11/18/2003 12:00AM

There's a toll for jumping on bandwagon


All good things must come to an end.

In this column, I've discussed many times about trying to jump on a trend before it runs out and, just as important, when to recognize that the oddsmakers are adjusting their lines in reaction to a hot or cold team, which might be creating value.

Two such trends ended last week. Up until two weeks ago, Rutgers was the only undefeated team against the spread in college football while the Oakland Raiders were without a cover in the NFL. That week, both teams pushed, with Rutgers losing by 7 as a 7-point underdog to Connecticut and the Raiders losing by 3 as a 3-point dog to the Jets. It should have been clear that the oddsmakers were catching up with these two teams.

Last week, oddsmakers made Boston College only a 6 1/2-point favorite over Rutgers when the Eagles probably should have been favored by double digits if talent alone had been the linemaking factor, so Rutgers backers were taking the worst of it. Value-seeking bettors pushed BC up to a 7 1/2- to 8-point favorite and, even though the Eagles trailed 25-20 in the fourth quarter, they rallied for a 35-25 victory to give Rutgers its first point-spread loss of the year.

In much the same way, oddsmakers adjusted to make the Raiders a rare home underdog the past two weeks and the Raiders finally got a win over the Vikings.

Sometimes it pays to ride a team, but just keep in mind that oddsmakers will make you pay a premium - laying more points with a favorite, or giving you fewer points with a dog - if you're playing a team on a streak.

More hot and cold teams

The Raiders' win makes them 1-8-1 against the spread on the season. The Jets are the only other team below 30 percent at 2-5-3. Other poor performing teams are the Chargers, Cardinals, and Falcons at 3-7, and the Bills and Giants at 3-6-1.

The Chiefs not only saw their undefeated season end in a 24-19 loss to the Bengals, but they also fell from atop the NFL point-spread standings. The Patriots now have the league's best spread record at 8-1-1, followed by the Chiefs at 8-2 and the Titans, Colts, and Bengals at 7-3. Amazingly, all those teams are in the AFC.

The NFC's top spread teams heading into last week - the Cowboys, Rams, and Vikings - all lost. The Cowboys and Rams are now 6-3-1 with the Vikings at 6-4, including four straight losses after starting the season 6-0.

The majority of the league, 17 of the 32 teams, is between 4-6 and 6-4.

* In totals wagering, the Bills' 12-10 loss to the Texans improved them to 9-1 with the under. The Dolphins are 8-2 with the under, while the 49ers and Bengals are both 7-3 and the Raiders are 6-3-1 after pushing with the Vikings on Sunday.

The Texans were 7-2 with the over before being dragged down by the Bills and are now 7-3 along with the Colts, with the Vikings right behind at 6-3-1. Of the league's 32 teams, 23 are between 4-6 and 6-4 with over/unders.

NFL betting statistics

In the more generic league-wide betting trends, the biggest news continues to be the reversal of fortune for home underdogs. Last Sunday, the Bengals, Bears, and Raiders all covered to make home dogs 3-0 for the week, 7-0-1 over the past two weeks, 11-1-1 over the past three weeks, and 13-2-1 over the past four weeks. At one time road favorites were 21-7 against the spread, but now that margin is down to 23-20-1.

* Underdogs in general have been doing well against the spread lately after a slow start. Dogs won only four games outright last week, but they went 9-7 against the spread as a rare five favorites won but failed to cover. Favorites hold a slight 79-73-6 record for the season.

* Yet another reversal has been with home teams. Road teams were hitting at nearly a 60-percent clip (59-40-1) after the first seven weeks of the season, but home teams have come on strong, including a 10-6 mark this past week, and now road teams are barely ahead at 77-76-6.

* The AFC went 3-0 vs. the NFC last week with the Browns whipping the Cardinals, the Raiders beating the Vikings, and the Patriots shutting out the Cowboys. AFC teams are now 19-14-4 against the spread.

* Heading into last week, there had been only two pushes all season with totals, but three landed exactly on the number this past week. That is unusual considering that eight of the NFL's totals last week were on a half-number. For the season, the over, which went 7-6-3 last week, leads 80-75-5.

Tackling the trends

Oklahoma State is 6-1-1 against the spread in its last eight meetings with Baylor. It looks like easy money to lay 27 points with the Cowboys, but I have to pass for the same reason as last week when I said it was just too many points to be laying Boise State -40 vs. UTEP. Boise State won, 51-21, but didn't cover.

In the NFL, the Browns are 3-0-1 against the spread in their last three meetings with the Steelers, including a 33-13 rout in Pittsburgh six weeks ago - and they should have covered in the game that was a push, too. This Sunday, the Browns are favored by 3 and are in a great spot to build on that record.

The Panthers have the NFC's best record at 8-2 and are 4-0 against the spread as an underdog. They're getting 3 points Sunday at Dallas, but I have to pass because while the Panthers have played well on the road, winning at Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, and New Orleans by exactly a field goal each time, they've also lost at Houston (though that was as a favorite).

Football bankroll updates

Some people have asked why I painstakingly break down my bankroll results each week by pointing out that I'm laying 1.1 units to win 1; it would certainly be easier to just state the win-loss record. The reason is that I want to accurately portray the reality of how difficult it is to overcome the 10 percent vigorish in the long run. I feel it's misleading when someone tries to tell you they went 5-5 and broke even.

This past week was a perfect example.

In the colleges, my bankroll plays went 2-2 with wins on North Carolina State and Oregon and losses on Mississippi State and Cincinnati. Instead of breaking even, with the vig that's a net loss of 0.2 units. For the season, college bankroll plays are 29-26 (53 percent) for a net profit of 0.4 units.

In the NFL, I went 3-3 with wins on the Texans, Jaguars, and Broncos and losses on the Rams, Panthers, and Saints. That was a net loss of 0.3 units. For the season, the NFL record is now 31-24 (56 percent) with four pushes for a net profit of 4.6 units.

The math works out very neatly with my combined record of 60-50 (54.5 percent). It wouldn't be accurate to claim I'm up 10 units. Even though I'm 10 games over .500, the 10 percent vig on those 50 losses eats up half of my winnings and leaves me with a net profit of 5 units and is more indicative of how I'm faring on the season.