11/14/2008 12:00AM

Three NFL underdogs best plays this week


LAS VEGAS - Every so often, whether on a radio show or out and about in the sports books here in Vegas, I'll be drawn into a conversation about who is going to make the NFL playoffs.

It's seems like a straightforward question for anyone interested in sports, but I find myself reaching for a sports section to check the standings to make sure I know the division leaders and who is in the wild-card chase. That's because I'm much more in tune with how teams are doing against the spread and whether they're overachieving or underachieving vs. the bookmakers' and public's perceptions.

Last week we looked at the best and worst teams in the NFL versus the spread and in over/unders. I've received many requests for the betting records of all 32 teams, so that's included in the accompanying chart.

Maybe now people will understand why I would be surprised to notice that the Chiefs are 1-8 in the official standings because they've been very competitive against the spread at 5-4. And the Broncos are leading the AFC West at 5-4? You could have won a bar bet with me because they're tied with the Texans for worst in the league at 2-6-1 against the spread.

It is a little clearer at the top. The teams with the best records are also covering the most. The Titans beat the Bears 21-14 last week as 3-point favorites to hold a commanding NFL lead at 8-0 vs. the spread. The Giants and Ravens, both of whom have covered a league-high four consecutive games, are next at 7-2.

The Ravens also have gone over in four straight games. Who would have thought of the Ravens/over as a profitable parlay with a rookie quarterback and a strong defense? The Texans, who played the Ravens last week and the game flew over late, are the best over team at 8-1. The best under teams, at 6-2-1, are the Panthers, Redskins, and Patriots (heading into Thursday vs. the Jets).

* Since posting plays in this space starting a few weeks into the season, I felt badly that I hadn't done as well here as my entries in the Hilton SuperContest and the Leroy's Pro Challenge. But last week I went 3-0 here, and 5-0 in both the contests to move up to second at Leroy's and a tie for 16th at the Hilton. Hopefully, I'll extend the streak with three more underdogs Sunday.

Broncos +6 vs. Falcons

As stated above, the Broncos have been poor against the spread, and we've all seen how the Falcons have exceeded expectations this year, but I'm taking Denver in this spot for much the same reasons I had the Seahawks last week vs. the Dolphins. The Falcons (like the Fish) have been getting more and more respect but now their lines are getting inflated. This has gone from 3 1/2 last week to 6 at deadline and could climb higher. The Falcons are good, but not good enough to overcome inflated lines. Granted, they could cover this week as well, but it'll catch up with them soon enough (another case in point being the Patriots last year).

PLAY: Broncos for 1 unit.

Lions +15 vs. Panthers

Double-digit dogs went 2-0 against the spread last week and are 15-1 on the season. The other choice this week is the Raiders +10 1/2 vs. the Dolphins. Although those Raiders played these Panthers tough last week and I again think the Dolphins are overpriced, I like the Lions-Panthers game better because the Lions continue to put forth a good effort, despite the lopsided score versus the Jaguars last week, and the Panthers and coach John Fox tend to grind out wins.

PLAY: Lions for 1 unit.

Chargers +5 vs. Steelers

I've had a lot of success going against the Chargers this year, but I like them here in the role of an underdog. Pittsburgh has the top defense in the league, but I think the Chargers finally get their breakout game, especially with the Steelers having questions on offense with Ben Roethlisberger and Willie Parker less than 100 percent. It's nice to back a talented dog like I did last week with the Colts vs. these same Steelers.

PLAY: Chargers for 1 unit.

Last week: 3-0 for a net profit of 3 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). Season DRF record: 12-8-2, including 1-2-1 on 2-unit plays, for a net loss of 2 units.

Rankings against the spread

Ranked by record against the spread (ATS); SU=straight-up record

Team SU Record ATS Streak O/U Streak
Titans (9-0) 8-0-1 W1 4-5 U2
Giants (8-1) 7-2 W4 6-2-1 O2
Ravens (6-3) 7-2 W4 6-3 O4
Cardinals (6-3) 6-3 L1 6-3 O1
Falcons (6-3) 6-3 W2 4-5 O1
Eagles (5-4) 6-3 L1 4-5 O1
Panthers (7-2) 5-3-1 W1 2-6-1 U1
Packers (4-5) 5-3-1 W1 6-2-1 O1
Buccaneers (6-3) 5-4 L2 4-5 O1
Redskins (6-3) 5-4 L1 2-6-1 U1
*Jets (6-3) 5-4 W2 3-5-1 O1
*Patriots (6-3) 5-4 W2 2-6-1 U3
Dolphins (5-4) 5-4 L1 4-5 U3
Saints (4-5) 5-4 L1 4-4-1 O2
Browns (3-6) 5-4 L2 4-5 O2
Chiefs (1-8) 5-4 W3 5-4 U1
Bears (5-4) 4-4-1 L2 4-4-1 U1
Steelers (6-3) 4-5 L1 5-4 O1
Bills (5-4) 4-5 L3 3-5-1 U1
Seahawks (2-7) 4-5 W1 5-3-1 U2
Colts (5-4) 3-5-1 W1 5-4 O1
Chargers (4-5) 3-5-1 L3 4-5 U1
Vikings (5-4) 3-6 L1 6-3 O3
Cowboys (5-4) 3-6 L1 6-3 O1
Jaguars (4-5) 3-6 W1 4-4-1 O1
49ers (2-7) 3-6 W1 5-2-2 O2
Rams (2-7) 3-6 L2 5-4 O1
Raiders (2-7) 3-6 L3 3-6 U2
Bengals (1-8) 3-6 W1 3-5-1 P1
Lions (0-9) 3-6 L1 5-3-1 O2
Broncos (5-4) 2-6-1 W1 5-3-1 O1
Texans (3-6) 2-6-1 L2 8-1 O2

*Records do not include Thursday night’s Jets-Patriots game.

Source: ViewFromVegas.com