this past week. In the last seven Super Bowls with a closing point spread of exactly 7, the underdog was 5-1-1 against the spread, the most recent being the Patriots' 3-point wins over the Eagles and Panthers two and three years ago, respectively. The lone favorite to cover a 7-point spread was the Redskins in a 37-24 win over the Bills in Super Bowl XXVI. The push was the Rams' 23-16 win over the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV.

If you believe that trend is a good omen for the Bears, keep in mind that if the closing line gets bet down to 6 1/2, the only previous Super Bowl at that number was won 52-17 by the favored Cowboys over the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII.

So, while this column is meant to be helpful, there's a good chance it'll just confuse those who are still undecided about whom to play in this year's Big Game.

More Super Bowl historical trends:

* Despite several competitive games in recent years, many people still think of Super Bowls as games in which the favorites score blowout wins. In reality, favorites are only

20-17-3 against the spread and 3-6-2 the past 11 years. Speaking of favorite/underdog trends, dogs went 140-106-7 (57 percent) during the regular season this year and are 6-3-1 in the playoffs.

* For a while, the NFC ruled in the Super Bowl, winning it 13 straight years from 1985-97 and going 10-2-1 against the spread in that span. But the AFC has battled back and the NFC now leads only 21-19 straight up and 19-18-3 against the spread. Going back to this year's regular-season stats, the AFC was clearly dominant as it went 36-27-1 (57 percent) against the spread.

* If you truly think the Colts are going to win the game, you should probably just go ahead and lay the points. Despite the Patriots' non-covers in recent years, the winner is still 31-6-3 against the spread.

* There is a theory that the better team is helped by a two-week gap between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. Favorites are 17-11-2 against the spread when there is a two-week gap, as there is this year.

* Nevada sports books didn't start taking over/under bets on the Super Bowl until 1982, when they posted a total on the 49ers-Bengals game at 47. That game ended up in a push, with the 49ers winning, 26-21. Since then, the over holds a 15-9 edge. The trend improves to 13-5 if you use only the games with the two-week gap, though in the last two years the Super Bowl has gone under.

Trends involving the Bears

The Bears are 1-0 both straight up and against the spread in the Super Bowl, thanks to their 46-10 win over the Patriots in Super Bowl XX. The Bears are one of only five teams with an undefeated record in the Super Bowl.

* As for this year's team, the Bears are 15-3 overall and 11-7 against the spread. When looking at a neutral-site game like the Super Bowl, it's usually a good idea to see how teams perform in road games. The Bears were 5-3 against the spread away from Soldier Field during the regular season.

* In totals wagering, the Bears are 13-4-1 with the over, including going over in both playoff wins. They were also 4-3-1 with the over on the road.

Trends involving the Colts

The Colts are 1-1 in Super Bowl appearances, both when the franchise was based in Baltimore. In Super Bowl III, the Colts famously failed as 17-point favorites in a 16-7 loss to the Jets. The Colts then upset the Cowboys 16-13 as 1-point underdogs in Super Bowl V.

* This year's Colts are 15-4 overall (they've played one more game than the Bears since they didn't have a first-round bye) and 10-7-2 against the spread. They were a subpar 3-5 on the road during the regular season before beating the Ravens on the road in the divisional playoffs.

* The Colts are 10-9 with the under - 8-8 with during the regular season before going under in their first two playoff wins and going over in the victory over the Patriots.