09/30/2002 11:00PM

Trend of homeland security for dogs


Only time will tell, but Week 4 may be remembered as the week home-field advantage returned to the NFL.

After home and road teams split the first 46 games of the season through the first three weeks, home teams won 12 of the 14 games on Sunday and Monday, and were 9-5 against the spread. The only teams to lose outright at home were the Rams, who have surprised everyone with their 0-4 start, and the Bengals, who aren't much of a surprise at 0-4.

As mentioned in last Thursday's column, home underdogs have been faring especially well since the start of the season. Home dogs were 5-1 both straight up and against the spread over the weekend, with the Bengals being the lone exception in both cases.

The Chiefs, Lions, Cardinals, Chargers, and Ravens all won as home underdogs. The Ravens' win was huge for bookmakers Monday night as the Broncos were bet from a low of 7-point favorites to 9. In addition, a lot of Ravens bettors parlayed to the under of 36 points, which was never in doubt after the Ravens scored 31 points in the second quarter and went on to win 34-23.

For the season, home dogs are 15-7 (68.2 percent) against the spread and are even 12-10 straight up, which has also been very profitable since you get plus-money when betting a dog on the money line.

This coming Sunday, the home dogs are the Falcons +2 vs. the Buccaneers, the Bills +3 vs. the Raiders, the Jets +3 1/2 vs. the Chiefs, and the Jaguars +3 vs. the Eagles.

More NFL betting trends

Bolstered by the 5-1 record of home dogs, underdogs went 9-5 last weekend and improved to 38-21 (64.4 percent) with one push through four weeks, while home teams also went 9-5 to chip away at the early dominance of road teams, which now have a negligible 30-29-1 edge.

The AFC went 1-2 in interconference games last week (with the Bills winning and the Texans and Bengals losing), but were 2-1 against the spread, with the Bengals again being the lone exception (maybe the AFC should discuss contraction). For the season, the AFC is 11-6 against the spread vs. the NFC. This week's interconference games are the Steelers-Saints, Redskins-Titans, and Eagles-Jaguars.

In totals wagering, the over has a slight 31-28 edge. In fact, it was knotted 28-28 until the last three games of the weekend concluded. The Titans-Raiders game on late Sunday afternoon, the Vikings-Seahawks, and Broncos-Ravens games all flew over their respective totals.

The Chargers (4-0) and Raiders (3-0) are the only undefeated teams in the NFL standings, but they are joined by the Panthers (4-0) and Jaguars (3-0) as undefeated against the spread. The Bengals, Rams, and Vikings are winless at 0-4, but the Vikings covered once, so they are only 1-3 against the spread.

The best over record belongs to the Bills, Lions, and Saints (all 4-0), and Raiders (3-0). The 49ers are the only team in the NFL to have not had an over game yet. They play the Rams this Sunday and the total is 41.

Tracking the team trends

The home team has covered the last seven straight in the Wake Forest-Georgia Tech series. That could be tough to extend, as Tech is favored by 12 1/2 at home this Saturday.

Stanford is 8-1 in its last nine games as a dog, so it might be tempting to take the 8 1/2 points they are getting Saturday at Notre Dame. But remember that most of those covers were under coach Tyrone Willingham, who is now coaching the Irish. This is a trend to ignore.

Oregon St. is 14-2 as a home favorite the past five years and 2-0 already this year (we saw how poorly they do away from home last week in a 22-0 loss at USC). Oregon St. is a 4-point favorite over UCLA this Saturday.

The Cardinals are 7-1-1 against the spread as road dogs since the beginning of last year. The Cardinals are 3 1/2-point underdogs at Carolina on Sunday.

This is where trends really cancel each other out. In separate paragraphs above, the Jaguars are seen as a home dog, an AFC team taking on an NFC team, and 3-0 against the spread. But before blindly betting them, consider that the Eagles are 6-1 as a road favorite the past two years and 21-8 overall on the road since Andy Reid became coach.

The Packers have won the past eight years at Chicago and are 6-2 against the spread. They are a 1 1/2-point dog. But keep in mind that Monday night's game will be in Champaign, Ill.

Bankrolls go in opposite directions

Last week's selections got off to a great start as Louisville not only covered the 15-point spread against Florida St. but won outright last Thursday night.

On Saturday, I made three 2-unit plays and had winners on Iowa (which beat Penn. St. outright as an 8-point underdog) and LSU and lost on Colorado St. later in the day. For the week, my picks were 3-1 with a net profit of 2.8 units (based on laying 1.1 units for every 1 win I'm trying to win). For the college season to date, my record is still a subpar 8-11 for a net loss of 3.5 units.

The NFL bankroll took a step backward as I went 2-3 on sides, including a best-bet loser on the Patriots for 2 units, and 2-3 on totals. The other losing picks were the Packers and Broncos, while I won with the Browns and Buccaneers. That resulted in a net loss of 3.7 units. For the season, my NFL picks dropped below .500 to 21-22, including a 2-2 record on best bets, for a net loss of 3.4 units after entering the week with a 0.3-unit profit.

Clemson at Florida State (-15)

As mentioned above, I won by going against Florida St. last Thursday, but I'm going to back them this week. The Seminoles will be motivated by losing 26-20 in overtime at unranked Louisville and will welcome the return home against a familiar opponent. Florida St. coach Bobby Bowden hasn't shown any reluctance about running up the score against his son, Tommy, who coaches Clemson. Florida St. won and covered 54-7 two years ago and also won 41-27 at Clemson last year with QB Chris Rix throwing for more than 400 yards.

PLAY: Florida St. for 1 unit.