01/08/2007 1:00AM

Tight spreads reflect NFL parity


In the NFL's wild-card weekend, all four home teams, all of which were favored, won their games to advance to the next round. But it sure seemed a lot more wild than that.

The point-spread results were split, with two favorites covering in the AFC and the two underdogs covering in the NFC. Technically, that last statement isn't true as the Seahawks closed as a 1-point favorite and ended up winning 21-20 over the Cowboys on Saturday night, but since the line opened at 3 and the vast majority of Dallas backers cashed while only the latest of the Seattle bettors got a push, I will consider it a underdog victory.

Totals were also split as both Saturday games went under while both Sunday games went over.

Here's a closer look at how bettors viewed the four games:

Chiefs at Colts: The game closed Indianapolis -7 1/2 and a total of 51 at the Las Vegas Hilton. The Chiefs were my biggest play of the weekend and I felt good as their defense held the Colts to two early field-goal attempts. The key sequence of the game came when longtime Peyton Manning nemesis Ty Law intercepted a pass and returned it inside the Colts' 10-yard line to give the Chiefs a chance to take the lead and gain all the momentum. But instead of taking a 7-6 lead, the Chiefs had to settle for a 23-yard field-goal attempt, which Lawrence Tynes clanked off the left upright. The Chiefs later got within 16-8, but the Colts scored again to secure the win and cover. The under was never in doubt.

Cowboys at Seahawks: The Seahawks closed -1 and had a total of 48 1/2. This was the wildest of the wild-card games. The wackiest play came with the Cowboys leading 20-13. The Cowboys' Terry Glenn fumbled and Seattle recovered for a touchdown. But the touchdown was overturned on replay and it became a safety to make it 20-15. The Seahawks got the ball on the free kick and scored a touchdown right away to go up 21-20. They went for a 2-point conversion, which would have made a lot of Seattle backers happy, but missed. Even so, it looked like the Cowboys were going to win on a short field goal by Martin Gramatica until Tony Romo dropped the snap and was unable to run for a first down or a touchdown.

Jets at Patriots: The Patriots closed as 9 1/2-point favorites with a total of 39. This was a wild game, and certainly closer than the 37-16 final score would indicate. The Patriots mostly seemed in control but the point spread was in doubt until midway through the fourth quarter after the Jets had cut the lead to 23-16. Then the Patriots went on a nice drive to go up 30-16 and a defensive touchdown made for the misleading final margin.

Giants at Eagles: This line closed with the Eagles -6 1/2 and a total of 46 1/2. In the first half, it looked like it was going to go over with the Eagles leading 17-10, but then the action tightened up in the second half and it came down to the wire. New York backers, of which I was one, were sitting pretty when the Giants tied the game 20-20 with 5:04 remaining as it would take two scores to beat them. Giant money-line bettors held out hope until David Akers kicked the winning field goal as time expired.

Opening lines for divisional matchups

The first thing I noticed as the point spreads came up for this upcoming weekend's divisional playoff round was how low they are. Typically, the teams that earn first-round byes and get an extra week of rest are perceived to be much better than the teams that have to survive wild-card weekend and then have to go on the road. But the fact the lines are low shows how much parity there still is in the league and that all the top seeds are vulnerable. Also, the four winning teams from this past weekend (Colts, Seahawks, Patriots, Eagles) have an edge in recent playoff experience over the teams they're traveling to face.

Colts at Ravens: After the Colts' win on Saturday, this line went up right away with the Ravens opening -4 at most books with a low of 3 1/2 at the Palms and a high of 4 1/2 at the Wynn. Early bets came on the Ravens at the lower numbers but have seemed to settled at 4. The total opened at 40 1/2 at most places but as of Monday morning had drifted up to 41.

Eagles at Saints: This line was the latest to be put up as it wasn't determined until the late game on Sunday. The Hilton opened the Saints -3 1/2 and it was quickly bet to 4 and then 4o1/2. The Pinnacle offshore book opened the Saints -4 and it rose to -5 before settling back to 4 1/2, which was a pretty solid number by Monday morning. The total opened at 48 1/2 and has wavered back and forth between that number and 48.

Seahawks at Bears: This game also had to wait until the Giants-Eagles game was set. The Hilton opened the Bears -7 and within minutes it steamed to -7 1/2, -8, -8 1/2 and -9 before coming back down to -8 1/2, which is where it sat Monday. While the point spread went up, the total went down. The Hilton opened it at 39 and over the first half-hour of wagering it dropped a half-point at a time until settling at 37.

Patriots at Chargers: This line went up once the Patriots disposed of the Jets. The Chargers opened -4 1/2 and there wasn't much volatility Sunday, though some books have moved to -5 with Station Casinos taking the lead at 5 1/2. The total opened at 46 1/2 and has inched up to 47.

Adjusted Super Bowl odds

Most of the future book odds didn't change with the top teams being idle. Heading into this week, the Hilton has the Chargers as the 11-4 favorite (just short of 3-1), followed by the Ravens (7-2), Bears (5-1), Colts (7-1), Patriots (8-1), Saints (8-1), Eagles (12-1), and Seahawks (25-1).

* The Super Bowl line, with any AFC team vs. any NFC team, is AFC -6 with a total of 46 1/2.

Bankroll update

My bankroll plays went 2-2 over the weekend, but I lost a 2-unit play on the Chiefs, so I ended up dropping 1.3 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). For the entire NFL season, that puts me at 51-39-2, including 1-2 on 2-unit plays, for a net profit of 6.9.