11/11/2005 12:00AM

Think Indy can finish 16-0?


LAS VEGAS - When the Colts started the season on a winning streak, most people pointed to last Monday night's game vs. their old nemesis, the Patriots, as the first major obstacle to matching the 1972 Dolphins' perfect season.

After the Colts defeated the Patriots, 40-21, to improve to 8-0, talk really started getting serious about their chances. So it was no surprise Wednesday that some sports books here posted odds on the Colts going 16-0 in the regular season.

The Las Vegas Hilton was the first, making the "no" - that the Colts would not sweep their last eight games - at -900 (wager $9 for every $1 you want to win) and the "yes" at +650 (win $6.50 for every $1 wagered).

The Leroy's chain of books then set the odds at -600 on the "no" and +400 on the "yes." That is what we in the industry call a scalp opportunity. If you had acted quick enough, you could have locked in a free shot at a small win. For instance, you could have risked $600 on the "no" at Leroy's and bet $100 on the "yes" at the Hilton, breaking even if the Colts lose (or tie) a game and pocketing a $50 profit if they were to finish 16-0.

Not surprisingly, that didn't last long, and the Hilton lowered its odds to -800 on the "no" and +600 on the "yes."

Ed Salmons, sports book manager at the Hilton, said, "People are more likely to bet on something they want to see happen." Salmons backed that up by saying that, as of 10 a.m. Friday, the Hilton had booked 23 bets on the "yes" and zero on the "no."

"At some point, it'll be low enough that people will bet that it won't happen," he said.

On the other hand, Bob Smith of Leroy's said they've been getting balanced action at -600/+400.

Well, I'm not worried about anyone going 16-0, just myself trying to go 6-0 this week.

Chiefs (+2 1/2) at Bills

Last Sunday, the Bills were idle and the Chiefs beat the Raiders, 27-23, after Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil - with Kansas City facing a 1st-and-goal at the 1-yard line with four seconds left in the game - passed up a field-goal attempt and instead called a running play with Larry Johnson, who scored the winning touchdown. A few hours later, while waiting for this week's odds to go up at the Imperial Palace, a couple of bettors were discussing this game, which had been listed at pick-em at the Hilton the previous week. IP sports book manager Rich Dressler even came out and said his staff was split and asked what we thought since the decision had already been made. One guy said Bills -1. The other said pick-em. I thought it should be Chiefs -1, figuring the public would back them after such a high-profile victory. The IP posted the Chiefs -1, and the other bettors jumped on the +1 and bet the Bills to favoritism. Other books opened the Bills between -1 and -2 and have all been bet to -2 1/2 since. Some people are talking about the Chiefs having a letdown from their emotional

victory, but I see it as more of a confidence-booster that Vermeil made a gutsy call and that the players executed. The Bills, although they play better at home, will have a hard time containing the Chiefs' offense, and they don't usually score much themselves. I'm just waiting to see if I can get a +3 for my wallet, but I will fire away with the +2 1/2 here.

PLAY: Chiefs for 2 units.

Redskins (-1) at Buccaneers

This game also started around pick-em and the Redskins have been bet to favoritism. I agree with this line move and will back the short favorite. Both teams have solid defenses and rely on them for the most part because they have pedestrian offenses, but I trust Mark Brunell more than Chris Simms to get key completions when needed.

PLAY: Redskins for 1 unit.

Patriots (-3) at Dolphins

Dating back to 2002, the Patriots have yet to lose two straight games, going 7-0 in games following a loss. In fact, this year they've gone win-loss-win-loss-win-loss-win-loss, so they're due for a win this week, right? Well, it's more than that. Although the Patriots' defense might be a shell of its former self, the Dolphins don't have the offense to take advantage of it like the Colts did. And the Patriots offense should do just fine in moving the ball on the Dolphins to get back in the win column.

PLAY: Patriots for 1 unit.

Texans (+18) at Colts

Three weeks ago, the Texans actually played with the Colts for three quarters before getting blown away late to lose, 38-20. Since then, they have beaten the Browns for their only win and then last week went to Jacksonville and gave the Jaguars a scare before losing, 21-14. The Colts got over a major obstacle and could have a letdown from their victory in New England and still win this comfortably - let's say 34-20 - and still not cover this huge spread. I'll take the points.

PLAY: Texans for 1 unit.

Rams (+6 1/2) at Seahawks

The Seahawks won the first meeting, 37-31, in St. Louis last month and can open a three-game lead in the division (plus hold all tiebreakers) with a victory Sunday, but I don't expect the Rams to give up without a fight. After a much-needed bye week, Marc Bulger returns at quarterback and Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce might also be back at receiver. If it rains, Steven Jackson certainly was able to handle an offtrack in his days at Oregon St., so it really comes down to the Rams' defense slowing down the Seahawks and Shaun Alexander.

PLAY: Rams for 1 unit.

Browns (+8) at Steelers

The Browns are only 3-5, but first-year head coach Romeo Crenell has them moving in the right direction. They don't do anything flashy, but they stay in games. I expect the same thing Sunday night, as the Steelers continue with their conservative game plan with quarterback Charlie Batch starting in place of Ben Roethlisberger. I would have preferred the +10 if Roethlisberger was playing, but it'll still take more than a touchdown to beat me.

PLAY: Browns for 1 unit.

Last week: 4-2-1, including a win on a 3-unit play on the Falcons -2 1/2 vs. the Dolphins, for a net profit of 3.8 units. NFL season record: 21-31-3 for a net loss of 13.6 units.